Baseball suits are now proposing to speed up their game. After trying out some changes aimed at shortening games in last fall’s Arizona League, they will incorporate them in MLB this season. I hope it’s not too late. I’ve always loved the game but it’s time for a change.
Most people say baseball is bone-numbingly boring and games are too long. Thirty years ago, a baseball game lasted two hours and thirty-three minutes. Now, a full half-hour has been added to that total. That extra half-hour has propelled football to replace baseball as our true national pastime.
The changes to take place involve making the pitcher deliver the ball within a shortened time frame, making batters always have at least one foot in the batter’s box, and shortening the arduous instant replay procedure.
Noted sportswriter Larry Schwartz of ESPN agrees with putting a stop watch on pitchers but he advocates penalizing teams severely by directing the batter to first base if pitchers don’t follow the clock on every delivery.
Curiously, the absence of a clock in baseball hurts the game, whereas in football, basketball and hockey, the clock has become an integral part of the action, dictating strategy.
Baseball is pastoral and lends itself to hours of relaxed conversation with occasional noting of events on the field below. Football, however, is non-stop action, people on the edge of their stadium seats or on their leatherized lazy-boys at home, perhaps even a-stool at the corner pub to cheer, critique and/or condemn action unfolding on a field of perfectly designed dimensions. It is this sense of action that has moved many fans away from baseball to football.
All pro football begins at the exact same time and with the proper viewing/taping remotes, one can switch games and catch all the action. One and four on Sundays in autumn are owned by the NFL. College football claims Saturdays from September through January, so entrenched is football fever on college campuses throughout America.
Many baseball games are played nightly mid-week, lingering sonorously into late hours, viewers becoming bed-bound along the way. Although baseball games last about as long as football contests, they sadly lack the excitement and strategy of football.
I have a few further thoughts on speeding up baseball. Why does an intentional walk require four thrown pitches? Let the manager inform the ump and wave the runner to first immediately.
Fields should have a golf cart deliver the relief pitcher quickly to the mound, said vehicle geared to swiftly reach the local speed limit at which time the pitcher jumps out and throws four warm-up pitches, not eight.
With the injury issue facing football and with labor peace in baseball assured for the future, now is the perfect time to bring our youths back to baseball, to eventually replace today’s aging viewing demographic.
Baseball has a challenge replacing football as our national pastime but these changes are a good start.