While problems exist, new rules introduced this off-season aimed at trying to increase the pace minor-league games are having little effect on the sport, according to Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone.
“I think there's been a good adjustment to it,” he said. “More importantly, I think there has been a greater understanding of the rules and of the timing of (the pace).”
No longer is the flow of the game interrupted by batters wandering outside of the batter’s box between each pitch, or pitchers taking an eternity to decide what to throw. Under the new rules, there are no more than 20 seconds between pitches, and the pitcher can be charged with a ball or the hitter with a strike for violating the time limit.
Although Scarsone says the rules haven’t had a dramatic impact on the games, he isn’t a big fan of the changes.
“Baseball has it's own kind of clock to it...it kind of has it's own rhythm,” he said. “If a pitcher isn't throwing in a certain amount of time, you're like, 'Wait, what's wrong.' Usually, a batter or somebody will call timeout – it's just on the natural clock. It's just taking longer than it should.“Now we've created an actual clock and the players are getting used to that actual clock. I think the game is being trained and the players are being trained. I don't think it's something we necessarily need to continue to hammer into this game. The last I checked, the game wasn't broken, but that's what they're trying to do – speed up the game – and we're the one that has to run the experiment.”
While Scarsone said the adjustments to the new rules have gone smoothly for the most part, there have been some problems.
“We've had some times where there were questions of whether the operator (of the clock) was right and on time because we don't really check it from the beginning,” he said. “The 20-seconds starts after the pitch, but we're involved in the game, and our minds are elsewhere, and then we glance at the clock and it could be 18 seconds – it could be 13 seconds – we don't know until it's almost getting down to where it's three or four seconds, and we're like, 'That was a quick 20, or, yeah, that was 20.”
The manager is not the only one who has encountered issues with the new rules.“Players complain – umpires complain,” Scarsone said. “Umpires are probably the biggest group of guys that struggle with it because they appreciate the way the game has always been played, but they also understand that it's their job (to enforce the new rules) and it has been handed to them to monitor this.
“They're obviously going to do their job, and they are doing a really good job with it, but in conversations, we're all struggling with the whole change.”Scarsone said there is not much difference in enforcement amongst umpires.
“It's pretty much standard,” he said. “They've been trained and they're handing down the rule as it has been written. They're doing a great job. It's frustrating at times, but that's the rules we've been given...so it'll play its way out.”