For 2015, Major League Baseball made the first major change to the sport with the intention of moving things along at a quicker clip. Rob Manfred understands that, in this day and age, people place a premium on their time, and baseball can’t keep trying to hold their attention for longer than three hours.
That change was the installation of a between-inning clock that limits the break in the action to 2 minutes and 25 seconds. And it’s had the desired effect—through last weekend, games were averaging 2 hours and 53 minutes, down from 3 hours and 2 minutes last season. That might not seem like that big of a difference, but considering the fact that games have been trending longer for years, it’s enormous.
But, as Mitch Goldich reported in Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, the change has been felt the most by a certain special population of people (things?) involved with the entertainment aspect of the game: mascots. Goldich spoke to “a close friend” of the Phillie Phanatic—the most popular and endearing mascot in the game—about the changes this year.
“We’re very aware of the league rules,” Tom Burgoyne told Goldich. “When they send rules like this down, we get them for sure.”
Though the presence of the clock is new, the league said the timing guidelines haven’t technically changed; they’re just being more strictly enforced. Prior to the physical clock, it was up to the umpire to keep things moving along. So, when mascot shenanigans ran a little long, the ump could mess around, cleaning home plate off, etc., to help pass the time. Now, the furry hallowed-out figures are required to be finished and off of the field by the time the clock reaches :40.
“I understand where they’re coming from as far as wanting to quicken the game up,” Burgoyne said. “They know we have a job to do, and that is to entertain the fans. And hopefully we can do it within the rules.”
When asked about any form of mascot mulcting, MLB senior vice president of league economics and strategy told Goldich that he didn’t envision any form of formal punishment for teams whose mascots’ skits run a little long. Further, no teams have submitted any formal complaints to the league, and no mascots have gone pitchfork in hand to baseball headquarters on Park Ave. to protest the rule change. So, for now at least, MLB and its mascots remain on good terms.