Rob Manfred's ultimatum to players: No pitch clock in 2018, but games must be faster

Big League Stew
The players must decide whether they’ll accept Rob Manfred’s new pitch clock proposal. (AP Photo)
The players must decide whether they’ll accept Rob Manfred’s new pitch clock proposal. (AP Photo)

The implementation of a pitch clock in Major League Baseball might not come during the 2018 season, but that depends on a few factors. Rob Manfred offered a new deal to the players Thursday which could delay pitch clocks for some time, but only if the players commit to speeding up the games.

Under Manfred’s new proposal, the league would not implement pitch clocks in 2018. If the players can figure out a way to reduce average game time to two hours and 55 minutes or less, he won’t try to implement a pitch clock in 2019 either. Games averaged three hours and eight minutes in 2017.

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That deal, however, is dependent on the MLB Players Association agreeing to it. The players rejected Manfred’s last proposal, despite knowing a rejection would result in significantly stricter rules.

The players have until spring training to take his deal. If they once again reject it, Manfred will implement pitch clocks in 2018 without their approval.

As commissioner, Manfred has the power to unilaterally makes changes as he sees fit. It’s something he’s threatened to do in the past, but has hesitated to act upon.

When the players rejected his pace-of-play proposal last year, Manfred said he would use that power in 2018 if the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement. He seems ready to follow through on that now.

The players have pushed back hard against a pitch clock. They rejected Manfred’s deal two years in a row, and some players have come out publicly against the idea. Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. mentioned some of the difficulties players may run into if the new rules are in place. 

It’s unclear whether the players will accept Manfred’s deal this time around. While the players vehemently oppose a pitch clock, they could reject the latest proposal out of principle. The slow free-agent market has been a major cause for concern among the players. It’s reached a point where some significant free agents are thinking about hosting their own camp during spring training in order to stay in shape. Some players have even talked about sitting out until midseason.

Manfred’s offer could be viewed as an attempt to gain goodwill with the players, but that relationship may be too far gone to repair.

The next two weeks could be pretty telling. If the players again reject Manfred’s proposal, it could be a sign that a war between the players and the league is inevitable.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

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