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Baseball Is Really Boring
Baseball is America’s pastime. It is also inherently boring.
A two-hour game is considered “fast,” while, in that time, the world’s elite runners can almost finish a marathon, you can watch about five episodes of Seinfeld, and you can get through about 60 percent of Peter Jackson’s longest Lord of the Rings movies.
The game has other issues. While it’s popularity may not be dipping at the ticket window (attendance is up seven percent from last season, due in large part to a spike from the Miami Marlins) its cultural importance seems to diminish every year, especially with younger people. Baseball, whether fairly or unfairly, has become the sport of old people.
With the MLB All-Star game only hours away, I felt now was as good a time as any to air my hardball grievances. Bud Selig, take notes.
1. The game is becoming unbearably long.
Harped on this point in the introduction, but it’s the number one problem that baseball faces right now. An article that appeared on MLB.com last year illuminated the point.
The average time to complete a nine-inning game in the 1970s — not including on-field delays — was two hours and 30 minutes. That increased to an average of 2:57 in the 10-year span from 2000-09. Through Thursday, this year’s league average was 2:51, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In the playoffs, game times have been longer. Last season, nine-inning regular-season games lasted an average of 2:52, while in the postseason, that number jumped to 3:30, according to STATS LLC.
And that doesn’t even begin to characterize the marathon better known as Yankees v. Red Sox. When the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain still had his “Joba Rules” in place during a game, he went from being ineligible to eligible because the game carried on past midnight. It was a quirky twist to the game’s subplot — and a detail that illustrates how fucking long games are taking.
We don’t want games to take “days,” unless we’re in extra innings, because that’s nightmarish. All of a sudden you’ve got coaches ordering their pitchers to balk because even he’s sick of how long it’s taking. When you’re own guys are seeing a problem with game length, it’s pretty evident that there’s a problem.
2. Decide what the hell you’re doing with replay.
I’m actually a proponent of incorporating more replay in baseball. I don’t subscribe to the “human element” aspect of umpiring, and I would rather crucial calls be made correctly that prove to be costly. That being said, there is such a thing as too much replay. Home run replay reviews generally last no longer than five minutes, and rarely occur. Many people have questioned whether or not coaches should be granted replay challenges, similar to a system the NFL uses.
My biggest thing is, if it’s an important call, and an umpire is unsure, he should use replay to decide it. I would have loved for Jim Joyce to have consulted a replay on Armando Galarraga’s blown perfect game call. Don’t ask me about the “foul ball” Carlos Beltran hit against Johan Santana, though; I’m a devout Mets fan. Anyway, if more replay can be instituted in a way that does not slow down baseball anymore, I’m all for it. And with the frequency that plays that would result in replay review arise, I don’t think that’s out of the question.
3. Umpires are humans, and I want to hear their voices.
What makes baseball’s umpiring system even more infuriating at this point is we never hear from umpires. Players are held accountable for their actions and speak to the media not just some days, but every day. If a player doesn’t, he gets fined. The issue I have with umpires is that they’re being turned into some kind of priestly order (the kind that takes a vow of silence), and it’s slowly putting them above the game. I want to hear why Sam Holbrook ejected Zach Greinke after he spiked the ball behind first base. I want to know what umpires have to say after games.
One of the coolest things I’ve seen to date is a scene from HBO’s hit series 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic:
You know why this is cool? Because it shows referees aren’t soul sucking, lifeless gargoyles. They’re just a bunch of dudes who do their jobs and drink Miller Lite when they’re finished. The MLB umpire doesn’t need to be a clergy-like figurehead instilling fear throughout baseball. He can just be a regular dude. (If he’s given the chance to speak.)
4. The All-Star Game is dumb.
The All-Star Game gets really shitty ratings:
Let there be no doubt that there is serious slippage in the All-Star Game ratings. The game has set a record low 10 times in the previous 17 years.
But, to be fair, this is summer TV:
Even with the decline, the All-Star Game typically is the highest rated television event of the summer in non-Olympic years. The Home Run Derby and All-Star Game sold out their inventory of ads weeks ago, with the game pulling in ads at prices of about $1 million a minute.
Getting 11 million viewers to tune in for a live event, as did the 2011 All-Star Game, still is a big victory in this fragmented, mobile, multi-platform entertainment-saturated, DVR-happy world — a world that bears absolutely no resemblance to 1976, when the All-Star Game pulled in a record 36.3 million viewers.
I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and say the All-Star Game can be improved, and made a more attractive product for fans. First of all, get rid of the stupid home field thing. I know the idea is that it adds importance to the game, and gives it a more “serious” feel, but you know who doesn’t care about that? The guy whose team is sitting in the cellar, and is pretty much mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, even with an extra wildcard spot. If it was a game meant to be taken “seriously,” would pitchers get pulled after throwing an inning-plus? I’m sure Jim Leyland wouldn’t mind if Justin Verlander went a few extra innings, if it meant the Tigers would have home field if they made the World Series.
Which brings me to some other points about the All-Star Game: The fact that every team has to be represented is dumb. So is the fact that fan voting decides the starters. The reason we have All-Star snubs is because Dan Uggla, who is batting .221 with 12 home runs, is your starting second baseman for the National League. David Wright, who by all accounts could run against Michael Bloomberg for the Mayor of New York tomorrow (and win easily) will not be your starting third baseman. I’m perfectly fine with Uggla making the team if fans vote him in. But you can’t tell me this game is important enough to decide home field advantage for the World Series when the guy ranked 71st in batting average in the NL gets the nod. You just can’t.
The notion of every team being represented falls into the same category. How about this rule: If a team is hosting the All-Star Game, it automatically sends one player. I’ll concede that. And if they deserve more players, they get more in. But this isn’t second grade kickball: not everyone needs to participate. This is a game that you’re allowing to decide home field advantage for the World Series. So excuse me for wanting the best players to be involved.
(Sorry if I hurt your feelings, Dan Uggla.)
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