While watching the Yankees play the Tigers on Tuesday night, Scott Ferrall couldn’t help but notice how long an at-bat between New York’s Hiroki Kuroda and Detroit’s Nick Castellanos was taking.
And it wasn’t some epic 12-pitch at-bat, either. Rather, Castellanos was stepping out of the batter’s box for inordinate amounts of time for no reason – and even when he got back in the box, Kuroda was taking his own sweet time before delivering a pitch.
This is a major, major issue for Major League Baseball.
“It is – because it’s not just a few guys doing it now,” Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated MLB analyst Tom Verducci said on Ferrall on the Bench. “This is the way the guys play the game today – whether it’s the pitchers or the hitters – and no one’s doing anything about it. That’s the trouble to me.”
Unfortunately for baseball fans – or at least those with somewhere to be – Kuroda was working opposite of David Price on Tuesday.
“They literally are two of the slowest-working pitchers in Major League Baseball,” Verducci said. “The rule says with nobody on base, the pitcher must deliver the baseball within 12 seconds of getting it back from the catcher. Well, guys like Kuroda and Price – they time these things now – they’re closer to 30 seconds between pitches. There’s just no reason for that. And you say, ‘What’s the big deal between 12 and 30 seconds?’ Well, just multiple it by 110 pitches for each guy, each night.”
“I’m concerned,” Verducci continued. “Obviously I love the game, but I’m concerned about the direction of the game. At a time when there’s so many entertainment options out there, we’re asking people to watch baseball games in which there’s so much dead time. We all talk about offense being down, and it is. But the games keep getting longer. I mean, think about that. You couldn’t come up with a worse formula in terms of putting a consumer product out in today’s environment where the games could have less action and they take longer.”
Ferrall watched the Yankees/Red Sox game Sunday night – a nearly four-hour marathon – and said it was brutal.
“I could have gone to my daughter’s wedding in another country and got back in time to see the end of the game,” he joked.
But this is no laughing matter. Baseball is at a crossroads; in fact, baseball has been at a crossroads for more than 20 years.
“You can go back to winter meetings in 1993 (in) Bud Selig’s first year as acting commissioner,” Verducci said. “(He said), ‘Pace of play is a big problem in this game. We need to do something about it.’ I haven’t seen baseball really do anything about it except talk about it. There are no rules in place.”
“I give the Atlantic League – the independent league on the East Coast – a lot of credit,” Verducci continued. “They said, ‘You know what? There’s so much talk about pace of play. Let’s actually do something about it.’ Now, they’re empowered because they don’t have to deal with the Players Association, so they can lay down the law. But give them credit for actually being active here.”
In the Atlantic League, a batter must have at least one foot in the batter’s box at all times, the 12-second rule is enforced, and a relief pitcher is allowed a limited number of warm-up pitches.
“I love that (last) one, by the way,” Verducci said. “I mean, can you imagine a second-string quarterback coming into an NFL game and he runs on the field and they stop the game so he can throw more warm-ups on the field? That’s crazy.”
The Atlantic League also limits teams to three 45-second timeouts per game. In MLB, timeouts – both the number and duration – are unlimited.
“Catchers, infielders and pitchers are just really taking advantage of the fact that they can stop the game for whatever reason at any time they want,” Verducci said. “That’s wrong.”