It seems like people have been predicting the slow, painful death of baseball for 50 years. Or maybe more.
The truth is, in an always-cyclical sports world, the game has never been healthier. Boxing and horse racing, both of which were almost as popular as baseball in the early and middle parts of the 20th century, have faded in large part because of the concerns surrounding the health of the participants. Football, which is far and away the biggest sport in America today, could be met with the same fate at some point in the future.
Meanwhile, baseball is the same as it's always been: perhaps slightly behind the times, yes, but also the perfect sport for mild spring and warm summer days. It's a sport tailor made for attending in person rather than watching TV. That's why most baseball fans have an affinity for day games -- even in the postseason.
Unfortunately, TV rules all; that's why, despite labor troubles and overblown (in my opinion, but that's another topic for another day) performance-enhancing drug drama, baseball is in the best financial shape it's ever been in. As such, the league is doing its due diligence to ensure it doesn't lose viewership. One of the main complaints from civilians is that games -- particularly, the ones featuring large-market clubs such as the Yankees and Red Sox -- take too long to complete. MLB's response has been to examine pace of play and tinker around with possible solutions to speed up games.
The first of those possible solutions? A pitch clock.
MLB tested this out during the Arizona Fall League to mixed results. Beat writers and similar folks working the games naturally loved the pitch clock because it shortened the contests by almost a half-hour, on average. However, players don't really feel the same way, as Dodgers prospect Corey Seager said during the AFL season:
"You almost feel rushed. It's not your normal (routine) where you can take your time, get your rhythm. It's kind of on somebody else's rhythm. It was a little rushed ... getting on and off the field, getting your stuff done in the dugout and in the box mainly because you only have 20 seconds between pitches. You swing and then get right back in-it's a little weird."
Despite the concerns of Seager and other players, the pitch clock appears likely to be implemented at the two highest levels of the minors this season, according to MLB Daily Rumors' Robert Murray (via Fox Sports).
Granted, some unnamed players told Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi that they don't believe the flow of the game would be disrupted with the implementation of the pitch clock, but it seems there's enough guys who don't like it to cause a hang-up between the owners and players union during negotiations. And that's not even taking into consideration the fans.
I don't have any proof off of which to base this statement, but it seems those who love baseball are more closely tied to their sport than any other group of fans. A lot of that is the result of the tradition the game has to offer, and what better way to screw up tradition than to add a clock to the one sport that doesn't have one?
Maybe the game will be faster, but maybe it'll become sloppier. Maybe players who thrived on controlling the pace of the game -- players like Jorge De La Rosa, for example -- will be affected. And maybe, just maybe, the type of fans who pay attention to other things besides the on-field happenings during a game will, you know, still pay attention to the other things besides the on-field happenings during a game.
There are a lot of reasons why the sport has lost a bit of its allure for the athletic kid coming out of high school in Florida who wants to play something more fast-paced. But for the people who actually eat, sleep and breathe baseball (you know, people like the ones currently playing the game), implementing a clock only complicates things.
There are many other ways to speed up the game (one of which, by the way, won't be shorter commercial breaks because that's not realistic). Bypassing the four-pitch intentional walk, for example, is an easy way to cut out at least some wasted time. Another is umpires -- and by extension, the league -- forcing players to step in the box. Or cutting down on ultimately useless meetings on the mound. Or, hell, this is pretty outside the box, but perhaps one day enforcing a limit on how many relievers can be used in one inning.
The point is, as our friend Chris Chrisman mentions, there are a lot of ways to address the pace of play issue -- if you even want to call it that -- without the advent of a ridiculous clock.
Or, you know, MLB -- if you want to have as many people as possible watching baseball on TV, you could always meet with the owners and get rid of the stupid blackout policy.
Come to think of it, I've just found the subject for my next hot take.