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Let’s speed up the pace of play. But let’s not be gimmicky about it. Let’s just enforce the rules.

Aug 18, 2014, 11:43 AM EST

Josh Beckett Josh Beckett

The Boston Globe spoke to Sox CEO Tom Werner about what he had to say to the search committee when he made his presentation to become the next commissioner:

“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line.

Setting aside the fact that NFL broadcasts tend to go about three and a half hours with far less actual game play and no one seems to care, I will agree with Werner here that pace of play needs to be improved. And I do hope that Rob Manfred does tackle it.

If and when he does, I hope he doesn’t do so in a gimmicky way like replay was handled. We don’t need new rules. No baseball equivalent of taking extra points from the 35. We don’t need to radically change the way teams do their business in terms of limiting mound visits and pitching changes and throws to first base. At least not at first. First thing that must be done is to merely enforce rules on the books. There are two of them that, I feel, will go most of the way toward fixing pace of play problems:

First is Rule 8.04, and it reads like this:

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

The second is Rule 6.02. It reads like this:

The batter shall take his position in the batters box promptly when it is his time at bat. (b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batters box after the pitcher comes to the Set Position or srarts his windup.

(1) The batters shall keep at least one foot in the batters box throughout the batters time at bat, unless of the following exceptions applies:

(i) The batter swings at a pitch;

(ii) The batter is forced out of the batters box by a pitch;

(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted Time;

(iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;

(v) The batter feints a bunt

(vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs

(vii) The pitchers leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or

(viii) The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.

If the batter intentionally leaves the batters box and delays play, and none of the exceptions listed in Rule 6.02 applies the umpire shall award a strike without the pitcher having to deliver a pitch. The umpire shall award additional strikes without the pitcher having to deliver the pitch if the batter remains outside the batters box and further delays play.

Memo to Rob Manfred: Tell everyone in spring training that these rules are going to be enforced. Let them know that you don’t care how much they complain. Endure the bad press and the incidents which happen in games regarding this rule for the first few months and be confident that it is for the greater good.

Then, in time, when we have games paced more like they were in the 1960s-1980s, with pitchers getting the ball and throwing it and batters, at most, putting one foot out of the box before each pitch, take a victory lap for solving one of baseball’s most troublesome aspects.

  1. Matt - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Has anyone compared the difference in game times for games today vs games in 1985 after removing all between inning commercial breaks from each? I’m curious how much today’s advertising is to blame for increased length of game…

    • 78mu - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      I remember Gibson starting his windup before McCarver had finished the signs. And it wasn’t unusual to come out of a commercial break and find the inning had already started and he’d thrown a couple of pitches. And a lot of other pitchers were fast too so you’d have a few two hour games each year.

      And since there so many more complete games there were fewer pitching changes. If La Russa had been managing in the 60’s the games would have been over just as he started to think about how many pitching changes he could make in the last three innings. No one would consider him a genius if all he did was give the ball to Gibson.

      • gibbyfan - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        I think it would be fair to say that most fans very much enjoyed the pace when Gibson pitched. He would often comment that it was no big deal and couldn’t understand why both batters and pitchers went through the unnecessary antics.
        If these rules are on the books, I would love to know why they are not enforced.

      • gloccamorra - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:45 PM

        I did a quick review of 1976, the year Randy Jones of the Padres won the Cy Young with a losing team. That year, the Padres played 47 games that finished in less than two hours. The shortest was between Jones and Steve Carlton, and it lasted one hour and thirty-one minutes.

        I don’t think we’ll ever see that again, like nobody will see Jones’ 25 complete games in ’76 again. Carlton was the last pitcher to pitch over 300 innings just four years later (Jones pitched 315 innings in ’76) and we won’t see that again either. The game has just changed too much.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      On national broadcasts, it’s probably added a bit. I don’t have cable or dish, so I don’t know if RSNs have more ads in games or not.

      That said, Craig’s wrong on one point. Average NFL game is more like 3:15, if that, not 3:30.

      He also misses the irony alert, or hypocrisy alert, that Werner’s Sawks are probably the slowest team in baseball.

      And, besides the two rules, there’s one other way to speed up games ….

      Get rid of the DH!

      • DJ MC - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        1) If the issue is having an extra actual competent hitter in the lineup, why not just split the difference, eliminate both and bat eight?

        2) You’re right that NFL games tend not to go all the way up to 3:30. However, there’s a reason why several years ago the league ended the charade and set the kickoff for games scheduled after a 1:00 broadcast to 4:30 instead of 4. It wasn’t that long ago when the majority of games ended in under 3:00.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        You’re right that football has “crept longer,” itself.

