We’ve discussed all kinds of issues here at the Tap Room since we opened in March 2016.
Mostly, the conversations have centered around the Orioles, but sometimes we look at issues that affect Major League Baseball overall.
Let’s make today one of those days.
With the completion of last night’s Super Bowl, the NFL is finally over. March Madness isn’t approaching just yet (though University of Maryland fans already have been driven mad by the enigma of this Terps’ team) and there is still a week before pitchers and catchers report in Sarasota, Fla.
Since we’re still waiting on the Orioles to fill some – read, any – of their major holes, I figured this would be a good time to get your opinion on the “pace of play” initiatives that may or may not be implemented in 2018.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said he has the OK from owners to unilaterally – without the players’ union permission – enact a 20-second pitch clock, but that looks like it may not happen this upcoming season. Manfred has offered another proposal that would skip the pitch clock for 2018, and again in 2019, if the average game time can drop roughly 10 minutes to two hours and 55 minutes.
Among the in-game changes Manfred suggests include hitters having to stay in the batter’s box between pitches, and team visits to the mound (excluding pitching changes) being limited to six per club per game.
I’m on board with that one, since I think the frequency of catchers’ visits (which are included in the six) has gotten out of hand lately. That’s certainly the take from Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who complains about those visits on a near-daily basis during the season.
To me, there are three things that have really slowed down baseball games: The constant pitching carousel, created, in part, by pitchers who don’t go deep into games and the use of match-up specialists in the later innings; the amount of foul balls these days that accelerate pitch counts and can be a contributing factor to early pitching hooks; and all of the time devoted to commercials.
One of the provisions in Manfred’s new proposal is that hitters and pitchers must be ready to go when the television broadcast returns from break. Well, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched hitters and pitchers waiting for TV and not the other way around.
The commercial breaks help pay for the game, so I’m not particularly optimistic that is gong to be truly fixed. And the other two – pitching changes and an abundance of fouls – have become part of the game.
Regardless, I’m on board with trying to get an average game under three hours, but that’s primarily for personal reasons. The quicker a game is, the more time I have to do my job well and/or the quicker I’m done working. It’s why all sportswriters can’t stand extra innings – deadlines (at least for newspaper writers) get blown up and long days become longer days.
Yet this isn’t about sportswriters, or even players.
Baseball is afraid it’s losing generations of fans because the game moves to slowly for today’s society. The action in baseball has always been segmented – but it’s the unpredictability of when that action will occur that makes baseball so much fun to watch.
I’m not sure speeding it up by 10 minutes, on average,will make the game more watchable for those who don’t have the patience for baseball. There’s always going to be downtime in the sport. The fact there is no clock is one of its beauties – you have to get 27 outs or more. There is no exception.
And I concur with Showalter when he says he’s never heard a fan complain about a game lasting too long. The action or style of play stagnating? Sure. But the actual length of game never seems to be a major deal.
I kind of compare it to two routes to the same travel destination. One is on the highway and traffic moves. Another is on side roads that tend to get congested. They may take the same amount of time, but one feels like it is faster than the other because you’re always moving.
As always, I could be wrong, considering I don’t watch baseball games as “a fan” these days. Maybe you feel like a baseball game is too painfully long, and the average should again be under three hours. That’s fine, but tell me why – and what specifically you think needs to be changed.
Tap-In Question: Is it important for MLB to shorten the length of baseball games? Why or why not?