Major League Baseball It’s about to look different.
The introduction of the stadium clock, the ban on defensive shifting and larger rules for the MLB 2023 season are expected to be approved in a vote Friday noon ET — a vote that the league will eventually have the ability to move forward with the changes it wants.
The commissioner’s office has the majority of seats on the 11-person Sports Competition Commission, which was newly formed this year as part of a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. The MLB has six appointees, the Players Association four, and there is also one referee, giving the league the ability to move forward with its latest proposal. People familiar with the discussion said that this revised proposal is the final form, and will be voted on by the competition committee for implementation in the 2023 season.
It was not immediately clear how the players’ union appointees would vote on the committee. MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark noted Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that players provided MLB comments on recent proposals. Neither the MLB nor the MLBPA immediately responded to a request for comment on Thursday.
Under the proposed pitch clock, bowlers would have 20 seconds to start a pitching move with the runners at the base, 15 seconds with the bases empty. According to the proposed transfer restrictions, there will be at least four players besides the bowler and the catcher, both feet in front of the outer border of the field dirt, and two players will need to be both on either side of the second base.
Among other points in the league’s final proposal before the vote, according to people familiar with the proposals…
Pitch clock, getting out of the hill and other timing matters
• The catcher must be in the catcher box with nine seconds left on the timer.
• The batsman’s feet must be in the batsman’s box and he must be “alert for the pitcher” – meaning he has his eyes on the pitcher, and can quickly take a batting position – within eight seconds.
• The timer starts when the bowler has the ball, catcher and hitter are in the dirt near the home board and play is ready – meaning that the contestants either back off if there’s a foul ball, or walk out of the court after they’ve gone out. (The field timer starts with the second tier of the game.)
• Between hits, there is a 30-second clock, excluding the final end of the run. The timer for intermissions and display changes is 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
• Jugs that break the clock are shipped with an automatic spool. If the catcher misfires, a motorized ball is also charged. The offending racket receives an automatic hit. Referees can also award a ball or kick if they discover a player cheating on the clocks, and the Commissioner’s office can issue a disciplinary measure beyond that for teams where players or staff are also violating the rules.
• Pitchers can come off the pile for a break or other grounds – called “disengaging” – twice per board if there is a runner on the base. But, if a runner advances through the same board appearance, i.e. by stealing a base, the pitcher gets two more stages. Navigating resets the clock to its full time (20 or 15 seconds depending on whether the runner is running).
• If the shooter goes down a third time or more, the penalty depends on what happens. If the contestants are safe, the pitchers are fraught with failure. If logged out, as in a successful capture, no obstruction is charged. No runner is charged if a runner is also progressing.
• If the defense requests time, the thrower’s disengagement is evaluated, with several exceptions, including hill meetings, an object on the field, injuries, or appeals. Catchers sending signals to hackers do not count as disengagement as long as the catcher is back by nine seconds.
A pitcher’s requests for a new baseball with nine seconds or more remaining on the pitch timer do not count as a disengagement, but do if there are fewer than nine seconds.
Hill visits have a 30-second clock that begins when the manager or coach leaves the bunker, or when the defending player leaves his position. If a manager joins a stack visit in progress, the timer will reset if there are at least 20 seconds left on the timer. The referee has the discretion to grant additional time if the manager or coach is dealing with a physical illness. There is no timer if the coach goes out with the manager or coach because of a “well-intentioned medical problem”.
• Teams can only get an additional visit to the hill in the ninth inning (not carried over if not used to additional rounds) if they have exhausted their allotment from previous visits.
• Speculators can request and get time once per board appearance, and must request time orally. This resets the pitch clock. A hitter who requests a second or more time in the same appearance of the board is charged with a hit – unless the batter remains in the batter’s box, the referee is free to decide whether or not to strike.
• Walking music cannot exceed 10 seconds. Music between pitches should be limited so that hitters are not encouraged to leave the box.
• “Extended inning events,” such as playing “God Bless America,” or anything that stops all motion on the field, requires approval from the commissioner’s office, and advance notice of such approved events must be sent to the MLBPA.
• The stadium timer cannot be reviewed when replaying.
• Referees have individual discretion to direct the timer to be started, stopped, or reset if the watch operator makes an error or a special circumstance occurs, such as not having enough time for the lapser to set the equipment after the bases are turned on or a medical problem. (They will reset the clock to 20 or 15 seconds.)
• When the bowler releases the ball, at least four players (plus the bowler and standby) must have both feet on the outer border of the dirt, and two field players must be on either side of the second base.
• Each team must assign two players to each side of the second base who may not switch sides during the game, unless there is a substitution of one of these attackers.
• The penalty for the offense is a ball and the ball is dead – unless the hitter hits, fouls, walks, hits the batsman, etc., in which case the play stops. If any other play occurs, such as a sacrifice fly, or a sacrifice strike, the batting team manager can tell the referee if he wants to accept the play.
• The referees have the discretion to penalize the field team with the ball if the referee discovers that players are trying to circumvent the rules.
• Teams can challenge whether the team has complied with this shift.
• Bases will now be 18 inches square, instead of the current 15 inches.
(Photo: Orlando Ramirez/USA Today)