Have baseball games become too long?
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March 31, 1998
A look at the new kind of corporate baseball owners and the effects they are having on baseball.
March 31, 1998
The Minnesota Twins demand a stadium.
October 17, 1997
Doris Kearns Goodwin shares her baseball memories.
October 24, 1996
The ups and downs of the 1996 baseball season.
Randy Anderson of Napa CA:
I've coached my son's youth baseball team and there is an American legion field within a bike ride of my house. We have our own batting cage and pitching machine. BUT!! I haven't gone to a professional game in maybe ten years (San Francisco Bay area). The game is slow but worse yet: free agency has turned the game in to a money grab. The players don't love the game the owners (corporations don't care about the city's) and it's too expensive to take a family out to the games.
If you want to see real, I mean real baseball, you go the local parks. There is more action more fun and people play for the love of the game.
Gerald of Lincolnton, North Carolina:
Leave it alone! If people don't have time to watch a 3 hour or more game, then stay at home or go the the movies. That's what is wrong with this generation we have hatched. People have time for what they want. The problem is... their wants are too vast for the 24 hour day.
Mary F. Byrkit of Portland, OR:
Baseball games cannot, by definition, be "too long." Baseball is one of the few games not timed but regulated by the play. To change that would be to lose the essence of the game.
It is true that baseball games on TV can be boring. That isn't baseball's fault, that is TV's doing. Have the color commentators shut up and see if people don't enjoy the pace of the game more!
Robert Bateson of Bozeman,Mt:
Yes, the game of baseball has become to long and to boring. The players egos are out of control,they would rather stand up to the plate and look good rather than play the game. I am all for a shorter, faster paced game. Maybe that will save the game. I am sure that is the only thing that will keep the fans interest. The players have lost my respect.
Bardwell Smith of Northfield, MN :
In a real sense, Yogi Berra was right--baseball should not be run by the clock like football, basketball and hockey are. It's more like tennis or golf in that sense. The best statement on this was made by Bart Giamatti, late Commissioner of Baseball, in his little book on baseball (I've forgotten the title right now). Baseball's genius lies in part in the little things that give the spectator a chance to breathe, to think about the game, and to anticipate what's coming next. Instead of accenting speed, interstices, the gaps of time.
Walter Maffei of Brooklyn, NY:
Baseball, is the Yin and Yang of all sports games! Beautiful in its simplicity yet more complicated in its practice then a chess match between grand masters. Time is an important element of the game; however, it is not the most important!
As our society changes with more and more burden and less and less time to aleve this burden, baseball is a reminder of a simpler time. A time to think and to appreciate the simplicity and the complexity of fun!
James Guest of Lincoln, NE:
Yes, the game is too long. But when trying to shorten it, one must not take away from the strategy. One could ask, is the game longer because the players overestimate their individual importance and put the importance of the game below their importance?
Georges Chamoun of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec:
This game is unique in all its aspects. Every play is a showdown between the pitcher and the batter, like the final gunfight in a movie. The more they look in the eyes, the more the gunfight is dramatic. The more it is breath-holding. Please, don't change anything in this game.
Len Gervasi of Royal Oak MI:
As I sit here in front of my computer screen, I think back on my childhood and how most days revolved around getting a ballgame together. Time didn't matter, except for the fact that someone with an important piece of equipment was going to have to leave for lunch or dinner. Usually, he could be convinced to leave the only ball or good bat with the rest of us till he returned or we would all head home, promising to continue the game after we ate. Upon returning, we would continue where we left off and play till sunset. I don't know if we even kept score. It's the game that matters, not the time it takes to play it. Leave the game alone.
Daryl Anderson-Lachnicht of Port St. Lucie, FL:
If you say that the game of baseball is too long, then you might as well say that life is too long. The game ends with the final out. We baseball fans know that, eventually, the last out will come, but we cannot predict its exact moment. To arbitrarily shorten the game through invasive rules would detract from the game's allure.
For the game of baseball is different from most other popular American sports. Football, basketball, and hockey are dominated and contained with a certain time frame. The clock is the enemy, creating a series of intensely suspenseful moments. Typically, some of the most exciting moments in these sports occur in the final minutes of the playing period.
