Friday, October 31, 2008

Ideas to speed things up

The natural (over-) reaction when things don't go perfectly, especially post-season baseball, seems to be "tear it down and fix it". Sometimes, like the monsoon that hit Philly Monday and Tuesday this week, these things are unavoidable and equally rare. Some things, however, can be addressed and changed without meaningful impact to the game, the season, the teams, the almighty revenues.

Troy Renck from The Denver Post has a few brief ideas which do have some merit, within reason. And why he chooses to single out the Sox and Yanks is beyond me as there are plenty of teams who slow the pace.

Shorten the postseason. Eliminate off days. The quicker we get to the end of the book, the better. While you're at it, throw in a daytime World Series game so people not living in California don't have to set their alarm to see the final out.

Shorten the games. Seriously, can we start enforcing the time between at-bats, namely with the Red Sox and Yankees? These guys have routines between pitches with more gyrations than Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. If there's no consequence for those two teams, there's no way other players are going to abide by the pace-of-game rules.

Shorten the season. This has no chance of happening. But I wouldn't mind a few regularly-scheduled doubleheaders during the summer where kids get in free with a paying adult.
I agree with the 10,000 foot view of these ideas, but the devil's in the details. Here's my thoughts on these three ideas:
  • Shorten the postseason: I like the idea of reducing the off-days, particularly when there's no change in time zones between the teams. It's a 3 hour or so flight from Philly to Tampa. Does that require an extra day off?

    If they start the games at the regular season start times, which I have been saying for ages, we'd finish the games at a more reasonable time.

    Kill the 37 minute pre-game show. This isn't football. We're not breaking down film here. The show comes on at 8pm, first pitch at 8:07pm. Game on. Of course, I'd say do that an hour earlier if there is no West Coast team involved.

    The fifth game of each series will be during the day, allowing the team to fly out that night and play the NEXT day.

    Most importantly, put the power back in the hands of MLB to make changes to the scheduling. This will be fought by the networks who want everything scheduled to increase their programming viewers. It will be a hardship for those attending the games to manage the changes in start times (or even dates), as well as the field staff to get everything ready. But this can be done. Bud can't let Fox dictate everything. This might not change until the next contract negotiations, but is should be front and center in the next contract.

  • Shorten the games: The ads aren't going away; we've got to feed the engine somehow, but can they charge more per spot and just run FEWER spots? Make it a highly sought after ad space rather than flooding each break.

    Enforce the pitch clock. Keep the batters in the box.

    Restrict the catcher/pitcher conferences. We can't restrict the number of pick-off attempts as that would put the benefit too squarely in the runner's side of the ledger but after watching the 5 or so attempts that Hamels took to keep Upton close, even I was barking at the TV.

    Again, start the games at a more reasonable time.

  • Shorten the season: Agreed. Host day/night double headers so the teams can keep the gate receipts on par and double dip their parking receipts, too. I don't know if I am in favor of reducing the absolute number of games, but I'd like to see a double header once a month.

    Having the World Series potentially end (and I say potentially since we haven't seen a Game 7 in years; we haven't even seen a Game SIX since 2002!) on November 6, 2009 is preposterous.

    There isn't much to do here, but the additional double-header a month will shorten the regular season by about a week. That's worth trying.

  • Other ideas: I love this idea that I read somewhere (no idea where, otherwise I'd give the due credit), have the home team broadcasting crew announce their home games. Let the viewers hear some new voices. Considering the general disdain for Buck and McCarver that's out there, this might be fun. I'd only hope the Cubbies make it to hear their crew! And Harry Kalas must announce every starting line-up. In fact, have Kalas as the stadium announcer for every game.

    Give the Mayor's bet some teeth. The LOSER of the bet has to come to the city of the winning team --with his entire senior staff-- and help clean up AFTER THE TICKER TAPE PARADE. It combines real risk along with real shame in losing, plus it makes for a great photo op with a sitting mayor of a major city, broom in hand, cleaning the streets with his/her senior staff as the victors celebrate with the winning mayor at City Hall.

    No neutral site World Series. I riffed on this the other day and I still think a neutral site proposal has no merit. Then I thought of only one place where I'd be supportive of such an event: Las Vegas. If you hold a week-long World Series in Vegas, well, I might have to reconsider my stance. That might be an incredible party. So long as MLB compensates the cities for their lost revenues. Will still be priced out of reach for most "average" fans, though, factoring in travel, hotels, meals, "incidentals".

    No more All-Star game determining HFA.

