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Prior to the 1998 season, Frank Robinson, VP of on-field operations for major-league baseball, led a pace of game effort for Acting Commissioner Selig. A list of procedures was developed and agreed to by the Players Association and the Umpires Association.
The “primary new procedures,” as reported by Dave Anderson in the New York Times of March 29, 1998:
- Between-inning breaks will be limited to 2 minutes 5 seconds from the third out to the first pitch of the next half inning; the first batter will be announced after 1 minute 40 seconds.
- In nationally televised games on Fox and ESPN, the break will be 2 minutes 25 seconds with the first batter announced after 2 minutes.
- Television lights in the broadcast booths must be off before the end of the between-inning break so that umpires can start the inning promptly.
- Umpires should not grant time for batters to step out of the box unless, in the umpire’s judgment, it is absolutely necessary. When a batter is granted time, he may not stray more than three feet from the batter’s box.
- With no base runners, a pitcher must deliver a pitch within 12 seconds after the batter is in the batter’s box ready to hit; the former rule was 20 seconds.
- When a manager or a coach leaves the dugout for a second visit to the mound in one inning, which would require a pitching change, he must indicate the new pitcher.
- When possible, pinch-hitters should be warmed up before entering the on-deck circle. Unless there is a reason not to do so, a pinch-hitter should be in the on-deck circle while the preceding hitter is at bat.
- Bat boys should have a second bat readily available in the event a hitter breaks a bat during an at-bat.
- Between-inning announcements and in-park entertainment must conclude after 1 minute 40 seconds so that the public-address announcer may promptly announce the first batter.
- General managers are responsible for monitoring the between-inning break times and public-address announcements.
The Times followed two days later with an editorial that began: “Call us crazy, but we think this could be a truly interesting baseball season. For one thing, the commissioner’s office has instructed umpires to enforce new procedures aimed at speeding up play. Pitchers will not be allowed to dawdle, and between-inning breaks will be shortened. As long as the basic rules and rhythms of the game are not sacrificed in the rush, this will be an improvement.”