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Breaking Down MLB’s New Rules for 2015

After years of losing fans due to an ever-slowing game, Major League Baseball will try to speed up play with new rules in 2015

You asked for it baseball fans, and now you’ve got it. Well, we think you asked for it anyway. Did you really ask for it? Did anyone who enjoys the game of baseball really ask for the pace of the game on the field to be sped up? Well, if we actually did, and according to Major League Baseball we’ve been running around with our hair on fire screaming for it, then the new rules in place for the 2015 season will likely give us a reprieve of 15 to 20 minutes of dreaded baseball every day.

Okay, so maybe three-hour baseball games are a bit much, but for anyone who really loves the game, yours truly included, it’s never enough. Regardless, Major League Baseball announced this week that they will implement a new set of rules which are intended to speed up the pace of the game and reduce the amount of dead air on TV during telecasts. Let’s take a look at them and see how much, if any, they will impact the actual length of a game.

Rule Number 1: Stay in the Batter’s Box!

Though this rule has effectively been in place since baseball’s early beginnings, it has never been enforced, until now that is. A batter must keep one foot within the batter’s box at all times unless he calls a time out, is moving out of the way of a wild pitch or passed ball, or diving out of the way of an errant curveball. If a batter leaves the box without first calling a time out or a reason that is not excused, the umpire can award a strike to the batter. This rule was first tested in the minor leagues last season and did cut down on the number of batters toiling around the plate wasting time in between pitches. Look for this rule to be enforced with caution this season, as it is unlikely that too many umps are going to want to give out a strike and face the ire of both the offending batter and skipper, but it may help to buy an extra 3 or 4 minutes of free time after the game is over compared to what we have right now.

Rule Number 2: Play Ball When the Cameras Roll!!

We’ve all seen it, the commercials are over, the camera cuts back to the ball park and the players are still sauntering out to their respective positions and the batter is still in the toilet causing an unnecessary delay in the game. If I had a dollar for every minute I’ve had to waste watching that grass grow waiting for the team to take the field after the commercial break I’d be, well I’d probably homeless. The truth is I can’t think of a time that the game has done anything but resume as soon as commercials are over and the cameras cut back to the live action at the park.

None-the-less, baseball will begin using a running timer immediately following the third out of each half-inning which will give both teams 2 minutes and 25 seconds for locally televised games and 2 minutes and 45 seconds for nationally televised games in between each half-inning to get back out on the field and the pitcher to toss his warm-up pitches before play must resume.

As I previously stated, I don’t see this being an issue and I really don’t see how this will speed up the course of the game, but it will give fans something to watch other than the between inning contests on the jumbo tron and the mascot races because the timers will be located at multiple points within the ball park and you’ll be able to sit in anticipation as they count down from 2:25 to zero no less than 17 times throughout the game. That’s just a little over 41 minutes if you do the math. It seems to me that shortening the commercial breaks by a minute would take care of baseball’s three-hour game problem by itself.

Rule Number 3: Stay in that Dugout Sparky!!!

Managers and pitching coaches notoriously drag out games with their constant strolling to the mound to pep up their pitchers. And let’s not forget about the always entertaining arguments between the skipper and Mr. Blue at the plate. While these antics can come off as wildly entertaining to those of us who actually enjoy the game, to the casual fan they represent valuable minutes that could be spent surfing the net or tweeting their next Earth-shattering thought about the future of Obamacare. So to keep those pesky managers in check, MLB is encouraging them to make their cases from the bench this season and advising them not to step onto the grass unless absolutely necessary.

When baseball first implemented challenges, managers were generally required to exit the dugout and initiate the challenge at home plate with the umpire. Now managers will be able to challenge a play without leaving the dugout, unless it is a play which ends an inning in which case they will have to go to the umpire to have the play reviewed.

In addition to these changes, managers will be able to challenge a few more calls this season as baseball continues to expand their use of replay. Challenges will now be accepted on baserunners who have left base early or have tagged-up improperly which could overturn questionable base running on fly balls. Another change is that managers will retain their right to challenge a play if the ruling is overturned in their favor. Lastly, the skippers of the All Star teams and all playoff teams will have two challenges to use per game.

What About the Pitch Clock????

While rookie commissioner Rob Manfred has made some sweeping changes in his first month of office, one thing he has not implemented for the major league is the pitch clock, which is in place for the 2015 season in both the Double and Triple-A level of the minor leagues. Baseball tested the idea last season in the Arizona Fall League with better than expected results and will continue to experiment with it this season before determining if it is feasible to use in the majors. The pitch clock gives each pitcher 20 seconds in between their pitches, which is actually 8 seconds longer than baseball’s long-standing unenforced rule of 12 seconds between each pitch.

The pitch clock cut an average of 10 minutes off each game in which it was used. Not a lot in the big picture but that combined with the aforementioned changes may just shave an extra 15 to 20 minutes off the time of an average game. However baseball complaining that it has increased the time of an average game by 30 minutes over the last 30 years needs to look at the fact that now that all of its games are televised it is inevitable that games will continue to go longer unless advertising time is shortened. For those of us who really love the game though, we could really care less how many rules baseball puts in place to make the game go faster. We love the game as it is, for if I’m sitting in the ball park on a sunny May or June afternoon for three hours, by the bottom of the ninth inning I’m looking at the home plate umpire, giving him a wink and saying yelling “Hey blue, let’s play two!!”




Robert Gonzalez

Cleveland Indians Correspondent