As I usually start my week, I was picking through the Sunday edition of The New York Times. This week, their feature sports story was about batters’ stances and the drastic change since the game’s greatest have played.
Even I remember the historic stances of Jeff Bagwell, photos of Willie Stargell’s classic stance, and, the ever-so-recent stance of the filthy Red Bird Kevin Youkilis, pointing his bat back at the pitcher in an intimidating — yet not aggressive — manner.
Since the (official) inception of baseball in America, in 1845, there have been many changes to the game our nation holds dear. The change in batting stances is a minute aspect of the evolution.
On Tuesday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said there needs to be more rule changes to improve the pace of play, because, for some reason, even America gets tired of long-stretched, thriller games.
At least, that’s how Manfred sees it.
I, for one, am pretty opposed to the idea of adding in more rules to help the game move faster.
Really, what’s the rush?
I’m even comfortable enough to say that I’m unbiased on the subject, since, as a sports reporter, there have been multiple times I’m hoping a game that is knotted up will end before extra innings, for print reasons.
But, as a fan of the game, which I have been far longer than I have been a sports reporter, I find it almost disruptive to the game.
In April, after the first 79 games of the season, the average professional baseball game was up to about three hours and four minutes, up only eight minutes from the first 79 games through the 2015 season (2:56).
A month later, in May, Manfred didn’t hide that fact that he wasn’t happy with that situation.
“We think the single biggest thing we had going for us early in the year [last season] was player focus on the topic,” Manfred told ESPN.
Now, with the average game time peeking at a little over three hours,
Manfred is ready to put more issues in front of the Player’s Union.
“I’m not prepared to accept the fact that we’re always going to play three-hour games,” Manfred said in a separate interview with ESPN. “I think we need to continue to think about creative ways to make sure that the game moves along as quickly as possible.”
What could be the main culprit(s) of this eight-minute overkill? That’s what the MLB is now trying to decide with the Players Union.
One route that Manfred looks to be eyeing up is pitches, mainly pitch count.
As of May, pitches, walks, strikeouts, and balls not in play have all increased.
Maybe the pitchers are getting better; and, if that’s the case, the Pirates haven’t quite caught up.
Or, is it strictly the pace of the game?
Players do spend mixed times warming up between innings, although umpires do their best to keep the pace of the game under control.
In 2014, during the Arizona Fall League, the MLB experimented with certain time caps to help with pace.
One such rule was to allowing a maximum time of 2:30 between innings.
Another was the 20-second rule for pitchers.
Others included the batter’s box rule, making a batter keep at least one foot in the box, the pitching change break time limit (2:30), and the three time-out limit, for catchers and pitchers (which usually isn’t a big game delayer).
It will be interesting to see what Manfred puts on the table to cut game times. But, I’m hoping it has nothing to do with adding more rules. And I know I’ll be wrong.
To quote the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper: Make baseball fun again.
Lohr is the sports editor at The Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 827-3634.