MLB committee to meet to discuss plan to shorten games

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Here’s guessing that the committee to meet on the length of Major League baseball games will be in session for longer than three hours.

Rob Manfred hasn’t even taken over as the new commissioner of baseball – that’s not scheduled to happen until January when Bud Selig retires – and he’s already been asked to serve by Selig on a body that will examine one of the sport’s issues.

As the 2014 regular season approaches its conclusion, it was noted that the average length of a game has extended to three hours and three minutes. When Hollywood used to make movies that long (think “Lawrence Of Arabia”) directors scheduled an intermission to go buy popcorn, hit the bathroom and listen to orchestra music.

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It is not merely a general impression that big-league games have become longer and longer. According to the Associated Press the average length of a game in 1981 was two hours and 33 minutes. That is a half hour shorter than they are now. Also, as we all know, post-season games take even longer. Three hours is nothing for a playoff game. If you hunker down in front of the TV set to watch a playoff or World Series game you must figure on a four-hour time investment.

The announcement of the creation of the committee took place Monday and was an acknowledgment by Selig on his way to retirement that this was one problem he had not solved in his 22-year tenure as boss of the sport.

Among those who will serve on the committee to figure out how to shorten games are Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, who is the chairman, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, Red Sox part-owner Michael Gordon, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, players’ association head Tony Clark, and Manfred.

No fan input

No member of the viewing public was invited to participate, but any fan in any ball park could throw in the same two bits worth because they all see the same things. These are reasons why games go on so long: Pitchers fiddle around on the mound too long between tosses; hitters step in and out of the batter’s box constantly fidgeting with wrist bands and batting helmets; and managers run so many pitchers into the game from the bullpen that heaps of time is spent warming them up.

Those three things have got to account for the half hour a game in length added over the last 33 years. Oh yeah, how much time is spent cutting away for commercials may or may not be a factor. OK, however much the commercial time is involved, the committee is probably not going to be talking about that. All revenue is welcome and needed with the high cost of player salaries.

On the frequent pitcher front it’s tough to set rules that will prohibit a manager from making the move to a new pitcher if he believes that gives his team a better chance to win. It may be annoying to watch managers play chess by subbing in relievers one batter at a time, but we may be stuck with that.

Wasted time

The easiest thing for the committee to deal with is the time being wasted on the mound and in the batter’s box. A recommendation is likely to be made to cap the amount of time a pitcher has to throw the next pitch once he receives the ball back from his catcher. However, if a one-way ruling is made, hurrying up the pitcher, the throwers will squawk.

So there are likely to be companion recommendations putting a limit on pitchers’ delays and hitters’ delays. The committee will probably cap the amount of times a batter can jump in and out of the box once he steps up to hit. Obviously, if a rule is made to speed up the batter, but not the pitcher, the batsmen will complain.

Odds are that after the committee meets it will produce at least two speed-up recommendations, one aimed at pitchers and one aimed at batters.

Each of them will carry the same objective: Play ball!

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