October 01, 2014

MLB Pace-of-Game Committee Suggests Six New Rules: The Arizona Fall League will test out six new rules intended to speed up baseball this year.
1 -- Hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box (except for fouls, wild pitches, time outs granted by the umpire, etc.).
2 -- Manager can signal an intentional walk rather than have the pitcher throw.
3 -- Maximum break of 2:05 between innings, hitters in the batter's box by 1:45. Umpire can call a strike on slow hitters and a ball on slow pitchers.
4 -- Maximum of 2:30 for pitching changes, including during inning breaks (clock starts when reliever enters the field).
5 -- Three "timeout" mound conferences per game.
6 -- 20 seconds to pitch after receiving the ball (Salt River only). Clocks will be posted in dugouts.

posted by Etrigan to baseball at 04:21 PM - 58 comments

So they want to move the game along, but they have no problem with the delays the "play review process" or "instant replay" slow the games down to a crawl. Otherwise, I like the game the way it is.

posted by HateTheMedia at 04:41 PM on October 01

Baseball needs to be sped up. The game will fade without faster play.

I like most of these ideas, but an intentional walk without any pitches is weird.

posted by rcade at 05:13 PM on October 01

I like all these ideas and I like instant replay. Speed up the regular plays and take the time to get the 1% right.

The time between pitches rule could lead to some epic managerial meltdowns. Can't wait for the first called strike if the batter isn't in the box 1:45 after the ball gets to the pitcher.

posted by deflated at 06:24 PM on October 01

1. Love it
2. No. This does not slow down games and the possibility for weirdness is part of what makes baseball great. Mixing references, there were 1,216 IBBs in 2010; using 2014 numbers for plate appearances (183,929), that works out to around 0.6% of at bats. Should really speed things up.
3. Sure. Let me know how the advertisers feel when you move to MLB.
4. Or what? Ump calls a ball. They have this rule already for slow pitchers and it never gets enforced.
5. Meh, but good.
6. As a Red Sox fan, I wish this was implemented. As I get older and older, Mark Burhle has become my ideal pitcher. Might have something to do with watching Buchholz and Lester fool and fart their way through games like the second coming of Jeff Gray (with the one difference being I loved Jeff Gray because I was young enough my time was in no way valuable).

posted by yerfatma at 07:19 PM on October 01

(In keeping with yeraftmas format....)

1. Yep, I like that one too. Although I'll manage to contradict this somehow.

2. Hate it. If the the decision is to intentionally walk my big, dangerous hitter, then I want that pitcher to throw that ball 4 times. Lobs or not, those are 4 more pitches that could result in a positive for me. Yerfatma showed that IBBs aren't often enough to affect the speed of the game, but it seems when they do happen, the game could very well be on the line.

3. Love it. I don't know how accurate I am on this, but the best way to speed up the game, is probably to speed up the things that are holding up the game from being played, not the game itself. So this rule seems to most affect the broadcast advertising sold,... or we just won't see the first few pitches. The increase is related to several factors not directly correlated with the game, notably increased time between innings for TV and radio commercials.

4. Hopefully there is a stipulation provided for unexpected injuries? It's tough to get a guy going that fast if he's relieving in the 2nd inning.

5. What's the penalty for this? Ball? Ejection?

6. 12 seconds with the bases empty! Gees. I'll probably being timing everything in 12 second increments for a while. This one I don't like at all. I hope it never makes it out of the AFL. I enjoy the late inning stare downs, challenges, barking, aspects of the game. I like the big, national broadcast games that add the extra pressure, make the players second guess, and gives pitchers the yips. I also like the furious pitcher who is set on the rubber immediately after catching the ball. I like it when the home fans are enough to cause a batter to step out, or an opposing catcher to have to go to the mound to calm his pitcher. I understand it all as forms of intimidation or trying to psych out your opponent. Gamesmanship. We need more of it. This seems to just make the game robotic.

All in all, I say leave the game alone. I don't need a 2:30 hour game. If I go to the stadium, I'm all for the 3+ hour event. If I'm at home, I can get a lot done while listening to a game. I'm in no rush. Life's to short to speed everything up. Savor something. Honestly, we're only talking about 25 minutes difference between what was and what is, isn't there some thing else to concentrate on?

Baseball needs to be sped up. The game will fade without faster play.

Fade from who? To whom are these changes intended to benefit?

posted by BoKnows at 08:39 PM on October 01

Fade from who?

TV ratings, fan support, youth participation and cultural prominence. As good as it is, the game is too long and the sequences of slow play are too boring. Last night's marathon was great because everything was on the line. But that's rare.

"Thirty years ago, the average time of a game was 2 hours 35 minutes. This season, through last Sunday's games, it was 3 hours 2 minutes 47 seconds, which would be the longest on record." -- New York Times

posted by rcade at 08:55 PM on October 01

TV ratings, fan support, youth participation and cultural prominence.

Well I guess that's pretty much everyone. Haha. Is this factual? Looks to me that attendance is way up from 30 years ago despite the 20% increase of game length. Has there been any evidence that a 25-30 minute shorter game would actually increase the things you mentioned? I suspect it would be a less than significant result and terribly hard to measure. But I guess if there is a Pace of Play committee, then they gotta do something. I usually wait until something is broken before I go fiddling with it.

I'm not bored during games. Even the long ones in April. Some are short, some are not. I'm not going to watch the first 7 innings of a game then get upset because I missed MASH.

"Thirty years ago, the average time of a game was 2 hours 35 minutes. This season, through last Sunday's games, it was 3 hours 2 minutes 47 seconds, which would be the longest on record." -- New York Times

I just don't see how shortening a game will increase youth participation, but I guess Joe Torre knows today's youth better than I do.

posted by BoKnows at 09:16 PM on October 01

This season, through last Sunday's games, it was 3 hours 2 minutes 47 seconds, which would be the longest on record."

