Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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When it comes to changing the rules, few groups get their panties tied in knots quite like baseball fans. People in the Church come in at a close second place, but that’s a conversation for another time. The bottom line is this: traditionalists have a tendency to absolutely lose their minds whenever change happens, or is even hinted at for that matter.
The powers that be have decided that a pitch clock will be used in the minor leagues in order to test its effectiveness for potential use in big league contests. The whole idea here is to make an effort to speed up the game and make it flow a little better.
As much as I love baseball, at times, the games can be just about as exciting as watching golf or watching paint dry. In fact, when I lived at home during college, I developed a nice little Sunday afternoon routine that involved tuning into a Cubs game, watching the first few innings, falling asleep on the couch, and then waking up in the eighth inning and wondering what in the heck happened to my team. (It was during this time that I developed my hatred for ex-Cubs closer, Kevin Gregg…but again, that’s for another time.)
At any rate, the games could be a little more fan friendly…especially when there are 162 of them stretched out over several months. But would adding a pitch clock take anything away from the game?
Over the years, several players have used the art of changing the pace of the game to their advantage…or at the very least to curb their OCD tendencies. Enter former Cleveland Indians player and manager Mike Hargrove…the Human Rain Delay.
For those of you that don’t remember, Hargrove would adjust nearly every piece of gear he wore several times before each pitch. He wanted the at-bat to happen on his terms, not the pitcher’s terms. I don’t know if this actually helped him at the plate, but it definitely pissed off a number of the pitchers he used to face. Would a player like that cause the pitcher to be penalized for violating the pitch clock? I don’t know of any player that takes his pre-pitch routine to that level these days, but I’m also not sure if they should be forced to change either.
On the flip side of that, there have been pitchers in the past who have intentionally worked quickly on the mound. The most recent example of this I can remember is former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano. He would actually get angry with his catcher for not getting the ball out to him quickly enough so he could throw his next pitch. Of course, Carlos Zambrano was also bat crap crazy…so there’s that. He was never in jeopardy of even coming close to violating any sort of pitch clock when he was on the mound.
In both cases, I’m not sure a twenty second pitch clock (the one used in the Arizona Fall League) or a twelve second pitch clock (the phantom clock that is currently present in the Major League rule book) would change anything. There are so many aspects of the flow (or lack thereof) of a baseball game that could be changed to speed up the pace of the game, and I’m not sure the pitch clock is the place to start.
Why do outfielders need to play catch for five minutes between innings in order to warm up again? Sure their arms might tighten up a bit while sitting on the bench, but I’m sure they tighten up a little while they’re standing there waiting for a ball to come their way as well. Personally, I’d like to see the pitcher throw about nine pitches and then have the catcher yell “balls in, comin’ down” before the final warm up pitch, just like the good old days in little league. But given my limited experience in college baseball, and the fact that we were threatened with death if we even thought of uttering that phrase, I don’t think it would go over too well.
Why do relief pitchers, after warming up in the bullpen, need to throw another ten or fifteen pitches once they get to the mound? Sometimes injuries occur, but for the most part pitching changes are strategically planned with more than enough time to get a guy warm. Many parks have bullpens that are out of view from the dugouts, even the Cubs are moving the bullpens underneath the bleachers at Wrigley, so there’s really no strategic advantage in waiting until the last minute to change pitchers.
Better yet, why does the current replay/challenge process need to be the most clumsy and time-consuming process in all of sports? Why can’t we just have a fifth official in the booth making sure that the right call was made, much like is done in college football on any potentially controversial play? I mean good grief, as inefficient as it is, you’d have thought Congress came up with baseball’s replay system!
Why do we need to rake the infield every three innings? I thought these guys were professionals! I’ve seen beer league softball players field grounders off of infields that resemble the face of the moon, but they never get a shot at the bigs! Surely these super-talented professionals can field a grounder off of a little bump in the sand.
I say all of that to say this: baseball is an inherently slow game because of how it’s played. Does it get a little annoying from time to time? Of course it does, especially in the dog days of summer when you just want to find some shade and cool off. But if we’re going to talk about speeding up the pace of games, let’s look at the entire game.
I’m not opposed to bringing a pitch clock into the game of baseball at all. However, it seems a little bit silly to think that it will bring about the massive change that baseball is aiming for, if the pitch clock is the only change that is made. I think that in order to really make a difference in the pace of play in baseball, you need to change the game as a whole…and we all know how well that goes over.