Photo Credit: AP Photo / Chris Carlson

Major league baseball has implemented some minor rule changes to impact the speed of the game.  Will this have any significant influence on the Red Sox?

The speed of the game is now the hot topic as major league baseball attempts to quicken the pace.  Most games migrate into the three-hour mark and the Red Sox managed to finish number one in something – the length of a game. I believe the final tally was three hours and twenty minutes and that is with Chris Sale a real get the ball and pitch type getting a regular turn.

Baseball has rejected a timing clock used as an experiment last season in the minors. The “pitch clock” intricacies punish pitchers and hitters for exceeding a twenty-second time frame. This has now been rejected because of negotiations between the players’ union and Commissioner Rob Manfred. A baseball quid pro quo.  But changes have been made.

“the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break.” – MLB Rules

This season the changes are quite minor such as limiting visits to the mound and requiring pitchers to have certain time frames for tossing the ball. So, just how will this impact the Red Sox? Will games against the Yankees now magically go under three hours? Somehow, I remain skeptical. What I do know is folks are getting bored. Even the Red Sox fans are starting to disappear late in the game.

What baseball record will never be broken? Cy Young and 511 wins? Back-to-back no-hitters by Johnny Vander Meer? Those are easy ones. The one that will stand forever happened on September 28, 1919, when the New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 in a regulation nine-inning game. The game took 51 minutes to complete.

Speed changes are not new to baseball. If you are old enough you may remember the bullpen carts. The idea was a golf cart to provide Uber service for a relief pitcher with the intent of shaving off a minute of time from the normal slow walk from the bullpen.

With pitchers, they can adjust.  They adjusted to mound changes after the “Year of the Pitcher” after 1968.  They have adjusted to hitters swinging from their heels. Pitchers – despite a notorious fragile psyche – manage to adapt. Millions in compensation or potential compensation will do that.

For every Sale, there are a dozen Clay Buchholz types who consider the ball a prized possession that they wish not to part with. I have always believed the Sale type is loved by the fielders since you must be ready at all time.

And speaking of pace just who on the Red Sox are the offenders?  Thanks to the magic of PITCH/fx the pace can be tracked. Joe Kelly at 28.7 seconds between pitches was the 15th slowest in MLB in 2017 (40 IP – Min).  Matt Barnes was right behind at 28.3.  David Price “led” the starters with a glacial 27.3 between pitches and Sale was at 20.6.

With a pitcher like Sale, the game simply moves as it should move. Showing my age games would routinely be completed in well under two and half hours “back in the day.” Just a review of game times over the years shows a distinct upward trend.  What it all comes down to are the players and managers.

Players and managers control the pace of play and not a clock, rules that are questionable to enforce, and time between innings to sell beer. At the heart is the players and it will always be the players.  That previously mentioned 51-minute game? A deliberate attempt by both teams to do just that. Hustle on and off the field. In those bygone days, players were also allowed to keep their gloves in the field.

I really see no significant change in the length of games for the Red Sox.  In today’s game, you expect the constant use of bullpens and that slows the whole process down considerably. Managers may be limited to mound visits, but others are not. I can imagine signals from the dugout to have the catcher or infielder go to the mound for a tete-a-tete with the pitcher.