SEC Tournament to Put Clocks on Baseball, Make Baseball Traditionalists Mad

Baseball's timelessness is partly due to its untimed games. A game plays out languidly, pitcher-batter matchups turn into duels, and the entire enterprise develops slowly enough that wine might ferment during some extra-innings contests. But those foes of traditionalism in the SEC are going to do something radical with the game: They're putting it on the clock.

The Biz of Baseball found a Birmingham News report announcing the change, which will put a 20-second clock on pitches when no one is on base, and a 90-second limit on half-inning changes. Things work both ways: If the pitching team cannot meet the requirements, a ball will be charged, and if the batting team is not ready, a strike will be charged. It's so simple, and so effective for a largely unseen tournament (television and radio would obviously complicate this at higher levels, though there is an allotment for longer between-innings stretches for televised games), that it will probably not only go well but draw enough interest to make the SEC Tournament worth watching, if only briefly, this spring.

But, surprise, surprise, there is resistance. 

The Biz of Baseball found it from North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox.

⇥"My initial take on it is, I hope the ACC doesn't do it,'' Fox said. "I don't see the point in it. Everybody seems to be caught up on the fact that the length of our games is an issue. I just don't see that. I don't know why that's such an issue.⇥⇥⇥⇥

⇥"I just don't see that it's necessary. If you shorten the game by six minutes, so what?'' ⇥⇥⇥⇥

Unfortunately for Fox, it's actually going to save more than six minutes -- much more, if history repeats itself. The Missouri Valley Conference tried out these exact same rules in 1990 and 1991, and shaved 21 minutes off each game. And though that might not seem like much to a guy who is paid to be a part of baseball, regardless of game length, it matters to a generation that can do just about anything in a time frame like that.

If this doesn't change the competitive balance of the game, it was a great first step towards trying to make baseball more broadcast-friendly; if it doesn't, it was a relatively low-risk proposal aimed at saving time on SEC Tournament slates that went past midnight more than once in 2009.

And, if nothing else, it makes baseball interesting for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball. Why fight having more people want to watch your sport?


This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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