Baseball's Pace of Play Rule Has Arrived
Will Fans Appreciate Shorter Games?
March 12, 2015
By Mitch Chortkoff
In recent years baseball officials have been concerned about surveys showing a decline in interest in their sport.
Many fans apparently think games last too long. I've even heard a prognosis that in 10 years hockey will be doing better.
As someone who has loved baseball through most of my life I find this hard to believe. But now baseball has made a dramatic change.
I watched a televised exhibition game Thursday between the Angels and Milwaukee Brewers. Baseball's new Pace of Play rules made its debut.
There is now a time clock somewhere in the park. In this case it was behind the outfield fence, easily visible to the batter. Two minutes, 25 seconds are allowed for teams to change positions after three outs are made. For nationally televised games it's two minutes, 45 seconds.
Batters can no longer take a stroll between pitches. They must have one foot in the batter's box with certain exceptions. Pitchers must throw within a designated time and must complete between inning warmup pitches when the clock shows 30 seconds.
This will require changing habits. This will make the umpires' jobs more difficult as they strive to enforce the rules.
"I don't like it at all," said Boston slugger David Ortiz
He was talking to reporters last week and the session turned into a comedy.
Ortiz imitated pitchers who wave off a sign, step off the mound, then shake off some more. He bobbed his head to illustrate his point.
Informed that a $500 fine would be handed to any batter who violates the rule, Ortiz said "I may go broke."
That would be unlikely considering his huge salary, but we get the point. Some of baseball's biggest stars may not co-operate.
Pace Of Play rules will apply to minor league games too, the thinking being that young players will be used to the rules when they reach the majors.
Hector Santiago, the Angels' starting pitcher Thursday, said he was nervous. He cited pitching in a live game following off-season workouts but also the new rules.
Hitters weren't stepping out of the batter's box, so he had to throw pitches faster than he wanted to. Any change can bother a veteran pitcher who's been working at his own pace for years.
Baseball was thriving last season in cities which had winning teams. Baltimore and Kansas City, for example.
And locally, I didn't see any problems. The dodgers drew $3.7 million fans as they won 94 regular season games.
The Angels have a smaller seating capacity than the dodgers but kept up their loyal following as they won 98 games, the most of any major league team.
One rivalry that will be helped by the new rules is the one between the Yankees and Red Sox. They regularly require three hours to complete a game against each other. Sometimes four hours.
Getting those numbers down will be a benefit to the sport.