Speeding Up The Game

Image Credit:
www.bleacherreport.com

The 21st Century has been characterized by speed and instant gratification. We get upset when our order takes to long at the McDonald’s drive-thru, and almost have a heart attack when our Wifi won’t connect fast enough. Our smartphones instantly allow us access to any information at our fingertips. Why drive to the store when you can shop online and have it delivered to your front door? This obsession with speed has affected every area of lives including sports, and isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. There are several positive impacts that advances in technology have made on today’s sports fan. Imagine that 20 years ago you are stuck going to a friend’s wedding that you really don’t mind going to, but your favorite team is playing their rival. Perhaps you could hurry home and catch the post game show to find out the result, but you would most likely wait until the next morning to check the box score in the local newspaper. If you were in this same situation today, all you would need is your phone for instant updates and scores. You could even watch the game from your phone if you wanted! We want everything right now, which isn’t always a bad thing, but this obsession with speed could be hurting the game that we love.

There have been several complaints over the years that baseball is taking to long, which is making fans lose interest. It is a fact that baseball games are long, but are they really “too long”? Let me start by saying that people who complain about games taking to long are usually not avid baseball fans. These fans get bored easily because they are used to the fast pace and high intensity play displayed in basketball, football, and hockey. This isn’t always the case. I’m sure there are some avid baseball fans out there who wish the games would be shorter, but I feel like it is the case for the majority of people. There is nothing better to me than sitting back and watching a baseball game, so watching for over 3 hours doesn’t bother me. Baseball is great because there has been no time restrictions and no hurry, but now Major League Baseball feels like it needs to adapt to this growing trend of speed.

The MLB will implement a few “Pace of Play Rules” starting this 2015 season. Managers won’t be allowed to leave the dugout on questionable calls during instant replays, batters will be forced to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box at all times during an at-bat, and there will be a timer making sure play is resumed quickly after pitching changes and commercial breaks. Failure to abide by these rules could leave violators with a hefty fine. This is what David Ortiz had to say about these new rules: “Well, I might run out of money. I’m serious. I’m not going to change my game. I don’t care what they say. My game, it’s not like I go around and do all kinds of stupid [expletive]. But I have to take my time and think about what that [pitcher] is going to do next.” I loved baseball because you could take your time, relax, and prepare mentally for the next pitch. Managers arguing calls, players taking their time in between pitches, and dead time between commercial breaks aren’t even the main cause of these “long” baseball games! Let’s take a look at this issue from a different point of view.

Did you know that Major League Baseball’s average length of a game was actually shorter than the NFL average by 8 minutes? You never hear complaints about how long a football game is. It’s all about how you perceive things.  ESPN did a study that showed that a baseball game has a ball put in play every 3.5 minutes, while the NFL has a play every 1.48 minutes. In reality, what people are complaining about is baseball’s lack of significant plays. That’s just the way baseball is, and it’s never going to change. If the MLB really wanted to reduce the length of games, they should focus on bigger issues such as the umpires ever expanding strike zone.

It appears that umpires each have their own definition of the strike zone. Since 2009, there has been an astonishing 40 square inches added to the bottom of the strike zone. Strike outs rates are higher than ever, which take up a significant amount of time. Baseball games have increased by 11 minutes since 2009. Another thing the MLB is overlooking is the amount of pitching changes managers make. There were 14,440 pitching changes in 2014, which was 2,500 more than in 1998. I believe managers should do whatever they need to do in order to win a game, but this excessive amount of pitching changes can get out of hand at times. Overall, baseball didn’t need to change anything. Baseball is not losing any fan interest. The complaints about the length of games are from casual fans in most cases. Let’s hope these Pace of Play rules don’t snowball into anything more in future years. Baseball is great the way it is, there is no reason to change that.

-Craig Eshelman

 

 

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