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home : columns : dave fjeld
April 21, 2019

3/6/2019 10:02:00 AM
A pitch clock? Really!
Spring training baseball is officially underway and you baseball purists out there better get ready for some changes.
Now, you may or may not see any major changes for the 2019 Major League Baseball season, but I firmly believe they are coming within the next three years.
Some have already happened - limiting mound visits, for instance.
However, one of the most sweeping proposed changes involves the addition of a pitch clock. Yes, I said a clock - and it is being used during spring training games this month.
For more than a 150 years, one of the great things about baseball was that it had no clock. Baseball has been timeless. The longest baseball game in history lasted 33 innings. Until the final out is recorded, or there's a hit that drives in the game-ending run, baseball has never needed a clock of any sort.
Guess what, folks, all good things must come to an end. It didn't have to, but it must.
I consider myself a mostly baseball purist. Baseball should be played on a grass field. I prefer the traditional National League pitcher-hits rule as opposed to the designated hitter, although I don't mind the DH. I like old-style uniforms that made a comeback in the late 1980s.
And, yes, I appreciated there was no clock in baseball. That's not the case any more. I'll side with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in wanting - make that, "needing" -to institute a pitch clock.
And the only reason the pitch clock is needed is because today's players and managers believe they are the show and not the game. They believe their work on the mound, their time-consuming appearance at the plate or a managers' need to replace four pitchers after each of four at-bats is what the game today is all about.
Sorry, boys, it's not.
It's about playing a game and if you are so intent on seeing that a game lasts 3½ to 4 hours, then it's high time someone steps in and says, "Enough!" If you can't control yourselves, the commish will do it for you and count me among the masses that are asking for someone to do just what Manfred is planning to do.
Nine innings of Major League Baseball can be played in 2½ to 3 hours, whether players believe it or not. And while managers are to blame for replacing four pitchers in a half inning, pitchers are to blame for lengthening games. They have become so accustomed to taking as much time as they want between pitches that a pitch clock is most certainly needed.
Clayton Kershaw was quoted this week as saying that he won't pay any attention to a pitch clock and that he's not going to do anything differently. He said that if it becomes a problem, he'll deal with it then and look for ways to circumvent it.
Something tells me that if he chooses to step off, because the clock is winding down, umpires will be given free reign to immediately call a ball. Or, if a batter delays stepping into the box, pitchers will be given freedom to pitch even though the batter is not in the box.
I guarantee it will speed up the game.
If you go to a nine-inning amateur baseball game in Windom, most games last no more than 2½ hours and most are played within 2 hours. Why? Because pitchers get on the mound and pitch.
One of the best - and most successful - at that is Brandon Alfson of Pipestone. If his pitch is called a ball or strike, or swung on and missed, he is back on the pitcher's rubber within three seconds and delivering the next pitch in another three or four seconds. In games he pitches, the games move quickly, which is how baseball should be played.
I don't want to watch a pitcher walk around the mound after every pitch, get himself situated on the pitcher's rubber, look in for the sign, then step off and do the whole thing over again because he just didn't feel right to deliver the ball.
I'm behind almost anything to speed up MLB games. If it takes a clock to get the game moving again, so be it.
MLB games can be played in a timely fashion. I always enjoyed watching Minnesota Twins pitcher Carlos Silva. He worked quickly and sometimes threw less than 80 pitches in nine innings of work. It wasn't uncommon for one of his games to be completed in a little more than 2 hours.
Maybe "Skip," the manager of the Durham Bulls in the movie "Bull Durham," had it right:
"You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield, you lollygag your way down to first, you lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry?
Larry: "Lollygaggers!"
Skip: "Lollygaggers! . . . This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it?!"
Apparently Major League players don't get it. But one way or another, they will - whether they want to or not.

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