Seven Inning Baseball?

Buster Olney of ESPN had a report last week that one of his executive sources in MLB thinks that baseball games should be shortened to 7 innings. This exec cited the lack of pitching and the injuries to pitchers as a significant problem for MLB that would be alleviated to some degree by shorter games. He also thinks that the pace of play in baseball is too slow to hold the attention of young people today and shortened games would be a plus on that axis too. [Aside: His analysis of the attention span for lots of young folks today is on target; some do not have the attention span of a kitten.] Here is the introduction to Buster Olney’s report…

I am not sure that shortening the game is the answer here. While the problems cited here are real ones, I think that shortening the games themselves will fundamentally offend a large portion of the fanbase but will not attract an equal number of new fans. I think that many folks who dislike baseball have two problems with the game:

    1. The pace of the game is too slow to hold their interest

    2. There are too many pitches where “nothing happens”.

I do not have any great ideas with regard to a solution to Problem Number 2 above; I do think there are ways to pick up the pace of a typical baseball game. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot described the “pace-of-the-game problem” for baseball recently:

“There’s nothing more compelling in sports than watching a hitter step out of the batter’s box after every pitch. Or as intriguing as a hitter holding up play to look at the third base coach, even though nobody’s on base and the guy at the plate hasn’t bunted since Pony League.

“When I walk out of the room during an English Premier League soccer game, I never fail to miss a goal or at least a great shot. When I walk out on a baseball game for a few moments, I usually miss three or four foul balls interspersed with shots of a batter adjusting himself – and not just his batting gloves.”

There is some exaggeration here – but you get the idea. Baseball is a game without a clock. If the objective is to “pick up the pace” a bit, perhaps a clock is necessary to make pitchers throw the ball to home plate with greater frequency. However, might that engender more arm injuries? I think that pace of play can be increased by keeping batters in the batter’s box unless they leave the box to run out a ball they just hit. The other alteration MLB can make would be to get the umpires to call the strike zone that is written in the rulebook. A bigger strike zone will result in fewer pitches where the batter simply stands there and looks at the pitch never having the slightest intention to swing at it.

One other question for that baseball exec:

    If games were shortened to 7 innings, will ticket prices be reduced proportionately? I didn’t think so…

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this note in a recent column:

“The Houston market drew a 0.0 Nielsen rating for Monday’s Astros-Angels game.

“Among the competition in that time slot: the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 stock-car race, which drew a 1.7.”

Houston has a population of more than 2 million folks; it is the fourth largest city in the US (behind NYC, LA and Chicago). Granted, the Astros have been awful for the last couple of years and it is early in the season, but a Nielsen rating of 0.0? That is not a good omen for MLB…

The NY Knicks just signed Lamar Odom to a 2-year deal. Odom has a history with Phil Jackson and successful LA Laker teams but that was a while ago and Odom’s career has taken a significant downturn since his “Laker days”. Unless Phil Jackson has gone completely round the bend, there has to be a way in which Odom and his contract will be useful in terms of cap management and/or the execution of a trade because Odom is simply not even a small part of the rejuvenation of the Knicks franchise. Lamar Odom is not the magnet that will hold Carmelo Anthony in NYC while simultaneously attracting a top shelf free agent such as LeBron James.

While I certainly do not have more NBA Championship rings than I have fingers – as does Phil Jackson, let me offer him some brief advice. The future glory of the NY Knicks does not include significant contributions from:

    Andrew Bargnani
    Raymond Felton
    J.R. Smith – with our without his brother on the roster.

If Jackson can exchange any of them for a ball peen hammer, he should make the deal immediately.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. One great quotation that has been attributed to her is:

“If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.”

I would like to update that type of thinking to 2014 and say:

    If you have nothing cogent to say on any subject related to sports, get yourself booked on ESPN’s First Take.

Finally, here is another item from Dwight Perry’s column in the Seattle Times regarding the “partnership” between MLB and Match.com:

“Q: What does Match.com get out of its partnership with Major League Baseball?

“A: Lots of singles hitters.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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Comments

  • Gil  On April 17, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I think shortening the games is a good idea, but it is way too radical for most fans to accept. Not happening.

    I watch a lot of televised baseball, and I can tell you the umpires ARE calling the strike zone by the book these days. It is a direct result of MLB’s initiative to change what had become routine: nothing above the belt was a strike; 2 inches off the outside corner was a strike. The camera systems installed in each ballpark and the evaluations of umpires’ strike zones had a lot to do with the change. That said, many umpires are still inconsistent in the way they call the high strike in my opinion. This is a judgment issue, not a policy issue.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 18, 2014 at 7:45 am

      Gil:

      I agree that MLB has tried to get the strike zone expanded. However, what you call “inconsistent” is what I call “having a strike zone smaller than the one that is described in the rulebook”. Nevertheless, no matter what you call it, an expansion of the strike zone – consistently called by all of the umpires – would speed up the game.

  • Rich  On April 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

    If the MLB umps would simply not call time when a player steps away from the plate and let the pitchers throw some strikes, the batters will realize that the batting gloves don’t need adjusting after every pitch. Is it just me, but does it seem that some hitters step out to do this re-strapping even after pitches where they didn’t swing?

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 18, 2014 at 7:46 am

      Rich:

      If a hitter is a “glove-adjuster” the chances are that he “adjusts” on every pitch no matter what…

  • david egbert  On April 17, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Here’s the one that gets me. A relief pitcher throws in the bullpen until he is ready and they comes in and throws another 10 pitches from the mound. Do you see NFL QB’S trow 10 practice passes to their wideouts? Throw one pitch to get used to the mound and let’s play ball!

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 18, 2014 at 7:48 am

      david egbert:

      I agree for relief pitchers who come into the game during an inning … Come to the mound; throw one practice pitch; get on with the game. However, if the relief pitcher comes in between innings while TV commercials are running, I don’t care if he throws 52 warm up pitches…

  • Doug  On April 18, 2014 at 7:33 am

    There are certainly things about baseball that should change, but the number of innings is not on the list.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 18, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Doug:

      Agree completely…

  • Trent  On April 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    I don’t believe the length of games has changed that much since its ‘Golden Age’. I think the expansions created a lack of pitchers able to actually pitch in the MLB and the managers have to bring in relief pitchers way too often to compensate for it.

    Plus, the newerfans grew up watching Short Attention Span Theater.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 19, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Trent:

      According to FiveThirtyEight.com, the average length of an MLB game has risen from 170 minutes in 2005 to 187 minutes in 2013. That is a 10% increase.

      When I was a kid, games routinely took two and a half hours (150 minutes); more than once in a while, a game would finish in less than 2 hours. If a game finished under 2 hours today, it would be headline news.

      Check this link for data regarding times for MLB games – and which teams are the fastest and slowest teams.

  • Trent  On April 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    After thinking about it and reading your link, I have to say OK I was wrong.

    I have to think its due to TV, sabremetric inspired moves during games and frequent pitching changes.

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