Slow It Down, Son: Baseball’s Pitch Clock

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Baseball is a slow game. The pace of the game is singlehandedly responsible for the sunflower-seed industry’s continued existence, and it’s a game in which announcers talk about a guy getting hit with a piece of pizza for a few minutes and no one complains, because that’s far more interesting than what’s going on with the players. The hurry-up-and-wait feel of the game has built a sense of patience in young boys and girls for generations. And no part of baseball is more sacred than the time between pitches.

At least, it was that way, until the kids got their hands on the rule book. The information age has led some punks to decide that this beautiful cut of the sports temporal fabric needed a bit of a trim. This season, there are pitch clocks in minor-league baseball, and they’ll assuredly make their way to the majors in the coming years. The whippersnappers decided that they didn’t want to watch two grown men staring at each other with pregnant anticipation for more than 20 seconds, and I have a problem with that.

Sure, testing in Arizona showed it sped up games. But what’s the hurry? Where do you need to go? Is there a new episode of “House of Cards” on tonight? Do you have to put your NeoPets to bed? This generation doesn’t understand the importance of savoring the moment.

While I’m fine with a pitch clock, I think we should make it longer. And flip it around. It counts up to two minutes, and when it gets there, then and only then are you allowed to pitch. Two minutes is enough time for all of the infielders to throw and catch the ball at least once. Outfielders, bullpen pitchers, and season-ticket holders can join them, too. People don’t understand the importance of randomly throwing the ball around between pitches. With 162 games on their schedule, players don’t get much time to practice, so it’s a good way to keep hand-eye coordination fresh for everyone. You also get more time for catchers to sign to pitchers. Baseball sign language has a complex, lengthy vocabulary that has been nearly forced out of existence by those who think the “pace of the game” is more important than watching a squatting man playing with his fingers right in front of his crotch.

But what’s most important is the stare-down between the pitcher and batter. There’s nothing quite like it in sports. It’s the batter trying to figure out what pitch the pitcher is going to throw, and the pitcher trying to figure out if the batter is a fan of “Gossip Girl,” or more of a “Pretty Little Liars” kind of guy. Although they can’t talk with their mouths (for whatever reason), these two men can convey so much to each other. At worst, it’s a strong mutual respect, and at best, who knows where things could lead?

The minimum pitch clock gives the batter time to calm down from the adrenaline rush that was the last pitch. It gives the pitcher time to fully recharge his arm battery. It gives the catcher and umpire time to hash out dinner plans, and the manager gets enough time to do the Macarena twice (signaling a fastball), three times (changeup), or four times (he’s just going to throw the ball around the infield some more).

People think the future is going to be all about speed. Do it now. Finish this game in 90 minutes and then catch the high-speed train back to the condo. But it should be all about nuance. It should be all about cherishing what we have in the moment. The little moments between a pitcher and batter are what make this game so great. So why should they be little at all?