The beauty of baseball is that there is no clock or need to rush. In a world where everything needs to move fast or get out of the way, baseball asks the viewer to relax, sit down and take in something rare: a game that refuses to speed up.
Last year, the officials who decide things added a clock to enforce when pitchers came into the game from the bullpen and also when a pitching coach visited the mound. The new rule also attempted to make a pitcher throw the ball to the plate at a faster rate. Neither had a sizeable effect on the game time, and for good reason. Baseball can't move at a fast rate. It's not football or hockey. The game doesn't have halftime or make it easier to score in extra time. Baseball doesn't give a team an extra column in the standings for extra inning losses. It's an unforgiving and beautiful rendition of patience.
This year, right before spring training, there was news that the extra innings would start with a runner on second base, which was an obvious ploy for the restless crowd. This would make it easier for said runner to score and for the game to end before umpires and players got tired or fans grew restless. Frankly, it's a bad idea. Why mess with a great game? Why adapt a sport which isn't losing fans the way football is due to his mistreatment of ex-players and fans in certain cities (ahem). A team shouldn't get an advantage because nine innings were played and neither team could score more than the other. Play a few more innings, and see what happens.
Maybe I'm old fashioned, or I could just like things the way they are. I don't need robotic strike zones or the designated hitter added to the National League. I don't need a clock on every facet of the game, or more umpires. I don't need a manager to be unable to walk out to the umpire and fear he will be tossed from the game for speaking his mind. Instant replay just slowed the game down even further, and gave the money people an extra commercial break at times to cash in. Stop changing a game that is pure and just fine.
What would Bob Gibson think of today's game of frenzied adjustment? I think he would throw a ball near the rule changing boss' ear.
Here's the cold hard fact that will not change: a few rule changes aren't going to bring in a large new crowd of fans. Tweaking the game isn't going to place Major League Baseball next to the National Football League in popularity or financial earning. It simply won't happen during our lifetime. People won't stop watching because extra innings will be a little less "extra". They won't decide to flip off Real Housewives because a computer determines what is a ball or strike. That's wishful thinking at its worst. Like it or not, baseball has its lovers and haters. Changing it won't create a new fascination.
Baseball will always be a slow moving chess match of a sport; it moves at its own pace and stops when it wants. It starts with a pitcher and a catcher trying to make ends meet with a batter standing in the way of those best laid plans. A group of men behind the pitcher are ready to prevent damage, while a band of lumber holding bodies are ready to watch the levees break if the batter at the plate reaches. A team of umpires control the action, using trusted judgment to determine if a man is safe, out, or simply out of luck. It's a gentleman's game that can occasionally get out of hand.
Jackie Robinson once said, "Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead." The game has no clock, thrives on anticipation, and is a relentless 162 game journey that lasts six months and doesn't let go of the most loyal of fan.
So, let me ask you the question: why change something that is great and beloved?
The first baseball game I ever watched was with my dad when I was six years old. I was playing with toys and whatever else was in front of me, and then my dad turned a game on. I had no idea what was going on, but when I found out one team had to win and another had to lose, I was hooked. I would later find out that it could go on for hours, and all I wanted to do was watch. It was fiercely unique, and had several intricate facets that required time to master. The history was proud, if imperfect, but the players were legit.
Unless weather interrupts, a team needs to collect 27 outs before a game reaches its conclusion. There's no way out, and there's no limit. There are no extra advantages or shortcuts. Why change?
Let the batters take all the time they want in the box. Let the pitcher circle the mound and look desperately human. Let human beings call balls and strikes. Leave the game alone, because it's doing just fine.
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