        That said, per discussion on one or two of Craig’s blog posts last week — let’s say that local gams on the RSNs are even more guilty of “commercial stuffing.” Well, if you fight that, guess what? That means less revenue for the owners and players.

        So, that part of this issue is a problem that I don’t see going away soon.

        And, I’ll take the thumbs down from AL-first folks who like the DH. But, it leads to longer pitch counts in the lower portion of the lineup in general, and it leads to more frequent middle-of-inning pitcher changes, both of which make games longer.

        So,it’s not just me as an anti-DH NL fan. It’s also me pointing out there’s a reason AL games last even longer.

        As for Sawks fans? Thumb me down. That doesn’t get rid of your 4-hour games.

      • tmc602014 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        Listen, I spent my years hating the DH but at this point we’ve just got to accept it – it’s the primary difference between the AL and NL. Free agency, interleague play, etc. have blurred the differences between leagues, so keep the DH and keep it AL Only. Just as a for instance, without the DH we would have missed the Ortiz exhibition last postseason. I’m not generally a fan of Ortiz and I am particularly not a fan of the Red Sox, but that was an historic offensive performance and it would not have occurred without the DH.

  2. karlkolchak - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    The sad part is, even if you enforced these rules, you would STILL have fans leaving in the 6th and 7th innings (and arriving in the 3rd and 4th innings). This is what happens when you market your sport in such a way that attracts people who don’t really care about the game.

    • uwsptke - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      I was with you initially (people arriving late and moreso people leaving early), but that’s the people that are looking to avoid the nightmares of getting in and out of the parking lots. A game might take 3.5 hours, it might take 15 to 30 more minutes to walk to your car, and it’s not uncommon to wait another hour plus to leave the lot.

  3. Chris Ross - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    I don’t see any problem with limiting mound visits on top of enforcing these rules. Coaches should only be allowed to visit a pitcher to make a change. Catchers 1 visit an inning. On top of speeding up play, it would force the pitchers to deal with batters without getting the full scouting report in key situations.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Agreed. There’s no good reason for 99 percent of mound visits. None. (Injuries are in the one percent.)

      If the pitcher and catcher want to speak to each other (or if a coach or manager wishes to do so), they can wait until they have recorded three outs. If they want to discuss which pitch to throw, there has been — forever — a code by which the catcher uses his fingers to say which type of pitch to throw and where.

      IN NO OTHER SPORT is the defense granted an unlimited number of timeouts.

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        What sport does the offense get an unlimited amount of timeouts? Fact is that baseball is not a timed game so timeouts aren’t necessary. You can’t visit the same pitcher twice in an inning. Any change to that rule changes the game. Even a hitter stepping out of the box is up to the umpire’s judgment whether to grant it or not. It’s rare, but umpire do sometimes deny the time out and the pitcher throws the strike and it counts. The batter moans but the game continues. Umpires just need to do more of that.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Baseball at least goes through a charade whereby the batter — technically — asks for a timeout. The pitcher and catcher don’t even need to ask. They can stop playing baseball whenever they feel like it. Eventually, they’ll have to start again. But they can stop because the pitcher is getting tired.

        I’m sure that many NFL defenses, facing a hurry-up offense, would love to just stop the game until they felt ready.

    • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Enforce the existing rules against batters or pitchers delaying play. But also — as Bill James has argued for years — consider rule changes that deter abuses and preserve the nature of the game.

      There is no reason why the 7th and 8th innings should take any longer than the 3rd and 4th. Prohibit coaching visits to the mound without a pitching change. And require every pitcher (barring injury) to face a minimum of 3 batters or complete the inning.

      This would be bad news for LOOGY’s but great for the game as an entertainment product and more in line with the way it has traditionally been played.

    • tmc602014 - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:01 PM

      it’s too bad you did not read the piece you’re commenting on. The idea of it was to enforce existing rules, without making changes. If the enforcement does not have the desired effect, then consider more drastic changes. Werner’s comment seemed to indicate he was ready to all the way to major rules changes, and the writer, Craig, doesn’t think that’s necessary.

  4. chip56 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    and bring back bullpen carts.

    • roanboon - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      chip56, you are insulting Todd Coffey!

      • brewcats - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM

        And Phil Coke.

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        Hell, let’s just say he’s insulting every pitcher named for a caffeinated beverage and be done with it!

    • infieldhit - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      Yeah, but they’d probably make it a point to do a full maintenance check before each trip.

    • tved12 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      John Rocker accepts your challenge. If John wins, no cart. If the cart wins, bring it back.

      • chip56 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        Rocker was quick to the mound. Of course not being able to get anyone out just made it longer.

      • tved12 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        I wonder, would we be testing for PED’s for this race? If so, Rocker has a sore hamstring.

