If you’ve had a conversation about baseball during the last year, you have probably heard some variation on a too-common theme: “God, and the games are SOOOO LOOOONNNNGGGG. What are we gonna DO?”
First of all, I want to reject the premise. Baseball games are longer than they used to be. So are action movies, football games and fireworks displays. The chief complaint of most pace-of-game pedants is that the 10-percent elongation of games is costing baseball scores of young fans, but young people keep right on going to action movies, football games and fireworks displays. To whatever extent it’s true that baseball is losing the youth of the nation, it has nothing to do with the length of the games.
Secondly, I direct you to the last (and most important) of the tenets laid out in this article. It’s not a piece overflowing with fresh insight, but it does include the true statement: Just about everyone gets what they really want in life, because what you do reveals what you really want. Baseball’s stewards and high-up executives, by that measure, are proving that they want the outcry over the pace of the game, but not to actually solve the problem of the pace of the game. Because fixing the issue of ever-longer games is an easy proposition. Here are the steps:
- Intentional walks should not involve any pitches thrown. Just point the guy to first base. The savings here would be minimal, inconsequential even, but the optics of that pointless non-action are part of why people think the game is boring. Because it is. Intentional walks are boring.
- Each team gets three timeouts per game. Pitching coach visiting the mound for any reason other than injury? Timeout. Mid-inning pitching change? Timeout. Any on-field managerial argument of any kind: timeout. Three of those per game, one more when extra innings begin, and that’s it. No more using four pitchers to get three outs.
- A streamlined replay system. No challenges, no managers dawdling on the field, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the ump while staring into the dugout to decide whether to use one. Just a fifth umpire, in a booth upstairs, changing the calls that need changing. That ump should also be on a 60-second clock.
- Skip the commercial break after the first inning, and in the middle of the fifth. Have the announcers talk a little, do something fun, even run a promo, but keep the cameras on, and get the action fired back up a bit more quickly.
It’s that easy. It doesn’t require a bunch of hemming and hawing, or a blue-ribbon commission, and IT SURE AS HELL DOES NOT REQUIRE A PITCH CLOCK, IDIOT. It just requires a few common-sense clutter-clearers, things that constrain the machinations of teams and the technical delays that account for the length of games right now.
For the record, I love baseball, and I want most of the games I watch to be as long as possible. One (sad) reason you hear so much about this is that writers, who must attend these games and then do a preposterous amount of (necessarily) bad writing about it afterward, hate the way the games drag. I understand their predicament, because as I say, most news outlets ask writers to churn out a ton of content in the immediate aftermath of a game. That not only means that the writers leave the park after many members of the maintenance crew, but ensures that most baseball beat writing is useless garbage.
Again, not the writers’ fault. It’s a bit gauche of them to grouse as much as they do about it, because tons of people (me, for one!) would love to try their hand, but the writers are cornered. Blame the outlets who demand that they write three to six items a day, many of whom are also behind the ever-stretching commercial breaks that are part of the problem.
At any rate, I don’t want shorter baseball games. I want longer ones. So long as everyone agrees that this is a problem, though, the four steps prescribed above should solve it. So let’s either solve it, or decide not to solve it, so I can start talking more about baseball and less about how long it takes.Next post: 2014 AL Wild Card Game Preview: Stakes are Sky-High for Athletics and Royals
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