Pace of play in professional baseball has become a hot-button issue since Rob Manfred took over as MLB commissioner in December 2015. But despite Manfred’s efforts, games are going on longer than ever.
The average game is lasting three hours and four minutes in 2017, USA Today reported Tuesday, a fact that continues to frustrate Manfred.
“I am in all candor a little disappointed where we are in terms of pace of play,” Manfred said in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session Wednesday at Coors Field. “I think that we continue to struggle with time of the game, mound visits, pitchers that don’t deliver the ball properly. We’re having and we’ll continue to have conversations with the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) about some rule changes that would help us improve on the topic of pace of game.”
Prior to the 2017 season, the MLB legislated into the game a no-pitch intentional walk, a two-minute limit on replays, a rule that disallowed pitchers from resetting their pivot foot in the delivery of a pitch and more. But the MLB did not make drastic rule changes ahead of 2017 due to what Manfred described in February as a “lack of cooperation from the MLBPA.”
The MLB discussed limiting the number of mound visits per game and even making the strike zone smaller, changes the MLBPA was not interested in.
Manfred’s objective in trying to make games shorter, he said, is to try to grow his game.
“I think that for most fans, particularly for our hardcore fans, we provide a great entertainment product day in and day out,” Manfred said. “Pace of game might not bother them. But we’re also interested in capturing new fans, particularly young fans, and we think that a little focus on pace of game while always respecting the tradition and history of the game will always help us with that younger group.”
Manfred was also clear to draw a distinction between time and pace of games.
“Time of game is often what happens on the field competitively,” he said. “How many runs get scored, how many guys on base, how many times you change pitchers. Those are things I’m not looking to control. Because that’s about the competition. That’s up to the clubs.
“Pace of game should be the same whether it’s a 2-1 game or an 11-10 game. And that means people in the box, the pitchers delivering the ball, avoiding 22 visits to the mound.”
The MLB won’t be able to make any more changes until the 2017 season is over. Manfred said that when the MLB and MLBPA, which is headed by executive director Tony Clark, do sit down, both sides will bring suggestions to the table.
“I don’t like to talk about conversations that we’re having with the MLBPA when they’re ongoing,” Manfred said. “I learned painfully early in my career that publicity surrounding conversations like that are rarely helpful. I will say this. Tony Clark has been very explicit about the fact that there are issues of concern to us, and they want to bring their ideas to the table as well as ours.”
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