By: Mark Lester
As some MLB fans might know, the pitch clock is being tested out this year in Spring Training. Last Saturday, I re-watched one of the first games of Spring Training, a matchup between the Dodgers and White Sox in Phoenix. In all my years of following baseball, it was the first time seeing a clock used to dictate the amount of time between pitches. Or, at least I thought it was, until I did some research and discovered that it’d been used in college baseball for seven years in bases-empty situations. I’ve watched my fair share of college baseball over that time, and I never once noticed that there was a pitch clock. I found I didn’t really notice it while watching an MLB game either, and even though the game time of that matchup was 3 hours 15 minutes, I certainly felt like there was less time between pitches than normal. And that, I suppose, is Manfred’s goal should he eventually implement the rule.
But is it a good idea?
When I was first faced with this question, I was disgusted by the concept of a pitch clock. My rationale was that what separated baseball from most sports was its lack of a clock, and putting a big clock in plain sight of the viewer would ruin what made baseball unique.
Well, the clock being in plain view just didn’t happen. In fact, when I watched the Spring Training game it only popped into my view one or two times an inning at most. I was genuinely surprised when I was watching the game and it took me awhile to remember that I was supposed to be looking for and noticing the clock in the first place. So I don’t believe that the pitch clock will have much of an affect on my personal viewing experience of the game.
However, there’s still the question of whether it’s right to add a clock to a sport that hasn’t had one since Doubleday picked up a bat and invented baseball.
I’m still split on that issue, but I see it like this: even if MLB adds a pitch clock, it will still be vastly different in terms of time structure from every other major US sport that uses a clock. In football, basketball, hockey and soccer, that big clock on your screen is used for the purpose of telling you how much time is left in the game. In baseball, you won’t see that type of time constraint. Rather, we’ll have more of a timer, meant solely for the pitcher to know how long he has left to throw the ball. I’m not sure yet how I feel about putting that in the majors, but I’m confident that if it’s implemented, it won’t compromise the integrity of the game, nor will it make baseball any less special in my mind.
I still think that adding a pitch clock under the assumption that it will fix MLB’s “pace-of-play problem” is somewhat misguided. But at the end of the day, baseball is baseball. I was strongly opposed to the pitch clock because I thought that having that clock on the field would destroy a big part of baseball’s identity. Having watched a real game with this rule used, however, I now know that what makes baseball special to me won’t be threatened by it whatsoever. And if I turn on the TV in a few years and see the White Sox play using that pitch clock, I still won’t switch channels.