Changing the Pace of the Game of Baseball?

In these days of instant this and instant that, from coffee to streaming news online, we need to take some time once in a while to, well, take some time.

One of those “take some time” moments for me is sports. When I can actually sit down and watch a game – in person or on the television – it allows me to relax, enjoy the moment and occasionally talk to myself about the goings-on of the game. It’s a respite from the rest of the day.

Baseball games are the ultimate respite for me. It’s my favorite sport, I enjoy the pace of the game and I can pick it up at various points during the nine innings and not feel like I missed half the game.

So the recent talk of supposed new rules for picking up the pace of the game has fascinated me. From the amount of time for walk-up music to batters not being able to place both feet out of the batter’s box between pitches, new standards have been implemented to speed things up. Most of the rules involve pitching changes, between innings downtime and time between pitches.

Folks don’t have three hours to watch a baseball game anymore, so say the pundits. Anyone watch a college football game these days? Those are marathon sessions on par with the duration of NASCAR races.

Call me old-fashioned, and most people over the age of 35 will nod along with me, but is this really necessary? The goal of all of this is to bring in the more casual baseball fans and the younger generation that deems the game to be too boring, mostly related to length of time to complete a game. And it primarily relates to TV viewers because I haven’t seen many complaints from fans who are actually in the stands during games.

Certainly, there are some players who take way too long, be it on the mound or at the plate between pitches. The game is full of routines, and some of these guys have more routines between pitches than a gymnastics meet. But to fine the players $500 each time they step out of the box during an at-bat? Talk about forcing the issue. Apparently, this won’t be strictly enforced out of the gate, but merely noted by umpires, with players being informed of their timeliness during games. This will be an interesting spring training for players to adjust.

The folks on the Mike & Mike ESPN morning show were discussing this matter, and both said their kids only watch snippets of videos called “vines.” They said their kids’ attention spans last about six seconds for watchable material.

Oh boy.

If that’s the case with the younger generation, no amount of changes in any sport will satisfy their viewing pleasures.   But that is another discussion in another magazine. However, that logic is what’s behind these changes.

Personally, I love the tension that comes with each pitch during crucial moments in games. You sit at the end of your seat or couch and whisper, “Come on, come on,” trying to will your team to a big play. You’re not flipping to another channel to catch a highlight between pitches. All of that is at the core of the game.

Truth be told, these changes – even if enforced and followed – won’t shorten games by a great deal. We’re talking a few minutes here. But I do get a little disappointed when MLB itself says the game is no longer appealing enough to a wide audience when the bank accounts of everyone involved say otherwise. We’ll see what happens this season.

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