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Sports | New Rules Should Quicken Pace of MLB Games

Sports | New Rules Should Quicken Pace of MLB Games
Mike Zoller

As spring training gets underway fans will notice something different when they head to the ballpark this season – they’ll be heading home sooner. At least that’s what Major League Baseball hopes.

This year the league has adopted several new rules in an attempt to speed up a baseball game that averaged a record length last year at just over three hours. The rules aren’t drastic and shouldn’t affect the overall game experience for the players or the fans.

Growing up I loved Nomar Garciaparra – he was my favorite player. But after every pitch he would step out of the batters box and readjust his batting gloves – every single pitch. His at bats would last forever and might consist of just a few pitches. Well the MLB has stepped in and will now require one foot in the batters box at all time.

I hope this will help speed up the game, but it’s really going to be up to the umpire to enforce this new rule. The league will be able to fine players $500 for those that don’t comply with the new rules, however, $500 isn’t a huge threat to players that make millions every year.

Perhaps the biggest change will be the strict time in between innings. For local broadcasts teams will have two minutes and 25 seconds from the time the commercial break starts to when the first pitch is thrown, that time goes up 20 seconds for a national telecast. There will be timers both by the scoreboard and another near home plate to help make sure players are moving briskly and the game gets underway. Pitchers who don’t complete their warm-up pitches in the allotted time will be out of luck, the umpires are going to start the game.

The idea of a pitch clock was not approved for the major leagues, however, the minor leagues will experiment with such a clock and if it’s successful you know the MLB will adopt that in all of its stadiums starting in 2016.

One huge change will be how managers request a replay. Still a relatively new rule, replay has improved the game dramatically, however, managers have been able to stroll out of the dugout, take their time and then request a replay – not anymore. All replays must be request by the manager from the dugout. They won’t have a lot of time to think about it either. They must alert the umpire or the game will move on.

While I’m a big fan of instant replay (see my earlier post), the managers were able to take all the time in the world to request one. This will be a huge rule change that can take a game from three hours to a much more reasonable time.

Nothing beats a day at the ballpark, however, when you’re sitting there for over three hours and primarily watching players standing around the game loses its mystique. In 1981 a game averaged just two and a half hours. While these new rules probably won’t cut off 30 minutes from the game time, it should shorten game times close to what they once were.

I’ll be at Opening Day this year and I’ll be really curious to see how the new rules work out. Just make sure you get your beer when you can, the 7th inning should roll around quicker than usual.

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