It was way back on February 20 of this year when the powers that be at Major League Baseball made the announcement that they were going to jack with the pace of play of America's favorite pastime. The rules themselves have been well covered, so I won't enumerate them here. Go forth and let Google be your friend if you haven't read the list of rules already.
MLB & MLBPA announce additions to the pace of game program, effective this season. Details: pic.twitter.com/qr0KBcPLA9— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) February 20, 2015
Some people rejoiced saying "It's about time because baseball is boring." Some people said, "this is a slippery slope to pitch clocks and affects the integrity of the game." Some people just say, "Huh. I wonder how this will work."
I was in the latter group.
I love that baseball is a bit of a slow pace and I think perhaps it's because the pace of play isn't a constant. In football, something dramatic happens almost every time the quarterback throws the ball. In basketball and hockey, the pace of play is continuous and doesn't stop for anything other than penalties and fouls. But in baseball, we watch it all play out it in its own course with a mixture of high excitement and calm progression.
Do MLB games need to be shorter? Are we really a honk-in-the-drive-thru-lane society? Most NFL games are over three hours long and I don't see fans clamoring that football is boring. And yet, some fans get impatient with baseball sometimes. Why is that?
There are innings are fraught with excitement thanks to doubles and triples and home runs. Stolen bases can liven up a game that has turned into a pitching duel. But when a pitcher is at his best, all you see is one glorious strikeout after another, mixed in with ground ball outs and the occasional easy-catch-fly-ball to center field. No one is getting on base. No one is scoring in dramatic fashion. No one is giving us reason to stand up, beat our chests and scream.
Most of that is exactly why I love baseball. Although the game can turn on a dime (like the five-run 8th the Astros put up last night against the Mariners), it is for the most part the game of a patient person. Pitcher throws pitch. Pitcher fidgets. Pitchers walks around the mound. Pitcher throws another pitch.
But in that sequence is the strategy, is it not? The thought process and communication between pitcher and catcher determining the best pitch to get the next guy out. "What did I throw to him last time? What's he expecting this time?"
Now, as Astros fans we've all experienced the pitcher Erik Bedard, or as I call him, The Guy Who Takes Twenty Minutes to Throw a Damn Pitch. Last Saturday I was willing to grant that title to C.J. Wilson as well. It's times like those that we all wish there was a way to speed things up.
That's the frustrating part of the pace of play in baseball - the downtime between pitches. When things are moving like a well-oiled machine there is always something exciting or interesting to watch at the ballpark. If you don't believe me, start keeping score the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper. You'll learn more about strategy and pace than ever before.
When MLB introduced these new "Pace of Play Rules" I thought perhaps we'd see the time between pitches decrease or the overall pace of the game actually change. Instead, since the rules came into effect, we've only seen a few changes.
There are a couple of extra clocks around the ballpark being operated by MLB reps. The in-game entertainment is quicker. Oh, and my favorite, there's a new dance called the I-forgot-I-can't-step-out-of-the-batter's-box-watch-me-jump-back-in because it'll cost me $500 to step out when I'm not supposed to.
That last one is my favorite simply because it's Dallas Keuchel (#FearTheBeard) striking out Adrian Beltre when he walked out of the batter's box. What Astros fan doesn't love that?
I'm not sure these were the intended consequences of the Pace of Play rules. I think they were meant to have a more meaningful effect. Rather than change the pace, they've simply shortened the games a wee bit. They have trimmed, on average, 8-10 minutes off of games at this point. I know, right? You have NO idea what to do with such an expansive amount of time. It's life-changing really.
But even with your newly acquired 8 minutes of life, you won't be using them to watch a baseball game that has a pace any different than a baseball game from last season. You just get 8 minutes of your life back.
I asked around a bit, and by that I asked my circle of girlfriends, my daughter and the TCB crew, to see what we can accomplish in 8-10 minutes so that we can all use this new found time to the fullest. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do 240 pushups
- Some of you can run a mile (not me)
- Fold a load of laundry or unload and reload a dishwasher
- Cook an omelet
- Pay your bills online
- Do 7 minute abs AND take a break
- Have sex (turns out the average sex act lasts 7.3 minutes)
- Watch the last 45 seconds of an NBA playoff game
- Get off the couch and play a little ball with your kid
- Although I can't imagine why anyone would want to, you can fast forward through "Love Actually" at x16
- Shotgun 8 beers
- Cook a pot of pasta
- Catch up on about 45 minutes worth of a group text
- Watch one segment of The Voice from the end of one commercial to start of the next
- Make a couple of .gifs
- Make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
The possibilities are endless. But there is ONE thing you certainly can't do in 8 minutes and that's read all the comments on one post on TCB. Sheesh, you''re an opinionated and chatty bunch.
That's all quite a gift the MLB has given us by trimming 8-10 minutes off a game that is generally 2.5-3 hours long.
Perhaps it's not having the impact some thought it would, but by MLB recognizing that there is some delay and downtime in baseball games and taking non-game-punitive measures to address those does no real harm that we've seen. I am always interested in what the follow up will be - what's the next rule behind this one? We'll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, I'm using my extra 8 minutes to flip over and watch another baseball game. What about you?