There is general consensus that baseball games are too long. All levels have tried ways of speeding things up but few have succeeded. MLB is concerned that future generations will drift away from the boredom today’s game engenders, never to return.
Football, basketball and hockey are outdistancing what was once our national pastime because of one common difference between baseball and those other sports–a ticking time clock visible to fans.
We binge on television series for hours at home but we have breaks or fridge raids where we pause the action and press resume play when we return. MLB execs say baseball viewers at home drift away from watching after just fifty-minutes and don’t return.
Even with earnest attempts, baseball has become even slower. MLB instituted an automatic intentional walk, without a pitch being thrown. That, plus a clock on shorter review time of replays, somehow still added on average eight minutes per game over last year.
College baseball is even worse. Third base coaches call the type of pitch to be thrown. Armed with stats and charts galore, they size up the situation, shift the fielders, ponder the odds, and then through a series of Byzantine arm and hand motions tell the waiting catcher what pitch to call.
Every team in this year’s college World Series used this method, extending the season well beyond the school year.
Asked what can be done to speed up the game, my executive review committee offered differing views.
One problem is too many pitches are being thrown with no resultant action. 30% of at-bats this MLB season have resulted in strike outs or walks. That’s super boring.
In the great Mazeroski 1960 World Series 10-9 ten-inning game-seven thriller, there wasn’t a single strikeout. Of the 77 total plate appearances in that game, only five walks were issued. That’s exciting baseball!
(Trivia Factoid: Prior to the mid-1970s, television networks and stations did not preserve their telecasts of sporting events, choosing instead to tape over them. As a result, the broadcasts of the first six games from 1960 are no longer known to exist. The lone exception is a black-and-white kinescope of the entire telecast of Mazeroski’s Game 7, which was discovered in a wine cellar in Bing Crosby’s former home in Hillsborough, California in December 2009. Crosby owned the Pirates in 1960.)
“Teach pitchers to better throw first pitch strikes to get ahead in the count,” was cogently suggested by my brother, himself a former college player.
Cutting the number of innings to seven was suggested by some but rejected by many.
Because the team ahead after eight innings wins 95% of the games, play only eight inning games and reduce game time by 11%, Tommy said.
Do absolutely nothing to the tradition that is baseball, Mike volunteered.
Getting rid of batting gloves and all the fidgeting that goes with them would help.
The NFL is encouraging more celebrations after scores. Maybe baseball should follow suit allowing teams to greet the batter en masse at home plate after a dinger. Retaliation by a pitcher might quickly escalate to danger, though.
Limiting visits to the mound by catchers was a favorite remedy.
Because of the size and speed of throwers and runners, perhaps expanding the diamond to greater distances from mound to home and base to base might help, suggested Dan.
Aaron thought enlarging the size of the baseball to create more home runs might work.
Eliminate the eight additional warm up pitches relievers take on the mound after having already thrown in the bullpen.
Baseball players care less how long games take. Neither do football or basketball players, but a ticking clock to get a play off or shoot the ball has given those sports a decided edge in fan support simply because something is always happening.
If baseball is successful in instituting a 20-second pitch clock in 2018, it will greatly shorten and hopefully improve the game.
It will bring MLB back in line with the NFL and the NBA and build a foundation of younger fans who want faster action.