What am I missing? What would you add?


Jeff J. Snider said...

You don't know why he singles out the Yankees and Red Sox for having long games?

Try this link

No, it's probably not because they step out of the box more than the average team (the linked article has plenty of ideas on WHY), but there's no denying that games played by the Yankees and Red Sox (and especially games between the two teams) are longer than average.

Jason @ IIATMS said...


Thanks for calling me out on that. Of course, as a Yanks fan, I know the games against the Sox are interminable sometimes. However, I don't think it's due to the players stepping out incessantly, or any moreso than other teams. It's due to the managers playing matchups from the 5th inning on.

That's a good link, though. I appreciate it.

dinologic (Dean D) said...

Forget about trying to shorten the games. You may be able to shave seconds off here and there but when it gets into the later innings, you have to let things happen as they are going to happen. Personally, I like a 4-hour game so long as it's competitive. I'm all for cutting out that extra 25 seconds in the commercial breaks and just charging advertisers a bit more for the spot. This only applies to the postseason though. I'm all for enforcing rules for the regular season. There's no point in watching a 4-hour 8-1 game in mid-June.

Earlier start time is a MUST for the postseason. Maybe they could determine start time by time zone depending on where the game is played...

Eastern: 7:30
Central: 8:00
Pacific: 8:30

All times are ET. I skipped mountain time zone because, well, we're not starting games at 9.

Playing the World Series at a neutral site is completely out of the question, IMO. Not only would it suck beyond belief for fans of say, the Cubs if they ever get to the WS, but as a caller astutely pointed out to Richard Neer last night on the FAN, many teams tailor their roster to their ballparks. And many ballparks, even the new ones, have unique features that could give the home team an advantage (short porch, green monster). So playing at a neutral site could actually affect the competitive balance of the game which is unacceptable.

Lastly, I don't see any real problem with instituting mandatory day-night doubleheaders throughout the season to shorten the number of days needed to complete 162 games. It's a win-win as far as I can tell. The teams get a full gate for both games (presumably), a day is shaved off the schedule, and fans get a full day of baseball. In fact, smaller market teams could probably incorporate a "buy one get one half price" or something to that effect and end up scoring MORE attendance than they normally would for two games. Maybe. The only drawback is the potential stress it could cause on a team's bullpen.

Just my $.02!

Jason @ IIATMS said...

We're in agreement, Dino, but the only fine tuning I'd say is get the BROADCAST to start at 7pm EST so the GAME starts before 7:30. No more of these 1/2 hour pregames.

Jeff J. Snider said...

One other thing I meant to point out: I don't think they should consider the hometowns of the teams involved when determining the start time of the games, because that disregards a) fans who have moved to different timezones, and b) fans of baseball in general whose teams aren't playing. If there's one thing MLB/Fox have done right, it's standardizing on when the games will start. The only thing they screwed up is the tiny detail of picking the right time.

If you go about the right process in making the wrong decision, does it make the decision any less wrong? Probably not.

I grew up in California, and one of my favorite things was watching 4:00 games. Even as a child, I wondered why anyone would ever watch a west coast game on the east coast -- they don't even start until 10:00 Eastern time!

One of my fondest memories is when my sixth grade teacher let us listen to the Dodgers/Mets games on the radio during the 1988 playoffs. Would it have been better to be at home watching the game? Sure. But there's gotta be some happy medium.

If MLB wants to hook the next generation of fans, they have to figure out a way to get more baseball on TV when the kids are awake.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Jeff, I know we're in agreement on that. It comes down to the Commish wresting control from the network execs.


mkd said...

When it comes to length-of-game, the big elephant in the room is the strike zone. If you really want to shorten games, liberalize the strike zone- the pace will pick up dramatically. Everything else just nibbles around the edges.

re: Home broadcasters calling games. I loath Tim McCarver as much as the next guy, but there is rampant homerism at the team-broadcaster level that I don't think is fair to inflict on opposing fans. I could possibly support bringing in the play-by-play guy from the home team and color guy from the visiting team, but the last thing we need is the two jagons who call White Sox games controlling the game story. I'm not saying all team-broadcasters are homers who couldn't call the game neutrally, I'm just saying I don't think the guys who call White Sox games could pull it off and that's reason enough to kill the idea

Eric said...

i've always thought most yankees/red sox games were long because...

A) they generally have superior offenses and score more runs than most teams.. runs = longer innings = pitching changes
B) they are both generally patient, pitch-taking machines at the plate which also extends innings