Anti-List: Manfred to Restrict Time to First, Renews Aim at Pace of Play
Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the media this morning to announce a new “time-to-first” rule he plans to push during the 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The rule would call players out if they fail to reach first base in under 4.5 seconds.
Per the press release, “The MLB wants to create the optimal environment for fans. We’re seeing games take longer than ever and that issue starts on the base paths. Players are slow down the line and a 4.5-second time limit is the logical solution.”
The move comes on the heels of Thursday’s announcement that detailed rule changes for the 2019 and 2020 MLB season. The surprise announcement looks poised to catch the MLBPA off guard after the league and players agreed to rule changes that include:
- Reducing the time between innings from 2:05 and 2:25 to 2:00. The Commissioners Office reserves the right to further reduce the time to 1:55 for the start of the 2020 season.
- Eliminating that waiver trade period, setting a hard July 31st deadline.
- Reducing the number of mound visits from 6 to 5.
- In 2020, eliminating the September 40-man active roster
- In 2020, increasing the minimum IL (DL) time back to 15 days.
- In 2020, requiring that starting and relief pitches pitch to a minimum three batters before coming out of the game.
- Increasing the roster size from 25 to 26 players, the active player count from 24 to 25 players, and increasing doubleheader roster size from 26 to 27 players. Rosters will now limit the number of pitchers a club can carry.
The new agreement was well received by both league officials and the players, making the 4.5-second time limit especially perplexing. Some MLB insiders believe that Manfred spiked the pitch clock in favor of the new agreement in order to distract from his “crusade against everything Manny Machado stands for.”
Sources close to Manfred let slip confirm that the new rules agreement is all smoke and mirrors. In an exclusive with Pitcher List, a source from within the commissioner’s office explained that Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comment inspired the 4.5-second rule.
“What I’ve heard, is that Manfred sees the new agreement as a smokescreen. Machado’s ‘Johnny Hustle’ comment really set him off. So he did the math and concluded guys are too slow around the bases. They’re wasting too much time running to first.”
Regardless of its origin, the time-to-first restriction is set to have a serious impact on the league. Of the 549 players with available Statcast data, 211 players fall short of the 4.5-second mark. The MLB average hit-to-first-base time is only 4.41 seconds.
An unarmed San Francisco Giants infielder expressed concern that the rule was discriminatory against slower players: “I don’t know about this. We’re talking about limiting guys’ food, limiting my lasagna, my between-innings big gulp,” the player said. “It feels like the I’m the fat kid getting picked last in gym class.”
The MLBPA echoed a similar statement. “We have to look out for players of all shapes and sizes. We’re talking about shaving tenths of a second,” an MLBPA spokesperson said. “How did we go from a new agreement to fat camp?”
The spokesperson continued, “Manfred really pulled a fast one on us. I think we were on solid ground and now we have to worry hustling to first. Not everyone is Pete Rose.”
While no one can conclude the true impact of the rule, the commissioner’s office is silent on the players’ concerns. When reached for comment on the MLBPA statement, we could only reach Manfred’s office voicemail.
Surprisingly, the recording drove home Manfred’s dedication to time-saving. The voice mailbox dictated, “Due to pace-of-workday concerns, the office of the commissioner only communicates via instant messaging.”
Pitcher List’s source wasn’t surprised by the recording.
“The time-to-first rule is just the beginning. He’s serious about this. He won’t say it, but they want to limit home run trots, time-per-90-feet, everything,” the source said. “Heck, we have to sprint from our cars to our desk and he times our bathroom breaks.
The MLBPA Executive Director, Tony Clark, has a more optimistic view of the rule change. “If this “time-to-first” thing becomes a sticking point, I think we could start by offering healthier food options in the dugout. Help the guys slim down,” a spokesperson for Clark said. “That and we’ll have to get the players some PF Flyers.”
Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire