Can baseball help us slow down?

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 baseballand 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.

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Shaughnessy again

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: Mookie Betts connects for a solo homer in the first inning on Friday, his first home run of three in the game’s first four innings.(JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)

World Series

So the Phillies are off to a good start and I’ll be pulling for Pedro (the former Red Sox ace) to help the Phillies win tonight.  There is a theory that Sox fans are watching the series hoping that the Phillies can beat the Yankees, that if the Phillies were playing the Angels we wouldn’t care so much.  Could be true.  But as Tony Mazzarotti wrote in today’s Boston Globe

The transformation of Rasheed Wallace is complete, the enemy of the people now serving as the man of the hour. As seamlessly as Wallace has joined the Celtics on the floor this season, he made a similarly fluid entry last night in his first home game at TD Garden.

In Boston, Rasheed now dresses in white.

“I didn’t know if the fans wanted to keep it personal and still call me those names or what,” Wallace mused in the wake of the Celtics’ 92-59 annihilation of the outmanned, overmatched and outclassed Charlotte Bobcats. “It was cool though.”

Cool, indeed. Cool as Wallace entered the game to chants of Sheeeeeeeeeeeeed with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter, cool as Wallace drilled his first two shots, both 3–pointers, helping the Celtics build a 22-11 lead in the opening quarter. Cool even as Wallace dressed in front of his locker following the game, when he donned a black sweat jacket bearing the name and logo of the Philadelphia Phillies, as sure a sign as any that he has embraced Boston as firmly as Boston already has embraced him.

‘Sheed, it seems, plays by the same rules many of you do. If he is not necessarily rooting for the Red Sox, he is at least rooting for whoever is playing the Yankees.

The Celtics, by the way, are 2-0.

So to Red Sox fans, the New York Yankees are still the evil empire.

But why is today October 29 and just the 2nd game of the Series is being played tonight?  The answer is in provided by Tyler Kepner in a New York Times story from last Sunday.  Some of the reasons are:

¶When baseball scheduled the World Baseball Classic for March 2009, the players wanted two more weeks of spring training games after its conclusion. So pushing the Classic later would have further delayed the start of the regular season, and the players would not have been ready if it had started sooner.

¶The calendar did not help. Except for the Sunday night opener, the schedule always begins on a Monday, and the first Monday of April 2009 was the sixth. Teams do not want to start the season with a weekend series, because they already draw well on weekends. Opening on a Monday allows teams to sell out a weekday game that would otherwise be a hard sell.

¶The idea of starting the regular season in late March and playing only in warm-weather cities and domes is considered too problematic to be realistic. If both teams in New York and Chicago open on the road, that means overlapping home dates later. And the teams in warm-weather cities and domes would complain about losing dates for later in the season, when they can sell more tickets than they can in late March and early April.

¶The idea of shortening the regular season from 162 games is unrealistic, because teams would not willingly give away moneymaking home dates.

So you have a combination of greed and the quirks of the calendar that will have fans in New York and Philadelphia freezing in their seats.  And another thing:  Why no day games?

Built to Last?

I’m probably being snarky because the Red Sox aren’t still playing and the Yankees are, but it appears that the New Yankee Stadium has issues.

According to an article in the New York Times

The concrete pedestrian ramps at the brand-new $1.5 billion city-subsidized Yankee Stadium have been troubled by cracks, and the team is seeking to determine whether the problems were caused by the installation, the design, the concrete or other factors, according to several people briefed on the problems.

The Yankees have hired an engineering company to take samples from the ramps — they ascend from field level to the stadium’s upper tiers, carrying thousands of people each game — to determine the cause and the extent of the problems as the team finishes its first season in the new stadium and prepares for what could be its first World Series there.

A spokeswoman for the team, Alice McGillion, called the cracks “cosmetic,” saying that they posed no safety issues because they did not affect the structural integrity of the ramps. She characterized the work to repair the problems as “routine remediation,” which she said was “usual in this kind of building or in any other building.”

“There is no evidence that there is any issue or problem with concrete or any material in the building,” she said.

Several people briefed on the problems said, however, that they would cost several million dollars to fix. The cracks, some as much as an inch wide and several feet long, are visible on the slate-gray walkways. Those with knowledge of the defects spoke on the condition of anonymity, as did others, because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Sorry, Alice.  I don’t think I want to be around when a fan stubs a toe in a crack, falls and gets injured.

This being New York, there are questions about mob involvement and all, but the bottom line is

The Testwell [the company that tested the concrete] indictment, unsealed last October, charged that the company failed to perform some strength tests and billed clients for work that was never done at the stadium and roughly 100 other projects, including the Freedom Tower. When the charges were announced by the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, city officials said the structures were believed to be safe, but might deteriorate sooner than expected.

Not built to last.

Not  like Fenway which was built in 1912.

In 2002 the Red Sox were sold to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. Prior to the sale of the team, there had been discussion of building a new Fenway Park. This ballpark was planned to have the same distinct features of Fenway Park, but with more modern and up to date amenities. However, the current owners of the Red Sox are committed to preserving and improving Fenway Park for the foreseeable future.

I can’t find the quote, but the team announced this spring they were done with renovation fro now and that Fenway should be good now for another hundred years.  Doesn’t sound like the New Yankee Stadium will make it that long.