That would still be 7 minutes and 47 seconds FASTER than an average NFL game, but nobody is complaining about the length of football games.

posted by grum@work at 09:17 PM on October 01

Not a fan of #2. IBB can some times fail. And when they do fail, it is spectularly funny.

posted by jmauro at 09:23 PM on October 01

It certainly was an exciting game

and

The one-game wild card is weird, but that one was a classic.

and

An incredible game

All this praise about a game that took 4 hours and 45 minutes to play.

posted by grum@work at 09:24 PM on October 01

IBB can some times fail.

Yes it can.

posted by grum@work at 09:28 PM on October 01

Yeah, add me to the list of people who think shaving 15 minutes off the length of game and adding in a bunch of procedural penalties and rules isn't exactly making the game sexier.

A more efficient game is not necessarily a more entertaining one.

posted by dfleming at 09:43 PM on October 01

OK, my turn:

1. This is already a rule in high school and NCAA competition. The rule also contains exceptions for a swing and miss where the batter loses balance and exits the batters' box and any time there is a play after the pitch (wild pitch, passed ball, stolen base and throw, attempted pickoff). Exceptions are also for foul balls, batter attempting to get out of the way of a pitch, and one or two others that I cannot recall (reminder to self, dig out rule and case books before springtime).

2. I don't like this either. It is used in high school, NCAA, youth baseball, and the like. There are three things that can happen during an intentional walk, any of which can lead to some excitement. a. The batter can reach out and poke a close one to the opposite field. The fielders are usually not really ready for this. b. The pitcher can toss one way too wide for a wild pitch and advance by the runners. c. The catcher can cause a balk by exiting his box prior to the time of the pitch. This is covered by the rule that all fielders must be in fair territory except the catcher, who must be in his box. The time of the pitch is not when the ball is released but when the pitcher is committed to pitching and cannot stop without committing a balk.

3. Why not go back to the old rule of 1 minute between innings, clock started when all playing action has stopped at the third out? The numbers quoted for time of games, 2:35 30 years ago vs 3:02 now is not that great, when you consider that at least 16 of those minutes were added when the time between innings was changed to accommodate the TV advertisers. Go back to the old rule and you now have an average time of 2:46, and that is only 11 minutes longer. Soccer can make do with commercials flashed on the screen and snuck in during stoppages, ice hockey is the same, but the powers that be are backsliding with TV time outs. Advertisers on baseball games could be placated with silent on-screen messages or brief voice announcements. My between half-innings chant for many years was, "Come on, boys, hustle on and off. Let's keep the game moving. look like you're alive out here."

4. That makes sense. Call a ball for every 20 seconds over the limit, as long as the batter has entered the batters' box.

5. Limit the manager or pitching coach's visits to 3 (If a pitcher is changed during the visit, it doesn't count in the 3. Add one per inning for extra innings), but put no limit on infield conferences without a coach present. The umpire knows when it has gone on too long, and he should start out there to break it up after 15 or 20 seconds. If that doesn't happen, it's bad umpiring.

6. The limit should be 20 seconds to pitch or attempt a pickoff. There should be a similar rule for batters to get into the box in 20 seconds after the ball has been returned to the pitcher following a play or the start of an inning or a relief pitcher's 8-pitch warmup. With runners on base, stepping off the pitcher's plate should restart the clock, but the time should then be reduced to perhaps 10 to 15 seconds. Forget about clocks. Let the umpires do the job. Baseball is not a timed game, so if one umpire counts a bit slowly or quickly, let the players deal with it.

Oh heck. Forget about rule changes. Just put me in charge, and I'll have 2-hour ball games. Strike zones enlarged, players forced to hustle on and off. Pitchers made to hurry up and pitch. Batters told to stop fidgeting and get ready to hit. The umpires are in charge of the game once it starts. Let them have the authority to make the game quicker without changing the rules. Slow pitcher who refuses to step it up? Strike zone dead center from top of belt buckle to bottom of belt buckle. Batter who needs to perform yoga exercises between pitches? Strike zone from dugout to dugout and top of backstop to shoe laces.

posted by Howard_T at 11:19 PM on October 01

I just don't see how shortening a game will increase youth participation ...

Kids who watch the game are more likely to play it.

Looks to me that attendance is way up from 30 years ago despite the 20% increase of game length.

That's one positive metric, but it's not the only way to measure the success of the game. World Series ratings have been in a long swoon.

All this praise about a game that took 4 hours and 45 minutes to play.

Do you think every 4:45 game is as exciting as a one-game playoff in which the lead changed four times?

posted by rcade at 07:12 AM on October 02

I really am annoyed by all the fidgeting players do in and around the batter's box, often after every single pitch. I don't think it is the length of the game that is a problem, but all of the time wasting that happens between pitches. I endorse 1 and 3.

It happens in tennis, too. When I watch Nadal, I yell "just serve already."

posted by bperk at 07:16 AM on October 02

Me: All this praise about a game that took 4 hours and 45 minutes to play.

You: Do you think every 4:45 game is as exciting as a one-game playoff in which the lead changed four times?

In return

You: Baseball needs to be sped up. The game will fade without faster play.

Me: Do you think that the length of a game should be a metric for the excitement/interest level in the game?

posted by grum@work at 08:34 AM on October 02

I think the excitement the game offers is more apparent when it doesn't drag on and on because of slow pitchers, slow hitters and lots of conferences on the mound.

