On the clock

So you might have heard that baseball is getting a clock. Last week, Major League Baseball announced a new initiative to speed up the game: Starting this year, there will be a countdown clock in every Major League stadium to make sure that only two minutes and 25 seconds elapse between the third out of one inning and the first pitch of the next. It will be a few more seconds for a nationally televised game.

This may seem like a pretty minor thing, counting down seconds between innings. But clocks are choking our sports. Everywhere you turn, there’s a 24-second clock, a 40-second clock, a two-minute penalty, golfers are put on the clock, tennis players are given time violations, basketball games are times to the tenth of a second. Baseball was an escape from all that, a vacation from the tyranny of time. You don’t wear a watch to the beach. You don’t put a clock at a baseball game.

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This was the first public move of new commissioner Rob Manfred, and you have to admire his enthusiasm. Baseball games are too long now. Thing is, they can speed the game up quietly, by having umpires enforce rules already in the book, by players using common sense.

Instead they jam a countdown clock into the baseball experience. It won’t stop with this clock. Soon there will be clocks to make sure pitchers don’t dawdle, clocks timing relief pitcher changes, clocks timing managers trek to the mound, clocks to make sure that home run hitters get around the bases. That might sound crazy, but here’s the thing you already know from your own life: You let clocks into your life and they take over.