Kenley Jansen sneered at the prospect of Major League Baseball making changes to improve the sport’s pace of play, insisting that the implementation of a pitch clock or the restriction of mound visits will not affect the sport’s appeal to viewers.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jansen said on Wednesday morning before the first official workout for Dodgers pitchers and catchers. “Football is four hours, four and a half hours. The Super Bowl was five hours. Listen man, baseball fans are not going to stop watching the game because the game is too long. Let’s stop that. I think that’s ridiculous.”
His opinion appears to clash with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who has made speeding the game up a priority since taking over for Bud Selig in 2013. As labor unrest increases after a winter without much free-agent spending, pace-of-play has become another contentious issue between baseball and its labor force.
In January, the MLBPA rejected a proposal from Manfred that would have brought forth a pitch clock and cut down on the number of times a catcher could visit the mound. It is unclear how much time would be allowed in between pitches; minor-league experiments have used a 20-second limit. Manfred can unilaterally implement these changes if necessary, but he had indicated in the past he hoped to reach a common ground with the players.
Jansen offered an alternative explanation for the length of games. He pointed to hitters being more interested in walking, less embarrassed about striking out and consistently aiming for home runs. He also mentioned how too many teams call up untested pitchers who lack the command to avoid unnecessary pitches.
“Hitters are different now, because there’s no contact hitters anymore,” Jansen said. “Everybody wants to swing for the fences. There’s a lot more strikeouts. A lot of walks. Because pitchers don’t command now. Because organizations take guys — ‘Oh, this guy throws 99 mph in low-A, let’s bump him up to double-A. Oh, he did a little bit well. Let’s put him in the big leagues.’”
Jansen is one of baseball’s more deliberate pitchers. He averaged 29 seconds between pitches in 2017, which tied for 14th-slowest among the 355 pitchers who threw at least 50 innings, according to FanGraphs. The Dodgers, of course, employ the sport’s most obvious offender: Pedro Baez, who led the sport at 31.1 seconds between pitches last season.