      • chip56 - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:31 PM

        Yeah – Rocker has as much chance of passing a PED test as Jose Canseco, Sly Stallone or Hulk Hogan.

  5. stoutfiles - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Yep. Too many batters need to back out and adjust their gloves after EVERY pitch. Even if they didn’t swing! It’s a joke how long at-bats are taking, and it’s mostly the batters fault.

    • kindasporty - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      I always just assumed that Major League Baseball has a velcro problem.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        I saw Alex Avila this weekend. He’s worse than Nomar was.

    • chip56 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      True – if batting gloves are that problematic then players should scrap them and piss on their hands like Moises Alou did.

      • tmc602014 - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        In the middle of the at-bat? I don’t recall that. But maybe I’m thinking of the wrong Alou…

    • simon94022 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      I remember when Mike Hargrove started doing this in the 80s. People thought it was annoying and ridiculous, so he was nicknamed the “Human Rain Delay.”

      Unfortunately, he got away with it so now all hitters do it. It’s an embarrassment to the sport.

  6. sdelmonte - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    The fact that no one complains about the length of football games makes me inclined to not tinker with baseball at all.

    • infieldhit - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      Remind us again how many football games there are in a season, and how many days of the week they’re on TV?

      • sdelmonte - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        Yeah, I know. But I just get so annoyed about football getting away with everything short of murder.

      • infieldhit - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        I’m with you there. Although, sometimes they actually do seem to get away with murder.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        sdelmonte – Aug 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM
        Yeah, I know. But I just get so annoyed about football getting away with everything short of murder.
        ———————————————————————————————————————————

        Well Aaron Hernandez’s trial hasn’t started yet so don’t get too ahead of yourself.

    • granadafan - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      What are you talking about? People complain all the time. There is a game clock in football, but the length is mainly due to TV timeouts. However, even networks are getting concerned with length of football games because it messes with TV programming.

      • infieldhit - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        People like to complain about pro and college football, but they’ll keep watching.

    • hojo20 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      Imagine getting tackled by a few 300 lb players, do you expect the guy to be on the line of scrimmage 15 seconds later?

      • sdelmonte - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        No, but football games have gotten longer in the past 20 years, apparently due to commercials and other outside factors.

  7. hk62 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    When you get the chance, check the average time of game stats in MiLB box scores – no screwing around there and no extended between half inning commercials either. 3+ hour games happen, but they are the exception – the Cal League in the middle of summer (9+ pitching changes…) can be brutal but the games are much quicker than MLB. And Matt’s insight has to be part of it!

    • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      This is true, but I’ve never seen a batter really work the count in the minors. (I exclusively attend High-A games, in Frederick, MD.) Almost all the at bats at over in 5 pitches. LOTS of one- or two-pitch at bats. Four-pitch walks seem fairly common.

      So I’m not sure the minors are the correct comparison.

  8. infieldhit - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    I agree that time between pitches is the biggest problem. But since we likely can’t shorten commercial breaks, couldn’t they just make sure the pitcher is ready as soon as the break is over? If they used to be shorter in years past, surely we don’t need to see the telecast resume only to watch a pitcher still warming up?

  9. sabatimus - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    It’s so simple to enforce. But umpires won’t enforce it because the players would whine, and then the next time the CBA is up there’ll be a work stoppage.

    Honestly, THROW THE DAMN BALL. And don’t play “step-off roulette” with the batter. If either party won’t play by the rules, enforce the rule and do what the umpire does (calling a ball or strike accordingly, depending on whether it’s the batter or the pitcher at fault) at the beginning of this video.

    I mean, when’s the last time anybody saw an ump do this?

    • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      I can’t remember the last time I saw 90 percent of what happened here.

    • thenricopallazzo - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Seems counterintuitive being that the ensuing fight lasted longer than the at bat probably would have but rules are rules. 0:12-0:17 could be a scene from a David Zucker movie. Hilarious!

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      That’s a classic. I’ve posted it here, too.

      And, you make a good point. Umps like style points in ejecting managers and players, but they won’t actually oversee the actual damned game correctly.

  10. sabatimus - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    I also think the blatant stall tactic of “let’s have the pitching coach go out and discuss what bar to go to after the game while our reliever gets warmed up” needs to go.

    • infieldhit - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      I like the suggestion of relievers not being able to warm up once they get into the game (backup QBs don’t get to make practice throws on the field). But now I’m thinking that might lead to even more stalling since they’d need more time in the bullpen.

      • gloccamorra - Aug 19, 2014 at 2:20 PM

        Backup quarterbacks are usually warming up with tosses on the sidelines, behind those ninnies standing up and blocking the view of the front row seats.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      Totally agree. (Man, I’m agreeable today!)

