I've written on this topic many times and you surely know how I feel about it. Major-league baseball games are too slow-paced. It's not just the length of the games, though having four nine-inning Cubs/Dodgers games this past weekend that all went more than three and a half hours is ridiculous, but the pace of the games.
I am going to ask you a favor. If you are not interested in this topic or you think I'm writing about it too often, just pass this article by and let those who are interested in discussing it comment. It is, however, clearly a topic of interest to Major League Baseball, because they issued this press release Monday (and this release is the reason I'm writing about game pacing again):
Major League Baseball announced that Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig has conducted a conference call with a new committee that will study the issue of pace of game. The goals of the committee will focus on decreasing time of game and improving the overall pace of play in the 2015 regular season and beyond. The committee will be chaired by Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz. Other members include (alphabetically) New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson; MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark; Boston Red Sox partner Michael Gordon; MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred; MLB Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Joe Torre; and Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. Commissioner Selig said: "We have the greatest game in the world, but we are always looking for ways to improve it. The game is at its highest levels of popularity and we will continue to strive to identify ways that can build on its stature well into the future. With the cooperation of all appropriate parties, we can make progress on improving the pace of play, and we will have recommendations in the very near future for the 2015 season. I believe that this group has the experience and the perspective to be mindful of our game’s traditions while being creative about our approach in the future."
I don't often agree with Bud, but he is absolutely right on this one. Perhaps you saw this tweet from Bruce Miles Monday:
Those rules, as Bruce notes, are posted in every ballpark. This commmittee -- which, unfortunately, doesn't include a single representative from the ranks of active players, umpires or managers/coaches -- ought to start by ordering umpires to strictly enforce the rules already on the books. That would be a good start, anyway.
Here's the chart that was helpfully prepared for me by BCB's ballhawk, which I repost to remind you how much the average length of a game has gotten longer over the last few years:
That chart was made back in June. We now have data for nearly the entire 2014 season, via Maury Brown at Forbes:
In 1981, the average length of a game in Major League Baseball was 2 hours 33 minutes. As of Sunday of this season, that had jumped to a whopping 3 hours and 2 minutes. Through 1,054 games the American League saw games at 3:04:17 while National League game pace was at 3:00:46.
You'll note that the average length for the entire season is down a bit from the chart above, but still higher than 2013.
There's a graph in the Maury Brown article showing the average length of games by team, as well as a table showing times both home and away. Though some Cubs games this year seem interminable (and no doubt, some are), 11 teams have an average game length longer than the Cubs, who are at three hours, three minutes and 35 seconds, a bit longer than the overall average but third among National League teams. It should not surprise you to learn that the Dodgers top the N.L. list and are fourth overall.
Why is this a problem? Ed Sherman tells us why:
I received an email from a fellow baseball fan who is frustrated by the molasses pace of games. He noted the game times for the recent Cubs-Dodgers series in Chicago, all of which lasted nine innings. Thursday: 3:53, Dodgers 8, Cubs 4. Friday: 3:31, Dodgers 14, Cubs 5 ("the snappy one of the bunch," my friend said). Saturday: 3:44, Cubs 8, Dodgers 7 Sunday: 3:45, Dodgers 8, Cubs 5. My friend added, with much chagrin, his three kids "have no interest in watching baseball."
And there's the problem. If baseball is losing the next generation, its future is at risk. Pacing of games isn't the only reason kids aren't watching baseball, but it's got to be a primary reason. I see Wrigley Field (and other stadiums I've been to in recent years) empty out after the seventh inning if games are pushing three hours at that point, and many do.
I'm hoping this committee will come up with common-sense suggestions to speed up games and, at the very least, enforce the rules already on the books, as noted in Bruce Miles' tweet and photo. Bud hasn't had much luck with committees -- the one that was supposed to solve the Athletics' stadium issue has been around for five years having done essentially nothing -- but when he formed one to create a replay-review system, they did pretty well. Here's hoping this one has as much success.