I'm a lifer who embraced the game as an eight-year-old. I organized sandlot games where we got four kids a side all summer long and listened to Dick Risenhoover call Rangers games on WBAP throughout elementary school. I still enjoy baseball. But I don't see my sons' generation taking to the game the way I did, and I think slow play is a factor.

posted by rcade at 08:50 AM on October 02

I think the excitement the game offers is more apparent when it doesn't drag on and on because of slow pitchers, slow hitters and lots of conferences on the mound.

I agree, but I'm not sure that it's the time that bothers most people, but the fact that it looks like it wastes time.

Don't get rid of conferences on the mound because it wastes time, get rid of conferences on the mound because it is boring to watch three or more people stand around and talk when you can't hear anything. If they had a camera in there and broadcasted the conversation on the jumbotron or TV, I think people wouldn't have a problem with that. It would be interesting to hear the pitching coach telling the rookie pitcher to "just throw the fucking ball over the plate, meat!".

Batters stepping out of the box bothers me not because of time wasted, but because it looks like a stalling tactic, and that's not fun to watch. If you were at a track and field competition and they announce that the next competitor is about to attempt the high jump, and just before he takes his run up he steps away and takes a sip of water and then ties his shoes again, you'd be annoyed (even though it's only a couple of seconds). Make a batter stay in the box for the entire at-bat.

The same with pitching changes....it's not the time that bothers me, but the delay in action (whether it is ten seconds or sixty seconds). I get that the pitcher change is a necessity, but instead of setting a time limit for doing it, how about simply saying "No warm-up pitches on the mound", forcing the pitcher to warm-up completely in the bullpen. No one watches the bullpen, so if they want to waste time in there, go ahead. Can you imagine if the NHL allowed a replacement goaltender a minute or two of practice shots in the middle of the game, with everyone just standing around and watching? Or a replacement QB an opportunity to make some practice throws on the field of play?

The work should be to remove the dead-ball-stuff, not to make the dead-ball-stuff go just a bit faster...

posted by grum@work at 10:15 AM on October 02

But I don't see my sons' generation taking to the game the way I did, and I think slow play is a factor.

Do you honestly think that is about games being 15-30 minutes longer, or due to the fact that kids have way, way more options available to them now than they did when you grew up?

I go to a bunch of games and I don't see kids really falling apart in the 6th inning. Mostly, they have their face in a Nintendo DS or an iPhone from the start. I think baseball is dealing with what every sport is dealing with - that kids have other, sexy options out there and aren't as into sports as they used to be.

Going to a game is an experience. If I can't realistically get a hot dog or have a pee without missing action, it's going to make games less fun to be at. I, personally, would hate to watch a run walked in because a pitcher took 22 seconds to deliver a pitch. The proceduralization of games is not necessarily making them any more entertaining - just more predictable and consistent. Video replay is a bore live but decent TV on key plays.

Again - effective is better than efficient. Baseball is never going to be a high-action thriller. It's not the point. Like golf, the whole romance has been getting out of the hustle-and-bustle and enjoying a few hours of peanuts, cracker jacks, and never going back to real life.

posted by dfleming at 11:01 AM on October 02

Do you honestly think that is about games being 15-30 minutes longer, or due to the fact that kids have way, way more options available to them now than they did when you grew up?

I think it can be both. When you sit down to watch a game on TV, baseball asks for more of your time than any other major spectator sport.

Like golf, the whole romance has been getting out of the hustle-and-bustle and enjoying a few hours of peanuts, cracker jacks, and never going back to real life.

I'm not just talking about the in-game spectator experience, but television as well. A sport has to be good TV to thrive. I don't see any of the six experimental rules that would make baseball worse on TV, and several would make it better.

As for getting out of the hustle and bustle, would any team sport but baseball be described that way for spectators? It's an odd selling point. Hustle and bustle is pretty entertaining in soccer, football, hockey and basketball.

I concede that golf's charm is in part to that, but even then I've been to several Players Championships in Jacksonville and watched many other majors and they can build to some compelling drama.

posted by rcade at 11:55 AM on October 02

I don't see any of the six experimental rules that would make baseball worse on TV

The intentional walk one is worse for TV and live viewing.

A batter starts walking to the plate, and then suddenly puts down his bat, takes off his batting gloves, removes his batting helmet, takes off his shin guard/elbow pad, and then starts walking towards first base while the bat boy starts to clean up the mess he's left behind. All the while, no one in the stands or on TV has seen anything happen and is confused. The signal from the opposing dugout that was flashed to the umpire was missed by everyone watching the game.

Make the pitcher throw the four balls for the intentional walk. It also gives the live fans ample time to boo the opposition while it happens.

posted by grum@work at 12:04 PM on October 02

All the while, no one in the stands or on TV has seen anything happen and is confused.

I've already said that the new walk rule seems weird to me, but I don't regard a four-pitch intentional walk as something with any excitement potential.

The crowd figures out balks. They could figure this out as well with a hand gesture from the ump. Or they could use a one pitch intentional walk. The catcher tells the ump what's going on, stands up to take a throw and that counts as four balls.

posted by rcade at 12:14 PM on October 02

Or they could use a one pitch intentional walk.

Let's not do that. Anything that skews stats historically is weird to me. Which is another argument against changing IBBs.

posted by yerfatma at 01:32 PM on October 02

I still enjoy baseball. But I don't see my sons' generation taking to the game the way I did, and I think slow play is a factor

I don't see that here (where I live). The youth involvement in athletics astounds me. School teams, select teams, tournaments, etc... Certainly a regional thing, as is obesity, alcoholism, and being a Red Sox fan. (yep, I said it)

The NYT article you posted above suggests that MLB is simply organizing preventative measures, whether those measures are actually needed is my question. Quotes like:

"But we have to figure out ways to make it relevant to that 12-year-old."

