Earlier this week, it was reported that Major League Baseball is currently in the process of instituting a pitch clock to be used in Minor League games.
Personally, I hate this.
I get that a lot of people think this is a good idea, and don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to have an opinion; but they’re all wrong.
I can’t understand why baseball is bending to the “games are too long” crowd in such a significant way.
When I walk into a stadium what I am seeing is a full concourse and a bunch of people enjoying the experience that an MLB ballpark creates. They come for the game, beer, and the camaraderie of their wife, kid, or buddy one seat away.
In reality, a baseball game isn’t all that much longer than any “clock maintained” professional sport.
In fact, it’s been widely studied that baseball actually has more actual game action than your typical cash cow football game. Unfortunately, what baseball doesn’t have is a good supply of replay content – there’s a reason the coliseum existed, people like bodies smashing into bodies.
Over the years I’ve come up with a list of other reasons why football reigns supreme in this country with the general audience, but this is neither the time nor the place, I will cover that in a different post.
…back to the pitch clock.
As a former, average, high school pitcher, I can relate to the difficulty a pitcher may have in releasing a ball in a mere 20 seconds from retrieval.
Think about all of the sequences going on once the pitcher gets the ball even if the batter must keep his foot in the batter’s box:
1) Batter and base runners getting signs from coaches or the dugout. Since they’re not set, you can’t deliver the ball.
2) Catcher sets defense with signs. This may not occur every play, but when it does it will affect pitch delivery time.
3) Hitter gets set in batter’s box. The pitcher allows him to get comfortable. There’s a 90 MPH hard ball about to be hurled in his direction. This is appropriate.
4) Catcher gives signs which are being monitored by whomever could be on second base, which requires a strategic set of continually changing signs, which requires shake-offs. This is a game of cat and mouse. Baseball is strategic and intricate and it’s what makes it great.
5) Once the pitcher agrees on a pitch, he must come to a full stop prior to pitching. In many cases there is someone on base that he must monitor – even the best pitchers allow more than one base runner per inning. If you rush this portion of the process stolen bases will go up.
Do I think making a pitch is attainable within 20 seconds? Yes.
However, there are other concerns. What about coaching challenges, rule clarifications, play clarifications, pitch clarifications (high, low, inside, out), etc. How does this affect the clock? If it doesn’t affect it, does that mean the clock is subjective?
The punishment for delivering a late pitch is reportedly charging the pitcher with a ball. This seems silly. You mean Major League Baseball is willing to provide a reward for accomplishing nothing?
Listen, if all that’s coming from a pitch count is a better way to monitor game speed and give umpires a better way to react to that speed, fine; but don’t let it impact the game.
Let the players who are paid handsomely control the outcome, not a clock.
I’ve said it many times, baseball isn’t football, which is likely it’s best asset.
Stop trying to make it so similar.