BOSTON — Major League Baseball has looked into plenty of ways to speed up the pace of play, but commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest suggestion might not go over so well.
While pitch clocks, shortening commercial breaks and minimizing the amount of times a batter can step out of the box all have been considered or implemented, Manfred’s latest idea actually would affect how managers make pitching decisions. The commish says the league is talking about restricting the use of relief pitchers in an inning or in a game.
“You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good,” Manfred said on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” on Thursday. “I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game. So relief pitchers is a topic that is under active consideration. We’re talking about that a lot internally.”
But when asked about it before the Red Sox’s game against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Boston manager John Farrell wasn’t too keen on that idea.
“I think just fundamentally when you begin to restrict things rather than being able to use your roster at your disposal, I think that begins to artificially control the game,” Farrell said. “I understand the need to keep the pace of the game going. Without knowing what options would exist and what are the alternatives being considered, that?s just my first gut reaction.”
Farrell makes a good point, as not too many teams have a set lineup of shutdown relievers like the New York Yankees have with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Most, like the Red Sox, rely on a mix of long relievers and left- and right-handed specialists to get them out of trouble when they need it.
The Red Sox skipper agrees that MLB needs to cut down on the time of games and work to get young fans more interested in baseball, but Farrell doesn’t think messing with game strategy is a solution.
“In the moment, I?m not worried about the pace of the game,” Farrell said. “As a person who works in the game, sure, I think we?re always looking for ways to make it more attractive to fans, to a growing fan base, to attract young fans. I think we are all aware of that challenge. Whether it?s the video availability to the young kids, what?s the interaction to a game from a young person?s standpoint. I think we?re all open to ways to grow that. In the seventh inning in a bases-loaded situation, I?m not thinking about pace of the game.”
Manfred’s proposal wouldn’t necessarily create more action, either. Chances are, if a team is rotating relievers, they’re likely in some sort of jam where they need specialist. Teams with nasty relievers wouldn’t necessarily have a problem because their guys would hold down the same inning they always do. Either way, we don’t see this suggestion getting much support from managers.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images