MLB and the players union agreed Friday to several changes to quicken the pace of the game. While the new initiative is certainly welcome, they missed a chance to fix the biggest time killer.
The new rules will require a hitter to keep one foot in the batters box at all times and end the nonsense of the manager chatting with an umpire while his assistants look at video to determine if he should call for a challenge. Instead, he’ll have to stay in the dugout. Also, there are new timekeeping rules for between innings activity.
But the most boring, time absorbing aspect of baseball are pitching changes. Usually a manager slowly walks to the mound, at some point raising his arm for a reliever. Then everybody waits until the reliever strolls to the mound. Then there is usually a two-minute or more commercial break while he throws warm-up pitches. Sometimes this happens multiple times in a half inning.
Why go through with the time-wasting charade of the manager walking to the mound, as if his mind is not already made up to change pitchers (especially if it is his second trip, which requires a pitching change)? Why can’t the manager just take one step onto the field and signal a pitching change? And why can’t the reliever, a trained athlete, at least jog to the mound (some do, many don’t)? And the reliever should already be warm from his time in the bullpen. Maybe a couple of pitches are needed, not the eight he is allowed.
All of this can be done in a minute, if not less. That is much better than the three minutes or so a pitching change currently takes.
Still though, MLB should be applauded for at least taking preliminary steps to speed up the pace of the game. As baseball fans, we love the game and do not mind games that last three hours or more, as long as there is more action than down time.