What are they doing to my game? Since you already know how I feel about the pitch clock, let me start this post with a story. I live and die with the San Diego Padres and have since their inception in 1969. I’m either watching a game, listening to a game, or at a game.
A RECORD BREAKER
On one particular evening, April 17, 2008, the Pads played the Rockies at Petco Park, and I sat at home watching it. The game started a little after 7 p.m., as usual, and about three hours later it went into extra innings. It ended after 22 innings at 1:21 a.m., lasting 6 hours and 16 minutes. The Pads lost, which is not the point. What is? The fact that I sat through every minute, every inning of the game, as any real baseball fan would do for his team. We don’t care how long it takes. It’s baseball. And baseball was created to be timeless. No buzzer beater from mid-court; no field goal as time expires; no puck into the net in overtime. To reiterate: baseball is timeless.
If I’m old school, it may be because I’m old. Older, anyway. I grew up in The Bronx watching the great Mickey Mantle play. I got to see Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Willie Mays (live, at the Polo Grounds), Hank Aaron, and so many more baseball giants. I don’t recall if the games lasted two hours, or two-and-a-half hours, or four hours. It ended when it ended. If I wanted a time clock I went to see the Knicks or the Rangers at old Madison Square Garden.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Who are we speeding the game up for anyway? Do so many people suffer from ADD that they can’t sit for a few hours and enjoy the nuances of this beautiful game? Do they need to be constantly entertained with loud music, gigantic scoreboards, a gazillion food choices, silly games? (I never really cared which of the three hats the ball was under, or what dog each player preferred.) Isn’t the game enough? Long ago I stated that if the Padres played on a sandlot with a few wooden bleachers, I would be there. That hasn’t changed. It’s baseball.
There is an elephant in the room that nobody ever wants to talk about: the preponderance of commercials between innings. (That time is counted in length of game.) I realize that sponsorship is necessary in order for us to enjoy the games on TV, but come on! We see the same ads for the same companies over and over and over, to the point where we can’t stand the product or service. How does that help them? If nothing else, can’t they get their message across in a shorter ad, say, 15 seconds, geared for baseball games? There would be the same number of ads, but the commercial breaks would be 30, even 45 seconds shorter. By how much time would that shorten the length of a game without having to rely on a pitch clock?
Anyway, that’s my rant for this week. The 2023 season is about to begin, so we’ll see how it plays out. I may have more bombast in the future, but for now let me leave you with this: If a manager wants to position seven guys between second and first, it should be his prerogative. Let the batters learn to take the ball to the opposite field. Can you imagine shifting on the great Tony Gwynn?