With the 2018 baseball season on the horizon, major league baseball needs to address the pace of play.
Last year the average time of a MLB game was three hours and five minutes.
That’s simply too long.
The NCAA basketball bacchanal will begin in two weeks.
MLB has implemented several new rules this season. The rule most likely to positively affect pace of play is limiting mound visits to six per game. Fifteen years ago this rule would have been considered ludicrous. However, with the over-reliance on bullpens and situational pitchers, this rule could actually speed up games.
There were times last season when it seemed Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to the mound six times an inning.
Amazingly, pace of play remains something of a controversial issue among baseball fans.
A message came across my Twitter feed last week that essentially stated “real” baseball fans don’t care how long a game lasts. There was an inference in the Tweet that baseball was never meant to have a time limit.
Agreed. Baseball is a timeless game. The perfection of the game is that both teams get equal opportunities to hit. You can stall all you want, but if Giancarlo Stanton comes to the plate with the bases loaded in a tie game, you have to pitch to him.
That element of the game will never change.
On the other hand, the incessant visits to the mound can be limited. To a lesser extent, you can utilize a pitch clock … pitches have to be delivered within a specific time period. And, probably the best thing that could happen would be for umpires to actually call strikes.
According to rule 2.00 of the Major League Baseball rule book, a strike zone is defined as "that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap."
When is the last time you’ve consistently seen a pitch above the belt called a strike.
Baseball has become a game of walks, strikeouts and home runs. Baseball is much more fun when the ball is in play, watching the defensive players in motion, calculating if the baserunner can score from first on a double.
That’s the game I couldn’t get enough of when I was a kid.
As for the notion the length of games is irrelevant. That’s simply not true.
For one thing, most Americans don’t have that kind of attention span. And, if they do, in this busy world it’s unlikely they have three hours to dedicate to watching a single game. It’s difficult for me.
Personally, I hope the new rules are effective.
There is no downside to quicker games.
LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.