When spring training begins, fans and players alike will be learning a lot about the new MLB rules. There will be bugs and players will complain as they adjust to a series of changes. But there is one aspect that will not be understood until the actual games begin and actual pennant races take place.
Minor league tryouts and Grapefruit League exhibition games can’t fully recreate the pressure of intense, late, close regular-season games or the playoffs. Nobody wants the biggest moments in the sport to be decided by a shot clock violation, right?
Now some players will not like the shot clock in any environment. But this winter, agent Scott Boras focused on his October usage, citing feedback he’s received from players.
“In the postseason, clearly there shouldn’t be a shot clock,” Boras said. “It is the moment, the great moment. They need to reflect, they need more time, it’s a different scenario than the regular season, and we don’t want their performances to be rushed.
“We understand why they probably (would wear a watch) during the season, because of the efficiency of the game and what they think is a positive move for the fans to shorten the games, understood. But in the postseason, we don’t want these guys in a completely different emotional environment, where the stages mean so much more, where all their work and effort, all their goals are accomplished. And at this level we want them to have adequate time, both pitchers and position players, to evaluate and move forward in the most prepared and directed way.”
When the current collective agreement was agreed last March, a new competition committee was established to discuss the rules of the game. Ultimately, as was the case prior to the creation of the committee and this CBA, Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office has control over the rules that are implemented. However, Players Association representatives on the committee voted against two of the three new rule changes: the shot clock and the turn.
The union had reservations about the shot clock in general, playoffs or not. But one of the guild’s concerns was about the same issue that Boras pointed out: the lack of discernment between the intensity of the game.
“Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern raised by players, and as a result, players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against implementing the rules covering defensive changes and the use of of a pitch timer,” the MLBPA said. in a statement in September, when MLB announced the changes for 2023.
So why didn’t MLB ultimately want to distinguish between the April games and the ones played at Yankee Stadium in October?
Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, acknowledged in September that the question was one of the main topics discussed in the competition committee. One key point: the longer you are in a game, the slower things get.
“Ultimately, I think the committee decided to keep the same rules throughout the game for a couple of reasons,” Sword said. “One, he didn’t like the idea of playing different parts of the game under different rules. Two, they felt it was unfair that some players shot on the clock and others didn’t shoot on the clock. And lastly, you know, the pacing issues…they’re most acute late game. And I think if we’re going to give the fans what they’re asking for, it’s important that those timer rules stay in place throughout the game.”
Theo Epstein, a consultant to the commissioner and a key voice during the rulemaking process, said the rules are designed to prevent games from becoming technicalities.
“There are a lot of safeguards built into the rules to ensure that games aren’t decided in a late, closed situation because of a pitch time violation,” Epstein said. “Every batter has a timeout each and every plate appearance, where if the game is going too fast, you need a little more time, you can just call the timeout, collect your thoughts and reset the timer that time. way.
“When there are runners on base, every pitcher can jump twice per plate appearance with impunity, reset the clock and collect his thoughts and move on. And then you get two more if a runner advances.
“There are five visits to the mound throughout the game. You’re guaranteed to have one in the ninth inning and one in every additional inning that can be used to stop the clock – gather, reflect and move on. And then, thanks to player input, there is now some discretion with umpires in certain special circumstances, where umpires can allow players more time to avoid a situation where it’s inappropriate for the clock to dictate a ball. or a hit or decide a game. .
“So those are safeguards that were important, because we want players to be able to perform at a really high level without incurring violations, and the rule was designed that way for that reason.”
In fact, everything could work out. But for this element of the rule changes, it’s probably impossible to say for sure until October.
(Photo: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)