By Kody Acevedo
PHOENIX — Managers from around the Cactus League expressed mixed feelings about upcoming rules changes intended to speed up the pace of Major League Baseball games.
This week, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced several rule changes for 2017, including the adoption of a no-pitch intentional walk and time limits on replays.
Last season, the average MLB game took slightly more than three hours.
Bruce Bochy, who led the Giants to World Series wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014, said baseball should be doing all it can to keep the game moving.
“It’s going to create more interest with the younger generation,” Bochy said. “There’s a lot of slow time in our game. We understand it. Baseball is doing all it can it’s our time to make the adjustments. So I’m all for it.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred said during a recent press conference that baseball has never set a “time goal.”
“It’s really not about time,” Manfred said. “It’s about two things: it’s about pace and action.”
The no-pitch intentional walk rule now involves the manager signaling to the home plate umpire and the umpire immediately awarding first base to the batter.
Other rule changes include:
- Managers will have 30 seconds to decide whether to challenge a play and invoke a replay review.
- When a manager has exhausted his challenges for the game, crew chiefs may invoke replay review for non-home run calls beginning in the eighth inning, instead of the seventh inning.
- With some exceptions, replay officials in the Replay Operations Center in New York will have two minutes to render a decision on a replay review.
- Teams may not use any markers on the field as points of reference for fielders’ defensive positioning.
- An addition to Rule 5.07 stipulates that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is at least one runner on base, such an action will be called a balk under Rule 6.02(a). If the bases are unoccupied, then it will be considered an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).
- An amendment to Rule 5.03 requires base coaches to position themselves behind the line of the coach’s box closest to home plate and the front line that runs parallel to the foul line prior to each pitch. A base coach may leave the coach’s box to signal a player once a ball is in play, provided that the coach does not interfere with the play.
The Commissioner hopes the new rules will help eliminate the dead time of the game.
The rule changes come a week after Manfred said a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA halted any meaningful changes for the 2017 season. Manfred said he wanted to see changes to the strike zone, pitch clock and visits to the mound.
“I’m disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to the modest rule changes, like limits on trips to the mound, that have little effect on the competitive character of the game,” he said.
Although there is no change regarding mound visits this season, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said communication between the pitcher and the manager or coaches is a necessary and strategic part of the game. He proposes a technological solution.
“If (pace is) the concern maybe just get some kind of ear bud where you can talk to the guy from the dugout in order to expedite the situation, but the conversations are vital. They are,” Maddon said.
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin calls himself a traditionalist who said it’s tough for him to say the game needs to be sped up.
“I think one of the things I love about baseball is that it’s timeless,” Melvin said. “There’s no clock. It’s all about innings and outs and that’s the way time is measured in baseball.”
Still, he appreciates that, if baseball is going to make adjustments, they are made in a way that allows players and coaches to adapt.
“I think they’re doing the right thing and doing it incrementally as you’ve seen it over the years. Not doing the wholesale and multiple changes in a year that makes everybody uncomfortable,” he said.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia agreed. He said the change to the intentional walk rule, for example, is not too drastic.
“The commissioner’s office has tried to get (our) input from a lot of the the guys on the ground, like managers,” he said. “So the effort is there. So as far as the rollout, I think that there’s more communication – you’re understanding things.”