Friday, the much anticipated pace of game changes for Major League Baseball for 2015 were announced, they take effect right now; although no one knows how much time will be saved. Games in 2014 averaged 3 hours; games in 1980 averaged 2:30 hours; and in 1970 averaged 2:18 hours.
But here is the problem: if you are in the stadium watching a regular season game, the time flies by; but if you are at home, regular season games are insufferable.
But that is a television problem: all sports are better in person than they are on TV. And sports were designed to be played and viewed in person, not on television.
It is perhaps ironic that in a game with a 100mph fastball, there are complaints from all about the game being too slow. There are many issues as to why games take too long; here are my reasons, followed by my solutions.
• Commercial Breaks: It takes a minute, maybe 2 for players to get off the field at the end of an inning, and for the other team to get out of the dugout and to their positions. Commercial breaks during the regular season are 3 minutes, and are 4 minutes in the postseason. The game is longer today, because television demands that breaks be longer than they need to be.
• Pitchers: Previously starters regularly pitched at least into the 7th inning, if not complete games, regardless of whether they were winning or losing. Relievers are a modern invention to baseball, as are bringing in specialists to face only one batter. Constant pitching changes, which includes the catcher and manager going to the mound to ‘visit and consult’, not to mention the new pitcher coming in are making games much longer.
• The Bullpen Cart: Above I said the inning breaks were too long. The obvious answer is to have fewer commercials; make the break 2:30 at most; thus saving a couple of minutes on each games. But that means less money for somebody. Enter the bullpen cart, beloved by fans in the 1970’s, the cart is literally rolling advertisement, used in games, seen by all. The loss of commercial money can be offset by the advertisements on bullpen carts bringing pitchers from the bullpen to the mound. Will save us the alot of time and will spare us a commercial or two.
• Coaching: This is difficult to say the least, but one of the main issues in baseball is Tommy John surgeries among pitchers. One reason for the increase is pitchers throw to much when they are young, not to mention they throw too hard and too many curveballs. But, the goal is to get noticed, so what is a kid to do? And what coach is going to say no when trophies are on the line? Coaching at the Little League and High School level is atrocious; you think all the good athletes are playing basketball and football? Guess where the better coaches are going as well. Baseball needs to develop a way to better train parents and volunteers, so that they can better coach kids, who will in turn hopefully become better players when they make the majors.
• History: Baseball was never meant to be a game played quickly. It was never meant to be a game that you could set your clock by. Baseball is a game that demands thought and contemplation; it demands that a batter take a pitch and it demands that the pitcher step off or throw to first. In a world where everything is quick, baseball allows you to sit back and waste a day in its glow.
What is the answer to shortening baseball games? There may not be one answer, or there may not be any answer at all. Sports are played differently today: the 4th quarter of a basketball game takes forever, as does the final 5 minutes of a close football game. The reality is that sports are so important, that coaches and players take every opportunity to make sure that a play is perfectly designed, that a pitch is perfectly framed, that there is the maximum amount of time left on the clock when they get the ball.
Want games to move faster? Stop viewing them as life and death contests, and soon, so will the players and coaches.
But what are the odds of that?