But those smiling faces, owners fear, are disappearing

Mark Attanasio, the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, said a brisker pace of games, better use of social media and more participation on the field would be crucial to engaging younger fans "The best time to get some stuff done is when you're out front."

"I think a challenge in the commissioner's office is to make sure that we find a way to engage young people and I'm not talking about bells and whistles,"

It's all guesswork. MLB has no real reason to think that kids are becoming disinterested. They think they might. Maybe it could happen. Near the end of the article is the real intent:

More children playing baseball means more future customers for M.L.B.

When the end result of change is designed to increase revenue for the future, then I don't buy the "it's for the kids" argument. Nor do I hold Joe Torre or Doug Glanville as representatives for today's young people.

....but I don't regard a four-pitch intentional walk as something with any excitement potential.

Except when it is.

Shouldn't we solve the DH thing before moving on to mound visits? And let Pete Rose back in. Enough is enough. Did Mark MacGwire ever admit to steroid use?

posted by BoKnows at 09:42 PM on October 02

Except when it is.

I can't recall a single intentional walk that was exciting in the entire time I've been following the game. Can you?

posted by rcade at 07:59 AM on October 03

Yes. There have been multiple cases of someone swinging at a pitch in the past few years and I recall one fake IBB where they stole a strike.

Certainly a regional thing, as is obesity, alcoholism, and being a Red Sox fan.

Jesus, I should move!

posted by yerfatma at 08:25 AM on October 03

I can't recall a single intentional walk that was exciting in the entire time I've been following the game. Can you?

Miguel Cabrera ignores an "intentional walk".

One of many "exciting" intentional walks.

posted by grum@work at 08:51 AM on October 03

I think it can be both. When you sit down to watch a game on TV, baseball asks for more of your time than any other major spectator sport.

Tennis? Auto racing? Wresting/MMA pay-per-view? Golf on a championship Sunday? Football coverage on a regular Sunday? Cycling? Poker? People are willing to invest four hours to watch sports and entertainment.

As for getting out of the hustle and bustle, would any team sport but baseball be described that way for spectators? It's an odd selling point. Hustle and bustle is pretty entertaining in soccer, football, hockey and basketball.

Baseball has always had a different pace than those sports, and yet has somehow survived for over a hundred years. Not to mention, attendance is up and TV contracts are worth more than they have ever been.

Killing the intentional walk obviously won't kill the game, but killing it also won't make baseball more exciting than video games or as fast-paced as football, hockey, or basketball, so I'm not sure why it having a different selling point is a problem. It's a different experience.

posted by dfleming at 01:57 PM on October 03

As for getting out of the hustle and bustle, would any team sport but baseball be described that way for spectators? It's an odd selling point. Hustle and bustle is pretty entertaining in soccer, football, hockey and basketball.

Baseball's refined cousin cricket has the same sort of relaxed pace, and it's still crazy popular. The "fan-friendly" version of cricket, Twenty 20, runs for about 3 hours a match (as opposed to the ODI or Tests that take between 1 full day and 5 days).

posted by grum@work at 02:47 PM on October 03

Can you?

I like IBBs. As I described above in my first post, I enjoy the build up and decisions involved. I also like that the opposing pitcher has to give up a base only to put a chip on the shoulder of the on-deck hitter.

posted by BoKnows at 01:32 AM on October 04

... that take between 1 full day and 5 days.

I take back anything I said about the slow pace of baseball.

Baseball has always had a different pace than those sports, and yet has somehow survived for over a hundred years.

The question isn't whether it's going to survive, it's whether the sport will continue to fade in prominence and cultural impact. It was once *the* American pro team sport. Now that's quite obviously the NFL. Survival isn't in question. Baseball can survive as a well-attended niche sport, just like hockey.

But remember what it was like when ESPN dropped hockey and a big chunk of its time on SportsCenter disappeared? How would that feel if it happened to baseball?

I'm surprised there are so many voices here for baseball doing nothing about game length and speed of play. Do you all really think baseball needs no changes? If so, how do you explain the long drop in World Series ratings, and why is that not a problem?

posted by rcade at 05:56 AM on October 04

I like IBBs.

I was looking for an example of one in which something exciting happened as the balls were being thrown. An automatic IBB would have the same decisions, strategy and so on.

I don't see the drama in the actual delivery of the pitches. I think fans would get used to the "take a base" signal pretty quickly, and for stat purposes four balls could be put on the pitcher automatically as well.

posted by rcade at 06:02 AM on October 04

But remember what it was like when ESPN dropped hockey and a big chunk of its time on SportsCenter disappeared? How would that feel if it happened to baseball?

Again - baseball TV contracts continue to be more valuable than ever. This is nowhere near being a reality. Baseball is still #2 in the major 4 for ratings.

I'm surprised there are so many voices here for baseball doing nothing about game length and speed of play. Do you all really think baseball needs no changes? If so, how do you explain the long drop in World Series ratings, and why is that not a problem?

There's been a huge dip since the 2005 PED congress hearings that has never been recovered. They have a 4-7 game series' held in October - which, since the 1980's, has meant they're competing at night with prime-time shows on an expanding dial of channels.

The Super Bowl, comparatively, is one Sunday night in February, at the same time every year, and has nothing else to compete with on the dial. It also has a shit-ton of people who don't watch the game content who watch the program.

Additionally - MLB.TV and online streaming mean Neilsen ratings aren't necessarily capturing the whole picture anymore. I haven't watched a game on cable TV in years. Multiple time-zones and a 4-7 game series mean people who have to go to work can't necessarily catch San Francisco finals games.

There's also the argument that a successful Toronto team captures an entire Canada market (see: 1992 and 1993's super ratings), and they've been out of it for so long that it barely registers up here.

