GLENDALE, Ariz — Commissioner Rob Manfred decision’s to play hardball and implement a pitch clock during spring training has triggered reaction from Major League Baseball managers ranging from skepticism to resignation to support.
“I think the games need to be a little shorter,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “I think it drags on too much at times. I’m not so sure if a 20-second clock is going to make that big of a difference.”
The pitch clock, which already has been in use in the minor leagues and in the Arizona Fall League, gives pitchers 20 seconds from the time they receive the ball to begin their windup or come to a set position. If the pitcher fails to beat the clock, the umpire will call a ball.
In January of 2018, The players' association rejected MLB’s pace-of-play proposal.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona revealed that baseball used a pitch clock to time pitchers for a week last season, and that it resulted in zero offenders.
However, this spring will be the first time MLB will penalize a team or player for not completing the next pitch before the clock runs out. Many managers agree there is a need to improve the pace of play in baseball, including San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy.
“I’m all for speeding the game up,” Bochy said. “It’s going to make it a bit more entertaining, especially for the younger generation. I wouldn’t totally be against it.
“I’ve never managed a game with a clock, so that would help me make a decision. But I do think we’re doing a better job of getting these pitchers to speed up their times when they’re throwing the pitch.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he’s more focused on the pace of the game rather than the length of the game.
“If you want to mess with anything, I think getting the ball in play more quickly is not a bad idea,” Maddon said. “Out of all the different items put forth, that one (pitch clock) makes the most sense.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as obtrusive as many people think it is. I don’t think it’s going to be offensive to the sensibilities of real baseball folks. Give it a go, and anything that puts the ball in play more quickly, I think, plays pretty good.”
Athletics manager Bob Melvin understands the need to grab and keep the attention of young people.
“Whatever we need to do to engage a younger fan base,” Melvin said. “If baseball feels like the games are getting a little bit too long, and it’s something we need to do, then everybody will acclimate.
“As far as some of the things they’re bantering about and incorporating, this might be the easiest one.”
With the Mariners undergoing a rebuild featuring a young spring training squad, manager Scott Servais said he doesn’t see the pitch clock as a big deal, adding that it didn’t have an impact on minor league games he attended when it was in use.
However, he said baseball needs to strike a balance while implementing pace of play measures.
“At the end of the day, we are in the entertainment industry,” Servais said. “You’re trying to do what creates a better product in the field and draw in some more fans, and certainly keep our core base of fans.
“Whatever allows that to happen, then why not?”