This opinion piece was written by Dan Gerard, a long-time fan of major league baseball.
Major League Baseball recovered from the strike season of 1994 with the heroics of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Since that magical summer of Sosa and McGwire, baseball has been mired in suspicion about steroids and the integrity of the game. Baseball has a lot of catching up to do because the NFL is the new pastime in this country.
Here are a few things the sport could do to help its popularity with America’s sports fans.
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That is a common phrase the players use to keep their energy up for the playoff run late in the baseball season. For fans, however, the sport can stretch on and on without enough excitement to sustain their interest. Games themselves need to be shorter. It is pointed out when a game is under three hours these days. That does nothing positive for the sport.
In order to cut out 25% of your average game, these things would be the easiest to change without drastically altering the game itself. Reduce the warm-up pitches prior to each inning. The pitcher has been out there before and doesn’t need seven pitches every time out on the field. A couple of hand-thrown grounders does not help Omar Vizquel or Alex Rodriguez get ready to handle the hits of professional hitters. Cutting 30 seconds from every half inning is around 10 minutes every game.
Baseball needs to shorten the amount of time between pitches. There are over 250 pitches each game. Almost every hitter gets out of the batter’s box on each pitch. Pitchers get off the rubber and walk around. Reducing the time between pitches by even three seconds results in over 12 minutes per game.
Those two things would result in 22 minutes or more, which is 30 minutes with commercials, just by moving with more of a purpose.
In addition to games themselves being long, the season is even longer. Spring training begins when it is still winter and the World Series finishes up in October. That is far too long for the fans, the players, baseball management, television crews, everyone. Days off are seldom during the season, which is hard on the players, their families and the attention of fans.
Cutting the season by 25%, to around 120 games, would do wonders for the sport. Baseball can start later and finish earlier. The end of the season conflicts with the opening of the NFL season, which interests more fans. Start a few weeks later, end a few weeks earlier and add it more days off during the season. The players would be fresher and have longer careers, fans would be more likely to follow games longer during the season and each game would mean more — a reason why the NFL is hammering MLB in popularity right now in this country.
Just my two cents.