Whether players like it or not, changes are coming to Major League Baseball in 2018.
During a Spring Training media conference on Thursday, league commissioner Rob Manfred informed the gathered press that new pace-of-play rule changes will be coming to baseball “one way or another.” He said the rules would be announced before Spring Training exhibition games begin next week.
“We have done extensive research in this area,” Manfred elaborated, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Contorno. “We have shared this research with (the Players Association). … The No. 1 issue that our fans identify (with) respect to our great game is length of the game and the pace of the game.”
Manfred has been trying to address pace-of-play for a few years now, slowly implementing thing like limiting a batter from stepping out of the batter’s box and putting timers between between inning changeovers. New proposals include a pitch clock and limiting the mound visits from the catcher and/or pitching coach.
Manfred has reportedly been trying to work with the Players’ Association on these tweaks, but the union hasn’t been cooperative. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Manfred has the power to implement these rules unilaterally, regardless of the players’ union agreeing or not.
The average MLB game was three hours and five minutes in 2017, which was actually four minutes longer than the 2016 average. Postseason games extended even longer, averaging almost three and a half hours each. Manfred is hoping to get those numbers down in the two hour, fifty minute range — especially useful to keep within the three-hour television timeslot that most baseball games have.