Play Ball … Faster

Baseball is my favorite game, but it is not perfect. One of the biggest flaws I have noticed over the past three decades is the pace of the game. It seems to be getting slower, with games involving the Yankees (and now the Red Sox) being the slowest of the slow. Post season games involving these MLB money-makers are even worse, generally grinding to a halt in or around the seventh inning (even without the ridiculously long seventh-inning stretch ceremonies at Yankee Stadium).

There are various reasons for the length of the games. Some of it is due to the fact that the hitters on said teams take a lot of pitches. It’s hard to complain about professional baseball players with habits that tend to make baseball players successful. I have no problem with that. A lot of the extra time, however, is due to the constant timeouts called by batters, trips to the mound by catchers, and other time wasting strategies employed by teams to give their relief pitchers more time to get ready. A few years ago, I decided to stop worrying about it. I figured this was going to be part of baseball for better or worse. The last thing Bud Selig is going to want to do is make his cash cows angry by telling them how to play the game. I’ll just go about my business and avoid Yankees and Red Sox games as much as possible.

Imagine my surprise, then, that an umpire of all people decided to speak up on the issue. I think Joe West used some hyperbole, and went a little far calling the teams “a disgrace to baseball,” but overall he clearly has a point (I also found Gardy’s thoughts entertaining – and he’s right, commercial breaks account for about 45 minutes in a typical nine-inning game).

It is a pet peeve of mine that football fans will often call baseball boring. Though there is a lot of down time in a typical baseball game, there is more potential for action at a given time than in a football game, where the actual contact time adds up to about 10 minutes. I will have trouble getting into basketball until they fix the end of games, where stopping the clock with intentional fouls has become a science and coaches seem to have unlimited time outs. Unfortunately, Yankees and Red Sox games are giving professional football and the last two minutes of basketball game a run for their money in pure down time.

A couple of ideas to get to a solution: expand the strike zone back to the rule book version and start enforcing even more strict limits on those things that are the biggest time-wasters: coaching visits to the mound, catcher visits to the mound, infield huddles, and timeouts called by batters and catchers.

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