“It took forever and wasn’t always fun to watch…” begins the recap of Saturday’s Yankee-Red Sox game by Mike Axisa of the Yankee fan website, RiverAveBlues. The game he is referring to was Saturday’s 16-inning, nearly six-hour uber-marathon, which along the way featured a scintillating five minute umpire review.
Baseball is a pastoral sport in a digital age. There’s actually great appeal in that. But even Springsteen stops the show after three hours. Nobody wants to watch anything for six hours. Not even porn.
As a Yankee fan, I adore catcher Gary Sanchez, but in the course of a game he visits the mound more than the dugout. Meanwhile, the batter scratches his thigh and plans his stepping-out-of-the-box strategy. Want to improve “pace of game”? Simply ban pitcher-catcher conferences except at the top of an inning or a pitching change. There’s not a fan in the country who would complain. If pitchers and catchers insist that is not workable, then provide them with ear pieces so they could talk to each other during the game. Broadcast their conversation live. Hey, it’s the 21st century. Privacy is dead, even in baseball.
Oh, and about those full infield conferences. We all know there’s no crying in baseball. Well, there are no huddles either.
But nooooo, Commissioner Rob Manfred’s genius move to shorten the game was to eliminate pitches thrown for intentional walks. Never mind that many games don’t have intentional walks. Look on the positive side: Going forward, any game with ten intentional walks will now be two minutes shorter. Sweet relief!
As any baseball fan knows, it’s not just the length of the games destroying the sport, it’s the start and end times. The seventh game of last year’s World Series started on a Wednesday night, a few minutes after 8, and ended at 12:30. Even without the extra inning of play and 17-minute rain delay, the game would have ended around midnight. (In case you’re wondering, the average length of a 2017 postseason game was nearly three and a half hours.) Conversely, this year’s Super Bowl was played on a Sunday, started at 6:37 and, even with the extended halftime and overtime, was over by 10:30. Night baseball games should start no later than 7.
And enough with these mind-numbing extra inning borefests. During the regular season, baseball is 9-innings period. After that, decide the game with a home-run derby. Already, I hear the traditionalists howling. Let them howl. Fans love the home-run derby. In fact, the recent all-star home-run derby was more highly rated on television than the all-star game itself. Give the people what they want, which is shorter games with more drama.
While I’m on the subject:
No more playing Kate Smith’s revolting rendition of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, not unless they are going to follow it with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” But no, that would add more time to the game. Ban Kate Smith. She was probably on steroids anyway.
And speaking of cutting time between innings, relief pitchers should be prohibited from throwing warm-up pitches on the field. That’s what the bullpen is for. Also, there is no reason for a manager to stroll out to the mound to make a pitching change. Make the change from the dugout, get the new guy in there.
And commercials: cut one thirty-second spot between innings and, viola, you have just cut at least eight minutes per game.
Baseball is the only team sport without a clock, something I used to love. But now I want a pitch clock. Throw the freakin’ ball! To the batter. Not the first baseman! How many pick-off attempts does a man have to watch before you can call him a fan?
As for umpire reviews: The guys in the booth have 90 seconds. If they can’t figure it out by then, the ruling on the field was close enough.
I can’t take much more of this. If none of the above works, then drastic times call for drastic measures. Two strikes and you’re out? Three fouls after two strikes and you’re out? Seven inning games? None of this could be ruled out because the six-hour, extra-inning death march can no longer be tolerated. As Captain Picard once said, “The line must be drawn here.”
My next move would be to designate fans as fielders. Then, any ball, fair or foul, caught by a fan would be an out. This would not only have the advantage of shortening games, but would encourage exciting competition between fans. For example, Yankee fans at Fenway Park would want to make sure that a homer hit by Aaron Judge was not caught by a Red Sox fan and ruled an out. What a great idea!