Bob Nightengale reports that Commissioner Rob Manfred wants the majors to adopt a pitching clock, the sort of which they have in the minors.
The minor league clocks give pitchers 20 seconds to deliver a pitch. They were quite successful at reducing the length of games in Double-A and Triple-A in their first year last year, resulting in a 6-16 minute reduction in game times across five separate leagues at those levels.
Before the 2015 season, and before the minor league experiment in 2015 and thus far in 2016, I was concerned that a pitch clock would be a visual distraction and that baseball should, perhaps, experiment with less-intrusive means such as, you know, enforcing existing rules. For example, it could enforce the never-enforced Rule 8.04, which already calls for a pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when no runner is on. Major League Baseball has not hesitated, however, to make new rules or new innovations in the past several years rather than enforce existing rules, especially if those existing rules are to be enforced solely by an umpire. Indeed in almost every case — from the replay system, to the plate blocking and slide rules, to the rules regarding finances and draft picks and bonuses — baseball has eschewed taking the shortest distance between two points and has, instead, implemented mildly-to-majorly complicated solutions to whatever it considers to be problems.
While all of this remains a theoretical concern for me with respect to how baseball solves problems, I’m somewhat less concerned about that with respect to pitch clocks than I was a year and a half ago because there is actually a track record of some success with them in the minors. Still, the only reports of the pitch clock in the minors we heard were of game times. We have not, as far as I have seen, heard much in the way of feedback from the players as to how it affects them and whether or not they like it. That would be useful information.
Whatever the case, Manfred coming out and saying this will necessarily put the ball in the union’s court, so we will likely soon start hearing major league players’ views on all of this.