Rob Manfred, the anti-Mikey of baseball commissioners (he’ll try anything), is now floating the idea of starting the 11th inning of the all-star game with a runner on second base, and is contemplating bringing back the bullpen car. Why? To speed up the game, of course. And if you’re thinking there must be something else to make those thoughts congruous, there isn’t.
These gems are being tossed out after Manfred’s 2017 change, allowing teams to issue intentional walks by merely holding up four fingers rather than throwing four wide ones, somehow didn’t manage the trick. Instead, despite this massive bit of time-saving twice every five games, major league games averaged five more minutes than they did when teams were buzzing through games in the heady days of 2016.
As long as Rob’s man Fred and the rest of the MLB braintrust keep messing around the edges, nothing is going to happen to change the snail’s pace of today’s game. Rather, the solution is quite simple: make the pitchers throw the damn ball; make the hitters stay in the damn box; and make the catchers and infielders stay the hell off the mound. Take care of those three things, and baseball’s pace of play problem is erased.
What’s amazing, really, is that the solution can come without any meaningful sacrifice. MLB doesn’t need to slice time from the commercial breaks, which would cut into revenues. Just nip the moments between pitches, time that essentially serves no one, and you’ve turned a 3:15 game into one that takes 2:45, with no reduction in the action.
Yes, the players will initially balk, having convinced themselves that they need those 20 seconds between pitches to clear their heads or plan out their course of attack for the next pitch. Nonsense. They believe they need it because they’ve come to accept it as the norm. Get rid of it, have the umpires enforce it, and the complaints about it will evaporate.
Base coaches were once up in arms about having to wear helmets on the field. Now, no one thinks twice about it, because they’ve grown used to it. The same will happen to pitchers and hitters if the league merely follows through on its stated desire. And while I loathe the idea of a clock in a sport that’s measured in outs, not minutes, I’m open to its implementation if it fixes this problem.
I love baseball. I don’t like not baseball. And MLB has become way too much not baseball. It needs to stop.