Pace of Play: What’s Right and Wrong With It

By: William Robinson

“Baseball is a slow, sluggish game, with frequent and often trivial interruptions, offering the spectator many opportunities to reflect at leisure upon the situation on the field: This is what a fan loves most about the game”. – Edward Abbey

“Baseball is reassuring, it makes me feel as if the world isn’t going to blow up”. – Sharon Olds

 

Today in baseball news or on TV sports talk shows all you hear people talking about is how we need to speed up the game. “Oh my gosh the game is too slow, it takes too long, It’s too boring.” People always complain about how awful it is to watch baseball on TV. Yet TV viewership was up last season 5% over the previous year and the World Series was the most viewed one since 2004. If baseball is so boring then why are so many people tuning in? And if the game was dying then why are so many people going to the parks?

It’s not cost that’s for sure. It’s more expensive now than it’s ever been to go to a baseball game. I looked up tickets for tonight’s Mets vs. Braves game and for middle of the road tickets it’s going to cost us 100.00 to take our family of four. Then you have parking, and food and drinks at the stadium not to mention souvenirs and we are talking over 250 dollars likely to take them to a game. Yet I’d happily take my family to the game tonight if I didn’t have work tomorrow and my oldest daughter didn’t have school. Why? Well Yogi Berra put it best:

One of my favorite Yogisms.

I love baseball, I’ve loved it ever since I was a little boy and I would listen to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall announce the Reds games on 700 WLW. I loved it ever since I would sit and watch the Cubbies play on WGN and hear Harry Caray bellow “Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Holy cow!!” I’ve loved it ever since my father and I would sit in the basement for hours on end sorting baseball cards into sets and talking about which players were the best. I’ve loved it ever since I saw my first game and walked out into the sunlight and smelled the fresh cut grass in the outfield. I have always loved baseball and I always will. So personally I don’t see what’s truly wrong with the game that I love. Still it feels like people always want to make tweaks to improve things and so they are calling for some changes to the game and have already made some changes that I disapprove of. I’ll start with the changes that they have made that haven’t been for the better.

I hate instant replay. I absolutely hate it with every single fiber of my being. Managers and baseball players in general seem to always be a whiny sort and now that they have opened every call up to scrutiny of instant replay it feels like they use that nearly constantly. I find it hilarious that the management of baseball wants to improve pace of play yet they institute instant replay which stops the game in it’s tracks and removes any and all flow of the game. No longer is there any flow, before baseball had a bit of a flow to it. Now it feels like four or five times a game there’s this five minute pause while umpires have to put on headsets and people stand around doing nothing. It’s a horrible change and should be gotten rid of immediately.

I also hate the idea of a pitch clock. Again baseball has a bit of a flow to it. There’s time in between pitches to talk to your children about the game, to teach them about the players and to just enjoy your time together. Why in the world are people in so much of a hurry to end it? What other more important things do they have going on in their lives that they must get back to? Why are you in such a hurry to end your experience that you paid so much money for? I don’t think real fans want that. I think real fans cherish that baseball is somewhat of a slower sport that takes time to play. I think they understand that each moment in the ball park is a precious amount of allotted time and to speed up the game is to speed up the good parts of your life. If someone gave you a remote controller in your life you wouldn’t fast forward past the baseball game that your father took you to, would you? I certainly would not. If anything, I would hit record, I would remember every single moment of that game in my head and replay it any time that I needed a moment to smile when life got hard.

Baseball is about family, it’s about spending time with your family away from the hustle of life, away from the cell phones, away from the emails, away from the Facebook. It’s about taking time to listen to your children talk about how cool the stadium is, to have a beer with your loved ones, and to explain life to your children. Baseball is about taking time to smell the grass and taking time to get away from life and just be for a little while. I would never speed up the game, because I would never speed up the best parts of our lives. Because if you wish time away, one day you’ll look up and wish you could have any of that time back.

Now I won’t say that baseball is perfect. There are some minor changes that I would make that I think would help with some aspects of the game. These are small changes though and I think they would improve offensive output and would take away the largest part of questioning the integrity of play.

I think it’s time to institute the electronic strike zone. One thing is for certain fans did not pay 250 dollars to come watch the umpires. I don’t know why but for some reason they think we did. Every umpire is different when it comes to strike zones as well, even though the strike zone is clearly laid out in the baseball rule book. Still every umpire has their own strike zone and I guarantee that this must be infuriating to both pitchers and batters. In fact, I know it is because nearly all the complaining about officiating in a game is due to the balls and strikes call. This can all be eliminated. If there were an electronic strike zone no longer would there be any arguments about balls and strikes. It would be uniform throughout the league and every pitcher would know where they had to throw it for it to be a strike and every batter would know what to expect. No longer would there be any arguments and ejections would be a thing of the past. The game would be sped up and people who are paying to watch a certain player wouldn’t have to pay to see their favorite guy thrown out after the first inning.

I also think that the days of retaliation should be at an end. Look at this nonsense in Boston. This isn’t fun, this isn’t a good part of baseball. It’s reckless and dangerous and is going to lead to someone getting hurt. If that ball had hit Machado in the head and his career had been cut short due to it, think of how bad that would have been for the game of baseball. No, I’m sorry but this baseball policies its own self is macho bullshit. These grown ass men are acting like children and someone needs to step in for the good of the game. I suggest this. If a player acts in a manner that appears to be to injure another player, then that player will be suspended 50 games. I personally feel that this plague is every bit as damaging to the game as steroids are, and a 50-game suspension will cut it out. Now there are moments where people think things are intentional but they aren’t. I don’t think that Dylan Bundy wanted to hit Mookie Betts in the game last night. So obviously MLB would have to err on the side of caution when such a heavy punishment is levied but I think that it would definitely cut back on hit batsmen and nobody would throw at anyone’s head again as that would be an obvious suspension.

Otherwise that’s all I would change about this game that I love. Baseball is the oldest sport being played in America. It has survived civil wars, world wars, presidents and the internet and it’ll be around long after I’m gone. It’s a wonderful game that more so than any other holds the history of our fair country close to it’s heart. It’s grown along with our country and will continue to grow if we don’t hold it back.

 

“The other sports are just sports, Baseball is love”. – Bryant Gumbel

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