MLB implements small rule changes to speed up the pace of play

By Bill Shaikin | Los Angeles Times (TNS)

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Rob Manfred became baseball’s commissioner two years ago, and since then the radical changes have been fast and furious.

No defensive shifts. Automatic baserunners in extra innings. Shrinking the strike zone. Limits on visits to the mound. Pitch clocks. Restrictions on how many relief pitchers a team can have, and how often it can use them.

Put that package together, and Manfred engineered the most significant wave of changes since … oh, wait, he did not actually enact any of those changes.

In the interest of speeding up the game and injecting more offense into it, Manfred and his lieutenants have floated a generous assortment of trial balloons. Some have been shot down, but many are still floating, even if a good bit of air might have escaped from them.

In February, after the players’ union rejected Manfred’s requests to adopt almost all of those changes this season, the commissioner threatened to unilaterally impose new rules next year.

He said he would much rather come to an agreement with the union but, one way or another, he appears determined to make adjustments next season.

For this season, the changes are relatively minor.

No longer will a pitcher have to lob four balls for an intentional walk. The batter will simply take first base.

No longer can a manager take all the time he needs to decide whether to ask for a replay review. He now must do so within 30 seconds.

No longer can replay officials take all the time they need to review a play. If they cannot decide within two minutes, the call stands.

The exception: replays involving multiple dimensions. For example, to assess whether a runner properly tagged up would require views of the runner tagging up and the fielder catching the ball.

The most intriguing issue will be whether the league treats the two-minute requirement as a strict rule or a well-intentioned guideline.

The whole point of instant replay is to get the call right. In the Puerto Rico-Japan semifinal in the World Baseball Classic, an incorrect call was overturned, but the replay took 2 minutes 7 seconds.

Here’s guessing that a manager whose team is deprived of a correct call because the review took seven seconds too long might take more than seven seconds to express his displeasure.


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