MLB Officially Approves Pitch Clock, No Shifts, Larger Bases

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Potentially transformative new rules will be in place for the 2023 regular season, MLB announced Friday after the majority of members on a joint competition committee voted to implement a pitch clock, a ban on shifts and larger bases.

Potential transformations also come to the minor leagues. After the Major League Baseball Players Association announced Wednesday that it had joined the AFL-CIO, a week after the union indicated it would make a push to unionize the minors, commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday that MLB will voluntarily recognize a minor league players association — a surprising move given the longstanding tension between baseball’s governing bodies.

“I think we’ve notified the MLBPA today that we’re prepared to execute a voluntary recognition agreement. I think they’re working on the language as we speak,” Manfred said in response to a question at the end of the press conference where he announced the rule changes.

The union declined to comment on the process, which has moved quickly to this point but could slow as the parties delve into the details of this deal. MLBPA CEO Tony Clark told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he hopes the union can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for its minor leagues before next year’s spring training, though the recognition process is the first hurdle in what could be a winding road to the minors. the leagues first CBA.

The journey to implement Friday’s rule changes — particularly banning shifts and implementing the pitch clock — was grueling. Both rules were debated for years before finally being tested in the minor leagues and then reaching the desk of the Joint Committee, which the union agreed would consist of six MLB representatives, four players and an umpire.

The MLBPA released a statement making it clear that none of the four players on the committee voted for the pitch clock or the shift ban, and explained that MLB officials had not taken player feedback into account when finalizing their rule proposal. But the league agreed to the joint committee in this spring’s contentious collective bargaining process, signing on to a committee format that virtually guaranteed MLB could push through any rule changes, regardless of what the players involved thought about them.

“Player managers from across the league engaged in on-field rule negotiations through the Competition Committee and provided specific and actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the commissioner’s office,” the union said in a statement Friday. “Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern raised by the players, and as a result, the players on the competition committee voted unanimously against implementing the rules covering defensive shifts and the use of a pitch timer.”

Manfred acknowledged that the rules were not and will not be universally accepted by all factions of major league players — some of whom benefit from shifts more than others, and some of whom will find themselves and their between-pitch routines far more affected by track clock. Than others.

“It’s hard to get a consensus among a group of players to change the game and take a position that we need to change the game,” Manfred said. “I think what we did here was ultimately about giving fans the kind of game they want to see after careful consideration of all those constituents.”

Manfred, who sat with consultant Theo Epstein and MLB executive vice president Morgan Sword, made the remarks during a press conference shown on East Coast clubhouse television just as players began trickling in for Friday night games. The news did not come as a surprise. But at least in the New York Yankees’ clubhouse, the announcement sparked discussions among managers, players and executives as they looked up at the screens.

“I’m on it. I think these are things that have a chance to have a positive impact on our game. We’ll see, right?” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. “…Hopefully it’s things that can be little things that lead to a more entertaining and better product overall. I hope at least those things will be positive.”

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler called the changes “huge” and addressed them from his team’s perspective: He shared NBC Sports and others the pitch clock could help the Giants’ pitching staff, which has been taught to “push up the tempo” and not need to be adjusted.

Chicago Cubs Manager David Ross laughed asked about the larger bases, which will grow from 15 inches square to 18 inches square, according to the committee’s only unanimous vote. Some have argued that they will induce more stolen bases. Others have suggested that the biggest benefit will be player safety, allowing more room for fielders and runners to avoid collisions at the base.

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash told MLB Network Radio that if fans want the changes these rules could create, he and his players should listen. His organization will take the winter to figure out exactly how to operate within the new rules, he added.

“We’re going to work hard this offseason to wrap our heads around the best ways to communicate that to the players, work on that in spring training and see if there’s any upside we can pick up,” Cash said.

That the rules became official Friday means everyone will have plenty of time to alter schemes, strategies and approaches to account for the changes that will be implemented in spring training. Change has been constant in MLB since the start of the pandemic, as players have adapted to health and safety protocols, a universal designated hitter, new sticky stuff checks and more.



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