Friday, February 20, 2015

Makin' it snappy

To say watching baseball is sometimes like watching paint dry does a disservice to paint.

First of all, paint dries faster than you think. And second of all, it makes your average Red Sox-Yankees game look positively glacial, mainly because ... well, because your average Red Sox-Yankees game is positively glacial.

Entire Ice Ages spin past in the time it takes a batter to step out of the box to adjust his batting glove, step back in, step back out and step back in. And you could read a Stephen King novel (one of the real doorstoppers) in the time it takes a pitcher to  actually throw a pitch.

By which time the batter is yet again stepping out of the box to adjust his batting glove. Or his helmet. Or his hair.

And people think nothing ever happens in soccer.

Like paint drying, soccer is a blur by comparison, which is why the news that came down this morning is the gladdest of tidings. Major League Baseball, noting that an average nine-inning game now takes more than three hours to play, is instituting a series of rules to speed up play.

As with everything else in baseball, it took 'em long enough.

Essentially, MLB is putting in place four rules: that  managers stay in the dugout during replay challenges, that hitters keep at least one foot in the batter's box during at-bats, that there is a prompt return to play after TV commercial breaks and that pitching changes will be subject to the clock.

For this, all thinking fans of the game should shout "Hoorah." With all due speed.

That's because the game we all grew up with, and the one with which the nation became enamored,  was never intended to be a leisurely exercise. It was intended to be fast-paced and bang-bang-bang. That's the way it was played in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and that's why it became the National Pastime during that era.

Accounts of games from those years indicate it was the rare nine innings that stretched to two hours; most were played in well under that. Even taking into consideration the fact there were no TV breaks, the game was played at a much faster clip then, and that was even the case as recently as 34 years ago -- when, TV breaks and all, the average MLB game ran a little over two-and-a-half hours.


Now some regulation games plod along for three-and-a-half or even four hours. That's absurd. And it's not the way the game is supposed to be played.

Here's some irony for you: One of the reasons Americans regarded baseball as superior to one of its antecedents, cricket, is that unlike cricket a match didn't last for days on end. Now some major-league games last for days on end, or so it seems.

Well, to heck with that. After all, if cricket's what we'd wanted, we'd have let the British win the Revolution. 


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