MLB’s new pitch clock is just what the game needs

Say what you will about Rob Manfred, and most of it will be true. He has shown a callous disregard for baseball’s fan base, got the sport dangerously close to missing regular season games last year and yes, at times, seems to want to change the sport beyond recognition.

If the pitch clock is his lasting legacy, though, then Manfred will be remembered as the man who saved the sport.

That is how good the pitch clock is and will be for baseball.

The early returns during spring training are almost unbelievable. According to Travis Sawchik of The Score, the first 40 exhibition games had an average time of two hours and 37 minutes, down 21 minutes in total from the first 40 exhibition games last season. We’ve seen individual games finish in well under 2:30. That is not only staggering, it’s the kind of time commitment that can bring young fans back into the fold. Take it from me.

Baseball was my gateway to sports as a kid, and to the job I have now. I never stopped watching, and the Yankees or Mets can still hold my attention for three hours a night. But the sport as a whole became less compelling as it got longer, slower and more homogenous. And, for many of my peers who don’t get paid to watch sports, the summer is regarded as the time of year when nothing is on television.

New York Mets pitcher Jose Butto prepares to pitch while pitching clock is running in the second inning of a Spring Training game against the Miami Marlins at Clover Park, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Port St. Lucie, FL.
MLB’s new pitch clock has seen game times drop by more than 20 minutes in the opening week of spring training.
Corey Sipkin for NY Post

The pitch clock isn’t going to fix all of those issues — baseball’s glut of home runs and strikeouts is still a problem, and shorter games aren’t going to bring in fans who just don’t like it to begin with. But making games easier to sit through, with less downtime and more action, is a massive step forward.

No one, no matter their age, wants to watch nothing happen. Baseball had too much of nothing. Everyone has sat through intolerable Yankees-Red Sox games over the years. Now, three hours will be considered a long game — over 20 minutes above average. Now, a baseball game can be consumed in the same amount of time as basketball or hockey. Now, if you sit down to watch a game, you will have a general idea of how long it will be until it’s finished.

Think about how much easier that will make life for families attending games. Think about how many young kids with shorter attention spans will now be captivated by baseball because they are watching something happen when they turn on YES or SNY.

It’s true that one of the beautiful things about the sport was its lack of a clock, and that infringing on that is a sad thing to do. But for much of the sport’s history — and much of the time when it was at the forefront of the American sports landscape — it didn’t need a clock. As Sawchik pointed out, the average time of a nine-inning game from 1950 to 1985 was 2:29. It’s no coincidence that an outsized portion of baseball’s fans got introduced to the sport when the games were shorter.

New York Mets' Brett Baty (22) prepares to bat with pitching clock running in the first inning of a Spring Training game against the Houston Astros at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in West Palm Beach, FL.
Hitters and pitchers may need some time to adjust to the faster pace of play, but fans may come to appreciate having a better expectation of how long games will last.
Corey Sipkin for NY Post

As for the strategic elements, which The Post’s Joel Sherman expertly broke down a few days ago, yes it will be odd if and when a game is decided on a pitch clock violation. It was also odd when Omir Santos’ replay-reviewed home run won the Mets a game in Boston back in 2009. We got used to it.

Moreover, we should have no sympathy for players who get called for violations once the regular season starts. They will have had a month’s worth of exhibition games, an entire camp and an offseason to get used to it. It’s on them to adjust.

The rule also affects both pitchers and batters. There is no unfair advantage in making pitchers work quickly — hitters also can’t step out of the box, mess with their batting gloves, take two practice swings and so on.

The smart players and managers will adapt, just like the smart players and coaches adapted to the 3-point line in basketball, the forward pass in football and the elimination of the two-line pass in hockey. Just like the pitch clock, all of those things made their sports better.

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New York Post

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Are all the NHL trades done before the deadline?

Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks is named the star of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs after he scored a hat-trick and the Blackhawks defeat the Leafs 5-3 at United Center on February 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
Patrick Kane’s trade to the Rangers on Tuesday was just the latest in a flurry of moves made by the Blueshirts, and by the league, to acquire star-level talents for the final weeks of the season.
NHLI via Getty Images

After Patrick Kane to the Rangers became official on Tuesday, the NHL has three days left before its trade deadline and…pretty much every big name has already been traded. Bo Horvat went to the Islanders a month ago, Timo Meier went to the Devils over the weekend, Kane to the Rangers. Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov went to Boston, Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari went to Toronto, Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Motte also went to the Rangers.

An active trade season is great for the league, and all three area teams making blockbusters is great for local fans. We do feel a little bad, though, for the people who will be on studio shows during Friday’s deadline because, well, there’s not much left that could happen.

The Flyers still could deal some of their players, namely James van Riemsdyk, as could the Canucks, with Brock Boeser perhaps being on the market. Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun has been in trade rumors for over a year and is the biggest name yet to be dealt. So between now and Friday, some moves could still be made. But the biggest names on the market are all gone, and for the most part, they’re playing in New York or New Jersey.

Formula 1 starts its most American season yet

Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW45 Mercedes looks on in the Paddock during day three of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on February 25, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Logan Sargeant is set to be the first American to run a full Formula 1 season in 17 years.
Formula 1 via Getty Images

The 2023 Formula 1 season kicks off with this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, with reigning world champion Max Verstappen and Red Bull looking like the favorites to repeat, with Ferrari being the closest competitor with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as their two drivers.

One of the backdrops to this season, though, is that Logan Sargeant of Williams will be the first American to race in the series since Alexander Rossi in 2015, and the first to do so over a full season since Scott Speed in 2006. Formula 1 is also racing three times in the United States with the addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, set to take place the weekend before Thanksgiving, joining dates in Miami and Austin. And Michael Andretti — part of the most famous American racing family perhaps ever — is trying to get an 11th team onto the grid in years to come with a factory based in Fishers, Indiana.

A sport that for so long eluded American interest (and didn’t seem to want to try and build any) now has a budding U.S. fanbase and a number of distinctly American throughlines to watch.