The news seems to come at us with lightening speed. No sooner do we start to digest the latest tweet, the current egregious statement by some state’s governor or a cabinet secretary or the most recent sign of climate change than here comes another and still another. Who can keep up? No wonder so many of us are depressed. And many of us try to keep pace by constantly looking at our electronic devices to see the latest. The pace can’t be doing us any good.
The other day there were two columns in the Boston Globe bemoaning the current state of baseball (The Red Sox and Yankees are killing baseball) and fearing for the future of the game (I remember the good old days of baseball). If you follow the game you know the arguments: Games are too long and there is not enough action. People want things to happen fast. Only old people watch baseball and they are dying off.
Dan Shaughnessy argues in The Red Sox and Yankees are killing baseball:
The Red Sox’ average game lasts 3 hours and 23 minutes per game. Crushing all the competition. The Sox are a full seven minutes per game better than anybody else. That’s 700 minutes over 100 games.
The Sox step out. They grind. They take more time between pitches. They walk. They strike out. They strike everybody else out. Great product. They have seven-man meetings on the mound where everybody covers their mouths, as if they are protecting nuclear codes. Brandon Workman throws 44 pitches over 1⅔ innings, most of them curveballs in the dirt. Porcello throws 60 over two innings.
Thanks. Thanks for killing baseball.
Dan forgets to add that Porcello went on to pitch six innings. And the Red Sox are not the only ones with all those mound meetings. Should I remind him that teams are only allowed 6 a game now? But I agree that the Sox could speed up their games a bit. David Price should not take so long between pitches. (He actually does better when he’s faster.) I think it was Jerry Remy who once commented, “Get the ball back, get the sign, and throw it”. And maybe they could start a trend by not stepping out of the batter’s box between every pitch. But they also tend to score a lot of runs which, when you are hitting a lot of doubles and singles, takes time. Many of their home runs are with men on base.
I spent last weekend in Cooperstown, celebrating this great game with more than 50 Hall of Fame ball players and over 50,000 fans who made the trek to celebrate the careers of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. I spoke with Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Randy Johnson, Eddie Murray, Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Thome, Tony La Russa, Cal Ripken, Dave Winfield, and a raft of other Hall of Famers who love this game. The old and young men are not delusional. They know they have lost a generation of fans. They know the product is increasingly the purview of old folks who have a lot of time on their hands. They worry about the game’s relevance in a society of Instagram and Instant Karma. They feel it slipping away.
Who will be there to replace the fans who are dying off? Who will care about a sport populated by players who see no problems with the pace of play, and arrogant team analytics departments that stress successful strategies that push fans away?
I think that Major League Baseball can start by doing away with “instant” replay. Who needs to sit and watch umpires with headsets waiting and waiting for some unknown person or persons in New York (I think that’s where they are.) to watch endless loops of videotape to decide if a call were right or not. I think more than half the time the call stands because there is not sufficient evidence to over turn it. Doesn’t that show maybe it isn’t needed? Has anyone calculated how much time it adds to games? Close plays give us fans something to talk about.
If MLB wants people to come to games maybe they should take the advice of Bob Ryan (I remember the good old days)
There is empty rhetoric at the top of baseball about finding ways to attract younger fans, but if that were truly the case teams would stop games on Saturday night, let alone Sunday. It used to be the best time to welcome families were weekend afternoons. But baseball has sold its soul to national TV and instead of 1:05 Saturday it’s 4:05 and, worse, 7:05. So much for that family time.
Sunday night baseball is an abomination.
But ultimately I look at the sports page in our local newspaper and read about all the kids playing Little League and American Legion baseball not just in Brattleboro, but all over Vermont, New England, and the country and realize they will be watching baseball. And the rest of us should take a deep breath and go to a game or watch part or all of one on television or listen on the radio. It will make us slow down.
Photograph: (JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)