MLB officially approves pitch clock, ban on shifts, bigger bases

Potentially transformative new rules will be in place for the 2023 regular season, MLB announced Friday, after a majority of members of a joint competition committee voted in favor of putting in place a kick-off clock, d a ban on shifts and larger bases.

A potential transformation is also coming to the minor leagues. After the Major League Baseball Players Association announced Wednesday that it had joined the AFL-CIO, a week after the union indicated it would make an effort to organize minors, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday that the MLB would voluntarily recognize a union of minor league players — a surprising step given the longstanding tension between baseball’s governing bodies.

“We have, I believe, notified the MLBPA today that we are ready to sign an agreement on voluntary recognition. I think they’re working on the language as we speak,” Manfred said in response to a question at the end of the press conference where he announced the rule changes.

The union declined to comment on the process, which has moved quickly so far but could slow as the parties work through the details of this agreement. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told The Washington Post on Wednesday he hopes the union can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for its minor leaguers by training next spring, though the recognition process is the first. obstacle to what could be a winding road to the miners. first CBA of the leagues.

The journey to implement Friday’s rule changes – including the banning of shifts and the implementation of the pitch clock – has been grueling. Both rules were discussed for years before finally being tested in the minor leagues and then reaching the office of this joint committee, which the union said would be made up of six MLB representatives, four players and of an arbitrator.

The MLBPA released a statement making it clear that none of the four players on the committee voted in favor of the pitch clock or the ban on shifts, explaining that MLB officials had not taken consider player feedback when finalizing their rule proposals. But the union accepted the joint committee as part of the controversial collective bargaining process this spring, signing a committee format that virtually guaranteed that MLB could push through any rule change, regardless of what the players involved thought. .

“Player executives across the league participated in on-field rules negotiations through the competition committee, and they provided specific and actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the commissioner’s office,” he said. the union said in a statement Friday. “Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the concerns raised by players and as a result, the Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against implementing rules covering defensive changes and the use of a field stopwatch.”

Manfred acknowledged that the rules were not and will not be universally accepted by all factions of major league players – some of whom benefit from the changes more than others and some of whom will find themselves and their between-court routines far more affected. by the field clock. that others.

“It’s hard to get consensus among a group of players to change the game, taking a position that we should change the game,” Manfred said. “I think ultimately what we did here was give fans the kind of game they want to see after carefully considering all of these voters.”

Manfred, seated alongside consultant Theo Epstein and MLB executive vice-president Morgan Sword, made the announcement during a press conference broadcast on East Coast club televisions just as the players began to arrive for Friday night games. The news came as no surprise. But at least in the New York Yankees clubhouse, the announcement sparked discussions among executives, players and managers as they watched the screens.

” I agree with that. I think those are things that have a chance of having a positive impact on our game. We’ll see, right?” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “…I hope those are things which can be little things that lead to a more entertaining and better overall product. I hope at least these things will be positive.

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler called the changes “major” and addressed them from his team’s perspective: He said NBC Sports and others the pitch clock could help the Giants’ pitching staff, who have learned to “pick up the pace” and won’t have to adapt.

Chicago Cubs Coach David Ross laughed when asked about the larger bases, which will go from 15 square inches to 18 square inches according to the committee’s only unanimous vote. Some postulated that they would induce more stolen bases. Others suggested the biggest benefit would be player safety, providing more space for outfielders and runners to avoid base collisions.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB Network Radio that if fans want the changes these rules could create, he and his players should listen. His organization will take the winter to figure out exactly how to operate under the new regulations, he added.

“We’ll be working hard this offseason to figure out the best ways to communicate that to players, work on that in spring training and see if there are any benefits we can reap,” Cash said.

The fact that the rules became official on Friday means that everyone will have plenty of time to tweak rosters, strategies and approaches to accommodate the changes, which will be implemented during spring training. Change has been a constant in MLB since the pandemic began, as players have adapted to health and safety protocols, a universal designated hitter, new sticky trick controls and more.

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