However, baseball is not subject to the tyranny of the clock. True, the suspense in baseball is slower to develop; it lacks the jolting adrenaline-rush of a last minute touchdown. Baseball's suspense is sustained; it builds throughout the game; the innings pass as we move inexorably toward the final out. Only then, will the ultimate winner be determined. There is no excitement in sport equal to a well-played baseball game. Perhaps the objections to the length of baseball games stem from a western cultural bias against time. Our daily metaphors and cliches are filled with allusions characterizing time as the enemy. We're always searching for ways to 'save time,' to be more efficient, to get as many things done in as short a time as possible. We have become so obsessed with the clock, that we have forgotten to enjoy the game while it lasts. Baseball is the single sport that reminds us that time is not our enemy, but our ally.
Tom Moran of New York, N.Y.:
To put it bluntly: yes. Baseball games have gotten slack and self-indulgent -- much like baseball players. I went to the first Sunday home game this season at Shea Stadium. Perhaps because it was incredibly cold (it felt like a football game -- in Green Bay. In December), the players managed to play the game in a reasonable amount of time. It felt good. I think it proves that if the players can speed up the process because their nipples are hard, they can do it for other reasons as well. And the fans will be better off for it.
Robert Bruce Scott of New York, NY:
Baseball players should not be rushed to the extent that there is too little room for individual variation. Pitchers have their rituals.
If you want to speed something up, speed up the traffic on the roads to and from the baseball parks, crank up the velocity on the trains, open up more vendor slots to cut down on long lines, set a maximum limit of 15 seconds on TV advertising spots so more can be squeezed in. But don't start trying to manipulate play itself. Let freedom reign in this American sport.
Mike Hollon of Alexandria, VA:
I can grudgingly support all of those new regulations and my hope is umpires will not be forced to aggressively enforce the rules (like posting a time clock) due to uncooperative players.
Although I am in my late twenties, I consider myself a baseball traditionalist and thankfully do not have an "MTV" attention span when it comes to the game. I don't agree with the view that baseball is inherently a slow game. However, it has become one. You don't have to be from the DiMaggio era to remember average games that took less than under 2 1/2 hours (some less than 2 hrs!), but since my teenage years games have regularly lasted well past 3 hours.
If it were up to me, I'd start with enforcing the strike zone as it reads in the rule book (roughly from the chest to the knees). I think the waist-to-knees zone that many umpires enforce leads to longer games by creating more called balls, fuller counts, more sweet spots for hitters (leading to lots of 11-9 games). I like offense too, but c'mon! Evening things out a bit for pitchers may not solve everything but it's a solution rooted in the rules and traditions of baseball. In combination with those other regs, I think it would make a difference.
Dale Parus of New Baltimore, MI:
When I was a teen-ager, Detroit Tigers fans like myself were treated to ball games pitched by Mark (The Bird) Fydrich. The Tigers were a bad team then, but with The Bird on the mound, they won a bunch of 2-1 & 3-2 games. Along with his antics, the games were lively and entertaining.
Fydrich was an exceptionally fast worker on the mound. Many of the games he pitched lasted less than 2 hours. Some approached 1:30. Ask those who remember the Fydrich era & I'll be surprised if any of them would say the games were boring. They were, in my opinion, fast-paced and exciting contests that kept you on edge and in the game.
I have played organized baseball or softball for 26 years in as many as four softball leagues per week. The pace of the amateur game is fast and lively. In my opinion, that's how it should be. The modern major league games are so boring to me, esp. after playing, because of their slow pace. I cannot bear to watch them. Last year, I watched only a few innings of the World Series games 1-6 before I watched game 7 in its entirety. During the season, I watched no more than 2 innings each of perhaps six games on TV. And this is from a fan who curled up as a youth to watch Gowdy & Kubek every Saturday & listened to Ernie Harwell (Tigers) on the radio for nearly every night game.
