Max Scherzer is never one to hold back about the modern state of baseball. The soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran right-hander has been involved in the league’s competition committee and labor negotiations.
So his 300-word rant about the pitch clock that came Thursday afternoon should come as no surprise.
The Mets completed the sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field with Scherzer on the mound. Around the fifth inning, he was seen engaging in conversation with home plate umpire Tripp Gibson. The crux of the issue was the pitch clock and how the strict 2:30 time limit between innings reduced the number of warmup pitches Scherzer was able to throw before the clock ran out. Scherzer threw seven pitches but wanted the eighth.
“You’re supposed to get eight warmup pitches and I had seven. I asked, ‘Can I get the eighth pitch? Can I get my normal routine, warmup?’” Scherzer said. “He’s telling me, ‘It’s the clock, it’s the clock.’ That’s what’s so frustrating. Look, I’m doing my normal routine. Why do we need to step through the game and have the umpires change routines when it’s not my fault of what’s going on here?
“I’m talking to Tripp and he’s sitting there saying, ‘I can’t do anything about it because if I let you throw the pitch, MLB gets mad at [me].’ This goes back to, why do we need a pitch clock for that situation?”
To be clear, Scherzer has long been in favor of initiatives to increase baseball’s pace of play. It’s not that he is against the clock, but he feels it should be more of a guideline. During spring training, he said that umpires should have the authority to turn off the clock and turn it on if the pace starts to drag.
“I just wish MLB would give the umpires the ability to turn the clock off,” Scherzer said after making a spring training start at Tropicana Field in March. “If you don’t see any violations, as long as the hitters are playing at speed, we’re all playing at pace, if the umpire wants to, let the umpire turn the clock off and we can just play baseball..”
While a timer was instituted in the minor leagues in 2015, this is the first time in the game’s history that a running clock has been instituted at its highest level. At its purist, baseball is a leisurely game that’s dictated by the pace of the pitchers. But MLB is also an entertainment league and a slow pace of play is an aspect that has turned younger viewers away.
The intention of the rule is necessary, says Scherzer, but the execution is flawed.
“If I throw one more pitch, what, I’m one second slower?” Scherzer said. “Why can’t the umpire have the discretion in that situation to allow the pitcher to throw his eight normal warmup pitches? Why do we have to be so anal about this to have the clock up in everybody’s face — shoved in everybody’s face and trying to stuff out every little single second that’s going through the game.
“It’s situations like that that are frustrating, not only to me but to pitchers, players and even the umpires.”
Scherzer said Gibson was sympathetic.
“Tripp is handcuffed. Why is Tripp handcuffed to not allow something normal? A normal routine? Why can’t Tripp make that call?” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said. “He was actually complimentary. He said, ‘Thank you for speaking out for the umpires,’ because the umpires want to have that discretion.’ They want to allow the game to be normal. But the umpires are as frustrated as we are that the game is not normal, that we’re just living and dying by a clock.”