The NCAA tournament brackets come out tonight, and I still have a lot of work to do. For instance, has Wofford come up with a replacement yet for Blitz II? I admit it, I’m not sure. I’m stressed, I’m running out of preparation time, and I can’t get my mind on baseball right now. Thankfully for all of us at 2Guys, loyal reader Don Patten understood my pain and has written a Guest Post for today. It’s about a topic near and dear to my own heart too, the length of a baseball game. So, let me step aside and get to my research on Coastal Carolina’s free throw percentage in late game pressure situations. Thanks again, Don.
Baseball Takes Too Long
The number one spectator sport in 1920 was baseball. At that time, numbers two and three were boxing and horse racing. How long has it been since you’ve been to the track? In 1985, the NFL surpassed MLB as the favorite sport, (25% to 24%). Since that time, the NFL has grown to 35% of fans and MLB has declined to 14%. Baseball is losing the battle for America’s entertainment dollar. If the declining interest continues, it will become irrelevant.
George Carlin has a famous baseball bit. It describes the things that make baseball and football different. I’m sure you’ve heard it. Parts of it go “Baseball is a 19th century pastoral game. Football is a 20th century technological struggle. Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it is going to end- – might go extra innings. Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.”
Over the years, the average length of baseball games has continually risen.
- 1920 – Less than 2 hours
- 1960 – 2 hours, 38 minutes
- 2000 – 2 hours, 58 minutes
- 2009 Post season games – 3 hours, 30 minutes
When America was slow-paced, Americans loved baseball and baseball was played quickly and lasted less than 2 ½-hours. Now, in a fast-paced culture, we have slowed the game to a crawl and it is driving away people who crave instant and continuous gratification. Baseball is the game that never ends. This increase in playing time has hurt the product.
Baseball has never welcomed change, so I suspect that baseball doesn’t want to hear my suggestions for speeding up the game. But boring doesn’t sell and baseball better wake up. I believe there are six rule changes that could be made to speed up the game.
1. Enforce the pitch clock. Put one behind the backstop and one each in right center and left center. The second base umpire can make the call. 20 seconds between pitches, period! Otherwise it’s a ball. Batters must be ready at 10 seconds and are not granted timeout after that. Otherwise it’s a strike.
2. All pitchers should face a minimum of 3 batters or complete an inning. Baseball survived for 100 years without the lefty specialist.
3. Trips to the mound are timeouts. Each manager gets 2 per game. There is no reason for a meeting on the mound for each pitching change.
4. Intentional walks are signaled from the dugout.
5. The strike zone is defined in the rule book. It is not up to the whim of the home plate umpire. Umpires should be reviewed after each game with access to Strike f/x readings. Umpires who can’t perform are replaced. When the technology advances so that it can replace umpires, they should be replaced. We have heard for years that all anyone wants is consistency. Well, a computer generated strike zone would be consistent.
6. Managers are not permitted on the field to argue a call. Coaches in other sports are ejected if they come on the field of play to argue; they should be ejected in baseball. Watching Earl Weaver or Billy Martin kick dirt on home plate is nostalgic, but should no longer be tolerated.
Football is a 3-hour commitment. Basketball is a 2 ½-hour commitment. To compete with these sports, baseball must be committed to shortening the game.