On Monday of this week in response to a comment by Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, I said that MLB has a fundamental problem when a game that ends with a 3-1 score takes 4 hours and 15 minutes to play.  One of the problems that drags out games – certainly not the only problem but a problem nonetheless – is that the time between innings is more than 2 minutes and sometimes as much as 3 minutes; there are at least 17 such time-hogs in a nine-inning game.  I said then – and I still believe – that until and unless the TV ratings drop to a point where networks are unwilling to pay premium prices for TV rights, that situation will not change.

One of the comments attached to that rant came from someone I have known in real life for approximately 40 years.  He is a “baseball guy”.  I want to present his comment here for those who did not see it on Monday:

“It’s not just wasted time that makes baseball so long. There is also a paucity of action during a game filled up with the following sequence: ball one, ball two, foul ball, ball three, strike two, foul ball (repeat),and ball four or strike three. Deep counts leading to a record number of strikeouts are making baseball games unbearable. In the meantime, remarkable fielders are just standing around. No circus catches, no remarkable throws, no close slide plays, very little action to hold the attention of the fan. And the high pitch counts lead to the early departure of the starting pitchers and the relentless bullpen parade. The new philosophy that starters cannot face the other team’s line-up more than twice in a game makes it worse.

“As a lifelong fan and long time umpire, I appreciate the philosophy of pitching and how the pitcher sets up a batter. But at some point, even I drift off to sleep.

“Without fundamental change, baseball is moving toward the fate that struck down horse racing and boxing. With players and management unable to agree on anything, and influential traditionalist (older) fans arguing against change, I see no reason to be optimistic about the future.”

Those comments come from a “baseball guy”.  When I read them, I wondered if this was an indication of an erosion process among “foundational fans” that could lead to declining TV ratings.  I made a note on my clipboard to keep an eye out for reports on MLB TV ratings.  Then, yesterday I got an email from another person I have known for about 30 years.  He too is a “baseball guy” and here is the content of his email:

“I have a sports curmudgeon rant to share:

“As you know I have been a Phillies and baseball fan since I have been a little kid.  My dad took me to my first game in 1968 at Connie Mack Stadium when I was seven years old.  I played through high school, American legion and club level baseball in college.  I coached/managed  baseball teams from age 4 to 19 years old. I watched every Phillies game this year including spring training. I love the game and think it is the most difficult professional sport to play.

“Bona Fides established.

“That said:  I watched the Dodgers/Giants game last night and decided last night if the Gabe Kapler method of playing the game (and I know he won 110 games and was very successful) I’m out.  It’s so painful to watch for four hours, for soooo many reasons.

RIP MLB if you are losing me.

Rant complete.

[Aside:  For the record, one of this person’s players/proteges is currently on a team in MLB and has been there for 3 seasons.  This person knows baseball from multiple perspectives.]

There is a saying on Wall Street that if something happens once it is an occurrence.  If the same thing happens twice, it is a coincidence.  If it happens a third time, it is a trend.  Maybe these two expressions of frustration with MLB’s product on TV are a coincidence – – or maybe they indicate a serious trend.  I am not nearly sufficiently capable in the fields of the social sciences to make that sort of call, but I must admit that I am surprised that two of the biggest “baseball guys” that I know feel the way that they have expressed here.

As I said above, all this began with my reaction to a comment from Bob Molinaro; so, let me take another of his observations and move on from there:

“Add clock: Griping about the duration of baseball games is the unalienable right of all Americans, especially when postseason play goes past midnight on the East Coast. But very little is ever said when college football games routinely bump up against the four-hour mark.”

I have opined on the length of college football games in the past and have proposed a rule change that would start the process of shortening those games.

  • Do not stop the clock on every first down until the chains are reset; let the game clock run.  It is not uncommon for a college game to have 45-50 first downs.  If the clock ran while all those chains were being reset, it could shave 8 minutes or so off the running time of the game.

Finally, let me close with a baseball item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The White Sox-Astros series features managers Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker, 77 and 72 years old.

“In lieu of the seventh-inning stretch, it’ll be first call to the early-bird buffet.”

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