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Josh Beckett’s on notice: MLB increases pace-of-game fines

12.14.11 at 9:22 am ET
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Josh Beckett may find long delays between pitches to be a pricey proposition under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. (AP)

According to the Associated Press, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball’s owners and the Players’ Association will feature increased fines for pace-of-game violations. The report (based on a look at the new CBA, which has been approved by the MLBPA and is expected to be ratified by owners this week) says that slow-moving hitters and pitchers can be fined up to $10,000 for a sixth pace-of-game violation and beyond.

In recent seasons, the Red Sox featured two pitchers who drew particular scrutiny for pace-of-game issues. Former closer Jonathan Papelbon was fined repeatedly for the amount of time that it took him both to enter games from the bullpen and for how long he took between pitches. In 2009, for instance, he had no fewer than five pace-of-game infractions, the last of which (in September of that year) resulted (Papelbon told reporters at the time) in a fine of $5,000.

Last year, the amount of time taken by starter Josh Beckett between pitches — particularly during games against the Yankees — became a flashpoint for controversy. But, according to an industry source, neither Beckett nor anyone else on the Red Sox was fined for pace-of-game violations in 2011.

There were no provisions for pace of game discipline in the last CBA. There was, however, an agreement between the Players’ Association and the owners on such discipline prior to the 2009 season; that agreement was renewed for both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Last year, rather than engaging in punitive measures such as fines, the MLB Commissioner’s Office more often tried to educate players about its goals with the pace of game regulations, sometimes through letters, other times through conversations between the players and representatives of the baseball operations department of the Commissioner’s Office.

Nonetheless, while there were no fines involved, the issue of pace of game for members of the Red Sox was prominent at times last year. One of those who weighed in on the subject was new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who was then operating in his role as an ESPN analyst. Valentine was critical of the amount of time that Beckett took, something that led the pitcher to tell his new manager that he was “pissed off” (in Valentine’s words) about the remarks when the two had an introductory phone conversation earlier this month.

Valentine said that Beckett offered him the full context of his deliberate work on the mound in that phone conversation.

‘€œI’€™ll say this, because it’€™s apropos and he won’€™t mind, he felt at the time, and probably correctly so, he was dominating the Yankees,” Valentine recounted last weekend at Fenway Park. “I mean he was totally dominating them when he pitched and one of the things that was mentioned from across the field was mentioned by [Yankees hitting coach] Kevin Long, according to him. I didn’€™t remember this as an ESPN announcer, but Kevin Long started complaining about him talking too long. And he felt, why don’€™t I take long and if they don’€™t like it, then that’€™s exactly what I want to do. Whatever they don’€™t like, and what makes them uncomfortable, makes them unsuccessful.

“And we at ESPN fell into the Kevin Long strategy of trying to reverse his success. So I get it. Maybe I did. That’€™s where it was a frenzy and it led to watching the game and I had read or heard what Kevin had said and I was reiterating it.’€

Here are some other changes to the CBA, as noted by the AP:

– Video replay will be expanded to help determine fair and foul balls, instances in which a fielder traps the ball or catches it, and fan interference.

– Players will be prohibited from having tattoos with corporate logos.

– Teams from the same division will be able to meet in the playoffs prior to the League Championship Series round.

– Players on the 40-man roster will each get a single room in spring training, rather than being asked to have roommates.

For more details from the new CBA, click here.

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