MIAMI (AP) – Union boss Tony Clark says Major League Baseball’s rule changes would have gone more smoothly during spring training if players’ thoughts had been included.
MLB implemented its first pitch clock, limited defensive shifts and pickoff attempts and installed larger bases as part of the biggest change to the rules of the game since the mound was lowered for the 1969 season.
“I hope despite the fact that almost all of the things that we’ve seen that would otherwise be characterized as challenges could have been avoided with the input that the players offered when these rules were constructed,” Clark said Saturday before the United States The States played Venezuela in the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic.
“My hope is that moving forward the league will continue to take player input to heart so that any adjustments we’ve seen implemented this year will be beneficial in the long run,” Clark said.
The average time of spring training games dropped to 2 hours and 36 minutes, compared to 3:00 last year. The changes had almost no impact on offense, with runs per game down from 10.6 to 10.7 and batting average down to .260 from .259.
Stolen bases increased to 1.8 per game from 1.1.
“Spring training is spring training,” Clark said. “I appreciate everyone who focused on spring training, game time was shortened by “X” number of minutes. I appreciate everyone’s focus on that. But when the lights go on and this counts, it counts for the managers, it counts for the organizations, it counts for the players, we’ll see how all these moving parts come together.”
After the Mets’ Max Scherzer timed the pitch clock on a fastball against Washington’s Riley Adams on March 3, MLB reminded teams that the pitcher must wait until the batter is reasonably situated in the batter’s box to deliver the strike.
Baseball’s 11-man Competition Committee, established by a labor agreement last March, adopted the time clocks and shift limits last September over opposition from four players on the panel.
Saying it was responding to players’ concerns, MLB set the pitch clock to 15 seconds without runners and 20 seconds with runners, compared to 14/19 in Triple-A and 14/18 in other players.
MLB also liberalized its scheduled cap on attempted separations, known as splits. In the minors, a pitcher had two pickoff attempts per plate appearance, and the third would have resulted in a stop unless there was an out. In major events, the limit is reset if the runner advances.
MLB umpires are also permitted to allow extra time if warranted, such as a catcher making the final out of a half inning. MLB changed the limits on mound visits, beginning in 2018, adding a ninth-inning trip allowed if a team exhausted its total by the end of the eighth.
This is the fifth edition of the World Baseball Classic, which began in 2006, and the first since 2017 after a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There appears to be little support for more frequent WBC maintenance.
“Having it happen as infrequently as it does offers us a certain level of excitement around the event that is similar to what you often see at the Olympics every four years,” Clark said.
He was not concerned that the American team was given more restrictions on the use of pitchers than other nations.
“Each federation and each country, depending on when their season starts and how that federation operates, has their own applicable participation guidelines for their players,” he said. “Ours may be a little different than some others.”
Clark also said a collective bargaining agreement for the minor leaguers could be reached by Opening Day on March 31.
“A lot of progress has been made,” he said. “We’ll see if we can cross the finish line before opening day.”
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