The Major League Baseball season is well underway, even as both NBA and NHL seasons come to dramatic ends. Soon all sports focus, with the exception of some soccer fans, will be on the boys of summer.
The trend over the past few years has been to alter the game such that it moves along at a quicker pace. Fair enough. Recent changes include alterations to the intentional walk rule. For the last couple of years, managers have been able to inform the home plate umpire that they would like to bypass a batter by intentionally walking him. The umpire tells the batter to move on down to first base, with no pitches thrown.
Prior to this, a pitcher had to make four significantly out of the strike-zone pitches before the batter assumed his place at first base. Under pressure this could result in all sorts of problems. I have played in leagues with this rule, but it was used because there were two teams warming-up down the foul lines, having rented the field for the next hour and hoping we would soon be done before it got dark.
While I appreciate MLB’s desire to move the game along, I have some problems with how they are suggesting to do so. There is no need for a ‘pitch clock’; like crying, there are no clocks in baseball. Umpires must tell batters that they cannot step out every pitch to adjust their gloves, and they must tell pitchers that it is not acceptable to go for a stroll around the infield after every pitch.
But here is the key to keeping a game going at a good pace: no warm-up pitches for new pitchers. The distance between the pitching rubber and home plate is 60 feet, six inches. The height of the pitching mound is 10 inches. Assuming bullpens have the exact same dimensions, when a pitcher enters the game he should be ready to start pitching in earnest right away. No period of warm-up and no commercial break.
There was a time in the National Hockey League when a goaltending change called for a delay in the game while players took shots at the new goalie to loosen him up. No longer. A goalie coming into the game now had better be ready as no warm-up is allowed. Baseball should take note.
Eliminating on-field warm-ups for incoming pitchers puts the onus on managers, even more than presently, to think several moves ahead.