Rozner: Pace of MLB conversation remains sluggish

 
 
Updated 2/5/2018 7:00 PM
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  • Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference at the baseball owners meetings in the Four Seasons Hotel, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles.

    Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference at the baseball owners meetings in the Four Seasons Hotel, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles.

As my grandmother used to say, you can't have it both ways.

She might not have been the first.

Regardless, baseball wants faster contests and Commissioner Rob Manfred is willing to do just about anything to get games under three hours.

As if the key to growing baseball at the major-league level is to play a game in 2:55 instead of 3:05.

This is mind-boggling, indeed.

Baseball is the only game without a clock, and most baseball fans appreciate the beauty of that.

But now pace of play is all the rage and Manfred is convinced that young people will be more interested in it if the game is played at a modern stride and by shaving a few minutes off the average.

Fine. Whatever.

The problem is you can't have it both ways.

Baseball doesn't train pitchers to throw 130 pitches or 9 innings anymore, which means more pitching changes and a longer game.

You want to tell teams they have to leave their starters in longer?

You can't have it both ways.

But using 10 pitchers per game -- which was about the combined average last year -- means more time spent with pitchers, coaches and managers walking to the mound.

The reliever hasn't seen his catcher since before the game and, because he doesn't know what he's doing, that means a visit from the catcher as well.

These guys are so filled with statistical information that they just can't take the baseball and throw a pitch. They need a refresher course on what they were told before the game.

Analytics are good. In fact, they're great. It's a huge advantage for smart teams and smart players, but the reality is most pitchers just aren't that smart.

You want to outlaw metrics?

You can't have it both ways.

The trend is toward more relievers per game, not fewer, so unless you're going to legislate pitching changes, games will get longer.

You want to tell general managers they can't use four relievers a game, or five or six or seven in a postseason game?

You can't have it both ways.

Theo Epstein has made a career out of ruining opposition pitching staffs by finding players who can work a count, get on base and get into the bullpen quickly.

It's smart baseball. It's a great way to win a World Series. And it makes the games very long.

You want to tell Epstein and Jason McLeod to find players who swing at the first pitch?

Sorry, Mr. Manfred, but you can't have it both ways.

A reasonable amount of time on a pitch clock is not unreasonable. Forcing a batter to stay in the box is entirely fair.

But limiting the number of visits per game by a catcher is going to be a huge problem, especially in the postseason when teams haven't seen each other for a while -- or maybe all season.

With a runner on base and a new set of signs against a hitter the pitcher doesn't know, you're going to tell the catcher he can't talk to his pitcher because he's exhausted the number of mound visits?

You're willing to risk losing a World Series game to save 15 seconds? Is that really good for the game? Is that really going to grow the game?

You want more offense, but you want shorter games. You want to raise the strike zone to make it easier to score runs, but you want shorter games. You want more home runs, and teams want more walks, but you want shorter games.

We're always willing to help with math here, so this is for you, Rob Manfred, and you should probably sit down for this:

If you want faster games you call more strikes, not fewer.

But you can't have it both ways.

The Super Bowl is over and spring training is only weeks away, and talk of these alterations is going to become an issue as the players association fights the commissioner on trying to make fundamental changes to what is still a beautiful game.

Change is not bad. All sports change and evolve. But change for the sake of it, with little hope of really making a difference, is ridiculous, especially when it's done for window dressing.

The games are longer because pitchers aren't good, aren't effective and aren't smart, mostly because they haven't been trained to go longer, pitch smarter and throw faster.

They don't get the ball and throw it quickly, like some of the best of all time, because they aren't prepared for what comes next.

At the same time, managers can't wait to get into the bullpen and GMs are working to give them as many arms as they can, some of them dreaming of a day when they can use an entire 13-man staff in every game of every season.

Think that's going to speed up the game?

If batters are going to work counts, games are going to take a long time to play. It's smart baseball. It's not fast baseball, but it is smart baseball.

So unless you start telling batters they can't see pitches, and managers they can't change pitchers, games will continue to take a long time.

Sorry, Mr. Commissioner, but while your attempt to speed up the process is admirable, you can't have it both ways.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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