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Despite his stellar performance, Josh Beckett’s latest start has not been without criticism. The issue at hand does not concern pitch selection or control, but rather the amount of time Beckett chose to take between pitches. Considering the rules as they currently stand, Beckett did absolutely nothing wrong. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem–one of the biggest complaints about baseball is the length of the games. Beckett’s outing is just the most recent example highlighting one of the sport’s biggest and most alarming flaws.
Simply put, there is no strict policy addressing how much time should be allotted between pitches. For that matter, there is no policy on time limits for much of anything in baseball. Pitchers take time between pitches, hitters take time between pitches, managers take time walking to the pitchers, and relievers take a long time walking to the mound (so they can take time taking pitches). That’s a lot of time. And in the age of the Internet and short attention spans, that’s also really boring.
Time is everything. In all the other major American sports, every aspect of the game revolves around time. In addition to a set amount of gameplay, there are tightly regulated play clocks, timeouts, and penalties. Each of these sports are fast paced and, as a result, a lot more appealing than baseball to younger generations.
No one wants to watch a four-hour game. When you can watch an iCarly marathon and check the score online or in between commercials, there is no reason to watch a four-hour game. Baseball has a reputation for being an “old people” sport and, quite frankly, it’s true. Older people love baseball because they remember it fondly from back when they were younger. Today, kids have so many more options for entertainment than they used to. And why watch baseball when it can go hours without any excitement happening (and when there are video games, and computers, and…)? The kids of the present will most likely remember their favorite iPad apps rather than their favorite baseball players. If baseball doesn’t change now, it faces losing generations of these fans in the future.
The quickest way to prevent this is to add the equivalent of a 24 second shot clock for pitchers. It’s that easy. Whether the appropriate amount of time is 20 seconds, 30 seconds, or whatever, just implement it. The days of pondering the meaning of life between pitches is over. While we’re at it, let’s set a number of times hitters can step out of the batters box and how long they can do so. These are two easy ways to instantly shave minutes and minutes off of a game.
The only people who would be against such rules are the pitchers who would complain about being rushed. Then again, pitchers complain about everything. John Lackey scowls when the defense doesn’t make a play. Justin Verlander made a fuss when Erik Aybar tried to break up his no hitter with a bunt. Even Hector Noesi (who?) was insulted when David Ortiz flipped his bat on a play.
You know what? If a pitcher is so upset, maybe they shouldn’t have thrown a crappy pitch. Pitchers constantly claim they are being disrespected. This notion of immunity needs to be shattered at once. Sports aren’t supposed to be easy. Not taking your sweet ass time to throw a ball so that fans can enjoy a ballgame and get on with their lives is in no way unreasonable.
It’s no secret that baseball can be excruciatingly boring. Compared to basketball and football, baseball lacks the flash and thrill required to draw fans. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it shouldn’t be. There is no reason for a sport to lack excitement.
There are a multitude of factors contributing to the dullness of baseball and time restraints are a necessary future for a game receiving dwindling interest. But it is only the first step. Why can’t baseball have cheerleaders? Will malicious trash talking ever be permitted? How many teams are allowed to have a red and blue color scheme? These are all radical suggestions, but it may be what it takes to restore a dying sport. Whether or not Josh Beckett pitched with urgency is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the concerns of Major League Baseball.