Thursday, April 16, 2015

Now I've Got Some Time for Baseball

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game

Image result for mound visit
So um... Listen. My wife is friggin' pissed about the last road trip. I'm in no hurry to get home.

A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


Taking off an average of 8 minutes and getting under the 3 hour mark is huge.  I have no problem watching a 5 hour slog with multiple pitching changes in an inning, but things like that will always keep baseball a somewhat nichey, regional sport.  As a lifelong hockey fan I've grown weary of not being able to discuss my favorite sport when I travel to certain parts of the US.  I am all for growing the game.  I never got why people become "sports hipsters" about stuff.  Hockey fans love to be insular and act like they've been hiding something from the world, some secret sport.  I'd much rather the NHL be in the public consciousness for more than just fights or extreme injuries, which is about the only time the NHL gets the truly national stage.  Same with baseball. Red Sox v Yankees and similar big market games will always drive ratings, but is Joe Six pack gonna watch a late september game with wild card implications between the Pirates and the Rockies?  Unless said Mr Six pack lives in Colorado or Pittsburgh, probably not.  Meanwhile, people watch the NFL scouting combine just to see 20 year olds do shuttle runs.  

Uncle Bones

There's a couple of things to unpack as they pertain the new, shorter baseball games. One that you definitely hit right on the head was the comparison between the NFL and MLB. The NFL really occupies a strange space right now in American sports landscape. There's a war going on for the sport's soul and one side is winning. 2 years ago you heard an awful lot about how discouraging the vicious hits on defenseless receivers would take "toughness" out of the game. Well, now that veterans football players are turning up dead at a rate only seen in Pro Wrestling and Fantasy Football numbers going through the roof, no one is complaining any more. Despite protests, it made the game a better viewing experience.

You'll some similar protests to baseball's pace of play changes. These arguments that emerge from the idea that "baseball shouldn't have time limit" usually come from grumpy old men and the "sports hipsters". These opinions don't matter much as grumpy old men (always knowledgeable & entertaining) are not the future and "hipsters" of any ilk are fairly transient in their interests and will move on to something newer soon anyway.

Getting games under 3 hours is very important to the long term health of the game. Especially when you consider the amount of TV money currently bolstering incomes. We are more or less conditioned around the idea of a 3 hour sporting events. NFL, NBA, NHL all wrap their games up under 3 hours. Its really all we can spend on a single sporting event. I mean really, how many other things do we 3 solid hours to in our day or even week? Other than work? 3 uninterrupted hours? I can't think of anything, yet we expect fans to tune in night after night after night to a 4 hour baseball game featuring multiple mound conferences, throws over, pitching changes, and batters adjusting their gloves? Not when I've got my tablet here and I can check Twitter for some game commenta... Oh look, 13 ways to lose weig... Wait, the Bills just traded for Phil... Huh, whats that? A shiny new penny?

A short, crisp 3 hour baseball game with a solid rhythm will grow the game nationally. It might not happen right away, but I'll be curious to see how the playoff numbers look. I hear a lot from people about how they only get into playoff hockey, but don't care much for the regular season. Well, what if people started getting into playoff baseball? As it stands now just about every playoff baseball game is a 4 hour commitment that doesn't end until 11:00 or 12:00 at night. That's no way to attract new fans even if that midnight drama is as thick as a hipster's mustache wax.

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