A few days ago the New York Times published a list of suggestions to speed up the pace of a baseball game. This list was made up of suggestions of the newspapers reporters and readers. How good were the reporter’s ideas? Here’s a rundown of a few.
Idea #1 – Less commercials. The writer is 100% correct that this would help, and as the author of this idea points out he is also 100% correct that it will never happen. I agree that it would make for a better product that would eventually mean more money, but the loss of money in the short term is something I don’t think anybody is willing to accept. Somebody suggested letting advertisers use team uniforms like they do in soccer and will be doing soon in the NBA. Not a bad idea if it gets the game shortened.
Idea #2 – Make baseball more like soccer. Times reporter Sarah Lyall weighs in with one of the worst ideas I have ever heard. I’m pretty sure she isn’t serious. I sure hope so.
Idea #3 –Cut down on all of the talking in baseball. Ok, I get that mound visits are a little tiresome. Cutting them out would speed up the game, but it also makes baseball something it isn’t. Baseball is chess, not UNO. All of the strategizing in game is what gives baseball an element of tension that other sports don’t have. People love things that are fast-paced for sure, but they also love high tension moments. There is more than one way to sell something. Yes, some managers and teams overdo it, but live with it.
Idea #4 – Expressed in the author’s words here, “Make the distracting billboards along the outfield walls smaller. Order dawdling batsmen to step into the box — like men! — or pay the consequences of a first pitch thrown in their absence. Prohibit the spitting, the tugging of nether regions and other unseemly habits that waste time and offend refined sensibilities.” Just consider this one cosigned by me. If construction workers stepped back from their jobs to readjust their gloves before every swing of the hammer we’d never see another house built. Get in the box and swing people. Although I will say if you do something about this then you have to do something about the pitcher stepping off the mound too.
Idea #5 – Do away with 40 man rosters in September. As the proponent of this idea points out baseball has one set of rules for five months, and one set of rules for the final month. This is pretty dumb. St. Louis Post Dispatch scribe Derrick Goold has proposed idea of a healthy scratch for the entire season, and why it hasn’t gained traction is beyond me. Maybe in September they could add one or two additional healthy scratches. Still, it is loony to see a massive team in September, and it gives some teams with deep farm systems an advantage. One of those teams happens to be the one I root for, but this does need changing.
Idea #6 - Ban all arm/hand armor and padding on batters. This idea was obviously proposed by someone not facing 100 mph fastballs. I hate it when guys go up there looking like they just left a meeting of the round table, but if I had to go to bat knowing the ball was coming that fast I’d probably wear a full suit of medieval armor. I’d make John Kruk look like a brave man when he faced Randy Johnson. How about we just get umpires to make batters stop crowding the plate and let them wear their protective gear?
Idea #7 - Institute a pitch clock and strictly enforce it. Bad, bad idea. You need to speed the game up without turning it into something it isn’t. Decent pitchers make 15 million dollars a year for doing something unnatural (throwing a baseball as hard as they can). So your big idea is to make them do in a hurry? We just thought there were a lot of Tommy John injuries now.
Idea #8 - “Stipulate in the umpires’ union contract that each ump gets a $500 bonus for every game that ends in less than 2 hours 40 minutes. The bonus is $1,000 for games ending in under 2 hours 25 minutes, and the entire umping crew gets the next weekend off, with pay, for games lasting less than two hours.” Yeah this will go over well. The last thing we need is umpires calling balls and strikes with game length in mind. It’s all well and good until your team is trying to come back with game at around 2 hours and 22 minutes. Suddenly the strike zone gets big, your team loses, and the umps get the weekend off. People coming up with ideas, whether about baseball, politics, or whatever need to actually think about what type of behavior they are incentivizing. It’s called the Cobra Effect, look it up, or listen to this podcast about it.
Idea #9 – Reduce the game to seven innings. Why don’t we just have them use tennis rackets instead of bats? What about making upper deck home runs worth two runs? What about having guys run the bases while holding an egg in a spoon? Baseball is a nine inning game. Every stat in the game’s history is based on this game length. Come on man, get serious!
Idea #10 – Make three balls equal a walk. Ok, three balls equals a walk equals more walks equals longer baseball games. Baseball isn’t like basketball where you can increase scoring without increasing the game time. The object is more balls in play, not less.
Idea #11 – Count every foul ball as a strike. Counting every foul as a strike means that there will be a lot more outs. This would certainly make the game quicker, but also demonstrably less exciting. Also, it gets rid of the pitcher versus batter duel that is one of the best parts of the game.
So aside from cutting down on commercials the New York Times doesn't really have any ideas.