Rule changes bound to improve hardball habits
Major League changes should translate downward into high school, Little League timeliness
For years, people have complained that baseball games last entirely too long, and now that a pitch clock has wisely been instituted, fans already are seeing game times shortened by a full half-hour. That is a MAJOR league improvement for fans watching the games at home, although it probably doesn't really faze those who visit the local ballyard in cities across the country because they "root for the home team" at HOME for the experience, not expedience.
Nonetheless, people already are expressing gratitude for the lack of time-wasting nonsense that used to be associated with the subtle minutiae between pitcher and batter. Most fans felt that the casual walk around the mound was just as ridiculous as the habits of batters as they adjusted their goofy batting gloves – after EVERY pitch – and touched their nose and their helmets and their elbows or whatever absurd, superstitious foolishness they were up to AFTER EVERY PITCH.
The whole thing made watching a baseball game a tedious spectacle, full of commentary designed to fill in the blanks and be explained by broadcasters unwilling to bite the hands that fed them and discuss how silly it all was. Now, just as they did with the shot clock in basketball years ago, the game will be sped up by cause and not effect … and it's already better for everybody.
The NFL Network created this awesome series that features football games truncated by the removal of standing around, commercials, TV timeouts, refereeing calls, chain movements, and all the other garbage that comes with an NFL broadcast, and they can do each game in about 45 minutes. You can watch every NFL game, every week, in half a day that way. Not sure whether the NFL Network looks at that as an indictment of the length of NFL games THEMSELVES or not, but it clearly is. Nobody should have to watch ANYTHING for four hours; this is the 21st century, and torture has been removed from most modern societies.
Even with the shot clock in basketball, the final two minutes of a game last upwards of 10-15 minutes, and even that feels interminable. Perhaps there is a degree of fuddy-duddiness involved in the complaints over timeliness in sports – not to mention the 18-minute breaks between the three 20-minute periods in a hockey game – but I digress. We all are busy people with a limited capacity for nonsense.
Most people abhor change, but the baseball time-wasting alterations have been met with almost universal applause, and that behavior already translated down into the minor league dynamic – where games were cut down by more than a half-hour per contest last year when it was test-driven – and will soon be shared at your local high school diamond for certain. It's being used in some states already – with limited success – but it will become commonplace before you know it.
Baseball purists are far less impressed with the changes to "the shift" because that is tactical. Forcing infielders to stand in a certain spot is absurd and similar to when the NBA used to call penalties for the zone defense. It's not the infielders' fault that Johnny Hardball can't hit to right-field or bunt properly. I was a center-to-left, dead-pull hitter in baseball, and the second baseman invariably shaded towards behind the base in the grass when I was at the plate. And my Dad would pull me outta games and have me picking splinters if I didn't hit behind the runner (especially if we had a guy on second and were down a run) because he wanted me to learn the game. That's part of the game, but wasting time on the mound and fiddling with your silly batting gloves is not.
All that said, it’s easy to foresee a day when the pitch-clock will improve the game at every level. It was a great move and has been well-received by almost everybody, especially old-timers like me. Now if we could only get American "football" games down to the same length-of-time as FOOTBALL (or futbol) games in the rest of the world, we’d really be getting somewhere … but that’s a column for another day.
Gaylon Wm. Parker is a sportswriter from Jensen Beach, Fla., and his column appears on Mondays. These are the opinions of the columnist and not Forum Communications nor The Dickinson Press.