What’s Our National Pastime?

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.

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4 responses to “What’s Our National Pastime?

  1. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach,

    Always appreciate your observations. I would not be in favor of the intentional walk being automatic since it “can” lead to an exciting play although more often youth baseball. I love baseball and agree with the observation of games spread out all during the week at odd times etc. And try finding a college game on TV if you don’t subscribe to a special network pass. I do believe there is strategy, but maybe it is lost on fans or potential fans who don’t know the strategies. I also understand there is a financial element because no one plays baseball or football anymore for the sheer love of the game. I will resign myself to pay closer attention to the games this year to see if I can better understand the external pressures to speed up the game.

  2. Whatever changes the new commissioner makes to the game will have to be structurally sound. For example, I don’t think they could actually shorten the season although many fans have called for it.

    How long have we had a 162-game season? Since the early 60s? Then we’d be stuck with Barry Bonds holding the home run record forever and we know baseball doesn’t want that.

    These are no easy fixes. Changing the very essence of baseball is almost akin to amending the US Constitution.

  3. Hi coach! I agree completely with the intentional walk idea for the major leagues-the above writers concern is fair so no need to change in amateur games. I disagree with the relief pitcher being carted in-most relievers run to the mound these days, and I recall years ago in Boston that the cart was actually slower than the walk. In the meantime, if you can resurrect utube film of games in the ’60s, you will see that the batters never stepped out of the box, thats a half hour right there. I think the “one foot in the box” requirement will help, therefore. And here is one more, one that will never pass the players union muster, take away batting gloves. That would eliminate a reason to step out, avoid the annoying on-going glove adjustments, and put some callasouses on these wimps hands (just kidding on that one.).

    • Baseball ruled the roost for so long then just lost the lead because of agonizing long games and drugs. If they can cut a half hour off game times, people will come back. Here’s another thought: home runs needn’t be run out!