Speed­ing games on agenda

The Citizens' Voice - - Mlb - BY RON­ALD BLUM

ORLANDO, Fla. — Puff­ing on a cigar, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reins­dorf said what many fans be­lieve.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if the game is 3½ hours if it was an ex­cit­ing game. But if it’s a 2-1 game, it takes 4 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 nine-in­ning con­test was a record 3 hours, 5 min­utes this sea­son, up from 2:56 in 2015. The postseason 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 of the sign-steal­ing threat.

MLB pro­posed three changes to ad­dress game length last off­sea­son 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.

Di­a­logue be­tween MLB and the union is on­go­ing.

There also has been dis­cus­sion about cut­ting the time be­tween in­nings by us­ing split screens to broad­cast com­mer­cials while half-in­nings get un­der­way.

“It’s not just lis­ten­ing to our cur­rent fans, it’s think­ing about our fu­ture fans and the land­scape we’re com­pet­ing on, how they watch other sports, how they di­gest me­dia in gen­eral and where so­ci­ety is kind of tak­ing sports and sports me­dia,” Toronto Blue Jays pres­i­dent Mark Shapiro said. “It’s im­por­tant to con­sider those things. To op­er­ate in a vac­uum would be a mis­take.”

While many want to elim­i­nate what they call “dead time,” the de­bate is what new rules to put in place.

“I know catch­ers are out there to try to help the pitcher, so when our team does it, it doesn’t an­noy me,” St. Louis Car­di­nals owner Bill De­Witt Jr. said with a laugh be­fore adding: “I think it needs to be elim­i­nated to a de­gree.”

Reins­dorf said the Car­di­nals’ All-Star catcher is among the worst of­fend­ers.

“The master of go­ing out to the mound is Yadier Molina, be­cause he’s like a pitch­ing coach. He’s out there help­ing his pitcher,” Reins­dorf said. “There’s a tril­lion ways that you could take 20 min­utes off the game, and Rob is smart enough to know what they are, and I think he wants to do it, so I think it will get done.”

JOHN RAOUX / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Thad Levine, left, gen­eral man­ager for the Min­nesota Twins, and New York Yan­kees GM Brian Cash­man talk at the an­nual MLB gen­eral man­agers’ meet­ings.

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