Why you should care
Because apparently you can have too much of a good thing.
As you may have read on Twitter during a lull in yesterday’s game, Major League Baseball, in its perpetual quest to speed up baseball games in order to appeal to modern fans with goldfish-like attention spans, has announced the zero-pitch intentional walk. Starting this season, managers can signal from the dugout for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw four pitches.
Baseball purists may be outraged at the measure, which will save a whopping 14 seconds per game on average. But time is money, and when it comes to baseball, apparently less time means more money. In that spirit, here are 11 other wild ideas for shortening game times that MLB should consider for next season:
11. Abolish the Seventh-Inning Stretch: Pruning a fan favorite won’t be popular, but if you’re worried about empty minutes, this one has got to go. No one really knows when the tradition started, but it’s pretty clear that if you still need a public address announcement to remind you to stand up, you’re probably going to die from a pulmonary embolism on a long-haul flight before you turn 50 anyway. Besides, it makes zero sense to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” while you’re watching the f***ing game. Lose it and the national anthem’s more jingoistic cousin, “God Bless America,” and have a normal break between innings.
It’s pretty hard to be redundant in only two words, but “play ball” accomplishes this.
10. Shorten the National Anthem: Speaking of the national anthem, performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” usually clock in at around 1 minute, 58 seconds. Precious time when you consider the fact that 61 percent of Americans do not know the lyrics. Let’s leave Francis Scott Key’s masterpiece after the opening salvo and avoid any unnecessary brain strain.
9. “Play Ball!” Somewhere Else: And, while we are avoiding standing on ceremony, why does the home plate umpire insist on issuing such a superfluous edict before each game? It’s pretty hard to be redundant in only two words, but “play ball” accomplishes this. Just say “play,” everyone will know what you mean.
8. Ban Home Run Trots: Another of the game’s superfluities that must be reined in: the home run trot. The average trot speed is about 22 seconds around the diamond, with former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz taking a whopping 32.91 seconds to circle the bases after one 2014 blast.
7. Ending Around the Horn: Imagine how silly it would look if basketball or football players tossed the ball around between plays to celebrate a made free throw or a completed pass. Yet throwing the ball “around the horn” to allow infielders to share in a pitcher’s modest glory after a strikeout is still a regular thing in baseball. Throw the ball back to the pitcher and play
6. There’s No Crying, or Arguing, in Baseball: The advent of instant replay has helped curtail the time wasted by recalcitrant managers arguing calls, but some still insist on engaging in this fruitless banter. Let’s equip umpires with Tasers and let the managers try to prosecute their case. It would be just as entertaining a tussle, but far quicker.
5. A Designated Runner for Pitchers: Regardless of how you feel about letting National League pitchers hit for themselves, I think we can all agree that we don’t have to let them run for themselves. Let’s end the time wasted by bringing a pitcher who has reached base his jacket (to keep his arm warm) and the added recovery time he needs after his base-running excursions, and just have a designated runner.
4. Standardized Leadoffs: And while we are on the base paths, let’s end the timeless tedium of pickoff throws once and for all, and have all runners lead off a standard distance from the bag. If they leave too early, or attempt a bigger lead, they’re called out, just like runners who tag up prematurely on fly balls.
3. Foul Ball, You’re Out!: If you’ve ever tried explaining to a small child why foul balls count as strikes but not as strike three, then you’ve realized this is also an expendable rule. Foul it off with two strikes? Too bad! You’re out! If you want to work the pitcher, do it on someone else’s time.
2. Countdowns for Hit Batsmen: We give boxers just 10 seconds to recover from being floored, but often let recently plonked batsmen spend several minutes grimacing and talking to the trainer before finally making their way to first base. New rule: If you need to nurse your bruise longer than 10 seconds, do it in the dugout. You’re out too.
1. The Three-Hour Mercy Rule: Finally, if you’ve ever been to a Little League game in which one team is throttling the other, then you are a big fan of the “10-run rule” that allows umpires to step in and stanch the bleeding. Well, if the above 10 remedies still can’t bring the game time under three hours, then we should institute a similar mercy rule for the fans who have to endure a spectacle that is fast approaching the runtime of Schindler’s List. Whoever is winning at the end of three hours is declared the winner. Don’t like it? You should have played faster.
Add up all of the above measures and you will save about 15 minutes of your life per game — and destroy a lot of what makes baseball so special to begin with. So when it comes to the young and the restless, here’s one final prescription: Take them out to the ballgame, sure. And by all means, buy them some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. But if they can’t sit through it, then why do we care if they ever come back?