      I’m not quite sure what rules need to be enforced to prevent this from happening. It’s part of the reason that I — unlike Craig — don’t believe simply enforcing the rules already on the books is sufficient. (That said: I do want those rules enforced.) I think you’d have to do something radical, like banning all mound conferences, to prevent this stalling tactic. I mean, who is to say that the coach is there for a good reason or not?

      I think one tiny revision that could happen is that, at the moment the manager signals for the reliever, the reliever has to stop throwing. (Obviously, there would be some wiggle room to allow a guy to finish his current pitch or something.) Any pitches thrown after the manager calls for the new guy are charged to the pitcher, and called a ball.

  11. thomas844 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Hit the nail on the head, Craig. I get so tired of ballplayers trying to take all that time to get “in the zone.” Taking 30 seconds on the mound instead of 12 will not make you throw the pitch any more accurately.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      They obviously believe otherwise. I mean, I’m not TRYING to argue. It just comes naturally.

      So can someone explain this to me? Because I don’t get it.

  12. Senor Cardgage - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    By the way, Craig, most of Rule 6.02 that you quoted there is Rule 6.02(d), which only applies to the minor leagues. In order to enforce it in the Major Leagues they would first have to enact it there.

  13. amhendrick - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    “(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted Time”

    There needs to be some standard on when an umpire grants a batter Time. It shouldn’t be routine.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      This is really the problem. Players don’t really even ask for time anymore because it’s just a given that they get it whenever they want. It’s up to the league to tell the Umpires to start urging players to hurry up and make it clear time will not be given just because.

      • gloccamorra - Aug 19, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        The umpires don’t even call time anymore! The batter steps out of the box without asking, the umpire doesn’t grant it or call time (arms in the air), he just gets up from his crouch when the batter steps away. They’ve gotten that sloppy with enforcement of the rules.

  14. schrutebeetfarms - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Good idea. This is similar to how politicians keep making new laws as opposed to enforcing the ones currently on the books.

  15. rayderray - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    How about they also change the replay rules to either you’re challenging, or you’re NOT. None of this go out and buy time while someone looks at a video to see if you should stay out there and challenge. I hate that crap.

    • rayderray - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      Also.

      Get off my lawn

      You’ll shoot your eye out.

      and,

      If you keep making those faces, your face is gonna stay that way!

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        …..so you’re telling me I WON’T grow hair on the palms of my hands?

  16. gostlcards5 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    Well stated, Craig.

  17. godsmacked1 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    You nailed it, Craig. Well said.

  18. randygnyc - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Hey Werner, if the owners wanted your input, they would’ve elected you to be the next commissioner. That they didn’t is your cue to shut the hell up.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      Yes, losing candidates never have anything valuable to say. Ever. That’s why John McCain has vanished from the public eye.

      • DJ MC - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:20 PM

        You’re conflating having something valuable to say with being willing to fill airtime.

    • sabatimus - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:28 PM

      I smell NY bias. Can’t imagine why.

  19. ducksk - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    I generally nap from 3-7th inning. So, all good.

  20. spacenettle - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    I only started watching baseball in 2001, so I don’t have any memory of how games used to be paced. However, a week ago I watched a rerun of the 1979 ASG and I was amazed at how much less time was wasted!

    • gloccamorra - Aug 19, 2014 at 2:42 PM

      Wow. Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan starters: two of the fastest pitchers in the game. Joe Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Tommy John, and Ron Guidry: not a slow pitcher in the bunch.

  21. perryt200 - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    Well if it is the same everywhere else as it is in St Louis, people leave when they finished their last beer and can’t get anymore. The seventh inning. Then they walk right across the street, order another beer and finish watching the game on the big screen.

  22. ezthinking - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    Easily the stupidest non-issue in baseball.

    A typical game has 300 or so pitches. How many do not fit an exception in the rules? Take out foul balls, timeouts, throws to bases, hit balls, strikeouts, walks and likely the first pitch of the inning. The number is now probably less than 100. If the rule saves 5 seconds on each of the remaining pitches – assuming they were all taking longer than 12 seconds – pitches we just saved 500 seconds or 8 minutes 20 seconds. HOORAY! What ever will you do with all that found time? Ditch the “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch you get in some stadiums and you might get a full ten minutes. Double HOORAY!

    Games are apparently 25 minutes longer than they were 35 years ago. So what. There also wasn’t anyone in the stands. Now with Jumbotrons, between inning entertainment and pre- and post-game festivities there are more people watching games than ever. The product is also more profitable than ever.

    So what was the problem again?

    • sabatimus - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      Erm.

  23. dirtydrew - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    No more 4 hour Red Sox Yankees games?

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