With the average length of Major League Baseball games up in 2016 compared to last season, Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his displeasure Tuesday.
According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, Manfred said there needs to be a renewed emphasis by players to cut the time back down: "We think the single biggest thing we had going for us early in the year [last season] was player focus on the topic. And we feel like we've lost a little focus. So we're doing a variety of things to try to get that focus back."
At this point last year, following the implementation of pace-of-game rules, an average nine-inning game took two hours, 53 minutes and 33 seconds. That figure is up to 3:00:26 in 2016.
Manfred mentioned cold weather as one reason why games could be taking longer, and Stark noted pitches per game have reached a seven-year high. Though Manfred is largely pleased with the effectiveness of the replay system, he said long reviews make him unhappy.
The commissioner said his team has been in contact with the MLBPA about the time of games, and according to Stark's sources, calls have been placed to players who repeatedly flout pace-of-game rules. Manfred said there are also plans to explore other options to speed up the pace of play:
We're going to put a package of issues on the table with the union. Speculating about which ones I like and don't like is counterproductive to that process at this point. I think the best I can do for you at this point is to say I'm prepared to think about additional rule changes that are relevant to the issue of pace of play.
While there has not been much enforcement of the pace-of-game rules, they likely contributed to the average game being six minutes shorter in 2015 than it was in 2014, per the Associated Press (h/t Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com).
Because pace of play was such a hot-button issue entering the 2015 season, players and umpires were perhaps more aware of and intent on fixing the matter than they are now.
Manfred talking about it publicly could help tighten things up, but the only way to ensure faster games is to strictly enforce rules meant to do precisely that.
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