The Pace of the Game Committee, perhaps the worst idea in the history of baseball, has reared its ugly head again. According to Matt Snyder of CBS Sports, writing on September 22, 2014, the committee, was formed to focus on ‘ …. decreasing the time of games and improving the overall pace of play in the 2015 regular season and beyond. ‘ Former Commissioner Bud Sellig said, when the Committee was formed, said that, at that time, ‘ The game is at its highest levels of popularity,…’.
I may be a ‘ glass is half empty kind of guy’ but it would appear to me that if the game was at its highest levels of popularity that was not the time to be tampering with it. I have long been a fan of the concept of ‘ if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ‘.
Nevertheless, Commissioner Bud Sellig and his brain trust didn’t pay any attention to my opinion and went ahead with their plans to explore ways of reducing the length of games. They installed time clocks on the field at the Talking Stick Field in the Arizona Fall League and tested new rules to reduce the time of games. They shaved a few minutes off the average game during the test period.
I, for one, don’t think that the average fan has a problem with the length of games. People paying the amount of money it costs to get into a major league baseball game today certainly don’t want their entertainment shortened.
Snyder went on to say, and this is before the testing in Arizona was completed, that ‘ A major part of the problem in game pacing this season has been the poor implementation of replay. If replay were streamlined and time between pitches was better enforced, a lot of the dead time in MLB games would be eliminated.’
Now Craig Calcaterra, on Wednesday’s NBC’s Hardball reports that the latest plan is to require pitchers to ‘ .. finish warmup pitches and be ready to make the first pitch 30 seconds before the end of all between innings commercial breaks ‘ and for the ‘ hitter to be in the box 20 seconds before the end of the break. ‘ Commercial time will not be changed.
The original goal to shorten the time between innings was to reduce it to two minutes. In the Playoffs last year, conducting my own unscientific survey, I found that the commercials between innings took between 2 minutes and 45 seconds and 3 minutes.
Apparently, and not surprisingly, as I predicted, the television time for commercials is more important than reducing the length of the game. Games averaged more than three hours this past season for the first time in history but there was no significant decrease in attendance. Since 2004, major league teams have average attendance over 30,000 every year for the first decade in history.
The new Commissioner should rethink the changes that have been made and are proposed to be made in the near future. Instant replay has not improved the game or the speed of play. Cutting a few minutes off the time of the game at a time when the game is at the height of its popularity makes no sense.
Instant replay eliminated one of the most entertaining parts of a baseball game, the theatrical arguments between umpires and players/managers and replaced it with boring periods with fans watching everyone wait around for a decision on a contested call. I have always believed that, in a game played by human beings, overseen by human beings, the few bad calls will even out over the course of a season and there is no significant advantage to any one team.
The game, as played before instant replay and the Pace of the Game Committee, was doing fine. It was, and is, our National Pastime and doesn’t need change. Baseball should let the air out of the political football that is the Pace of the Game Committee.