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MLB keeps flip-flopping on whether there will be a pitch clock this season


Portland Sea Dogs vs New Britain Rock Cats Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Everybody in baseball needs to take a deep breath, think happy thoughts, and make up their damn minds about whether there will be a pitch clock in the major leagues this season.

There’s been so much flip-flopping about something as simple as having a pitch clock, when everyone could be focusing their time on better things. Like actually signing free agents or deciding which celebrity Jake Arrieta most resembles or how many hot dogs Giancarlo Stanton can eat in one sitting. Anything else!

In the fall it looked like the players and league were getting along well enough that they could work it out mutually, and then they were haggling over how long the pitch clock should be exactly so things seemed close to being wrapped up far before the season.

Then, the MLBPA seemed to be giving up the fight completely and allowing the league to put a pitch clock in place for various reason that they thought would benefit them later. None of which were particularly good reasons.

But then a few days later (which felt more akin to a month with this offseason’s news cycle) the players association reportedly rejected the league’s proposal completely which meant that Commissioner Rob Manfred could put the pace of play changes from last year’s proposal in place without their cooperation.

Even if that probably wouldn’t have worked out in the way the MLBPA wanted it to — as they were essentially assuming fans would be mad about the changes and they would look like the good cop to the league’s bad cop — at least the situation seemed settled. The league would have a pitch clock, a few other pace of play initiatives would be implemented as well, it would cause some chaos for a season or two while everybody got used to the alterations, and then that annoyance would go away and fans and players alike would forget what they were upset about in the first place.

But now, we’re back to square one, as there are reports that there won’t be a clock in the 2018 season after all. And there might not be one in 2019, either, if the players can keep game times down.

The reported game time limit would be 2 hours and 55 minutes, which would be almost impossible for players to do without some sort of adjustments to the game itself. That’s 10 minutes below the record high that game lengths hit this year. It’s a nice idea, but probably not happening.

And the league knows that’s the case, too, which is why they set it up this way. There’s no pitch clock this season, so everyone’s happy in the short term, but they’ve given the players an impossible task that they won’t reach so that when clocks are put in place next season, the league won’t look like the bad guys.

The players will because they didn’t hit an unattainable goal and protect the innocent fans from a big bad pitch clock. How could they! What a betrayal!

As reported by Ken Rosenthal, the latest pace-of-play proposal actually includes a more complicated pitch clock plan that is tied to game time averages over multiple seasons rather than just a one-off test year.

Which now probably means that the MLBPA will try to parry with another move of their own to put themselves back in the Good Cop driver’s seat before time runs out and they’re backed into this corner permanently. Which means this back-and-forth isn’t nearly over yet.