Commissioner Rob Manfred is very, very concerned with the pace-of-action in baseball games. To speed things up (and presumably add more fans to the game) he’s talked about all sorts of things. Putting more limits on what batters can do when they’re at the plate, adding a pitch clock, changing the strike zone and limiting pitching changes are just a few. He even went ahead and eliminated the four-pitch intentional walk.
But publicly, Manfred hasn’t been willing to examine one thing that has increasingly taken more time in baseball games over the years: commercials. At least he wasn’t willing until now. Manfred spoke to Maury Brown of Forbes and stated his willingness to look at shortening commercial breaks as a way to improve pace-of-action.
“I fully agree with the idea of examining our commercial load in our broadcasts and is something that we should be doing,” Manfred said. “There are contractual limitations on when we can do this; we have existing commitments. But, that certainly should be an issue we look at, as well.”
Manfred also has support from Boston Red Sox owner Tom Warner, who is on MLB’s pace-of-play committee. In February, Warner told Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald that he thought it was a “good idea,” but he was only speaking for himself.
Even though Manfred is talking about shortening commercial breaks publicly for the first time, it’s been on the table for awhile. Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, gave Drellich his comments about the topic at hand.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 3, 2017
Clark is saying the MLBPA is definitely willing, but he’s proposing a few ways that MLB could use data to decide how much to shave off. He wants them to look at pitchers at the end of commercial breaks to see how many are ready to go early, and who needs more time. As he should, Clark has the players first in mind. He doesn’t want the breaks to be so short that the pitchers aren’t ready to go, but short enough to help pitchers who don’t need as long to warm up before an inning.
At first blush, shortening commercial breaks doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It would most likely take several years to implement, especially with the obligations that Manfred referred to. But it’s worth at least exploring this and seeing what it could do for game times and pace-of-action. However, everyone should keep in mind that it could also allow MLB to explore “opportunities” that fans (and ballplayers) may not want. Like making up for that lost ad revenue by putting corporate logos on jerseys, like the NBA will start doing. This isn’t a reason to be pessimistic yet, but it’s good to remember that once you open that can of worms, it’s really, really hard to get them all back in.
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