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We could have a pitch clock as early as next season

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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.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.