I Hate the Pitch Clock, But Everything's Going to Be Okay
Spring training is underway and Major League Baseball's new pitch clock is causing all kinds of chaos. Both pitchers and batters are being penalized for not going about their business fast enough as the push to speed games up and cram more action into tighter windows has hit the ground running. And to be quite honest, I hate it. I hate the pitch clock a lot. Instead of enumerating the reasons completely, let me throw out the idea that it's an anathema to the entire spirit of the game out there to see if it lands.
After the initial rage over incidents like the one below passes, though, it's easy to see through the fog and concede that, ultimately, this initiative will be a net positive, even if its neccesity is very much up for debate.
Having a game decided on a technicality like this is beyond absurd and the worst-case scenario. The bright side is that it's only exhibition contests at this time and, for God's sake, this one ended in a tie so we're not messing with something sacrosanct. Yet. There was always going to be an awkward adjustment period and it's a good thing these unpleasant incidents are happening on spring training fields. One has to think that Major League Baseball is smart enough to address problems, like the seemingly unavoidable late-inning dance between a pitch's time and it's pace of delivery before a major black eye emerges.
Though this was tested in the minors last season and the data suggests such a concern be from the Chicken Little playbook, I remain concerned that pitchers working at this pace and batters swinging with such force before they are truly ready is a recipe for injury. One could argue that a few high-profile trips to the injured list as a result of the breakneck initiative could ultimately do more to hurt the game than benefit it. So I hope I am wrong on that point.
I also remain skeptical that shortening games by 20 minutes will have a profound impact on viewership and fan interest. The idea that a person would like something they don't already like just because there's less of it is tough to wrap one's mind around. Once again, it would be great if I were misguided and remain optimistic there will be some sort of empirical data to back up the idea that more people are watching and enjoying baseball.
But I have to admit that there is a timing issue facing the game. It's not necessarily the length of games, it's the speed with which action takes place. Some sober self-reflection leads me to believe that my viewing habits are ingrained and aren't congruent with those of a younger generation. That same self-reflection forces the grim realization that I am not as valuable of a costumer as someone 20 years younger about to enter the prime of their consumer life.
There's no reason to defend the tradition of at-bats that drone on forever without good reason. Only an idiot look at this video and say there's nothing to fix.
The pitch clock is a good idea, even if I don't like it. There's real potential to make the sport more enjoyable on several fronts. And crucially, it's already serving the purpose of letting everyone know that Major League Baseball is trying. That alone will inspire a significant swath of the population to try baseball on for size one again. All in all, a smart business decision.
So yes, the misgivings are still there. It feels a bit like using a bazooka to swat a few mosquitos. Right now it almost seems too fast. History suggests that people are resistant to change and the new normal will feel completely normal by May.
In short, I'm more than willing to meet baseball halfway on this. Hell, even willing to meet them almost all the way, as long as there's some assured contract that unintended consequences will be addressed with vigor and speed.
Feels like a perfectly acceptable agreement.