SBD/June 11, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Length Of MLB Games Growing Longer, Matching All-Time High Set In '00

Mound changes and more strikeouts are among the reasons for longer MLB games
MLB five years ago "sought to address its pace-of-game problem," but after an average of 2:55:58 in '12, game times this year through last Thursday "are averaging 2:57:53 -- a mark that would tie the 2000 season for the all-time high," according to Amalie Benjamin of the BOSTON GLOBE. Some of the reasons for this include the "changes on the mound" and the "soaring number of strikeouts." There have been "more batters going deep into counts as walks and on-base percentage rose in prominence amid the Moneyball-ization of the game." There are the commercial breaks, which "account for at least 34 minutes on local broadcasts in a full nine-inning game (41 minutes for nationally televised games); that figure rises with pitching changes." However, MLB officials said that those allotments have "remained the same since 1990 ... and still game times have crept up by about 10 minutes." MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre said, "The pace of our games is important to us. We all want games to be played sharply and to keep wasted time and unnecessary breaks to a minimum. We respect the fact that players are routine-driven, but at the same time, we have to make sure that games move efficiently." One of the ways MLB has "tried to solve its pace problem is through fines." MLB has made "other efforts to institute changes, notably in 2002, when it hired three former players ... to watch games and advise" former MLB VP/Rules & On-Field Operations Bob Watson on pace-of-game issues. One thing "that might work is peer pressure." Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "Internal pressure from the group. That’s probably the most effective. That, to me, would be the best way to get somebody to speed up" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/9).

AREAS TO CUT BACK ON: ESPN's Pablo Torre noted MLB "came to power in an age when viewers really didn't have alternative options in terms of what they wanted to use discretionary free time on." He noted baseball is "full of fat," noting players are constantly adjusting batting gloves, stepping out of the batter's box and asking for time outs. Torre: "We can cut down on that stuff, keep the younger generation more invested." ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said, "Everybody likes the idea of holding out, making guys throw pitches, have those pitchers throw more, step out of the box, be Kevin Youkilis. I think it's made the game longer and I do think it's a problem. You're starting to hear players complain about it." But Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "Nobody has a problem with long baseball games. The fans don't complain, they love them. The players, I've never heard them complain." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, "Most of the extra length in baseball games today is because of what goes on between innings, the time for advertising. It's not really the pace of the actual game that has slowed down that much" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/10).
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