We’ve mentioned this before, but I hadn’t written about it–I think because I was hoping that it wouldn’t really happen. Alas, my hopes were dashed. The official announcement came through today on the Minor League Baseball web page: Timers will be installed at minor league parks at the AA and AAA level. New rules will be enforced in an effort to speed up the “pace of play.” They first tried this in the Arizona Fall League this past year, and the results, I understand, were positive.
However, I don’t like it. I don’t like it one little bit. Here are my thoughts, as of today, admittedly before I’ve had a chance to experience it in person at Coca Cola Park:
- It works counter to my raison d’être: I go to the park to relax. A constant clock ticking between every pitch and every inning removes my whole reason for going to the game in the first place.
- I don’t care how long the game is: Look, some of those Yankees-Red Sox 4-hour deals on TV are completely un-watchable. However, this isn’t that. If I’m at the game, relaxing, and having a good time, it’s no problem how long the game is. If I get tired–I’ll go home! Hey, there’s another game tomorrow!
- The clocks are ugly: Big, giant, illuminated clocks ticking down everywhere are going to harsh my buzz. I’m telling you. I haven’t seen the installations at Coca Cola Park or FirstEnergy in Reading yet, but I’m not hopeful. And look at that picture above: There’s a dude who has to sit behind that clock. If they put a clock in front of my seat in 209, I’m going to be very angry!
- It’s really not necessary: Tell the umpires to enforce the rules and give them the ability to penalize infractions, and you can accomplish the exact same thing. Many of the rules you’ll see below are already on the books. Let the umpire enforce it, and penalize him (via lack of call up to the next level) if he doesn’t.
- It’s for the wrong reason: Kurt Landes has already said that the between-innings shenanigans (read: entertainment) are always within the allotted time, anyway. People who go to Minor League games don’t complain about the length. The only folks worried about the pace of play in Minor League ball are the people who work in Minor League Baseball. And I’m not singling out the IronPigs here: as one of the top draws in MiLB, the ‘Pigs should want the game to be longer. It’s more chance to sell beers and nachos and pork-products! And any person who inhabits the press box and complains about the length of the game is irrelevant anyway.
- Now we’re talking about the wrong thing: We’ll have more on this going forward, I’m sure. But it’s not what I want to write or talk about. It’s already detracting from the time we could spend talking about the players and the team and the game.
Here’s the official stuff, from the league:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced rules and procedures aimed at improving the pace of play in games at the Triple-A and Double-A levels.
The procedures, created in partnership with Major League Baseball, will monitor the time taken between innings and pitches, and will limit the amount of time allowed during pitching changes. Umpires will continue to enforce rules prohibiting batters from leaving the batter’s box between pitches.
Timers have been installed at all Triple-A and Double-A parks in plain view of umpires, players and fans to monitor the pace of play and determine when violations occur. The month of April will serve as a grace period, with players receiving warnings for infractions. Beginning May 1, rules will be enforced as written. The regulations and penalties for non-compliance are listed below.
- Inning breaks will be two minutes, 25 seconds in duration. The first batter of an inning is encouraged to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with 20 seconds left on the inning break timer. The pitcher must begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position at any point within the last 20 seconds of the 2:25 break.
- Beginning May 1, should the pitcher fail to begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in the last 20 seconds of the inning break, the batter will begin the at-bat with a 1-0 count.
- Beginning May 1, should the batter fail to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with five or more seconds remaining on the inning break timer, the batter will begin the at-bat with a 0-1 count.
- Umpires will have the authority to grant extra time between innings should special circumstances arise.
- The inning break timer will begin with the final out of the previous half-inning. For inning breaks during which God Bless America or any patriotic song is played in which all action in the ballpark stops (similar to the national anthem), the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song.
- The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game.
- In the event a pitching change occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).
- Umpires have the authority to reset the timer at their discretion.
- Beginning May 1, should the pitcher fail to begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in the last 20 seconds of the pitching change break, the batter will begin the at-bat with a 1-0 count.
- Beginning May 1, should the batter fail to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with five or more seconds remaining on the pitching change timer, the batter will begin the at-bat with a 0-1 count.
20-SECOND PITCH TIMER
- Pitchers will be allowed 20 seconds to begin their wind-up or the motion to come to the set position.
- The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 20 seconds, but must begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position to comply with the 20-second rule.
- For the first pitch of an at-bat, the timer shall start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber, and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
- The timer will stop as soon as the pitcher begins his wind-up, or begins the motion to come to the set position.
- If the pitcher feints a pick off or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the timer shall reset and start again immediately.
- Umpires have the authority to stop the 20-second timer and order a reset.
- Following any event (e.g., pick-off play) that permits the batter to leave the batter’s box, the timer shall start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber, and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
- Following an umpire’s call of “time” or if the ball becomes dead and the batter remains at-bat, the timer shall start when the pitcher is on the pitcher’s plate and the batter is in the batter’s box, alert to the pitcher.
- Beginning May 1, should the pitcher fail to begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in 20 seconds, a ball will be awarded to the count on the batter.
“Minor League Baseball is excited to implement the pace of game initiatives at the Triple-A and Double-A levels of our organization,” said Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner. “We feel the emphasis on pace will lead to more fan enjoyment and better play on the field and is another example of the cooperative relationship between our leagues and Major League Baseball in the advancement of player development.”
See you at the park–without my watch on,