If every baseball game were as exciting as last night's, no one would mind if they lasted forever. But most definitely aren't and even the most loyal fan ought to agree that there's a lot of downtime that could be eliminated. To that end, MLB's pace-of-game committee has come up with six experimental rules to move things along.
The committee, which was formed earlier this month and consists of MLB, MLBPA, and team executives, made recommendations that will be tried during the Arizona Fall League, which runs from Oct. 7 through Nov. 15. They range from the no-brainer to the radical:
- Hitters must keep at least one foot inside the batter's box at all times, barring exceptions like foul balls, wild pitches, or if the umpire grants him time out.
- Pitchers must throw a pitch within 20 seconds of receiving the ball. Clocks posted in each dugout will count down the 20 seconds.
- There will be a maximum break between innings of 2:05, with a clock keeping track. Hitters must be in the batter's box by 1:45. If the hitter's not ready, the umpire can call a strike. If the pitcher doesn't throw a pitch by 2:05, the umpire can call a ball.
- Teams will have a maximum of 2:30 to change pitchers, with the clock starting as soon as the reliever enters the playing field.
- Teams are limited to a maximum of three mound visits per game, not including pitching changes. This applies to trips to the mound by managers, coaches, and catchers.
- Pitchers no longer have to deliver four balls for an intentional walk. The manager can simply signal to the umpire.
I have a feeling the "clock" proposals will be ignored and unenforceable, despite MLB having a 12-second time limit on pitches in the rulebook already. Baseball embraces its clockless nature, maybe irrationally so.
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But it's that last one—doing away with intentional walks—that's going to prove the most controversial. It's super rare that you see one go wrong, but when it does, it's hilarious enough that it might just justify the whole enterprise.
These rules will get test runs in the AFL, with no commitment to future use. But the pace-of-game committee, exceeding my own low expectations, has come up with concrete, logical rule changes to fix a legitimate problem, and MLB seems serious about seeing if they're feasible. Good job on everyone involved—I only wonder what took so long.