Saturday, October 15, 2016

Watching paint dry

Playoff baseball is not for the impatient. So maybe this is my fault.

It's my fault my attention wanders so easily -- I really must buy a leash for it someday -- or that I'm so easily bored by long waits for things to happen, or that I find myself shouting "Throw the damn ball already!" when some ace lollygags for hours between pitches.

I like a sport that proceeds apace. And that's not baseball these days.

That was especially true last night, when the Nationals and Dodgers played an elimination game some called epic, and those of us suffering from chronic OCD called a visit to the BMV, only with more pitching changes. The Dodgers eventually beat the Nationals 4-3 to advance to the NLCS. And it only took them four hours and 32 minutes to do it.

Four hours and 32 minutes. To play nine innings of baseball.

You could watch Helio Castroneves drive roughly 750 miles in that length of time, or watch LeBron go for 41 and 16 in one game, then turn around and go for 22 and 8 in an another entire half-plus. Germany could beat the U.S. 2 1/2 times in soccer in that length of time. You could drive from Fort Wayne almost to Buffalo.

And, yes, I get it, seamheads, baseball is not racing or basketball or soccer. But it shouldn't be four hours of watching outfielders scratch their jewels, either. The game was never supposed to be played at such a crawl. And it didn't used to be.

The Blob has bloviated this before, but back in the day, when the Cubs were still winning World Series, baseball was a fast-moving, fast-paced game. It was a rare nine innings that took more than two hours to play. And that included playoff games.

And, sure, there was no TV then. But even after TV came along, the average Major League game rarely ran more than two-and-a-half hours. Now it's almost twice that -- or at least it was last night.

Granted, it was an elimination game, which of course meant both managers emptied their bullpens. The Nationals used seven pitchers. The Dodgers used six. That's 11 pitching changes, 11 times a pitcher trotted slowly in from the bullpen, then threw eight or 10 leisurely (and entirely unnecessary) warmup pitches.

The seamheads, of course, will say I simply don't appreciate the slow buildup of drama in all of this. They'll say baseball is a game of moments, and the slower the buildup to those moments, the more enhanced their drama.

They'll say that's what made last night so epic.

I won't dispute that. I just wish the epic had epic-ed a little faster. And I think the fact it didn't, and the fact playoff baseball in particular so obstinately rides the brakes, is why young people are abandoning the sport in droves. This is 2016, the era of instant messaging, instant oatmeal, instant everything. It's also the post-agricultural era -- which means four hours of a guy standing in a field doesn't have the romance it used to.

One wonders, actually, if it would have even in the more rural America of baseball's dawning. I mean, four-and-a-half hours to play a baseball game?

Sorry, gentlemen. The cows need milking.

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