Do you remember that great movie Speed? One of the best things about it was Sandra Bullock. She played gutsy girl Annie Porter who lost her driver’s license for speeding, only to find herself behind the wheel of a 15-ton bus being ordered to speed by police officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves). She has to do this because there is a bomb on the bus that will detonate if she goes below 50mph. It’s a terrific movie, and its premise is that speed will keep you alive, and I think it can be applied to baseball and hopefully keep it from a slow, painful death.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig recently formed a committee to improve baseball, and what is one of their most important tasks? They must find a way to “speed” games from their tortoise-like pace. Selig spoke to the Associated Press Sports Editors yesterday, explaining that the committee includes former baseball great Frank Robinson, Dodger manager Joe Torre, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
You may recall that baseball umpire Joe West recently called the deliberately slow pace of the game between the Yankees and Red Sox “a disgrace.” This got a lot of coverage here in New York newspapers, mostly skewering West for daring to say anything negative about the Yankee gods of the diamond, but the truth is the truth: four-hour (or longer) games are a disgrace, especially when batters keep calling for timeout during an at bat.
Speaking as a parent, I enjoy taking my kids to a game, but there is just so much time I can expect them to be able to sit. Yes, you can get up for the bathroom breaks kids need, to get hot dogs or ice cream , but in the end if the game drags on too long, there is nothing but whining and wanting to go home. Because of this bad experience, if I do not take my kids back to a game, it is bad for me, but also it is ultimately bad for baseball if other parents make the same decision.
There are many things that slow down the game besides the batters stepping out of the box. How many times does a catcher go to the mound? What about a third base coach having to explain signs to a hitter? The pitching coach ambles to the mound to give the reliever time to warm-up. The third baseman walks over to say something to the pitcher, and then maybe the rest of the infielders join in.
This does drag out the time of the game, and this is what Selig and the panel he has assembled are going to address. The big question is how are they going to stop this? Will they give umpires like West the power to keep coaches in the dugout, deny batters a chance to step out of the box, and prevent confabs on the mound?
In the end I think it should be about what is good for baseball. What is good for it, in my opinion, is to keep the games family friendly. Four-hour or longer games simply are not good for people with kids. If I go to a 7 o’clock game with them on a school night, I do not want to be bringing them home and putting them to bed at midnight. It just doesn’t make sense to even go to the game and chance that.
Selig addressed other issues, including the length of the playoffs. This is another “time” issue, and I wonder why teams need two days off between playoff games. Selig must realize that the game is being played deeper into cold weather. The frost is not only on the pumpkin by the time World Series rolls around; it’s on the baseball too.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the Series being played in November. With calls to expand the first round of the playoff from five to seven games, do we have to worry about snow-outs in the future? If the Minnesota Twins would make it to the World Series, that could be a real possibility.
I think this is a good start, but I wonder if Selig and his panel will make any real changes that will impact games this season. The pace of the games I have been watching this year so far has been excruciatingly slow, even more so when the game is on FOX or ESPN. There seems to be a commercial whenever there is an opportunity, and the game is just losing me because I feel compelled to switch the channels; sometimes I get interested in something else and do not switch back.
What the game needs is speed. There is no question about it, so my advice is to bring in Sandra Bullock and let her step on the gas. She could give every team a pep talk like she did in The Blind Side, and I don’t know if that will help, but it sure wouldn’t hurt. Let’s get the game moving because there’s a bomb on the baseball bus and, if it keeps slowing down, people are going to want to jump off before it blows up.