A showdown looms between the Washington Nationals, MLB and the players over the use of a pitch clock. The time to ignore it is over.
The Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball have a pace of play problem. The game is too slow.
Last year, your average nine-inning MLB game to 3:05 to play. The Nats only had 28 games clock in at 2:50 or under. That is 17 percent. You want that figure closer to half.
Mind you, one of baseball’s biggest draws is how little the sport regards time. We play until the home team has used their required 27 outs or are ahead after the visitors ran out of outs. Whether it takes 90 minutes or five hours, everyone gets their proper turn. Hopefully, that will never change.
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The problem is how we get there.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is correct something must give. A look at the attendance trends gives the answer. MLB peaked at the gate in 2007 with 79,484,718 paid tickets or a 32,696 game average. Last year, 72,670,425 bought tickets with the game average settling at 29,905. The last time MLB failed drawing less than 30k a night was 2003.
The average nine-inning game in 2007? A “neat-and-tidy” 2:51. Fourteen minutes is not chump change.
This is why Manfred wants a pitch clock. The players union and some of you want no restrictions. Here, Manfred is right.
Although there is nothing wrong with a four-hour marathon with both teams edging in disaster, there are too many nights where 3-2 games slog along into the fifth inning passing the two-hour mark. Pitchers slow to a crawl. Hitters step out and readjust their protective gear every pitch. The catcher and pitcher are not on the same page on signs.
When you add the commercial breaks for television and the pitching changes, you have a product with too many dull spots. Those of you who go to Washington Redskins games understand the frustration of sitting through double breaks after a change of possession. Just play the game.
MLB must do what it can to remove the dead spots without cutting strategy short. A pitch clock helps, but all parties must find a solution that works for everybody. By walking away, the MLB Players Association makes the problem worse.
For the Nats, as they continue establishing themselves as a premier team, it is in their best interest to showcase an efficient entertainment product. Speeding games along does not cheapen the spot or its history, but makes the game smoother.