In its continuing effort to improve pace of play, Major League Baseball has installed a limit on mound visits per nine innings without a pitching change.
Of course, catchers can ask for an exception, and as The Star’s Chandler Rome has pointed out, even if they don’t get an exception, there’s no penalty to exceeding the limit.
I have a suggestion to improve pace of play — new baseballs.
The current baseballs are too slippery, so MLB teams rub down each ball before games with a special concoction of mud. Seriously. It’s from New Jersey, and the mud was used first in 1938 by a minor league baseball coach who grew up in the area and figured it would work better than dirt and tobacco juice. The mud has been standard in Major League Baseball since the 1950s.
But it seems that when pitchers get a new ball, the first thing they do is rub off the mud. Sometimes this takes time, especially with relief pitchers. If a ball gets fouled off or winds up in the dirt somehow, the pitcher walks halfway to home plate to receive a new ball from the umpire. After getting the ball, he takes off his glove and slowly walks back to the mound, rubbing the baseball with his bare hands.
The average game requires about 100 baseballs or more. That’s a lot of time spent watching pitchers rub baseballs.
In Japan, they use a baseball that’s not as slippery, which means no mud is required. If MLB could use that ball or something similar, pitchers might not need to waste so much time.
And I wouldn’t find myself sitting in a stadium in the late innings watching relief pitchers walk and rub rather than actually throwing the baseball.