SEATTLE — The Major League Baseball Players Association wants the league to relax the pitch timer rule as the 2023 season nears the playoffs, but Commissioner Rob Manfred is leaning toward keeping the current rule in place.
“I don’t think there are too many people who want a new rule to affect a game in a pennant hunt or in the playoffs,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Tuesday. “There are adjustments that can be beneficial.”
Shortly after Clark spoke to reporters on the subject, Manfred was asked if there was a chance MLB would adjust current rules, which allow 15 seconds between fields when bases are empty and 20 seconds when the Runners are turned on.
“In general, I think you should play the postseason the same way you play the regular season,” Manfred said. “We’re pleased with the way time and violations have been handled – particularly late in the game, in high-leverage situations.”
Players aren’t suggesting doing away with the clock entirely, just tweaking it to the point where more time is available, especially during high-leverage moments. That might include adding seconds to the clock, allowing additional timeouts or withdrawals, or a number of other ideas that Clark said would give players a chance to “take a breath.”
“Considering you just played a 162-game season [with a pitch clock]”No one wants to play 3½ to 4 hour games,” Clark said. “I don’t think a few seconds here or there makes a 3½ to 4 hour game.”
According to league data, pitch clock violations have been on the decline over time this season, but Manfred concedes it could impact a key game in October.
“We don’t want a postseason game to be decided because of an infraction,” Manfred said. “We haven’t decided a game like that before [so far]. I understand it’s a possibility.
Both sides say they will continue the conversation in the second half of the season, but the league didn’t give players much say in the initial decision on current seasons, and Clark isn’t sure MLB will be listening this time around .
“Something we’re concerned about going forward has to do with the input players are providing early on,” Clark said. “They didn’t land the way we hoped to even out some of the rough edges earlier.
“The lines of communication are open; we’re glad they are. We hope that some of the things that were initially left out of the conversation will be considered later.”
Manfred also reiterated his previous stance that a ball and shot challenge system will be implemented rather than a fully automated system, although it may not appear in the big leagues in 2024. The league doesn’t believe they own 100% of the technology. I’ve found that I can make any real call.
MLB is also still working on developing a baseball that will give pitchers some stickiness. Experiments in the smaller leagues are underway.
“We continue to work with the folks at Dow Chemical to develop a sticky ball that would eliminate many of the variables in the current process,” said Manfred. “It would come out of a sealed foil pouch at the ballpark.”