May 24, 2008

A Matter Of Time

MLB is trying to speed up the time of games.

It's an old story. For at least 90 years, baseball executives have complained that the games are dragging on and something must be done. Here is a short sample from New York Times:
March 19, 1928
Barnard Orders Snappier Games; American League Bars Dawdling; President Instructs Umpires To Keep Players On Move And Pitchers Will Have Twenty Seconds To Deliver Ball ... Umpire To Keep Resin Supply. Game Will Be Speeded Up. Players Barred From Stands.
By James R. Harrison
St. Petersburg, Fla. -- The day of the long and dawdling ball game in the American League has passed forever, if E.S. Barnard, new President of the junior circuit, has anything to say about it.

February 17, 1929
Speedier Baseball Games The Aim Of League Officials; Long-Drawn-Out Affairs, Due To The Players' Tactics, Are Annoying To The Fans ...

August 4, 1957
"As the baseball season rolls along, the days grow shorter and the ball games get longer. And, as with the weather, no end of talk seems able to do anything about it. The increasing length of time it takes to play a nine-inning contest has been bedeviling baseball's legislators for years."

November 28, 1967
Baseball Strengthens Ban On Spitball Pitch And Seeks To Speed Up Games ...
By Joseph Durso
Mexico City -- Professional baseball took steps today to eliminate the spitball and the 3-hour ballgame.
In the sixth inning of last night's game, J.D. Drew called time to go to the on-deck circle and get some pine tar for his bat. Plate umpire Tim Tschida said no, deciding to enforce Rule 6.02(b), which forbids such activity. Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan mouthed off from the dugout and was ejected.

Kevin Youkilis was not impressed:
They're trying to speed up the game? For what reason? ... If they want to speed up the game, why don't they stop having commercials, that would do it. ...

So guys can't get pine tar but pitchers can still get rosin? There's nothing you can do to speed up the game. It seems like they're blaming the hitters again but it's not the hitter's fault. This whole speeding up the game is just stupid -- the game of baseball is a game of no time. Why do we need to speed it up?
Cutting down on television commercials between innings would certainly shorten the times of games. Anyone think Bud Selig will make a serious effort to shorten the time between innings of playoff and World Series games?

If the umpires are going to now start enforcing the rule book -- what a concept! -- calling the actual strike zone would definitely move the game along, since batters would now have to swing at pitches in the top third of the true strike zone, almost all of which are currently called balls.


laura k said...

Good post - and great quote from Yook!

If people really think baseball games are too long, they could take the most obvious route: not watch them. Yet more people are watching baseball than ever before.

Only the geniuses at MLB could invent a non-problem like this.

winchou said...

The only reasonable explanation is obvious - long games mess with TV schedules. I do not watch baseball because I care what's on *next*. That the MLB would sell out the quality of the game is truly a sign of the end times. The really odd thing is the person who was called on this - JD does not strike me as another "human rain delay". He seems to goes about his business in a totally reasonable and professional manner. The ump musta thought he could score some brownie points by picking out a guy who would not talk back. What a damn shame.

allan said...

I want to know more about this:

March 19, 1928
... Players Barred From Stands

Were games being prolonged because players were wandering into the stands? Were players permitted to go into the stands before this?

There are more than a few accounts from the Deadball Era of players leaving the field to go fight paying customers. Is that what it's about?

Benjamin said...

That's Rule 3.09, right? I wish these things had committee notes like court rules or other legislation.

allan said...

3.09. Yeah. Also says players cannot address any fan before, during or after a game.

And one of my favourite rules:
"Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform."

Joe Grav said...

Amen, bro

Unknown said...

One of the players, either Drew or Pedroia also made a good point last night. MLB is also pretty freaked out about bats flying into the stands. What's the easiest way to avoid that? Pine tar.

Benjamin said...

I'm guessing it was added in 1928 to discourage players from visiting their girlfriends between innings.

9casey said...

The thing with Drew was he actually broke his bat and had to get a new one ....and that one is supposed to ready...But the umps are also the ones who change the ball everytime it hits the damn ground. And look at it like the winning lottery numbers are somewhere embedded in the Baseball.

Jake of All Trades said...

The broken bat part is what makes last night's incident so frustrating. If he was just going to get extra pine tar mid at-bat and the ump thought it was a stall tactic that would be one thing, but you can't really break a bat on purpose.

When the ump first called Drew back to the plate I actually thought he was telling him he had to still use the broken bat and was thoroughly confused.

Jack Marshall said...

Right on. Clearly, commercials are most of the problem. In isolated instances, slow pitchers (remember Jeff Gray?) and hitters who won't go into the box (Carlton Fisk was infuriating) don't help, but JD is not one of those, and it is obvious that umpires don't have the common sense or guts necessary to make discretionary decisions. The modern game, with frequent in-inning, R-L pitching changes,the risk of stolen bases and thus frequent throws to first, high scoring and offensive emphasis on working the count, is just a longer game than the 1920-1990 version. Add having every game televised, and 3 hour games are going to be unavoidable.

The worst thing about long games is 4 hour night play-off, All-Star and WS games, which make it impossible for kids to watch great baseball games on TV and become fans. That's easily fixable by having some day games, but MLB won't sacrifice the ad dollars.