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:
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………