Baseball should get serious about speeding up games


There are all sorts of ways to give baseball a much-needed boost of speed.

Unfortunately, those in charge of the game are going about it all the wrong way at the moment.

Extra inning gimmicks?

Seven-inning games?

Automatic intentional walks?

"All of it is stupid," Atlanta Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips said Wednesday.

No argument there.

Before we go any further, don't consider that an endorsement of the status quo. We should all be in agreement that baseball's glacier-like pace has transformed the national pastime into the sporting version of Ambien, sure to put even the most hard-core fans right to sleep.

Over the last 35 years, the length of a regular-season game has increased by nearly a half-hour — much of that extra time consumed by batters stepping out of the box between every pitch for the always-thrilling helmet tug, enough meetings on the mound to bring about world peace, and so many pitching changes one can only assume managers are investing in companies that make bullpen door hinges.

There's no reason for a nine-inning game to take an average of three hours to play, but that's exactly what's happened two of the last three seasons.

MLB's baseball chief, Joe Torre, signed off on an experimental rule that may be used at entry-level leagues this season, placing runners on second base to begin each team's at-bat in extra innings. But that change is unlikely to ever reach the majors and, even if it did, would only apply to games that get to the 10th inning, which aren't really the problem.

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins came up with an idea that's even more radical: cut out the last two innings of a regulation game. He told he "would love to know" the impact over the course of a full season, but he might as well have proposed adding field goals, because such a change would alter everything from time-honored statistics to the makeup of rosters.

On a more serious note, the players' union agreed to a change that will actually be used in the major leagues this season. Intentional walks will be issued automatically, without requiring the pitcher to throw four pitches outside the strike zone.

Yawn. Last year, there were 932 intentional walks issued in the big leagues — roughly one every two-and-a-half games. In other words, don't expect a big change in the length of games because of this new rule.

The players' association needs to go along with more significant changes, such as pitch clocks and a limit on trips to the mound. While we're at it, ban hitters from stepping out of the box after each pitch to go through a numbing routine of twitches, stretches, practice swings and various uniform adjustments.

"One of the things I think can be addressed is catchers' trips to the mound," Philadelphia Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Why they go out there so much? I get it. You want to make sure you have it right. But I think we should be well-versed enough and practiced in giving signs. We shouldn't have to go out there."

Given the power of the players' union, those changes are a bit of a pipe dream. But the interminable replay system is something that can be addressed right now.

Managers have learned to walk slowly onto the field to meekly argue any disputed call, which is nothing more than a ruse to give their replay assistants time to check out the play on screens in the bowels of the stadium. If a manager finally gets word that he should challenge the call, it can then take far too long for baseball's central replay center to make a final ruling.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Miami pitcher Tom Koehler suggested that an extra umpire be assigned to each game, someone in the booth who can make a ruling right at the ballpark.

"Just have each crew have five guys instead of four. They are watching the game. Call up. Out or safe?" he said. "There's no reason that the NFL and college football can have these replays on these plays where guys are dragging their feet on the sideline take so much less time than an out or safe call."

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman would do away with replay altogether.

"They're taking away 10 seconds for an intentional walk," he said, "but you're still going to have an instant replay for five minutes where we're all just standing around."

Freeman had another suggestion: quit allowing teams to expand their rosters from 25 to as many as 40 players in the final month of the season.

While the provision was intended to give minor league prospects a chance to get some big league experience, especially on teams that aren't challenging from a postseason berth, it has resulted in games dragging on even longer in September. Larger rosters allow managers to make numerous pitching changes, pinch-hitting and pinch-runner moves, as well as double-switches and defensive upgrades — especially in the National League, which doesn't have a designated hitter.

Change was discussed during last year's labor talks but not agreement was reached.

"September can get long," Freeman said. "Maybe you can go to 28 guys. That's it."

There are plenty of good ideas out there.

Baseball, get to it.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Yes, I have tried my best to like the game. I have been to many games in Japan. But I have to say, it is the slowest, most boring game I have watched. The whole thing could be condensed into about 15 minutes, not just the highlights, yet takes hours and hours. By the end I am just aching for it to be over.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I love the game though I didn't really get into it until college. Yes, the games are way too long. I'm always thrilled to watch Summer Koushien, the boys sprinting between innings, pitchers barely pausing between pitches. If the MLB doesn't get its act together, they're going to lose a ton of millennial viewers. They have too many more engaging clicks at their disposal. I watch it exclusively online these days, with other windows constantly drawing my attn.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Moonraker, I totally agree. Even cricket is more interesting these days. Baseball is deathly boring. And that trite little four bar riff they insist on playing over and over and over and over drives me nuts.

Perhaps if they reduced the size of the pitch drastically so that the baseball game was in a small corner, and there was a soccer match going on in the rest of the ground.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This article was as boring as watching a baseball game.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The reason the games are so glacially slow is because they are televised, and are played slowly enough that televisions can insert commercials between batters, and between innings.

American football moves at a quicker pace, but the play is till patterned to allow television commercials while players are setting up for the next play, and during timeouts.

The main reason that soccer has never caught on in America is because it is not as television friendly as baseball and football. The clock seldom stops, and the play is not predictable enough to slip in conventional commercial advertisements. And the gimmickry of putting company logos on uniforms and all over the field doesn't work as well in America as conventional television advertisements.

Baseball can indeed be played faster, just compare American baseball to Japanese baseball, and look at the difference. But once again, teams would lose out on ad revenue because less ads means less money. And lots of revenue is necessary to pay the astronomical salaries some of these players get.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I wonder how some of these folk would survive an end-of-season county game at Headingley on the last day after tea, with the batting team at 50-1, requiring 400 to win, and with absolutely no motivation to do so.

The answer can only be B-E-E-R ; )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just do what JP did and cheat by making the balls with bouchier insides. Don't forget to not tell anyone, deny it all when caught and then do a "self investigation" they does nothing

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I too love Koshien ! And, of course, my beloved DRAGONS ! ! ! The game can be slow at times.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Both baseball and American football are the two world's most boring sports. Cant believe the time wasting ! Went to see a baseball game here and more people were chatting and drinking beer than actually watching the game.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Over the last 35 years, the length of a regular-season game has increased by nearly a half-hour — much of that extra time consumed by

...longer breaks between innings for commercials more so than any of the factors listed in the article. These breaks were about 1 minute and 30 seconds in the beginning of the television era, 2 minutes and 10 seconds for regular season games now, and 2 minutes and 55 seconds for post-season games now.

Back before television, most games were completed in under 2 hours, and some were even done in under one hour! That last feat would be almost impossible in an era where roughly 50 minutes of playoff games are consumed by just commercial breaks.

Indeed, is suspicious that the true culprit is never listed in this article. They mention all the other minor factors except this real one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Might I suggest cheerleaders. Or should I say women in their 20's and 30's dressed in scanty spandex outfits dancing around suggestively like that have in the NBA and the NFL. Or perhaps they could just try juicing the players again.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is asking molasses to go faster.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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