The point being - concluding the game is too long, in a very changing world, is the reason people don't watch the World Series anymore is ignoring a lot of factors - one huge one being, a lot of people still haven't forgiven baseball for the PED scandal.

posted by dfleming at 05:48 PM on October 04

Again - baseball TV contracts continue to be more valuable than ever.

What top pro sport's TV contracts aren't "more valuable than ever"? Population increases and the value of broadcast content that most people still watch live helps all the major sports, including baseball. Baseball also is helped by the massive amount of content it produces, which has to be tops in the world among top-tier, major spectator sports.

Baseball is still #2 in the major 4 for ratings. ... The Super Bowl, comparatively, is one Sunday night in February, at the same time every year, and has nothing else to compete with on the dial.

"The 26 most-watched sporting events of 2013 were all NFL games, including sixteen in the regular season alone. ... The only non-NFL events to crack the top 50 were Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals and the national championship games of college football and college basketball."

The same link shows that out of non-NFL broadcasts, the most-watched MLB game trailed the most-watched events in college football, the NBA and college basketball.

The 11.3 rating for the most-watched MLB game, which was game 6 of the Cardinals/Red Sox World Series, is half what it was in the 1980s.

The point being - concluding the game is too long, in a very changing world, is the reason people don't watch the World Series anymore is ignoring a lot of factors - one huge one being, a lot of people still haven't forgiven baseball for the PED scandal.

I never said it was the only reason. What makes you think the PED scandal matters enough to casual fans to keep them away from watching? That seems like an issue that would affect baseball lifers like us, and mostly we're a bunch who are as likely to quit the sport as a Red Sox fan is to switch allegiances to the Yankees.

P.s. Baseball does have Kate Upton. So there's that.

posted by rcade at 08:12 PM on October 04

If so, how do you explain the long drop in World Series ratings, and why is that not a problem?

I find that national broadcasts have become insufferable. For me it's not the games that have become unwatchable, but everything else around it. In-game interviews, sideline reporters, unnecessary crowd shots, stars of FOX tv shows that are planted in the crowd, etc. I've always thought of baseball as the one sport that speaks for itself. The big moments are obvious. I don't need to be spoon-fed drama. (Or maybe I've just become grumpy as I've aged.)

Granted, I'm only speaking for myself in this regard, but I can't imagine being the only person turned off by the broadcast, not the game itself. These days I really only watch the post-season when my team is involved. And even then, I'll usually mute the tv and turn on the radio.

posted by goddam at 01:49 AM on October 05

Or maybe I've just become grumpy as I've aged.

Welcome to the Smelly, Crotchety Organization of Old Farts, aka SCOOF. Remember our motto "Get off the lawn, you stinkin' brats". I do agree with your opinions on the national broadcasts. However, they are tame compared to what NESN trots out during its telecasts of Red Sox games. There are frequent shots of one or another celebrity, usually an advertiser, sitting in the stands with his cell 'phone growing out of his ear. Full innings of play-by-play are lost while our beloved Don and Jerry interview some guest who is promoting a charity event. When there are no guests, the description of game action is superseded by juvenile banter between the two broadcasters. This adds nothing to the production value of the program.

On a brighter note, I watched the MLB Network telecast of the Cardinals-Dodgers game last night, or was it this morning. This was a tight pitcher's duel between Greinke and Lynn, featured a good bit of decision making by the two managers, and showed that baseball does not need a lot of fast-paced action to be an absorbing, cerebral event. Add to this a fantastic 18-inning affair between Washington and San Francisco, where a manager's decision to pull a starter late in a game led to a tie game. Here again, every move, every pitch, every placement of the defense, every approach by a hitter, every little thing that happens in a game had a large impact.

I have been watching the Kansas City-Anaheim series closely as well. KC plays the sort of baseball that might almost be called "throwback". Good pitching, solid defense, apply pressure once you reach base, make the fielders think about what is going on, and you have a game where there is action as long as the ball is not dead. (Unlike other sports, the ball is in play at all times unless stopped by an umpire. The ball is put back into play by the plate umpire when the cause for the dead ball has been corrected and all are ready for play to resume. This previous is not intended to talk down to you all. It's just that some believe the ball is in play only when pitched.) Anaheim has played very, very well in this series, but KC seems to have made the one move per game that made the difference. It's been great baseball in this series, and overall a really good post-season so far.

As long as baseball is played the way the 10 teams involved in this post-season have played, the sport will not die. My hope is that those who announce and comment on the games will spend more time giving insight into the "inside baseball" aspects of the game. As insufferable as Harold Reynolds can be (does he ever shut up?), he still knows the game and can explain it quite well. The same is true of the analysts on TNT and Fox, for the most part.

posted by Howard_T at 01:05 PM on October 05

I was looking for an example of one in which something exciting happened as the balls were being thrown.

I don't know what you qualify as exciting. I've tried my best to describe my version.

An automatic IBB would have the same decisions, strategy and so on.

But not the same human element that would otherwise be forced to throw the ball four times. I like the nuance possibilities. Should we just make a TD worth 7 points since the extra point conversion rate is 99+%? That could save time too, probably 3-5 minutes of kick time plus commercials. In baseball you're only talking about 1-2 minutes maybe each game. That's not too much of an impact from the Pace of Game committee. Maybe they are getting paid by minutes saved?

...and for stat purposes four balls could be put on the pitcher automatically as well.

Me no like this. I just threw up a little.

I find that national broadcasts have become insufferable.

Well, that pesky game keeps interrupting their entertainment show.

If so, how do you explain the long drop in World Series ratings, and why is that not a problem?

Geography. If the WS this year is StL vs. KC, will the coasts tune in for the annual FOX show a with a little baseball in the background?

