Ken Rosenthal reported last night that, in early August, the players signaled to Major League Baseball that they are willing to work with the league on the implementation of a pitch clock. A pitch clock is commissioner Rob Manfred’s preferred means of quickening the pace of games, but imposing it would require the approval of the union. Rosenthal says that, as a result of this general agreement, we could have a pitch clock as early as next season.
The details are not all agreed upon yet, and the players want input on certain aspects of its implementation, such as whether or not it will run with players on base. Their basic acceptance of the idea, however, seems to be a corner-turning event. Earlier in the year there was clear disagreement between the players and the league on such measures, with Rob Manfred threatening to impose pace-of-play measures like a pitch clock unilaterally.
There has been a pitch clock in the minor leagues for a couple of years now and, based on my experience as a Triple-A fan and the experience of virtually everyone I’ve spoken to, its implementation has been smooth, to the point where it’s hardly noticeable. You can count on one hand the number of times a pitcher has been given an automatic ball for not throwing a pitch within the specified time in the course of a season and, overall, the pace of play seems to have picked up considerably.
To the extent there is pushback on this by major leaguers now, it’s likely out of habit, not the necessities of the game. For the past 20-25 years we’ve come to accept that batters will walk around and adjust gloves between every pitch, that pitchers will take all the time in the world to gear up for each pitch and that catchers and pitchers will have mound visit after mound visit, but that’s the exception in baseball history, not the rule. Go back and find video of any random game before, say, 1992 or so and you’ll see a far quicker, far crisper game as far as pace goes. It’s simply a better product, aesthetically speaking.
While it’s understandable that current players play the game the way they do out of habit, it’s not immutable. If a pitch clock will pick up the pace of play and get us back to a time when pitchers got the ball, came set and threw it again, it will be worth it. Even if it goes against age-old convictions that baseball, a matter of philosophy, should not have a clock.