Major League Baseball has plenty of issues on its plate when it comes to negotiations with the MLB Players Association this offseason, but one issue has reportedly reached the top of commissioner Rob Manfred’s to-do list: a pitch clock.
The controversial issue of mandating a hard time limit between pitches was the main priority of MLB officials during a Monday meeting with the MLBPA, according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.
Why MLB would implement a pitch clock
The idea of adding a pitch clock has been kicked around for years by Manfred’s office. The clock is already in use in the minor leagues, but the MLBPA has never been a huge fan of a rule change that most pitchers would find invasive.
Improving pace of play in baseball has quite possibly been Manfred’s No. 1 priority as commissioner and adding the pitch clock would be his most drastic step yet. It’s also likely to be the most effective in cutting down the average length of games.
As Verducci lays out, Manfred has the power to unilaterally implement the pitch clock, but negotiating its implementation with the MLBPA is preferable given how tense labor relations are in a sport that has seen curiously small free agent contracts in the last few years. So Manfred could get the players on board, do it himself or wait to make a change next offseason, which is what he did last year.
How would a pitch clock work?
Per the report, MLB proposed an 18-second time limit between pitches with bases empty and a 20-second limit with runners on, which the MLBPA rejected. It’s unclear if that was the same proposal made on Monday, but it is an indication of what MLB officials have in mind.
Minor league pitchers currently receive a ball added to the count if they violate the pitch clock, though a “soft rollout” has also been reportedly proposed by MLB officials in which players instead receive warnings for the first month or two of the new rule.
Defensive shifts unlikely to see change in 2019
So a pitch clock might be coming to baseball sooner rather than later. What about the other possible big change facing baseball in the possible ban of defensive shifts? Well, according to the report, such a ban is nowhere close to imminent.
Not only did MLB officials not push for any rule changes with defensive shifts, they’re also not allowed to unilaterally implement a rule change like with pitch clocks.
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