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‘Dumbest thing they’ve ever done’: Twins who played for Saints despise the clock


A month after pitching clocks were introduced at the highest level of minor league baseball, two things have become clear.

The new rules work. And players don’t like them.

In fact, an informal survey of nearly every current Twins player who has adapted for the St. Paul Saints since the rules came into effect found unanimity on whether umpires should start regulating. seconds between pitches at the major league level. For a man, they don’t – some more ostensibly than others.

“My honest opinion? This is the dumbest thing they’ve ever done,” left-hander Devin Smeltzer said. “I mean, it destroys the game.”

It’s definitely shortening it. According to Baseball America research, the clock slashed the average minor league game by 24 minutes, cutting them from 2:59 per nine-inning game before April 15, when the new rules went into effect, to 2:34 now. The data shows that the number of plate appearances or pitches thrown has remained stable, but games simply take 13.4% less time to play.

This change has puzzled MLB, where the average playing time has steadily increased and this year is averaging 3:05. Commissioner Rob Manfred said in April that the sport was still looking into the matter, but a step clock “remained high on the list of ownership priorities”.

Manfred added that he intended “to get full input from the players”. He might not like what he hears.

“I think the game needs to be stepped up,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “But listening to a lot of people who have experienced it firsthand, I think it’s working, but I think there are tweaks to be made, in terms of the details of how it would work at the level of major leagues.”

Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up

In Triple-A, the rules state that pitchers deliver a pitch within 14 seconds of the previous pitch, or within 19 seconds if a runner is on base. Batters must be in the box, bat in hand and ready for a pitch with at least nine seconds remaining on the clock. There is no time to step out of the box or walk around the mound, because if time is up, umpires are empowered to call an auto ball if the pitcher was at fault, and an auto strike if the batter n wasn’t ready in time. .

“Every pitch is in your mind – hurry up, hurry up,” said Royce Lewis, who joined the Saints on Thursday after being dropped to class AAA earlier in the week. “It’s like the referees are controlling the game. It’s in your head, every throw.”

Jose Miranda agreed: “I don’t like to be rushed. It’s too fast. I was ok with that at first, but in big games, in big moments, you need time to think, to make sure you’re ready.”

But beyond the outline of respecting the great countdown, it is the auxiliary rules that players particularly object to. Batters are only allowed to call time out once per time at bat. Pitchers can only throw two pick pitches, and the timer starts counting down again immediately after.

That’s what worries most gamers in particular – that the game isn’t just sped up, it’s fundamentally changed. Some have said that giving umpires the power to regularly add balls and strikes to the count gives them too much power to change the outcome of every at-bat, especially if strictly enforced regardless of the circumstances. . (MLB rules already provide for a 12-second limit between pitches — beginning “when the batter is ready” — but has never been enforced.)

One Saints player, first baseman Curtis Terry, was even ejected last month for getting into an argument when an umpire called a strike for Terry not being ready soon enough.

“Once you get used to it, I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortable, it’s just weird. There’s always been a reset period after a pitch, between the pitcher and the batter, and I think it’s necessary,” outfielder Trevor Larnach said. “But if something happens and a guy calls really fast because he’s got something in his eye, that’s a problem. That’s a big problem for a hitter. If your contacts [lenses] you’re messed up or you have a gnat in your face, it has a big impact.”

Object on both sides

Larnach also noted that the clocks in some stadiums are almost directly behind the pitcher, from a batter’s perspective, interfering with his vision of the pitch pitch.

It’s not just the hitters who object, of course.

“It gives the starting pitchers an extreme advantage, until somebody comes up. The batters have to be ready at nine seconds, then I can just hold on and they can’t call time,” Smeltzer explained. “But then when guys get along, they can pretty much just [steal] whenever they want because of the direct debit rules. You cannot hold the ball, nor can you pick up more than twice. Honestly, I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.”

The result, Smeltzer said, is that “in the minor leagues you’re afraid of [throw a] pickoff, because once you do, and you have something wrong with the signs, you just have to wear it. I hadn’t launched a pickoff for a month. my last departure [for the Twins]if it felt so good to be able to hold base runners again.”

Some players opposed such a drastic change just to penalize the worst offenders, and a few offered alternative ideas – halving the time between innings, in part by allowing broadcasters to use in-game image ads. image as football broadcasts do. Or increase the time to around 25 seconds, a more gradual step.

Or?

“If they want to speed up baseball, make it seven innings,” Larnach suggested sarcastically. “Then you will have shorter games.”

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