By Michael McCarthy
One of the longest-standing criticisms of major league baseball is the seemingly interminable length of games, with batters calling time to adjust their batting gloves, pitchers taking a minute or more between pitches.
Now MLB has moved to speed up the lovely game, and the only question in my mind is whether or not these new rules will make the woeful Phillies easier to watch?
The pace of game program will require that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. This amendment/reemphasis of existing Rule 6.02(d) allows batters to leave the box if the following events occur:
The batter swings at a pitch;
The batter is forced out of the batter’s box by a pitch;
A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”;
A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
The batter feints a bunt;
A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.
Which, yes, are a lot of situations. Essentially, called balls and called strikes are the only occurences after which the batter must stay in the box.
In addition to the batters box rule, there will now be a stricter timing of between-innings breaks and pitching change breaks during the game. Specifically, timers will be added that will measure the time during these breaks. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box. Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games. An MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following events:
|PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music
|Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch
|Batter’s walk-up music ends
|20 Seconds-5 Seconds
|Batter enters the batter’s box
|20 Seconds-0 Seconds
|Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch
Pitchers can still throw the usual number of warmup pitches if they get it done before the 30-second warning comes, but they will be deemed to have forfeited any pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline.
The new rules — both for batters and pitchers — will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators. No fines will be issued in Spring Training or in April of the 2015 regular season. This enforcement mechanism was decided on after players objected to ball-and-strike penalties or other sanctions that could affect the outcome of the game.
INSTANT REPLAY RULE CHANGES
In addition to the pace of play rules, there are some changes to the replay system as well. Managers may now invoke instant replay from the dugout and will no longer be required to approach the calling umpire to challenge a call. Managers may hold play from the top step of the dugout by signaling to players and the home plate umpire that he is considering a challenge. A decision can be communicated verbally or with a hand signal. To challenge an inning-ending call, managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field.
Whether a runner left the base early or properly touched a base on a tag-up play will be reviewable.
A manager will retain his challenge after every call that is overturned. Last year, a manager retained his challenge only after the first overturned call.
A manager must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions. However, in the event that a manager is out of challenges after the start of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may still choose to review whether there was a violation of the rule.
During Postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star Game, managers will now have two challenges per game.
Instant replay will not be utilized during 2015 spring training, but it will be in place for exhibition games at major league ballparks prior to the start of the 2015 regular season.