PACE OF THE GAME COMMITTEE OFF BASE

The Major League Baseball ‘ Pace of the Game Committee ‘ apparently has settled on ways to reduce the length of baseball games and is going to implement new rules to test them during the Arizona Fall League this year.

On September 15th, in this blog, I expressed my strong feelings that the problems with the length of ball games is in the minds of the media and the administration, not in the minds of the fans. When you think about it, at the prices people are playing today to see games, does it make sense that the average fan would want to spend less time in the ballpark? I looked on Stub Hub yesterday, ‘standing room’ tickets for the ALCS in Baltimore were in the $150.+ range. For a three hour game, that’s $50. and hour, to stand and watch it. Reduce the time of a game to two hours and that’s $75. an hour, if you don’t spend any money to eat, drink or buy souvenirs.

Among the changes that are proposed is to limit the time allowed to change pitchers to 2 minutes and 30 seconds and the time between innings to 2 minutes and 5 seconds. Another would make the batter keep one foot in the batters box at all times and would install a time clock, similar to the ones used in football and basketball, to limit the pitcher to 12 seconds between pitches. The penalty for taking more than the allotted time would be for the umpire to call a ball without a pitch being thrown.

They would also eliminate the throwing of pitches in an intentional walk situation by allowing the manager to signal for it instead and the umpire would grant first base to the batter. This is the least offensive of the rule changes to me as I have never witnessed an actual wild pitch in this situation so I find it similar to Patriot Coach Bill Belichick’s objection to continuing the extra point as it is played now, because it is non-competitive. The only batter who might have swung at a pitch in an intentional walk, Vladimir Guerrero, is playing in Japan the last I knew and will not be affected by the change.

As far as the time between innings and pitching changes, I did a little unscientific experiment this week. Using my cell phone’s stop watch feature, while watching playoff games, I timed the commercial breaks between innings, just the time from when the first commercial started until the last one ended. I found that commercials took between 2 minutes and 35 seconds and 2 minutes and 50 seconds. The announcers also found time for some commentary before and after the commercials and the actual time between the end of one inning and the start of another was almost always three minutes or more.

We all know that the contracts that baseball has with its television outlets are the major source of revenue for baseball management. Does anyone really think that reducing the time available for commercials will result in the same amount of revenue coming in?

There is already a rule, never enforced, limiting the time a pitcher has to throw a pitch. They will never put a clock out there on the field for the fans to see because then they would have to enforce the time limits, the time of games would be reduced, by a miniscule amount, commercial time would be reduced and so would revenues.

Players take their time getting back onto the field now because they know that once they get out there, they’ll have to wait for the commercials to get over before the inning can start. Has it crossed their minds that reducing the time between innings will have an effect on concessions? It is already impossible in most parks for a fan to go spend money on the obligatory hotdog and drink without missing half an inning. Reduce that time and less people will go to the concessions to stand in line for their $6. hot dog.

It’s time baseball faced reality, the main reason for baseball games being longer today than they were years ago is a simple one. Baseball is a business and businesses earn money or they don’t survive. I, for one, can live with the length of baseball games without complaining. Without commercials, there would be no baseball or other games to watch on television. So, they make the game a little longer. Commercials are like getting old, it’s better than the alternative.

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