Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has a story in which several current major leaguers talk about how they don’t much care for the new pace-of-play rules such as the between-innings clock and keeping a foot in the batters’ box.
We’ve heard a lot of this kind of talk since spring training, and it’s not terribly unexpected. Players are creatures of habit and routine, and they’re not keen on changing them. Can’t blame them, really. But the way I see it, the new rules are all about routines. But not the routines of current major leaguers. Rather, the routines of future major leaguers.
As many folks noted, the meager fines Major League Baseball has proposed for violation of, say, the batter’s box rules are not exactly a deterrent to rich folks like David Ortiz. He could write a check to cover every slow at bat this season and not miss the money. And frankly, Major League Baseball is not likely to make a huge to-do out of enforcement with a player like Ortiz because it’d just create a big story and controversy that need not be created.
But it can get tough on the minor leaguers, who are mostly broke and who are far more likely to want to conform rather than stick out. It can get guys who are 18-22 and indoctrinate them into the habits of faster-paced-play. By the time they reach the majors, keeping a foot in the box and being ready to pitch before that clock winds down is their routine. And they won’t want to change it. Indeed, they’ll be no different than players in the 1960s who never stepped out, which was their routine.
If I had to bet, I’d bet that Rob Manfred is content to play the waiting game on the pace-of-play rules truly taking hold and showing effectiveness. Waiting for the guys who grew up in a system where there could dilly dally all day long to retire, and be replaced by guys who never knew any different. Such an approach is pretty smart, actually.