Major League Baseball owners are meeting this week, and while commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to unilaterally order the implementation of new "pace of game" rules, he's reportedly going to wait to see if he can reach agreement with the MLB Players Association on the changes.
MLB wants a 20-second clock between pitches and a 30-second clock between batters. They also want to limit mound visits by any manager, coach or player to one per pitcher in each inning.
Some of the proposed rules changes aren't popular with Orioles players.
"I get what they're trying to do," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said at the Orioles FanFest Jan. 27. "But, at the same time, you can't speed up an artist."
Reliever Darren O'Day, who's also the Orioles' representative to the Players Association, doesn't like the pitch clock.
"I'm not excited about it. If you look at the numbers, I'm one of the slower guys," O'Day said. "It is that I'm methodical when I pitch, but I'm also out there thinking or I'm working with a catcher that maybe hasn't caught me before."
One proponent of the pitch clock is Orioles manager Buck Showalter, a member of the competition committee that worked on these rule changes.
"You won't even notice. The pitchers won't have a problem throwing a pitch in 20 seconds," Showalter said.
Showalter has long complained about other American League East teams slowing the pace of the game with their incessant mound visits, and he pointed that out at FanFest.
He also advocated putting a microphone in a headset for the catcher and a coach or manager on the bench if they want to call pitches or protect against electronic sign-stealing.
While there is disagreement on the rules changes, there's widespread support for another move. Last week, the Orioles joined other major league teams when they announced that protective netting would be extended.
Nets will protect fans in sections 16 through 58 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, extending two sections beyond first and third base.
"I am very happy they're putting in those nets," O'Day said. "When I played in Texas, I saw a few tragic accidents happen there. They had to raise the railings. I've seen fans over the years take pretty bad hits from foul balls. I think it makes sense to protect them. … It's not likely you're going to get somebody away from Instagram on their phone to watch the game, so the nets are going to help."
There are other proposed new rules. One would monitor phone conversations in the dugout to prevent electronic sign-stealing, and in spring training this year, a runner will be placed on second base in the 10th inning during exhibition games. Spring games will be officially capped at 10 innings.
In the All-Star Game to be played at Washington's Nationals Park July 17, a runner will be placed on second to begin the 11th inning.
Obviously, MLB is looking not only to shorten games, which averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes, but it's also looking for uniformity in playing conditions.
A year ago, Major League Baseball implemented regulations mandating uniform temperatures for rooms where baseballs are stored. The result was a record number of home runs hit during the 2017 season.
While Showalter is intensely curious and aware about the pace of game, he doesn't think fans are.
"People who complain most about length of games are the people that are there every day, the media and the umpires," Showalter said.
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