The first games of spring training have been played, which signals that Opening Day for Major League Baseball is just about a month away.
The smell of fresh-cut grass, the crack of the bat connecting with a ball and sending it 350-plus feet over the outfield fence is in reaching distance.
With all this excitement, however, comes more change. Last season, the league chose to implement more pace of play initiatives to speed up games. These include rules such as only six mound visits per game were allowed, inning breaks time limits and batter's box rules.
This season, MLB added a 20-second pitch clock for pitchers, which begins during spring training.
The overall idea of the clock is to have the pitcher get the ball back, get set and start the game as quickly and efficiently as possible. The clock will officially begin when the pitcher has full possession of the ball on the mound and around the rubber, along with the catcher being in the box, therefore the hitter must adjust his pre-pitch ritual so he can be ready.
Along with this, a pitcher must hurl the ball within 12 seconds of receiving the ball and the batter being in the batter’s box when no runners are on base.
The MLB did see its new rules sped the game up a bit last season. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the average nine inning game ran three hours exactly, which was five minutes shorter than in 2017.
The responses to the changes before last season were mixed, mostly because of confusion about how teams would now game plan during in-game situations. However, many players liked the idea.
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Darren O’Day, who was with the Baltimore Orioles at the time and was their team representative in the Players’ Union, felt the rule changes last year were going to be helpful.
"The players, we want faster games, too," O'Day told MLB.com. "Maybe it will be a little reminder to eliminate some of the dead time."
Baseball has never been a game of speed. It never involved any clock, except one in the stadium that read what time it was.
Baseball has always found ways to improve, even if it did not appease the masses at the time. For example, hitting home runs was not originally popular among fans when Babe Ruth began doing it regularly. Now, it is one of the most exciting plays in sports.
Because this once-popular sport has seemingly taken a back seat to more fast-paced sports with children such as lacrosse, a change needed to be made. It may not be popular to people who are fans of the classic way of how the game is played, but it is something the MLB eventually could not avoid if it wanted to stay relevant.