I hear it everywhere: Major League Baseball needs to “speed up the game.”
They aren’t my words. It comes from the mouths and keyboards of people who can’t watch a three-hour ball game, which is the average time of a Major League game (three hours and two minutes, to be exact).
Reacting to the outcry for a quicker sport, MLB will implement new pace-of-play rules this season, which includes hitters keeping one foot in the batter’s box after a pitch unless he swings, “time” is called by the umpire, or a wild pitch is thrown.
And while an official “pitch clock” won’t be used in the Majors this season, it seems to only be a matter of time until it’s implemented. That is unfortunate.
I’m firmly against the idea of a pitch clock in baseball.
Will it speed up the game? Sure. But will it get more people to watch? That’s where the conversation gets interesting. Because after all, what’s the point of attempting to speed up the game if it won’t increase the audience?
Here’s what I know: People love to complain. And in the world of social media, common complaints can easily turn into demonstration. I get it, nobody’s picketing in front of new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s office. But the call for a quicker game seems loud enough to where, I guess anything is now possible.
These people tell me a pitch clock will get them to watch; that a faster pace-of-play will all of a sudden be must-see television in their eyes. Of course, saying that is one thing. Actually going through with it and watching more baseball than they have in the past is another. I just don’t believe that most of the people who can't stop crying about the length of games will suddenly turn into diehard baseball fanatics just because the game is a half-hour shorter.
I have friends who tell me they’ll pay more attention. But I know for a fact that on a nice summer night, their decision to watch or not watch a baseball game won’t hinge upon a pitch clock posted on a backstop. Ultimately, I think the people who will continue to watch baseball are the people who actually enjoy watching baseball. Simple enough.
To quote the movie Bull Durham, “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.”
Not, “sometimes you don’t get a pitch off in time, resulting in an automatic ball, and a fine for excessive stalling.”
Look, this isn’t a movie. And I’m not actually saying it’s an easy game to play. But as someone who watches baseball because I love to watch — not love to complain — I don’t want to see the commissioner overreact to criticism from those who probably won’t watch even when they do implement a pitch clock.
Those people will probably just find something else to complain about. And Major League Baseball will be stuck with a useless stopwatch hanging from its neck.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” every weekday at dannypicard.com. Danny can also be heard weekends on WEEI 93.7 FM and seen on Comcast SportsNet New England.