Speeding up games on agenda for 2018
With nine-inning games at a record average of 3 hours, 5 minutes, baseball promises changes.
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 3 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.
There also has been discussion about cutting the time between innings by using split screens to broadcast commercials while halfinnings get underway.
While many want to eliminate what they call “dead time,” the debate is what new rules to put in place.