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Rob Manfred makes strange offer to union about pitch clock


We’ve been talking about the proposed 20-second pitch clock for a few weeks now. The short version: Rob Manfred proposed such a clock a year ago in order to speed up the pace-of-play. The union said little about it, but has balked at the idea in recent weeks. As such, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Manfred said he’d implement it unilaterally for 2018 if the union would not agree.

Manfred would still like the union’s agreement to the pitch clock, so to that end he has been negotiating with the players about it. This evening, an odd bit of news about how all that is going came out:

Let us first stipulate that this is weird. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in a game show. “We can do this or we can do that or . . . you can choose what’s behind door number three!” I know benchmarks have been used about future rules implementation in the past — drug testing was imposed based on whether certain percentage of players tested positive in preliminary tests — but this seems like next-level gimmickry and gamesmanship.

Let us next stipulate that it’s evidence of how broken the negotiating framework between the league and the union really is. I don’t think such a weird proposal comes out of Manfred unless talks are going absolutely nowhere. And even if things are going nowhere, the fact that Manfred hasn’t just ended things and implemented his rule as opposed to proposing this kind contrived thing suggests almost a contempt for those with whom he’s negotiating. This is the sort of stuff I’d say to my kids when they were five-years-old in order to get them to eat vegetables or get extra TV time, not the sort of thing I’d propose to a fellow adult who I considered to be an equal. Whether this is because Manfred has contempt for the players or the players have been acting like children themselves, thereby earning this treatment, I have no idea.

Finally — and most importantly — can we point out that this proposal makes no logical sense vis-a-vis the problem Major League Baseball says it wants to solve?

Game length, serious people who have talked about this issue have said, is not the issue. It’s pace of play. The dead time between pitches. Pitchers taking too long to deliver the next pitch, batters stepping out of the box unnecessarily and catchers making mound visit after mound visit. We want more action per minute of game time, not less game time for its own sake. We know this intuitively. We’ve all watched two hour and fifty-five minute games that drag and  three hour and twenty-five minute games that zip by, packed with action. We’d prefer the latter to the former, always, yes?

A pitch clock, which would demand more pitches being thrown in a shorter period of time, would address that directly. It would not, necessarily, reduce game length. A pitcher may stink, after all. He might zip six pitches in in the space of a minute, but if they all turn in to doubles off the wall, the game is gonna last a long time. Manfred’s idea of a pitch clock suggested that he was aware of this. His new proposal, however, has nothing to do with pace. It’s all about length, which should not be the primary goal here. In short, it makes no sense.

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but everyone’s brain seems to be broken. Any ideas, you guys?

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.