The best of baseball happened last night, when a pitcher named Chad Bettis threw seven scoreless innings for the Colorado Rockies, scattering six hits while getting a no-decision.
What was significant about that is it was Bettis' first start since November. In the interim, he's undergone surgery and chemo for testicular cancer that spread to his lymph nodes.
So it was a triumph of no small measure, that no-decision. And the best of what baseball, and sport itself, has always given us.
And the worst?
The worst is that it was a 3-0 game that took almost three hours to play. And at 2 hours, 44 minutes, it still constituted what's considered a quick nine innings these days in Major League Baseball.
Maybe you missed it, but MLB commissioner Rob Manuel's crusade to speed up the pace of play in baseball is losing ground, after some initial success. The length of an average nine-inning game has jumped nine minutes in the last two seasons, including five minutes this summer alone. We're now up to 3 hours, 5 minutes for a nine-inning game, the longest average in baseball history.
This is not good news when you're trying to survive in a world in which technology has speeded up everything, and has turned all of us into creatures with the attention span of a gnat. It is also not what baseball was intended to be, as the Blob has pointed out ad nauseum.
Back when it first became the National Pastime, it was a fast-paced game that generally breezed through nine innings in two hours or fewer -- and sometimes, much fewer. Even taking into account the advent of modern TV commercial breaks, that still means the average nine-inning game in 1908, if played today, would run 35-40 minutes quicker.
But now the Pastime is the Passed Time, and even if attendance is up, interest among the demographic that will be the next generation of baseball fans is down. It's an old-timey game now, played at an old-timey pace suited to the oldtimers who constitute most of its audience.
And why not? If baseball slogs around at a snail's pace these days, so do those oldtimers. They can relate.
But the rest of America?
Eh, not so much. Mostly, the rest of America is just waiting for pro and college football to fire up again.
Well. This seems more relevant than ever.