I’m not a diehard baseball fan, but I enjoy it enough to watch both the HR Derby and All-Star game in their entirety most years. If you do too, then you know there’s no debate here — the derby was infinitely more entertaining. That wasn’t by chance.
Care to venture a guess as to why you were jumping out of your seat for a home run hitting contest, yet falling asleep during the actual “headline” event? The answer is simple — it’s called a clock. Every other major sport employs one, and baseball just proved to itself why it needs one too.
Relax, baseball purists. This isn’t going to ruin the game, a clock will only grow the sport to the next level. In other words, baseball will become modern once again. Monday’s derby was fun, energetic, suspenseful, and had an element of surprise. Even more importantly, it had a sense of urgency, and dare I say … a great pace?
Please, spare me the excuses. If you think the pace didn’t have to do with running time being incorporated, think about what you’re saying. See? You’re wrong.
Now, here’s the big question — How do we translate what we witnessed in the HR Derby to the actual games?
There’s a million suggestions that can be made. The idea of a four-minute clock was entertaining and intriguing, but something along those lines just seems too untraditional for even the most forward thinking fan. Timing innings just doesn’t work, even with a timeout per team — if a team gets a pitcher in a jam, they could just slow the inning down until the clock expires. Both sides aren’t working together, which is what made the derby work.
The most traditional idea is to incorporate a pitch clock, and this is no stretch. The minor leagues have done so this season, and have seen game times reduced by an average of 15 minutes with a 20-second clock. How about bringing that rule to the majors in 2016, while testing a 15-second clock in the minors to see just how far we can push this. I think a 20-second clock should work for a game time of roughly 2:40 — a HUGE upgrade. A 15-second clock should get the game down to 2:20 … even better in my mind, but I’m fine with baby steps.
Although I think the pitch clock is the direction the game is going in, and will improve it, this derby got me doing some extreme forward thinking. The pitch clock will speed up baseball for sure, but we still get the same product, just in less time. Like I said about the derby, what made it so great was the aspect of always being up against the clock. The “buzzer beater” was introduced to the game of baseball, and the league should try and capitalize on welcoming the most exciting play in sports.
Here’s my proposition (that will never see the light of day): A 90-second clock per at bat (with a 15-second pitch clock running). All the rules are the same, however, if the AB has not been settled in 90 seconds … one pitch for it all — a ball is a walk, a strike is a strikeout, and a foul ball is an out, regardless of the count at the end of the clock. Each team gets one timeout to use at anytime during each half inning (pitching changes excluded). It’s not perfect, but this would be awesome to watch. Buzzer beating stikeouts, buzzer beating hits, and imagine a HR on the pressure packed pitch after the clock has run out? At least admit this would be fun before telling me it will never work.
In the meantime, give me the pitch clock. It’s a huge step in the right direction. But the HR Derby is now my favorite baseball event of the year (not including the playoffs), simply because of the pressure that the running clock provides through the entire at bat.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow