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Are MLB Games Too Long? Beckett, Boredom, and the Flaws of Baseball

Josh Beckett (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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 Important and Time Changes

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.(Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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.

Pitchers Need to Stop Acting like Babies

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.

The Future

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

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.

About Josh Segal

Josh Segal is a professional shock artist and trash talker. He also occasionally writes opinion pieces about the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and their respective leagues at large. Segal is currently a junior at Kenyon College where he plans to double major in drama and political science. Apparently he also writes his own biographies in the third person.

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4 comments for “Are MLB Games Too Long? Beckett, Boredom, and the Flaws of Baseball”

  1. I like your ideas. Here are a few more.
    Why do the players have to warm up between innings? What other sport allows that? When the inning is over the next one should start without warming up..again.
    If they are worried about TV commercials, schedule them like most other sports.
    Why do relief pitchers have to warm up before they officially start pitching? What were they doing in the bullpen?
    Once in, batters should not be allowed to leave the batters box.
    Once a pitcher touches the rubber he shouldn’t be allowed to step off until he pitches.

    Posted by O W Shagnasty | August 10, 2011, 7:22 pm
  2. I think the shot-clock is an idea that NEEDS to get done. 100000%…

    Baseball doesn’t need to be as progressive as football; but it can’t be so resistant to change.

    Posted by Ryan Hadfield | August 11, 2011, 2:58 pm
  3. Absolutely. And the purpose of a shot clock isn’t to dramatically lower the quality of play…the purpose is to make sure things can move at a reasonable pace.

    Posted by Josh Segal | August 11, 2011, 3:19 pm
  4. There has to be a clock both behind the batter so the pitcher can see and on the outfield score board so the hitter/home plate ump can see it. Once the clock gets down, the crowd gets into it.

    Also, there IS a rule about pitcher’s time between pitches. The MLB rule book states that the pitcher has 12 seconds to deliver a pitch once he receives the ball. If he doesn’t, the umpire can say “ball” and there will be a ball added to the count

    Posted by 52CSabathia | August 13, 2011, 2:30 am

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