But I think your question is valid. My answer is that during the playoffs and WS, it's not the game that changes - it's the broadcast that turns what would be a 3 hour game into 4+. And that's when people tune out. The PoG committee needs to focus on the problem, "What's the problem?"

Looks like FOX got involved and eventually took over the broadcasts around 1996, and ratings have been stagnant since then, aside from 2004,...maybe it's not the game?

posted by BoKnows at 02:29 PM on October 05

But not the same human element that would otherwise be forced to throw the ball four times. I like the nuance possibilities.

What nuances? Have you ever in a lifetime of watching MLB seen something exciting happen during those four balls being thrown? Ball to the backstop advancing runners? Player swinging at a pitch and hitting it? Pigeon knocked unconcious by the ball? Attractive fan leave seats behind home plate? Anything?

The things you call exciting about an IBB involve the strategy of walking someone intentionally, which would be identical whether the IBB is four actual pitches or a manager's command.

Should we just make a TD worth 7 points since the extra point conversion rate is 99+%?

Funny you should mention that. The NFL tested longer PATs in the preseason. Why? Because PATs are so automatic they're boring.

IBBs are far more automatic than PATs.

posted by rcade at 05:08 PM on October 05

What nuances? Have you ever in a lifetime of watching MLB seen something exciting happen during those four balls being thrown? Ball to the backstop advancing runners? Player swinging at a pitch and hitting it? Pigeon knocked unconcious by the ball? Attractive fan leave seats behind home plate? Anything?

Along with the multiple links posted in this thread and others that I have sought out...yes, sure I have. I follow all of MLB pretty closely each year so I'm probably an above average test. Although, I don't think I've seen those examples live in-person. Except the attractive fan, I don't miss many of those....But just because things are rare, doesn't make them boring to me.

The things you call exciting about an IBB involve the strategy of walking someone intentionally, which would be identical whether the IBB is four actual pitches or a manager's command.

Nope. An automatic IBB does not allow the on-deck hitter to stand there and stew about the fact the he is considered the easy out. An automatic IBB does not allow the mishandling of a ball by either the pitcher or the catcher - and I have seen some of those come real close to bouncing away or being overthrown. It does not allow for a potential balk, which could change the AB all together. It does not allow for a batter to take a hack at a close pitch. It does not allow for the fans to get involved and boo that visiting pitcher that's walking your guy.

Imagine this: Bottom 9, 2 out, runners on 1st and 2nd, down by 3, #4 hitter at the plate. An IBB is apparent and is signaled. The catcher stands up and holds out his palm to the outside of the box. During those four pitches, the home fans have started a chant, the wave, booing the pitcher, cheering for the batter, they stand up, wave their rally towels, and put on their rally caps. The home manager puts in the pinch runner to increase speed on the bases. The decibels increase as the four pitches are thrown, all in anticipation of a possible grand slam to win, or a double to tie. To me, that is exciting. It's not 2 minutes wasted... in fact, a whole lot has happened! I certainly have not witnessed 35,000 fans disgruntled, bored, or falling asleep during this time-consuming boring baseball play. Have you?

For me, it's about the mental game as much as the physical. We are human and we fuck up sometimes. I like the human element in baseball - without it, I'd absolutely then get bored.

I am unsure that we will find a relative measure of excitement surrounding IBBs.

And really, the issue was brought forth by MLB to satisfy time concerns, not boring-ness. That's the reason I compared it to the PAT. At least the NFL is trying to increase the level of difficulty to then increase excitement, rather than removing it altogether. Still, if the goal is to reduce game time, IBBs are hardly the issue. If MLB is truly concerned about what 10 year olds will be consuming in the future, I think preserving the game and being able to offer a product with integrity would be at the top of the list, not some dumbed-down, fast-track version that only supports todays loss of attention span.

A more efficient game is not necessarily a more entertaining one.

posted by BoKnows at 06:02 PM on October 05

Imagine this: Bottom 9, 2 out, runners on 1st and 2nd, down by 3, #4 hitter at the plate. An IBB is apparent and is signaled. The catcher stands up and holds out his palm to the outside of the box. During those four pitches, the home fans have started a chant, the wave, booing the pitcher, cheering for the batter, they stand up, wave their rally towels, and put on their rally caps. The home manager puts in the pinch runner to increase speed on the bases. The decibels increase as the four pitches are thrown, all in anticipation of a possible grand slam to win, or a double to tie. To me, that is exciting. It's not 2 minutes wasted... in fact, a whole lot has happened! I certainly have not witnessed 35,000 fans disgruntled, bored, or falling asleep during this time-consuming boring baseball play. Have you?

//slow clap//

posted by bender at 08:19 PM on October 05

An automatic IBB does not allow the mishandling of a ball by either the pitcher or the catcher - and I have seen some of those come real close to bouncing away or being overthrown.

When the best you can say is that you saw some come "real close" to disaster, that says it all. I've been following the game since 1974. I can't recall a single time anyone botched an IBB toss.

I appreciate your attempt to find drama in the IBB, but my personal preference is to see how the automatic IBB feels in play as the experiment is attempted. I don't think the four soft tosses would be missed.

... I think preserving the game and being able to offer a product with integrity would be at the top of the list, not some dumbed-down, fast-track version that only supports todays loss of attention span.

Baseball isn't smarter today because it's played in over three hours -- the longest average game time on record -- instead of in 2 hours and 35 minutes like it was in the 1980s.

Did you think the game was a "dumbed-down, fast track version" that lacked integrity 30 years ago?

posted by rcade at 10:14 PM on October 05

I've been following the game since 1974. I can't recall a single time anyone botched an IBB toss.

