MLB Umps Admit They Blew Call Thanks to New Timer Rules, Team Left Confused
Major League Baseball just barely dodged a disaster on Opening Day 2023.
No, not because Los Angeles Angels star Anthony Rendon almost hit a fan, though that ugly incident went viral in its own right.
Rather, MLB’s much-ballyhooed new rules meant to speed up the pace of play took center stage after a strike was mistakenly assessed to the New York Mets on Thursday.
Controversy was largely avoided after the Mets beat the Miami Marlins 5-3. But the sixth-inning incident still cast an uncomfortable spotlight on some of these rule changes.
Why were the rules changed? Well, the slow pace and long games have often been cited as reasons why baseball’s popularity appears to be waning. At the very least, baseball certainly doesn’t have the cultural heft it did even 30 years ago.
So, “in an effort to create a quicker pace of play, a 30-second timer between batters will be implemented in 2023,” MLB explains in its own official glossary. “Between pitches, a 15-second timer will be in place with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.”
Under these new rules, pitchers have 15 or 20 seconds to deliver a pitch, or they will be penalized with a ball. Batters must be “alert” and ready in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on the pitch clock, or they will be charged with a strike.
However, on Thursday, Mets utility star Jeff McNeil was given a strike because his teammate, slugger Pete Alonso, did not get back to first base fast enough after a pitch had been thrown.
The official MLB glossary makes nary a mention of that particular rule.
Jeff McNeil was given a strike by the plate umpire after Pete Alonso took too long getting back to first base pic.twitter.com/GbEb8ch6gD
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 30, 2023
The Mets were understandably dumbfounded. And rather than speed up the pace of play, the call ironically brought the game to a standstill as Mets manager Buck Showalter came out onto the field to demand an explanation from the umps.
The announcers in the above video didn’t hide their displeasure with the call, calling it “absurd” and “just not right.”
“You can’t penalize the hitter; he didn’t do anything!” one of them protested.
The incorrect strike call was ultimately a moot point, as McNeil got an RBI during that plate appearance anyway.
McHits are SO back 🐿️ pic.twitter.com/8uxwg00gfe
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 30, 2023
And again, the Mets won the game. So why all the consternation?
According to Fox News, Showalter said the umps admitted to him that a strike should not have been assessed to McNeil.
So it was an honest mistake stemming from a misinterpretation of new rules. The least the offenders could do is spell out the correct interpretation of these new rules.
Instead, it appears that players, managers and umpires alike will be figuring out the rules as the season develops.
MLB had better hope that a bad call doesn’t actually cost a team a game.
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