MLB is changing its rules to pick up the pace. But according to Nate Graziano, it's not that the games are too long; it's that we've become too damned impatient.
We have a problem with pacing in our society. And if baseball -- as I've long hypothesized -- is a microcosm and a metaphor for said society then it should come as no surprise that the pace of the game has been targeted as one of the biggest issues for fans, especially the younger demographic raised on video games and constant stimulation.
I would argue, however, that the games, now weighing in at roughly three hours, are not too long. The real problem is that people have become too damn impatient.
I went to a game at Fenway Park last season and witnessed a relatively new phenomenon that irritated me more than watching A-Rod trying to sound contrite at the press conference. During any given pitch, when I looked around Fenway Park, about half of the crowd has their collective heads buried, staring at their phones.
Now, MLB is worried that the games are too long, and the fans are tuning out. No shit. These are the same "fans" that shrivel if they have to wait more than 30 seconds for a Wifi connection. These are the same fans that live in perpetual fear of being, God forbid, bored.
So far, in order to pick up the pace, the brain thrusts at MLB have decided to start issuing fines of $500 -- at the umpire's discretion -- to batters taking both feet out of the box between pitches where they haven't swung. Also, they are experimenting with a 20-second clock between pitches in both Triple and Double A this season.
I realize the length of games have continued expand in the past 20 years, especially since more teams, like the Red Sox, have started to buy into the philosophy of Bill James and "Money Ball," working counts and drawing more walks.
But what seems to be lost here is that baseball is a pastoral game by design and one of the few sports that is played without a clock. It is meant to have a slow, methodic rhythm. The American poet Walt Whitman wrote of baseball, "It will take our people out of doors, fill them with oxygen, given them larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us of being a nervous, dyspeptic set."
Baseball, in my opinion, is the antithesis of technology and everything associated with the breakneck pace of our society.
MLB may decide to appease the anxious and impatient fan by installing pitch clocks, and who knows how the fines will work out. While it is undoubtedly shortsighted to think that there aren't some pitchers who take too much time between pitches and hitters whose rituals outside the batter's box border on absurd, baseball is still a slow game, its rhythms smooth and calming.
There are things in this world where prescribing a pace borders on sacrilege. Imagine a time clock for sex -- although dudes who are quick on the draw might not mind it. But, again, with sex the pace is everything, so leave it alone. And leave baseball alone. Learn to relax. Put away your phone, and enjoy the damn game.
This piece originally appeared in The Good Men Project.
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