Major League Baseball pitch clock looms as talks stall

Al Bello  Getty Images

Al Bello Getty Images

As you might expect, players aren't fans of a pitch clock, and reportedly plan to reject the league's proposal.

The players' union is expected to reject Manfred's revised proposal on new rules to improve the pace of play, sources told The Athletic on Thursday. He took well over 27 seconds between pitches on average previous year, but he'll have to keep it under 20 next season to avoid racking up penalties.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, " Manfred said during the quarterly owners meetings in Florida in November.

Miller told Crasnick the union agrees with Manfred that "we want games to be quicker so it doesn't have an effect on viewership", but he added the lack of a clock makes baseball "so appealing and so unique".

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Given the slow market this winter, the players may feel as though they have to fight tooth and nail over every little thing from now until the collective-bargaining agreement is up in December 2021. Under baseball's labor contract, management can change on-field rules on its own with one season of advance notice. The players do have some legitimate concerns about pitch clocks, but they also believe fans are against the move. However, Manfred and the players are not seeing eye to eye on potential changes. Instead, players are suggesting that the time in between innings be limited.

It's exactly what they did last offseason, and no major changes were implemented in 2017.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Thursday that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred may "unilaterally implement" his proposal to speed up games, led by a 20-second pitch clock, with the sides unable to reach an agreement on the issue. This time around, Manfred may not be willing to wait for the players to get onboard.

The one-year buffer matters in this case because in the most recent proposal there were some additions that brought things closer to the players' wishes. "We get it. We're in the entertainment business, and if we're not putting the best product out there, we're at fault and we need to make an adjustment".

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Similar rules have been in place at the Triple-A and Double-A levels since 2015. In this sense, it's easy to understand why the players don't want to go along with such a rule change right now. Pitchers will adjust to the clock in the minors and get accustomed to pitching at that pace. While he didn't act on that in 2017, he's expected to use his power to force pitch clocks on the league in 2018.

However, Manfred doesn't appear willing to wait that long.

Any rules changes require the approval of Major League Baseball owners, who are scheduled to hold their quarterly meetings from January 30 to February 1 in Beverly Hills, California.

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