Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred has been pushing for a pitch clock for years. Baseball’s fans are increasingly getting older and the sport is failing to attract the same youth following it once had. With Manfred prepared to decide on whether or not a pitch clock will be seen in the 2018 season, writers Rachel Schaefer and Jorge Eckardt argue if it is good or bad for the sport.
Jorge Eckardt: America’s pastime might soon stay in the past if a pitch clock is not instituted. Some fans believe baseball is boring, and that is not necessarily a surprise, as MLB starting pitchers take an absurd about of time in-between pitches. Matt Shoemaker was the biggest culprit in 2017, who on average took 26.6 seconds to throw the baseball. He is followed by Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, who all took over 26 seconds as well. When you compare this to basketball, where the maximum amount of time in between possible scoring opportunities is 24 seconds, it is no wonder American viewers are shifting their viewing habits away from baseball to basketball. In fact, in 2017 basketball eclipsed baseball as America’s second favorite sport to watch (both are still lengths behind football). Even social media shows baseball trailing in popularity, with the NBA boasting 26.4 million followers on Instagram and 27.2 million followers on Twitter. Meanwhile, the MLB is sitting at a measly four million Instagram followers and eight million Twitter followers. This shows the public’s greater interest in faster, more exciting sports like the NBA. If a pitch clock were to be instituted, it would surely speed up the game and make it more engaging for the viewer.
Rachel Schaefer: The most important aspect to think about here is that pitch clocks exist in the minors. We’ve seen younger players coming up through the league having adjusted to a faster pace of play as a result of a pitch clock, and other minor league rules (like those that dictate a batter cannot step out of the box). The game will get faster as it gets younger. This should only be a matter of phasing out older veteran players. Otherwise, we’ll see these players forced to adjust to a game that they aren’t used to. Penalties for a delayed pitch will change the game as we know it and that is not something I want to have to deal with. Truthfully, what slows the sport more than anything is advertising between innings. Watching college baseball creates a much faster game because they are not dictated by broadcasts. This should be the change made by the MLB.
Eckardt: Even though there is a pitch clock in the minor leagues, there is no guarantee that once the pitchers reach the majors that they will just revert back to taking their time. As for the veteran players, yes, they will have to adjust. After all, they are professionals. If they have lasted long enough in the MLB to be called a veteran then they are certainly skilled enough to adjust to a minor change like a pitch clock. In regards to advertising, you and I both know that it’s not going anywhere. It brings in too much money to all of a sudden do away with. Besides, advertising is present in all major sports. It’s something we just have to live with. One more thing that I would like to point out is that there are already pace of play rules in place for the hitter. Once the batter has entered the batter’s box and is ready to hit, he must keep at least one foot in the box at all times, unless if permitted to do so in a handful of situations. This prevents batters from stepping out of the box after every pitch to adjust their batting gloves, take multiple unnecessary practice swings or even put some more chewing gum in their mouth. This rule has been in place since the 2015 season, and I would say that the veteran MLB hitters have successfully adjusted. Not to mention that like the pitch clock rule, this was tested in the minor leagues first, and with this they did not assume that everyone from the minors would just continue it in the majors, they made sure of it.
Schaefer: Honestly, the general argument that baseball is too slow is unfathomable to me. Has anyone tried to watch an NFL game recently? It takes 30-45 minutes for 15 minutes to pass on the clock, and often times the players are just organizing for the play while the clock ticks down. It takes three hours for one hour of actual game time. Yet, this is the most popular sport in America. Perhaps the MLB needs to acknowledge that the pace is not the reason the game is losing fans. Baseball holds older fans because of its inherent nostalgia. It reminds adults of the game they used to play as a child. What we’re seeing is a consistent decline in the amount of young boys participating in Little League baseball because it is becoming more and more expensive to pay the fees. Andrew McCutchen was only ever allowed to play baseball as a child because he was sponsored. He didn’t have the money, and we would have lost the pleasure of watching him play. I don’t know how much more I can argue this, but PACE IS NOT THE ISSUE. Baseball has fundamental flaws that it needs to fix to attract the younger generation. A generation that, needless to say, they had no trouble attracting just a few decades ago. Maybe I’m digressing here, but the moral of the story is that I believe the pitch clock would do more harm to the fan base than good.