A few short things here: it does happen and even if you haven't seen it, the possibility exists and that is exciting. Sport, especially baseball for me, is about the point between possibility and result, when the quantum outcome cloud collapses into a single kinetic event. An intentional walk has that; sending the runner to a base by executive fiat does not. It's making a sport more like a video game and I do not care for it. Let video games be video games and Fox can fuck off with their Street Fighter graphics packages. The reductio ad absurdum of making sports "more exciting" is to reduce them to roto and just have a spreadsheet on the screen that updates every 10 seconds or so with the results of a random number generator creating outcomes.

I am in no way endorsing the idea of 4 hour long baseball games and would love to see a lot of the time wasting crap removed, but you're focusing on intentional walks that take up about 0.0001% of the time in the season. Relative to between half-inning advertising, walks are a rounding error in the total elapsed time of a season's games.

I find that national broadcasts have become insufferable.

A thousand times this. They broadcast the entire game for the benefit of people who don't watch baseball and "the next generation of fans" without realizing none of them are watching now either because you insist on starting the games at 8:30 in the East regardless of who is playing and what day it is. The best way to sell your product is to put it on at a convenient time and let the people who love it convince someone to sit down and watch with them. The number of people who become fans of a sport without any encouragement from friends or family has to be close to 0.

posted by yerfatma at 09:00 AM on October 06

Sport, especially baseball for me, is about the point between possibility and result, when the quantum outcome cloud collapses into a single kinetic event.

That's a beautiful phrase, but I prefer possibilities that actually happen sometimes. While he was with the Texas Rangers, Len Barker threw a pitch so wild it went over the backstop. To me, waiting for the hypothetical botched IBB is like waiting for another pitch over the backstop after 36 years. It would be funny, but hardly of such consequence that the opportunity must always be preserved.

I'm not focusing on automatic IBBs as much as I'm endorsing a liberal approach to making the game faster. If that idea failed and others succeeded, that's fine with me.

posted by rcade at 09:21 AM on October 06

The 11.3 rating for the most-watched MLB game, which was game 6 of the Cardinals/Red Sox World Series, is half what it was in the 1980s.

I hate this argument every time I've seen it.

Nielsen Ratings

The top rated show in 1950 was Texaco Star Theatre - 61.6
The top rated show in 1960 was Gunsmoke - 37.3
The top rated show in 1970 was Marcus Welby, M.D. - 29.6
The top rated show in 1980 was 60 Minutes - 28.4
The top rated show in 1990 was Cosby Show - 23.1
The top rated show in 2000 was Survivor - Australian Outback - 17.4
The top rated show in 2010 was American Idol - 13.7
The top rated show in 2013 was Sunday Night Football - 12.8

It's the fragmentation of the viewing public that has driven down ratings.
More people have TVs now than they did in the 1980s, but there are far more options to watch than ever before, and when you throw in PVRs, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Twitch, and torrenting, people simply don't watch as much live TV any more except for single events (Super Bowl, elections).

Note: Marcus Welby, M.D.? Really?

posted by grum@work at 11:24 AM on October 06

It's the fragmentation of the viewing public that has driven down ratings.

The audience is fragmented, but if that's the whole story the NFL and NBA would be seeing the same decline as baseball.

Numbers before cable TV came along don't matter much for comparative purposes. Of course we all watched Marcus Welby, M.D. in 1970. The TV had 3 national broadcast channels and a handful of small UHF stations.

As for alternate viewing audiences on PVRs and devices, Nielsen tries to count those too.

posted by rcade at 12:29 PM on October 06

The audience is fragmented, but if that's the whole story the NFL and NBA would be seeing the same decline as baseball.

I don't think that's accurate: you're not comparing apples to apples and neither the NBA nor the NFL was at the heights baseball was 30 years ago. But if we use grum's numbers as a rough table for normalization, the top rating in 2013 is 45% of the top rating in 1980. So if baseball's best ratings are half of what they used to be, they're pretty much the same. That's a ridiculous over-simplification, but we have annual stories about the shocking decline in baseball's popularity without any concrete evidence it exists. It feels like baseball is treated unfairly because it was once "The National Pastime". Like the decline in movie attendance, geezers look at it and see failings in The Youth of Today because they assume how life was when they were young is How Things Ought To Be.

Baseball may not a main pillar of popular culture any longer, but we're also not stuck with a handful of stations on AM radio either. Maybe that larger audience in baseball's past was actually dying for another option.

posted by yerfatma at 12:58 PM on October 06

That's a ridiculous over-simplification, but we have annual stories about the shocking decline in baseball's popularity without any concrete evidence it exists.

What evidence would you accept?

posted by rcade at 01:09 PM on October 06

A bloody glove. Don't get me wrong, the idea baseball's popularity is declining makes intuitive sense to me as well, I'm just not sure it is "real" in any meaningful way. TV is the opiate of the masses yet the most popular show isn't anywhere near as popular as it used to be. It may be the explosion on options means people's interests are more varied. It may also be when you stop only asking white men what they like the numbers tend to shift away from baseball.

posted by yerfatma at 02:44 PM on October 06

The audience is fragmented, but if that's the whole story the NFL and NBA would be seeing the same decline as baseball.

Monday Night Football:
The highest-rated Monday Night Football telecast on ABC was the Miami Dolphins' victory over the previously undefeated Chicago Bears on December 2, 1985, which drew a national Nielsen rating of 29.6 and a share of 46.

The highest-rated Monday Night Football game on ESPN, and the highest-rated program in U.S. cable television history at that time, was the Minnesota Vikings' defeat of the Green Bay Packers 3023 on October 5, 2009, with a rating of 15.3.

