Yesterday, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote a piece about the nine ideas that would improve baseball — not a “fix”, but things that would help the game in one form or another. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with baseball, outside of we don’t have cheerleaders. You hear that Manfred?! We want cheerleaders! The game is nearly flawless (unless we’re talkin’ about Starlin Castro’s glove). Time has confirmed the perfection of its geometry. It ebbs and flows like a lazy summer stream, but it’s also punctuated by the violence of the bat, the improvisation and acrobatic of great defenders, and the drama of a single pitch upon which the outcome might rest. There’s no clock savin’ anyone’s ass. Yeah, there’s a clock — one of Manfred’s brain farts intended to speed up the game. Idiotic. But there’s no game clock. As Yogi said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” which can only be associated with the purest forms of sport. There’s no timer that can be manipulated — completely independent of athletic skill — to one’s advantage.
This is where I got an issue with the list in Buster’s piece. At lease item #1. I’m not finger pointing, since the list was generated with help from the Mike & Mike audience. At least it sounds like that’s the case. But that number 1 item on the list reads as follows:
Reduce the games to seven innings. A longtime executive mentioned this idea to me a couple of years ago, a dramatic change that would accelerate the adrenaline of the game and greatly reduce the time of game, something MLB has aimed for in recent seasons. You can shave the commercial time between innings or ask batters to stay in the box, but those are minor adjustments that make a small difference. This change would get the time of game closer to between two and 2 1/2 hours.
No question: Shavin’ commercial time, keepin’ batters in the box, limiting the time for mound visits … None of that makes much of a difference. BUT REDUCING GAMES TO SEVEN INNINGS?!!! Give me a friggin’ Kit Kat break. Is the goal to turn Major League ball games into Little League games? That idea reaches a point on the stupidity peak that’s never been conquered before. Congrats to whoever came up with that, and the “long time executive” Buster refers to. You guys all get the pointy hat prize.
First, is it life’s goal to make everything as frantic and abbreviated as possible? Cuz if it is, maybe we should put some kinda clock on nookie time, too. Do you get what I’m sayin’? Not everything should be measured by the same instant gratification, sound-bitten, 4-second-page-load limited brain chemistry the Internet has brought us. There are some activities in life that should be allowed to unfold instead of being ripped open and tossed aside so you can get on to hyperventilatin’ about the next item on your to-do list.
A seven inning baseball game isn’t going to “accelerate the adrenaline of the game.” Not one friggin’ iota. (Whatever an “iota” is.) The game is gonna be played at the same pace in the exact same way as it is now. Shovin’ the bottom of the 9th drama to the bottom of the 7th just shifts it ahead. It’s not gonna fundamentally change squat. It ain’t gonna make things more exciting, or add more tension, or dial up the excitement. In fact, I would argue that it does the exact opposite. If you’ve got a shorter game, you’re also gonna have fewer home runs, fewer great plays, fewer dramatic moments of every kind that people say they like. Even the pin-heads who go to games cuz they wanna see Bryce Harper flippin’ his bat, and other stupid crap like that, are gonna see 22% less of it.
Baseball isn’t a Las Vegas show girl act. It’s not somethin’ you snort. It’s not a friggin’ Taylor Swift concert. So why do we need to measure how much fun it is by tryin’ to bend it in ways that make it more like whatever else floats your boat? If you can’t sit through 9 innings, leave. Go watch your local high school. Or just go do somethin’ else entirely. But stop whining about a sport that’s been proven over 150 years to be damn near perfect just the way it is.
Of course, I could be wrong. But I’m not.
PS. And if you actually do decide to look into “helping” the game — not that it needs it — don’t forget about that cheerleader thing, Rob.