Solving the pace of play problem 

April, 7, 2010
Angel Hernandez, the veteran umpire who worked home plate for the game between the Yankees and the Red Sox on Tuesday night, is not known among players for having a warm and fuzzy personality. Marcus Thames raised his hand to ask for a timeout in his first at-bat of Tuesday's game and assumed he would get it -- but Hernandez ignored him. Thames quickly stepped back in the box and reset his feet, ready to hit.

Getty ImagesThe men in blue best be united on the pace issue, or umps will be bound for plenty of confrontations.
But this was not a case of Hernandez being difficult.

This was a matter of Hernandez enforcing a dictum from the folks he works for. Major League Baseball would like to see the pace of games improved, and in particular, it would like to see fewer cases in which the plate umpire grants timeouts to hitters. Throughout the Yankees-Red Sox game, Hernandez uniformly did not honor timeout requests, other than in one situation with Derek Jeter, who asked for a timeout twice and backed away from home plate.

Some early thoughts on this:

  1. Pushing the pace of play is always a great idea, in theory. Many hitters and pitchers have gotten into the habit of taking too much time between pitches. It's not a big deal when Thames calls timeout once in his first at-bat, but when you have many hitters stepping out of the batter's box constantly over the course of nine innings, this gives us some idea why a 2-1 game might take three hours and 10 minutes.

    Look, as a baseball nerd, I like to watch the give and take between the pitchers and the catchers, the cat and mouse stuff between the hitters and the pitchers. But it's the type of stuff that drives casual fans crazy; quite simply, it's boring.