It's been nearly two days since the latest fulmination about the crushing tedium of baseball -- its pace, that is, rather than its execution -- and how its games can be made faster for the modern generation, which apparently lives life as though it has a Lyft waiting in the driveway.
The most notorious one, which sticks a runner on second base after the 10th inning of games to bring back the thrills of the sacrifice bunt and slow roller to the right side, was rightfully ridiculed for its inherent idiocy, but a competition committee (like the one in the NFL that gave us the exciting new catch rule that requires a wide receiver to hold a thrown ball until death) keeps firing out new ideas like speeding up intentional walks and replay mechanics.
None of which is guaranteed to do anything or even suggestive enough to intrigue the youth of America (say, anyone younger than 50) to watch more baseball.
But since they have ideas, we have ideas.
THE ISSUE: There are a lot more of them now than ever because managers be managing. No baseball idea ever goes uncopied or unabused, so shaving time off here is vital.
THE SOLUTION: After the first reliever, each additional reliever loses a pitch, as in the third reliever starts off with a 1-0 count, the fourth with 1-1, the fifth with 2-1, etc. By the time you get to the fifth guy, it’s a full count and hitters have one pitch. Time will fly right by, and if it means the end of the delicate mental battles between pitchers and hitters, hey, at least you’ve shaved off a couple of minutes – until you get some wiseass who just fouls off pitches out of spite.
THE ISSUE: Every hitter has his own tune, and moseys to and saunters from the plate to hear as much as much of said song as possible. This first became a crisis when Carlos Baerga of Cleveland seized upon Macarena in the mid-90s, thus midwifing a torture implement of untold agony to the game.
THE SOLUTION: Speeding up the music slowly but discernibly to fool the hitters into changing their stride to the plate, thus getting to the box earlier and saving . . . oh, 10 seconds tops. Until, of course, you get a hitter who figures it out and has Sibelius’ Karelia Suite played. That’ll slow anybody up.
THE ISSUE: It takes too long to initiate the process because managers like to take their time deciding, it takes more time because umpires trot blobblishly to the video equipment, and even more time because the fellows in the Chamber Of Secrets often agonize over a play. Getting it wrong seems eminently more sensible by comparison.
THE SOLUTION: Managers must pay out of their own pockets (cash only; no billing) for every challenge – $5000 to a charity, service organization or winery of their choice. In addition, umpires can decide to accede to a challenge or decline it if the call is too obvious by simply saying, “No. You’re wrong. I’m not doing it. Shove off, Waddles.” The kids baseball is trying to reach like that sort of anti-authority kind of thing, even if it is delivered by someone in authority.
TIME BETWEEN INNINGS
THE ISSUE: Commercials, which help pay the freight but are often not worth the wait. This will not be changed because sports would rather turn back time than give back a dime, but I see one idea.
THE SOLUTION: Starting the game while the commercials are still playing, and then telling the folks at home, “You missed a five-pitch groundout, a review and a manager ejection while you were watching that floor wax commercial . . . and here’s the 1-1 to Khris Davis.” This will enrage viewers and sell them on the idea of coming out to the ballpark to see all the stuff they miss at home. This solves the sports-wide problem of television being a better vehicle than the “in-game experience,” which is a stupid term that should never be used again under penalty of beating.
THE ISSUE: They’re extra. Evidently, some people in baseball think more baseball is worse than less, a marketing concept known as “scarcity by embarrassment” that has never really taken off in America, or anywhere else for that matter.
THE SOLUTION: Tell anyone who doesn’t like extra innings to take poison. If you really are trying to make the case that your product stinks so much that you would do anything to minimize it, why not make the games seven innings, or even five (thereby taking care of Problem No. 1)? Why not just run a simulation of the game, send the results to the MLB offices and ship the box scores out to all the metrics folks to reduce to sub-atomic structures as they do currently?
THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Reduce the season to six marathon weekends – 72 hours in a row without rest. The more games a team fits in, the better chance it has of winning enough games to get to the postseason, a seventh weekend, so the players will pretty hustle their sit-upons down to the nubbin for the extra paycheck. That’ll speed up the game to a very agreeable pace.
THE ALTERNATE TO THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Extra innings are great. The more, the better. More people are more interested in a 17-inning game than not. In fact, innings 10 through infinity are played at a much faster pace than innings 1 through 9, so just start with the 10th and don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. You know, just to see if anyone is paying attention.
THE ISSUE: People yammering ceaselessly about time of game being the reason baseball fans skew older and how this is a fundamental crisis that must be addressed immediately lest the sport die and the nation implode atop its rotting corpse. This has been an ongoing snivelfest for nearly ever, and baseball is no more willing to put its money where its stopwatch is than it ever has been.
THE SOLUTION: Shutting up at the first available opportunity, and maintaining that stance until the rest of us have safely left earshot. That may not speed up baseball, but time won’t seem to run nearly so slowly the rest of the day.