MIAMI — Union leader Tony Clark says Major League Baseball’s rule changes will go more smoothly during spring training if player thoughts are included.
Clark added that the changes could have a different impact on games once the regular season begins and “the lights come on.”
MLB implemented its first pitch clock, limited defensive shifts and pickoff attempts and installed larger bases as part of the biggest change to the rules of the game as the mound was taken down for the 1969 season.
“My hope though is that almost all of the things that we’ve seen that would otherwise be characterized as challenges can be avoided through the input that players have offered when these rules are being built,” Clark said. on the Saturday before the United States played. Venezuela in the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic.
“My hope moving forward is that the league continues to take player input to heart, that each of the adjustments we’ve seen implemented this year is beneficial in the long run.”
The average time of spring training games is down to 2 hours, 36 minutes, from 3:00 last year. The changes had almost no effect on offense, with runs per game increasing to 10.7 from 10.6 and batting average to .260 from .259.
Stolen bases went up to 1.8 per game from 1.1.
“Spring training is spring training,” Clark said. “I appreciate everyone’s focus on spring training game times has been shortened by `X’ number of minutes. I appreciate everyone’s focus on it. But when the lights come on and these count, count for the managers, count for the organizations, count for the players, we get to see how all these moving pieces come together.”
Then the mets’ Max Scherzer timed the pitch clock to throw a fast pitch at Washington’s Riley Adams on March 3, MLB reminded teams that a pitcher must wait until a hitter is reasonably set in the batter’s box to deliver a pitch.
Baseball’s 11-man competition committee, established in the March labor agreement, adopted the pitch clock and shift limits in September over the opposition of four players on the panel.
Saying it was responding to player concerns, MLB set the pitch clock to 15 seconds without runners and 20 seconds with runners, up from 14/19 in Triple-A and 14/18 in the other minors.
MLB also liberalized its projected limit for pickoff attempts, known as strikeouts. In the minors, a pitcher has two pickoff attempts per plate appearance and the third will result in a balk unless there is an out. In the majors the limit resets if a runner advances.
MLB umpires also have permission to grant extra time if necessary, such as a catcher making the final out of a half-inning. MLB changed the limits on mound visits, which began in 2018, adding an allowable ninth inning walk if a team has exhausted its total by the end of the eighth.
This is the fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic, started in 2006, and the first since 2017 following a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There appears to be little support for handling WBCs more frequently.
“Having it happen as infrequently as we do offers a certain level of excitement around the event similar to what you tend to see at the Olympics every four years, as well,” said Clark.
He is not concerned that the US team has been given more limitations on the use of the pitcher than other countries.
“Each federation and each country against the backdrop of when their season starts and how that federation operates has their appropriate rules for participation for their players,” he said. “Ours may be a little different than others.”
Clark also said it was possible to reach an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement for the minor leaguers by opening day on March 31.
“A lot of progress has been made,” he said. “Let’s see if we can get to the finish line before opening day.”