Pace of Play Rules Showing Results
Major League Baseball (MLB) fans have been willing to shell out the big bucks to attend games and see their favorite players in action. However, this led to the league taking their fans for granted. A sizable group of fans had been pressing for games to be sped up and to finish earlier. With no restrictions on time taken for a pitch, teams were spending all the time they wanted on discussions, strategies and timeouts. Now, things have changed with the new Pace of Play Rules introduced for the first time this season.
The season may be in its infancy, there has been a marked improvement in the time it takes to wrap up a game. Over the first 35 games, nine-inning contests finished in under 3 hours. Last year, the average time it took for a game which spanned nine innings was 3 hours and 2 minutes, which has gone down by 10 minutes so far. Of course, the sample size is small and it will take a sustained evaluation of the time it takes for games to be completed before it can be determined if the change in rules is providing more value for money to the fans.
The officials have been instructed to be vigilant and strict about the rules and implementing them. So far, over 10 players have been warned about excessive time taken on the mound. They have received letters warning them about the issue. In addition, the hitters have also been instructed to keep at least one foot in the box. For now, there are no penalties or suspensions but from May onwards, MLB officials will have the power to issue a $500 fine to players who are found to be unintentionally delaying the game. Hitters may incur strikes if they don’t keep one foot in the batter’s box.
As mentioned above, the start of the season might not be the best time to analyze the impact of the change in rules. There are certain issues which crop up. For instances, teams are likely to go in with their best lineups, which means comprehensive performances and shutouts, resulting in less time taken for games to be completed. Rain also plays a part, as the officials and players speed things up to ensure no delays.
The interesting point here is that the average length of games during the MLB season has been increasing for the past decade. A spokesman for the league said that the new commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been pressing for shortening the length of the games to make them more entertaining and offer better value for money. Initially, the rules did face some opposition from a few players, particularly David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.
Ortiz infamously said that he wouldn’t stay inside the batter’s box even if he incurred fines throughout the season. Some statisticians had gone to work and estimated that it would mean Ortiz is fined closed to half a million dollars by the time the season ends. However, during his first inning, Ortiz kept one foot firmly planted in the batter’s box. This might be the statement the MLB needed, that players who are out of line and taking the rules lightly are doing so at their own detriment.
The rule change has also led to perhaps the most entertaining moments of the games so far. Texas Rangers third baseman, Adrian Beltre, moved away from the box to signal to his coach. However, once out, he realized that this was not allowed so he scrambled back into the batter’s box just in time, as evidenced by him not being penalized for it.