Max Scherzer, one of the MLBPA's highest-ranking members, is not a fan of the pitch clock: 'I refuse to negotiate this'

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Max Scherzer’s position with the MLBPA gives his thoughts on the pitch clock some extra meaning. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Max Scherzer’s position with the MLBPA gives his thoughts on the pitch clock some extra meaning. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The pitch clock hasn’t reached real Major League Baseball games yet, but it’s in spring training this season for the first time ever. Unsurprisingly, a few league veterans are not fans of the development.

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Chief among that group is Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who made his spring training debut against the Houston Astros on Saturday. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out three and allowed one earned run in two innings, then proceeded to rail against the diamond’s new addition.

From the Associated Press:

”I know as players that’s something that MLB is trying to negotiate,” the Washington Nationals ace said Saturday night. ”I don’t think there’s negotiation here. As players, it just shouldn’t be in the game. Having a pitch clock, if you have ball-strike implications, that’s messing with the fabric of the game. There’s no clock in baseball and there’s no clock in baseball for a reason.”

Scherzer even went so far as to cite a FiveThirtyEight article which concluded that a spike in foul balls over the last few decades have caused an increase in average game time.

Why Max Scherzer’s hatred of the pitch clock matters

Scherzer saying he refuses to negotiate the pitch clock is notable given his new position on the MLB Players Association executive subcommittee, an eight-player board that works directly with executive director Tony Clark.

MLB officials have reportedly been pushing for a pitch clock in real games for a while, but discussions with the MLBPA have not seemed to be productive. While MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can implement the clock unilaterally, he has said he would want to negotiate an agreement with the MLBPA to use the technology.

If Scherzer’s words are indicative of the rest of the MLBPA’s thoughts, getting any sort of agreement to use it could be very, very difficult.

Other MLB players hate the pitch clock, too

It’s not hard to find other MLB veterans describing the possible implementation of a pitch clock as the end of baseball as we know it.

A pair of Los Angeles Dodgers left-handers are definitely against it. Rich Hill kept it straightforward while talking with Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown:

“I don’t like it,” he said, “because I don’t want it to have an effect on the game or an outcome. … That’s something we’re unfortunately staring down the barrel of.”

He added, “A clock certainly isn’t going to speed up a game.”

However, Brown also noticed that over the course of the Dodgers spring training game on Monday, in which Hill pitched, there were “only one or two instances that could’ve been borderline violations.”

Clayton Kershaw is apparently preparing to do everything he can to not have to deal with the clock, telling the Los Angeles Times on Monday that he just plans to ignore it:

“I’m not going to pay any attention to it,” the Dodgers left-hander said Monday. “And if I go over it then I go over. I’m not going to change anything I do. I’m not going to pay attention to it one bit, and if it becomes a problem I guess I’ll have to deal with it then. But I think there’s ways to fake it. If it looks like it’s winding down or something you can step off. I’m sure there are ways around it. I’m not too worried about it.”

Yankees starter J.A. Happ is also not a fan, telling the New York Post he thinks it’s unnecessary:

“I don’t like it. I don’t think it is necessary,’’ Happ said Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “I don’t think the numbers prove the game needs it and it doesn’t feel right.’’

David Price of the Boston Red Sox echoed those thoughts, tweeting a link to the article Scherzer mentioned about foul balls being the real pace of play demon.

Not everyone hates the pitch clock, though

Even though there is a loud opposition to the pitch clock, quite a few voices have been amenable to the idea. Cleveland manager Terry Francona and players on the Toronto Blue Jays both figuratively shrugged when the pitch clock was brought up, with Jays reliever Tim Mayza even saying that pitching on the clock has been a fine experience.

“I barely even noticed it was there,” said reliever Tim Mayza, who has pitched against the clock in the minor leagues. “In my experience, it never came into play. You were aware that it was there, but it never really changed the pace of the pitchers. I’ve never really seen somebody be penalized for it — maybe once or twice, but that’s about it.”

Mayza’s support is significant, as he is very much not alone in that opinion among players who have played at Double-A and Triple-A in the last few seasons. The pitch clock has been in use at those minor league levels for years, meaning that nearly every player debuting now has experience with the clock.

That leaves veterans like Scherzer and Kershaw and others who have never pitched against a time limit and are not interested in changing their ways. With the way the current system is set up, they figure to increasingly become a minority, but it still might be years before it becomes easier for Manfred to make his move.

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