I am all for picking up the pace — only in certain areas, though, and, even then, within reason. Some things cannot or should not be rushed. For example, I think it is reasonable to expect my husband to finish a cup of coffee within thirty minutes, not as reasonable to put time limits on baseball games. Baseball should not be rushed.
There are big changes afoot this season designed to quicken the pace of the game. (Alas, no such changes are afoot here at the hovel as regards spousal coffee drinking.)These changes, so far, do not include “time limits”, per se, but who knows what the future may hold? If these changes were a result of the players being desirous of getting home in time to kick back with a Schlitz after a long hard day, I would be all for it. I can sympathize with anyone who wants a shorter work day.
What is going on with professional baseball is not designed to improve the lives of the players, though. No. The rule changes designed to shave off what will amount to a few seconds here and there (and which are, at least for the moment, unfairly aimed only at the offense) are being implemented by Major League Baseball for another reason — one that has nothing to do with the game, more to do with the fact that baseball has begun to lose its younger audience. MLB has realized that kids today do not have the attention span to sit through a three-hour ball game. The “Nintendo Generation” wants action. And they want it constantly. Baseball is losing fans — mostly to football, basketball, hockey — and, yes — even to NASCAR.
NASCAR is the fastest growing sport in America. How anyone could be entertained by watching cars being driven in circles for hours on end is beyond me. Talk about boring! I live in a heavily congested area of New Jersey. We drive around in circles all day. If people really want to see that, why don’t they just come here and set up a lawn chair on the side of one of our many highways? They could bring the kids and a cooler — make a day of it!
If they’re lucky they might even see a three-car pile-up or, at the very least, a fender-bender. There are quite a few roadways and problem areas where these things occur almost daily. The New Jersey Turnpike can be relied upon to supply a few jackknifed tractor-trailers a week. That might be something worthy of an outing.
Certainly there are some things that would quicken the pace of the game without changing the game itself. For example, I could do without David Wright refastening his batting gloves after each and every pitch. I find this both annoying and unnecessary. On the other hand, it does allow me a chance to grab a Diet Coke or to think — to mull over whether the pitcher he is facing will bring the heat or the change-up when David does (finally!) step back into the batter’s box.
It is also during these breaks when viewers get the chance to listen to the color commentators and the play-by-play guys. I would argue that The New York Mets broadcast team is the best! Outside of Vin Scully I cannot think of anyone I would rather listen to call a ball game than Gary, Keith, and Ron.
In terms of baseball being “slow”, let me just say this: Have you ever noticed how long the last five minutes of a football game (or a basketball game) can take? It feels like forever.
It seems like an eternity because this is when managing the clock becomes an important part of the game. Baseball, too, has strategy; its strategy just does not involve time. Often, what it involves is nuance. I find that nuance is what is lacking in most other professional sports. Does NASCAR have nuance? I don’t know. Football and basketball certainly have moments of grace and beauty, but nuance? I don’t think so.
Nuance cannot be rushed. It is an integral part of the game of baseball. Making changes so that the Nintendo generation will be interested is ridiculous. I have to wonder if, as this group ages, they will not come to realize and to appreciate — all on their own, without any help from the “powers that be” up at MLB HQ — that the little things, the nuanced things — things so integral to their beloved video games — are also an important part of baseball.
I think they will. And, when they do, they will come to embrace the pace of our National Past Time. We don’t need to change the game for them. We just have to be patient. We simply have to behave like the baseball fans that we are. We will just have to adjust our batting gloves, step out of the box, and wait for them to grow up.