In theory, a baseball game could last forever. In fact, it is one of the features of the sport that lures many of us in as fans……….games never end in a tie. They may be suspended and then resumed…….but they are always decided with a winner and a loser. This is possible because baseball is the only major professional sport played without the rigid control of a clock. Until recently, that is……….
According to Baseball Reference, the longest game ever played in the majors ended on the 753rd pitch of the contest in the 25th inning of a game played in 1984 between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. The game ended a little more than eight hours after the first pitch was thrown.
Now even for baseball purists, that might be a bit too long to sit in a seat…….especially when all the hot dogs, peanuts, and beer have been exhausted. But, that’s not the point here and it should not be the focus of MLB to reduce the overall time of games played.
And here’s why….
On a typical NFL Sunday, “doubleheaders” are scheduled to begin at 1pm and 4:30. A sixty minute game as ruled by a clock takes three hours to play. No one seems to mind even though two hours are spent on TV time outs (commercials), regularly scheduled commercials, huddles following a incompleted pass, etc……….while there is zero ACTION on the field.
And yet, there seems to be an obsession on the part of MLB to reduce the number of nine inning games that take more than three hours to play…..when they really should be focusing on “dead time” and not the overall time it takes to complete a ballgame.
As I recall, baseball did (in fact) reduce the time of games to under three hours in 2015 (2:57 I think). That’s good . We all lead fast paced lives and if we can get home in time to watch Jimmy Fallon after attending a game………..that’s wonderful.
But what’s being overlooked by MLB is the power of the umpires to control the pace of the game. How long, for example, should it take a pitching coach (No, you trot to the mound and not stroll out there) to tell a pitcher to throw four wide ones and then a reliever is coming in?
And when the pitcher toes the rubber, why can’t the umpire tell the batter, “You’ve got three seconds to get in the box or I’m gonna start calling strikes.” Why is that dreadful clock needed to control any of this?
Umpires make judgment calls every game they work. So if a batter has just been given some “chin music”, of course he gets some adjustment time. But if it’s David Ortiz going through his “Hey,look at me ” routine then that should be handled differently.
There’s never been a clock in baseball…..let’s keep it that way.