Should MLB Embark on Batter Penalties?

ARLINGTON TX - OCTOBER 22: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees stands outside the batters box during the ninth inning of Game Six of the ALCS against the Texas Rangers during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22 2010 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I remember a few years back watching Rafael Betancourt create a brain-bleeding sight by waiting until the exact 12.0 second percentile before releasing the baseball from the tips of his fingers. Not only was it inconclusive as to whether or not that method of his was on purpose or not, or even if it ended up in Betancourt's advantage, but for those at the park, in the dugout, and watching on TV it was considered as annoying and provocative as anything.

The Royals ended up winning the game on a Willie Bloomquist walk-off. Yes, a Willie Bloomquist walk-off. However, little did I know at the time, it wasn't so much Betancourt delaying the game -- It was Bloomquist taking his sweet time taking practice swings before stepping in the batters box and signaling the "OK" to Betancourt, which is when the twelve second timer would start.

Should MLB embark on a rule change? As most pitchers are ready six to eight seconds after the ball is delivered, the hitters as Bud Selig has referenced are "setting up even if they don't swing at the prior pitch." Why hasn't Bud done anything about his own personal complaint? Who knows, but speeding up the game seems to be a prime goal of his. Here's Rule 8.02 courtesy of MLB's official rulebook...

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

There are several flaws in this "official rule."

1) "The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box"

First and foremost, why does Bud Selig and co. continue to not have a rule given to batters hanging outside the box between pitches? Take Jay Bruce for example. The young Reds star is notorious for taking way too much time in-between pitches. Whether he swings or doesn't, he takes several steps back pausing the game for at least an extra four or five seconds. The flaw is that the twelve second limit starts when the batter enters the box -- So as there is no penalty for Bruce's act, it slows the game down without any consequence or limit.

2) "The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly"

Aside from the creator of this rule favoring the word "promptly" a bit too much, this section enhances my point exactly -- Why is there such a demonstrated constraint on the catcher throwing the ball back to the pitcher? Why does the pitcher need to "promptly" take his place on the mound? All of this, by the way, is happening while Johnny Batter is lounging 10 feet to the right or left of the batters box taking practice swing after practice swing and trying to finish listening to his at-bat song prior to stepping to the plate. Again, no rule for the hitters.

3) "Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball"

Violation of the twelve second rule rarely occurs but a ball is called against the pitcher who does so. The pitcher subsequently "delays" time while the batter is ready in the box. However, if a pitcher is ready and the batter is either delaying time outside of the box or doing his own bat movements in preparation for the incoming pitch, doesn't that disrupt the pitcher's game as well? Since when does a pitcher get a strike called for delaying time himself?

Pitcher "pace" has shown to be inconclusive when factoring in the batter. Pitchers do delay a significant amount of time but only under certain rulings as such. However, we do know that hurlers don't have the same window of opportunity to fool around in front of 40,000 paying spectators such as the way hitters do. There needs to be a penalty or at least a time limit given to hitters in order to not only speed up the game but level the playing field.

Bud Selig's potential wishes become demands at his word, which has been the case quite often, actually -- After all, he is the Commissioner. He's long been one to complain about time delaying, yet we have an unfair rule in the great game we love given to only one side of the battle. No one is asking for hour and a half games, but evening things out by embarking on a potential "hitters time limit" would go a long way towards speeding up the game.

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