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MLB’s Pace of Play Ideas Are Getting Stupid

Time constraints on an untimed sport.

For those outside the loop, Major League Baseball is recently obsessed with pace of play issues.

The game is too slow, they said. The game is too boring, they said. Let’s speed things up, they said.

This spring, Minor League Baseball will test a new extra innings experiment involving runners on second base. In this, when extra innings begin, each team begins with a runner on second. One could say it’s like college football overtime starting teams on the 25 yard line, which is perfectly exciting in that forum. Others might say it would fundamentally change the game. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Then, in the same article announcing this coming experiment, it’s said that MLB is proposing the elimination of the intentional walk. That might save a whole half-minute. I’m sure the fans will duly appreciate the game being shortened from three hours, ten minutes, fifty seconds to three hours, ten minutes, twenty seconds.

Since we mentioned college football above, that sport is now all about fixing a pace of play problem that may only exist in their minds. They’re talking about shortening quarters, running the clock and the like. Oh no, a sporting event is quote-unquote too long; it’s not like I intended to watch this game and am enjoying it. Not a very high priority of mine, if I do say so myself.

Pace of Play: You Can Only Cut So Much

Pace of play is to be sped up because media types want to make their deadlines and catch their flights, and so the sport can attract new fans who don’t find the game cumbersome. Yet, if someone is complaining that baseball is boring and slow now, nipping and tucking five minutes off of a regulation nine innings won’t change their minds.

There are a few sensible proposals to cut the length of games, if it is so desired by the masses. A pitch clock isn’t such a big deal, nor are short breaks between innings. What happens when the things they’re proposing either don’t work or don’t curtail the games that much? Do we start talking about things like seven-inning games? Furthermore, since games are apparently too long, what is in appropriate pace of play? Who decides how long is the “right” amount of time for a game to be?

I do occasionally complain about sports. “THIS GAME IS TOO LONG” is not usually one of those objections. You can’t drastically reduce length of a game without augmenting the fundamentals themselves. Everything else is just noise designed to lop off a few minutes here and there, as if most of the fans care.

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