Earlier this month, Major League Baseball announced that the league would be implementing 20-second pitch clocks for the duration of spring training. It’s an idea that’s been bandied about for the last several years and finally made its way to the minor leagues in 2015, with little to no disturbance of the pace of play.
Still, that doesn’t mean MLB players are excited by the idea. Last week, Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw voiced his displeasure, telling reporters he intends to maintain his usual timing and routine on the mound without giving any thought to the 20-second constraint between pitches. Fellow Dodgers lefty Rich Hill echoed the sentiment. While he doesn’t expect to be significantly thrown off by the implementation of the clock, he called the measure “ridiculous” and segued into a rant about the increasing pressure to speed up the game.
Dodgers pitchers aren’t the only ones who have a bone to pick with the league. On Saturday, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer said the clock would fundamentally alter the nature of baseball itself. Via ESPN:
“I know as players, that’s something that MLB is trying to negotiate,” said Scherzer, a newly elected member of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s executive board. “I don’t think there’s negotiation here. As players, it just shouldn’t be in the game. Having a pitch clock, if you have ball-strike implications, that’s messing with the fabric of the game. There’s no clock in baseball, and there’s no clock in baseball for a reason.”
As previously noted here, the pitch clock isn’t intended to shorten the overall length of games, but rather to trim any excess “dead time” between pitches — something that would be far more difficult to enforce without a ball-strike penalty for players who go over the allotted time to adjust their position in the batter’s box or start their windup. It also hasn’t been so obtrusive as to warrant significant complaints from minor leaguers, who have worked around the clock for three seasons now. Whether that holds true on a bigger stage remains to be seen.