When Major League Baseball first came out with it’s ideas to speed up the game, I thought their intentions were in the right place, but that these ideas were just plain silly. MLB is absolutely right, the games are far too long and something certainly needs to be done…but they at least have to come up with something better than the lame ideas they’ve been coming up with so far.
The MLB players association and much of the baseball world was right to call out major league baseball for it’s proposal to start a runner on 2nd base when in extra innings. MLB has an obligation to provide the best baseball experience for the fans, but at the same time, the players and fans have every right to criticize MLB if the ideas they’re proposing are ridiculous and not something that would actually improve the game. By no means am I saying people have to be critical of all the ideas MLB is coming up with, but if the ideas are dumb (and they have been), you’re damn right people should let their thoughts be heard. This game is great, but somewhere along the way the games went from being a reasonable 2 hours in length to well in excess of 3 hours. So why is it that games take so much longer now than they did even just 20 years ago?
I’m trying to think back to the early 90’s to figure out why the average game today is an hour longer than it was back then. I could understand if it was a 20 or even a 30 minute increase, but we’re talking over a full hour increase to play a game that shouldn’t take much more than 2 hours. Instant replay surely hasn’t helped the length of games, that’s for sure. Obviously it’s nice to be getting the calls right, but how much of that increased hour can be attributed to umpires having to call MLB headquarters on that silly briefcase phone to get a review of a play? It’s got to be around a 15-20 minute increase just for these reviews. Surely there’s a faster way of reviewing a play. How about something similar to the NFL where the referee simply walks over to the sideline and ducks his head under that little curtain to review the play right then and there on the field. That way of reviewing a play must take a quarter of the time it takes to review a play in baseball.
How about looking into how often some teams throw over to 1st base to keep base runners honest. I understand a legitimate pick-off attempt when a player strays too far off the bag, but so many of these throws over to first are just the pitcher and 1st basemen playing a light game of catch. One or two throws over to 1st base is fine, but when a pitcher is making 3, 4, or even 5 pick-off attempts during one at-bat, it becomes a bit ridiculous. One of the worst offenders when it comes to throwing over to 1st base is Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians. I recall a regular season game last year between the Indians and Blue Jays where Francona had his pitcher, Josh Tomlin, throw over to 1st like 8-9 times in a single inning (pardon me, a single half inning). This was early in the game too, so by the end of the 2nd inning I wouldn’t have been surprised had Tomlin made more throws to 1st than he did pitches to home plate. Francona is obviously one of the best managers in the game, but someone maybe needs to remind him that the Blue Jays only stole a piddly 54 bases all of last season. It’s impossible to remove pick-off attempts from the game completely, but when a team starts making more than three in a single at-bat, something needs to be done.
I guess the big question is how much is major league baseball willing to tinker with the game in an effort to speed up play? There are plenty of avenues available that don’t involve changing the game too drastically…why not explore those options first before doing something as strange as putting a runner on 2nd to begin extra innings.