Looks like the same sort of decline as other TV ratings...

posted by grum@work at 05:04 PM on October 06

The NFL isn't seeing a decline in TV audience. MNF isn't seeing one either, nor is SNF. All of them are trending up.

"ESPN said its 17 Monday Night Football telecasts averaged 13,679,000 viewers. It was the third-most viewed season in ESPN's eight years of presenting MNF. ...

"Sunday Night Football averaged 21.7 million viewers (up from 21.4 million in 2012) for its 19 NFL regular-season telecasts, the second-best viewership mark in NBC's eight seasons of broadcasting the NFL's Sunday primetime package. (The highest ever was 21.8 million, in 2010.) ...

"Sunday Night Football was the No. 1 show in prime time for the fourth consecutive fall television season, and it won every key adult and male demos, including Adults 18-49."

Obviously these are based on total viewer counts instead of audience share, but can you show me the World Series growing in total viewer counts?

On Wikipedia, I see from 24 to 35 million watching the World Series in the 1980s and 12 to 15 million watching in the 2010s.

posted by rcade at 05:20 PM on October 06

I appreciate your attempt to find drama in the IBB, but my personal preference is to see how the automatic IBB feels in play as the experiment is attempted. I don't think the four soft tosses would be missed.

I'm not attempting to find drama. That's how I see baseball. I can have a preference too, yes? I detailed the scenario to explain what it was that I found exciting about those four pitches - per your requests.

Did you think the game was a "dumbed-down, fast track version" that lacked integrity 30 years ago?

Really? How did you extrapolate that? C'mon man.

I think the 2hr 35min games date back to the 60's, not the 80's.

I'll bet it takes you a little longer to get things done vs. 30 years ago, yes? Well, no matter how hard you try, you'll never reach that benchmark from those little rcade days. Should we then start to cut things off of you?

Agree to disagree is where I am. But I do hope the old white guys in charge learn to check their egos at the door, and stop trying to do what's best for the kids. (read: bank accounts)

posted by BoKnows at 06:32 PM on October 06

Really? How did you extrapolate that? C'mon man.

When you went on a tear about not turning baseball into a "dumbed-down, fast-track version" lacking integrity, I assumed that was related to these six ideas, which are all about addressing slow play and getting back to the average game time of decades past. So I questioned how faster play means any of the bad things you envisioned from the changes we've discussed.

I think the 2hr 35min games date back to the 60's, not the 80's.

Nope. I sourced it in a comment and it was about games 30 years ago.

I can have a preference too, yes?

Now it's my turn to c'mon man. Where did I ever suggest otherwise?

I'll bet it takes you a little longer to get things done vs. 30 years ago, yes? Well, no matter how hard you try, you'll never reach that benchmark from those little rcade days. Should we then start to cut things off of you?

Speeding up baseball is akin to cutting things off a person? Paging Dr. Freud.

posted by rcade at 06:40 PM on October 06

When you went on a tear about not turning baseball into a "dumbed-down, fast-track version" lacking int.....

I suggested that trimming a 2014 game down by minutes would be the "fast-track" version. Trying to press rewind will not work when the goal is the future.

1984 was 1984. They were bitching about integrity lost from the 50's, ain't that how it works?

Nope. I sourced it in a comment and it was about games 30 years ago.

There may be a disagreement? (Over minutes, ironically.)

Where did I ever suggest otherwise?

It's in the way you look at me now. The way you just shuffle past me on the upper level concourse. They way you scoff at the guy with all the peanut shells. It's just not the same anymore. Not sense last year's ESPN NHL fantasy hockey playoffs. I just want your love back rcade. And justgary too. A little fraze is good, plus that fatma chick. It's just not the way it was anymore, let's cut out the comment section from sportsfilter in order to protect future users from all that recreation time wasted so they can recreate twice as many times!

posted by BoKnows at 06:58 PM on October 06

...the second-best viewership mark in NBC's eight seasons of broadcasting the NFL's Sunday primetime package. (The highest ever was 21.8 million, in 2010.) ...

...It was the third-most viewed season in ESPN's eight years of presenting MNF...

Those are VERY limited ranges (8 years) to make grand pronouncements of improved viewership.

Monday Night Football used to pull in twice that back in the 80s.

Just like baseball used to.

posted by grum@work at 08:31 PM on October 06

Monday Night Football used to pull in twice that back in the 80s.

Yes it did, when it was on broadcast TV. The Sunday Night Football audience shows what MNF ratings would likely be if it had not been moved to ESPN.

Those are VERY limited ranges (8 years) to make grand pronouncements of improved viewership.

They show significant viewer growth in the past decade, though, and that's something baseball is not experiencing nationally.

MLB doesn't help itself by scattering playoff games across four channels -- five if some games overlap and start on Fox Sports 2. Fans whose TV provider doesn't have MLB Network or FS2 are going to be thrilled when games are airing on those networks.

posted by rcade at 08:41 AM on October 07

MLB doesn't help itself by scattering playoff games across four channels -- five if some games overlap and start on Fox Sports 2. Fans whose TV provider doesn't have MLB Network or FS2 are going to be thrilled when games are airing on those networks.

Seriously. What is up with that crap?!

posted by bender at 10:15 AM on October 07

I think they got burned by not being specific enough with Fox in the contract; no idea how old their deal is, but I'm guessing at the time Fox maybe had FX on cable and that was it. So MLB was probably happy to agree to let Fox air games on the OTA network and use their cable channels as backups if games overlapped. Now Fox has dumped them onto channels some people don't even have. Like poor Peter King when he's in a hotel room!

Also, the rise of FS1 and 2 burns me because we only get FS1 and the interesting (to me) Champion's League game always seems to be on FS2.

posted by yerfatma at 10:49 AM on October 07

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