WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — It took the Miami Marlins 2 hours and 19 minutes to beat the Houston Astros 4-3 in a spring training game on Monday — a game so quick that Ryan Murphy, a lifelong Houston -Fan, stayed in the stadium for a while afterwards.
“I’m a baseball fan,” said Murphy, who wore Astros World Series 2022 apparel, “so if I stay here four hours, two hours, I don’t care.”
Faced with criticism of its dwindling cultural relevance and a neglected product compared to other major sports, Major League Baseball introduced a set of new rules this year to speed up games and attract younger fans.
The bases are larger to improve player safety and can also encourage more aggressive baserunning. Pitchers can only come off the pitching rubber twice per plate appearance. And there’s a new pitch clock that gives players 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds without an on and 20 seconds if there is a baserunner.
See: Out with the infield shift. In with the pitch clock. Big league baseball will look and feel different this season.
Less than a week into the spring training exhibition schedule, MLB appears to be getting what it wants, shaving about 20 minutes off average game length compared to last spring.
Players were mostly happy with the rollout.
“The game feels more exciting,” said Washington Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin. “Even some of the high score games are under three hours.”
Fans watching the new-look sport for the first time this week have received mixed reviews, while some, like Murphy, are indifferent to the changes.
“Honestly, it’s irrelevant to us as fans,” said Murphy, who traveled from Utah to West Palm Beach for Houston’s show season. “The players may think differently about it, but it doesn’t matter to us.
“How do I honestly know the bases are bigger? I mean, we see a pitch clock out here and we know it’s there, but I don’t care.”
Some fans like the idea of being in and out of a game in under three hours, which is roughly the length of an average nine-inning baseball game in 2022.
Others feel nostalgic for how the sport has always been.
“I’m not a big fan of the lawn [clock]said Mark Mezzatesta, who traveled to Florida from Queens, New York. “I feel like that rushes the game. I like it the way it was. Pitchers take a while. And doughs take a while too. Fifteen seconds with nobody on base and 20 seconds with someone on base is too short.”
Barbara Schiffman of Roseland, NJ, said she agreed with some of the rules, but “you should never end a game on pitch clock or batter clock.”
She was referring to a recent game between Atlanta and Boston that ended in a tie after Braves prospect Cal Conley was assessed an automatic strike for a pitch clock violation.
Conley originally thought he’d won the game with a two-out walk with lots of bases, but instead received an at-bat ending strike after the umpire said he wasn’t in the box as the clock went under 8 seconds .
“When you get to this point in the game,” Schiffman said, “you have to let the game play without the clock. That would be my only concern.”
She also had a complaint about new limits for pitcher release from rubber. Pitchers can only attempt to pick a runner twice—if they attempt a third pickoff and are unsuccessful, the runner is allowed to advance one base.
“It doesn’t really work to stop the runner from stealing, especially on the larger base,” Schiffman said. “Those two things don’t really go together.”
Mary Theresa Fosko of Perkasie, Pa., said she likes the new rules, but added, “The only difficult thing is the pitchers don’t get time to rest.”
That’s a compromise that Kruge grappled with early in the spring.
“The game goes fast, especially when they have a lot of momentum,” said Corbin, who started for Washington in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Cardinals. “I’ve always worked pretty fast. I think it would be a bit more difficult for guys who might not be in the stable anymore or guys who aren’t used to working that fast. But that’s why we have it in spring training and hopefully get used to it.”
Fosko’s brother, Frank, of Williamsport, Pa., said that even a 12-7 game between the Cardinals and the New York Mets that he and Mary watched in Jupiter, Fla., went faster than the 2:59 playing time recommended .
“The game went a good hour shorter than it probably would have been,” said Mary Fosko, “That 15-second thing? That works for us.”
But she wants to see more action.
“A few hits here and there is great,” she said. “But the walks just take forever. Everyone swings for the fences and stuff like that.”
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