Nancy Barnett of Eustis, Fl:
I do not think baseball games are too long. I would hate to see the rules change. There are so few occasions where we take our time anymore. It's like sitting out on the nonexistent front porch and watching the neighborhood very leisurely on a Sunday afternoon. Part of the "excitement" of baseball is not knowing how it's going to turn out. There's always a chance for things to turn around.
Ila Galloway of Houston, TX:
I don't feel that baseball is too long of a game. It is still one of the purest games of all the sporting events. I'm a big believer in the saying "if it ain't broker - don't fix it." Leave baseball just the way it is. I believe that setting a time limit for every pitch, every at bat, etc., would spoil the game. If the powers that be want to change baseball, how about getting rid of the DH and insisting on getting the best possible umpires to control the game. Baseball, as in many others sports, is being turned into a game run by the umpires and not played by the athletes. Let's make the umpires more responsible for their actions, calls and non calls. Fans do not come to watch the umpires, they come to watch the players. Give the game back to the fans and allow it to be played as it was originally intended.
I am a diehard Cubs fan. I know that there are millions of baseball fans who are mourning the loss of Harry Caray. Harry exemplified what baseball is supposed to be about. We will miss him greatly.
Russell N. Kulp, Sr of Westminster, MD:
This is a great sport to relax with, enjoying conversation with those watching with you. I enjoy the relaxed 3 or more hours and take the time to watch and ponder what mistakes our manager is making - when our team is not winning!
James M. Freeman of Memphis, TN :
The concern of the length of the game may lie with the " big business " attitude of the network media. If the game is too long there may be a lack of interest generated, but the game is not too long. An increase of one half hour over 20 years, is not a relative large increase. Look at football, I've heard that there are "TV commercial time outs," in baseball, during a delay, the network goes to a commercial. Someday, I want to count the commercials during a game. If a commercial is going on, the game waits for the end of the commercial to resume. Big deal, 30 min. increase over 20 years, baseball is a state of mind, those batters are not delaying the game, they are developing a state of mind, and evaluating the pitcher, after all, over 20 years, the game has become more complex and sophisticated. Did Ty Cobb face a pitcher that would throw a ball 90 to 100 MPH ?
Michael Wilson of Portland, OR:
Most other sports have a limited number of timeouts. I think some version of a timeout limit could be used, in combination with the other speedup rules to get baseball back to the 2.5 hour average game. As with other sports, such as basketball, there could be a mix of long and short timeouts. And of course the umpires could call timeout in the event of injury or some other disruption of the game.
Juti A. Winchester of Flagstaff, Arizona:
Everybody needs to leave baseball alone. Everything else in our world is so accelerated that we need a space to go in which a different set of rules, a different sense of timing, holds sway. Don't rush my hard-won leisure activity!
Susan M. Schultz of Kaneohe, HI:
Are baseball games too long? It depends on the game! Some of the worst games I've seen are the long ones in which neither team has a pitcher who can get anyone out and the score is very high, without any good reason. Some of the best games I've seen, however, have been long ones. The seventh game of the 1991 (?) World Series between the Twins and the Braves went 10 innings; neither team could score a run until the Twins did in the 10th. In a game like that one, the suspense is dreadful; everything hangs on the next pitch, the next swing of the bat, even on the batter calling time at the appropriate moment. Suspense requires time, sometimes a lot of it.
So I wouldn't want to see all baseball games artificially shortened because, although some games go on too long, some games would be great if they never ended. I'd like to see baseball remain the only major sport without a clock.
Kenneth Spegman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
There's no point in complaining about the lengthy nature of a baseball game. Thank God that it's not as scripted and as culturally worthless as MTV, which should not be elevated to designate a generation. MTV is an occasionally enjoyable diversion if one has the patience to endure the endless advertising that is promoted there but it certainly should not be held as a standard that sporting events and other entertainment must conform to. If the 'MTV Generation' is unable to be entertained and engrossed by the action inherent in baseball, who cares? Last time I looked the 'MTV Generation' was about twenty years old, wearing huge pants, raised on divorce, guns and Ritalin, so who cares if they can't appreciate the abstraction that baseball has afforded millions over the years?