January 15, 2015

Half a cheer — baseball minor leagues to get pitch clock

Over at Hardball Talk on NBC, Craig Calcaterra, who's usually sensible and level-headed, just cannot wrap his head around the idea of owners likely having AA and AAA baseball adopt a visible pitch clock for 2015 to enforce rule 8.04, or a modified version of it.

He, waxing nostalgic, talks about the mythos of baseball not having a clock, along with a lot of nonsense.

This paragraph by Craig is the biggie:
It would be a visual distraction. Broadcasters would be flashing it on and off the screen and talking about it all the time. Managers and players would use replay challenges or, at the very least, argue about when it was started and stuff. Technical glitches would happen. Less concretely, it would put lie to the old — and good — saying about how baseball doesn’t have a clock. There’s just a football element to it that I don’t much like.
And it's largely nonsense.

The visual distraction?

First, I'll quote from Rosenthal's piece:
Multiple players and coaches told FOX Sports recently that they found the pitch clock to be effective and not disruptive to the flow of the game.

Evidence! 

In the early post-shot clock years, the NBA did NOT have digital clocks in multiple places on the baseline (or above both backboards). The original was much less intrusive.

So, years after the NBA shot clock was in place, later players had to get used to the seeming distraction of actual clocks, especially large digital ones.

Ditto in the NFL. It had a play clock for decades before the large digital devices were put in both end zones.

And, in both those leagues, players adjusted. As did, it seems, those in the Arizona Fall League. 

The rest can be easily dismissed by analogy to other pro sports.

Do NFL announcers, or NBA ones,talk about their clocks "all the time"? Of course not. Only when there's about to be a play clock or shot clock violation.

Do NFL coaches use replay challenges on exactly when a play clock expired? Of course not. They save them for more serious incidents. Managers would do the same.

"Technical glitches would happen." Yeah, once in a great while, but not regularly. And, in the NFL and NBA, when they do, they work without the clocks running, but officials counting time, until they get them fixed.

As for the idea that "baseball doesn't have a clock"?

Rule 8.04 already mentions a specific length of time. Therefore, baseball already has a play clock. Unfortunately, as currently written, it only applies when bases are empty, and has no time limit in play when a runner is on base.

The rule used in the Arizona Fall League, and which presumably will be at AA/AAA, will have a 20-second limit, period. That's slower than the current 12-second rule, but it's something. Maybe we can cut it to 15 second by the time it gets the MLB level OK.

And, speaking of, let's hope that everything goes swimmingly at AA/AAA and we get that clock (and maybe at 15 seconds, not 20) in the majors, and by 2016.

It does not have a game clock, and nobody is proposing one.

Otherwise, a pitch clock isn't the only way to speed up a game. Jayson Stark offers more ideas.

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