It’s About Time: Baseball Does Something To Shorten Its Act

Thanks to new rules, games should be shorter at Citizens Bank Park, home of the NL champion Philadelphia Phillies.Photo byDan Schlossberg, IBWAA
By Dan Schlossberg

If early exhibition games serve as an accurate barometer, Major League Baseball did the right thing to impose a roster of new rules designed to speed things up.

Outside of shortening commercials, which doesn’t seem likely because the game needs money from sponsors, the only alternative to agonizing long games was to change the rules.

Boy, did they ever!

A pitch clock forces pitchers to work more quickly or have automatic balls awarded to batters. At the same time, batters can’t step out as often and also need to keep an eye on the second-hand.

During the Boston-Atlanta game that led off the exhibition season for both clubs, rookie Cal Conley had a 3-2 count and bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game in North Port, Florida.

When he violated the eight-second rule, however, the umpire called him out with an automatic “strike three” — ending the game in a 6-6 tie.

Spring training games and statistics don’t count for anything but they are a learning experience, especially this year.

Bases are bigger, shortening the distance between them by four-and-a-half inches; pick-off throws are limited; and infield shifts are entirely eliminated, with new rules requiring two infielders on each side of the second-base bag.

Left-handed hitters like Matt Olson, Freddie Freeman, and Daniel Vogelbach know that means their batting averages will rise, as liners and hard-hit grounders on the right side will now reach the outfield.

Base-stealers will be thrilled too; no wonder the Philadelphia Phillies, seeking to defend their NL pennant, doled out $300 million in an 11-year contract for speed merchant Trea Turner. He’s already the odds-on favorite to lead the National League in stolen bases.

Not so happy are people like Max Fried, who became the answer to a trivia question as the last National League pitcher to win a Silver Slugger.

The Atlanta lefty has a lightning-fast pickoff move that will be holstered, or at least hampered, by the new rule limiting throws to first base. Fried finished second in the voting for National League Cy Young Award last season.

Also down in the dumps is Boston closer Kenley Jansen, who works more slowly on the mound than any man in the majors. Not anymore, though — not if he wants to satisfy the sharp-eyed umpires anxious to wield their new authority.

Now that exhibition play has started, results of the new rules are showing their effectiveness. Almost all of the exhibition openers ran about two-and-a-half hours despite endless lineup and pitching changes.

That matches the results found in the minors when the pitch clock was unveiled for the first time in 2022. Games were shortened, on average, from three hours to two-and-a-half — a good thing for fans who start to yawn or, even worse, do “The Wave.”

On the other hand, fans, players, and ballclubs are all cheated by continuation of the free runner who starts every extra inning on second base. Called “the Manfred Man” by this column in a deliberate snub of the Baseball Commissioner who allowed it, the ghost-runner gimmick turns Major League Baseball into a Sunday afternoon beer league softball game. Without question, it is the most ridiculous rules change in the 150-year history of baseball. Most fans I asked strongly agreed.

Fans also said they wanted more day games — especially on weekends; no 4:00 starts, which wipes out dinner time and any potential evening entertainment; and no late starts for All-Star or World Series games.

It’s ridiculous that baseball’s so-called showcase games start so late that the youthful audience they’re trying to attract for the future can’t stay up to watch their conclusion.

There’s no reason baseball can’t really turn back the clock, play both All-Star and World Series games on weekend afternoons, and bring back weekend day games that start at 1:00. Oh, mea culpa: I forgot all about network television’s misguided fascination for football — three minutes of action in three hours of game.

Those moves are long overdue. In fact, it’s about time !!

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ writes baseball for, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and many other outlets. His e.mail is

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