The Boston Globe spoke to Sox CEO Tom Werner about what he had to say to the search committee when he made his presentation to become the next commissioner:
“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line.
Setting aside the fact that NFL broadcasts tend to go about three and a half hours with far less actual game play and no one seems to care, I will agree with Werner here that pace of play needs to be improved. And I do hope that Rob Manfred does tackle it.
If and when he does, I hope he doesn’t do so in a gimmicky way like replay was handled. We don’t need new rules. No baseball equivalent of taking extra points from the 35. We don’t need to radically change the way teams do their business in terms of limiting mound visits and pitching changes and throws to first base. At least not at first. First thing that must be done is to merely enforce rules on the books. There are two of them that, I feel, will go most of the way toward fixing pace of play problems:
First is Rule 8.04, and it reads like this:
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
The second is Rule 6.02. It reads like this:
The batter shall take his position in the batters box promptly when it is his time at bat. (b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batters box after the pitcher comes to the Set Position or srarts his windup.
(1) The batters shall keep at least one foot in the batters box throughout the batters time at bat, unless of the following exceptions applies:
(i) The batter swings at a pitch;
(ii) The batter is forced out of the batters box by a pitch;
(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted Time;
(iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
(v) The batter feints a bunt
(vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs
(vii) The pitchers leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
(viii) The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.
If the batter intentionally leaves the batters box and delays play, and none of the exceptions listed in Rule 6.02 applies the umpire shall award a strike without the pitcher having to deliver a pitch. The umpire shall award additional strikes without the pitcher having to deliver the pitch if the batter remains outside the batters box and further delays play.
Memo to Rob Manfred: Tell everyone in spring training that these rules are going to be enforced. Let them know that you don’t care how much they complain. Endure the bad press and the incidents which happen in games regarding this rule for the first few months and be confident that it is for the greater good.
Then, in time, when we have games paced more like they were in the 1960s-1980s, with pitchers getting the ball and throwing it and batters, at most, putting one foot out of the box before each pitch, take a victory lap for solving one of baseball’s most troublesome aspects.