Friday, April 16, 2010

Instead of pitch counts, they need a pitch clock....

A week ago, baseball umpire Joe West spoke out about the interminably slow pace of the season-opening series between two ancient rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the defending World champion New York Yankees. Noting that all three games took nearly 4 hours each to play, West ripped the Yankees & Red Sox for their slow play. West was, in turn, disciplined, but not punished for daring to speak his mind on one of the nagging problems that has turned what was the National Pastime into a tedious drama that will have fans reaching for the Sominex instead of Pepto Bismol more often than not.

Some players have nagging habits that they go through between pitches in each at-bat. It seems that the directives from the Commissioner's Office have been ignored since they were first issued nearly a decade ago, when it was first demanded that the pace should be quickened. Instead, you get coaches & managers worried about pitch counts for their starters, then getting second-guessed for leaving them in too long when they're not at their best. There are too many meetings at the mound between pitchers and catchers and/or pitching coaches.

Now, it's time to get radical. If Major League Baseball is serious about speeding up the game, especially when the ratings magnets like the Yankees and Red Sox are playing, then maybe they need to take a page from the NBA or NFL and install---wait for it-----a pitch clock.

This idea is actually aimed at scaling back, if not completely eradicating, the odd, "nervous habits" some batters have, like for example, newly retired Nomar Garciaparra, who'd adjust his batting gloves between pitches. Some pitchers, especially if they have already got strike one on the hitter, will want the ball right back. At least they get it.

During the April 6 game between Boston & New York, ump Angel Hernandez refused to grant time outs to three players, subtly reminding them that they need to pick up the pace. Unfortunately, it didn't help matters at all. Not only that, but the Yankees apparently are averaging over 3 hours per game, regardless of who they play.

It's going to take time to break the habits that already exist. I think we all get that. Unfortunately, that time is something MLB wants back, preferably yesterday.

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