Pace of play back in baseball spotlight
Puffing on a cigar, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said what many fans believe.
“It doesn’t matter if the game is 3 1/2 hours if it was an exciting game. But if it’s a 2-1 game, it takes four hours, nobody’s too happy with it,” he said Tuesday. “I believe we should speed up the game. That’s one of the things we should do, is limit the number of trips that a catcher can take to the mound in the course of an inning or a game. We could easily cut 20 minutes off the time of a game if we really wanted to.”
The average time of a nineinning contest was a record three hours, five minutes this season, up from 2:56 in 2015. The post-season average was 3:29.
Many owners and general managers want to cut down trips to the mound by catchers. Whether the reason is changing signs, talking about pitch selection or just giving a pitcher a breather during long plate appearances, management wants to cut back.
Pitchers and catchers say they are being extra cautious in an era where dozens of high-definition cameras are focused on them, and each team has employees in video rooms seeking any advantage.
“There could be an element of paranoia involved,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.
Jon Daniels, the Texas Rangers president of baseball operations, didn’t hedge.
“I don’t think it’s paranoia, I think it’s real,” he said.
MLB proposed three changes to address game length last off-season that the players’ union didn’t accept, and management can start them next year without player approval: restricting catchers to one trip to the mound per pitcher each inning; employing a 20-second pitch clock; and raising the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level — at the top of the kneecap.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred prefers reaching an agreement with the union, and changes could be phased in over several years. The strike zone change has been discussed less in recent months.