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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Baseball Games Are Still Too Long—and Getting Longer

The extreme game length that caused this overlap and prevented fans from devoting full attention to both crucial contests is not an aberration, however, but the new postseason norm. The average playoff game this postseason has lasted a gobsmacking three hours and 42 minutes.

Remove the 13-inning, five-hour-and-14-minute battle between the Red Sox and Rays, and the average for nine-inning contests is still an absurd 3:38, the highest ever. This graph shows how the average nine-inning playoff game length has changed since 1969, the first season with intraleague playoffs before the World Series.

Game length has almost always increased, but now that increase is accelerating, too. From 1991 to 2001, the average playoff game increased by eight minutes. From 2001 to 2011, the average playoff game increased by six minutes. But from 2011 to 2021, the average playoff game has increased by 22 minutes. And that’s probably an undercount because the 2021 playoff data doesn’t include the World Series yet, and those games tend to last the longest of any round.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:12 AM | 110 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pace of play

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   1. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:38 AM (#6047738)
There needs to be a culture change. Everyone in the sport doesn't give a #### if it takes forever. Many of them want it to take forever.
   2. Brian C Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:51 AM (#6047743)
Yesterday really takes the cake - two pretty routine 9-inning games that both went over 4 hours. I mean, both games had a fair amount of baserunners, but nothing close to 4 hours' worth. That's just a completely ridiculous thing to happen.
   3. bunyon Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:56 AM (#6047744)
Many of them want it to take forever.

I don't think this is completely fair. What they've learned is that their performance is better if they take their time. Pitchers get more of a blow between pitches. Hitters get to focus. Rushing turns out to be bad for both pitching and hitting.

Between innings, more ads sell with longer breaks. Ads can be inserted between batters. More money for everyone.


I don't know how to combat those forces. I'm sure everyone involved would like to make the same amount of money with the same performance in a two hour game. What is needed is some sort of force that overpowers the money and the performance gain. Ultimately, that would have to come from the paying audience. As long as people buy tickets at the rate they are (doesn't seem likely to change all that soon) and watch TV at a sustainable rate (this seems more likely to change), no one really has any motivation to change behavior on the field. Hurt the owners' bottom line and they would institute rules to actually speed up the game (as opposed to the PR we've gotten so far). Absent that, nothing will change.

ETA: I desperately want it to change. The pace of play is appalling. I would like nothing better than to watch every playoff game beginning to end. I don't have the time or stamina. I just don't see the necessary motivations to make the people who need to change change.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:58 AM (#6047745)
Rushing turns out to be bad for both pitching and hitting.


How do we convince them that isn't possible.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:01 AM (#6047746)
But it's shocking that baseball games are still running longer given the powers that be have tried absolutely nothing to fix the problem.
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:01 AM (#6047747)
Whoops, double.
   7. McCoy Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:07 AM (#6047748)
I missed the pivotal 10th inning lead change for the Cubs in the 2016 WS because by that point the game had been going for 4 hours, it was after midnight, and I had to get up and go to work in like 5 hours. Plus they went into an indefinite rain delay. Sucks that these games take forever.

I don't even watch live baseball anymore.
   8. bunyon Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6047750)

How do we convince them that isn't possible.


I get what you're saying and, yes, it's zero sum. But players want to feel like they did their best even if they get beat. Rushing pitches, feeling like you're getting quick pitched (which, if you've grown up stepping out and adjusting between every pitch, it would feel like) feels bad to them. So they don't do it because there is no penalty.

The biggest place to easily recoup time is the time between innings. A minute should be enough. Right now, that would get ~35-40 minutes back on game time. But it would cost a fortune.

The only people who really want a faster pace and less downtime are the audience. And we evidently don't care enough to stop paying. Or to stop paying enough that the decision makers change.
   9. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6047751)
Part of the problem with the game length is the late start. An 8PM start means you know you aren't getting a game that ends meaningfully before midnight. If you don't have a rooting interest or aren't a massive baseball fan then it's going to be tough to be motivated to start watching a game knowing that you are likely going to want to go to bed before it ends. I get east coast/west coast concerns but even a 7PM eastern start puts the end of the game in or close to prime time on the west coast
   10. McCoy Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:13 AM (#6047752)
Thing is people aren't really tuning in. MLB got to ride a bubble of RSN money being sloshed around. People have been expecting that bubble to burst for years. When it does MLB is gonna be in trouble. . .until the next bunch of idiots with cash come along and throw money at them.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:14 AM (#6047753)
I get what you're saying and, yes, it's zero sum. But players want to feel like they did their best even if they get beat. Rushing pitches, feeling like you're getting quick pitched (which, if you've grown up stepping out and adjusting between every pitch, it would feel like) feels bad to them. So they don't do it because there is no penalty.


I know how they feel, but it's obviously just not true, and we need to convince them that if they're being forced to hurry it up, so is the pitcher (or vice versa). All they're doing is adding length to their work day for no extra dough.

   12. McCoy Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:16 AM (#6047754)
Except the guy who does take his time performs better and gets paid more.
   13. bunyon Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:18 AM (#6047756)
But "we" aren't in position to have any influence on them other than tuning out. And I'd be rich if I had a nickel for any time someone suggested changing anything with a rational explanation. They're much more likely to go with their gut and their gut says they have a better chance slowing things down (it's preached from little league up).


McCoy, yeah, that's what I mean. If the TV money evaporates because no one watches, they'll try to get viewers back. I'm skeptical that will be easy. A lot of us watch baseball because we grew up watching/playing the game. If you go a generation or two without that being true, you're unlikely to scrabble back. That worry should motivate the owners to make a more viewable game, but it doesn't seem to have.
   14. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:26 AM (#6047761)
I've said this before and I'll say it again....yes baseball games are a little too long, but POSTSEASON games are WAY too long for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball. Each commercial break is longer than a regular game, and since you have like 18-20 of those per game that alone accounts for what should be a 3:20 game being a 4+ hour game.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:27 AM (#6047764)
The biggest place to easily recoup time is the time between innings. A minute should be enough. Right now, that would get ~35-40 minutes back on game time. But it would cost a fortune.

How is it easier to forfeit a billion dollars or so in revenue than to just make the players play the game the way everyone plays it outside of MLB?

I'm sure none of these guys played four hour games when they were in HS and College and A. They know how to play faster. Just make them.

All it will take is a 15 second, pitch clock, a "no stepping out rule" and a few dozen automatic balls and strikes call to get everyone in line. Ruthlessly enforce the rules starting next Spring Training, and everything will fall in line.

Hell, offer the umpires a $100,000 seasonable bonus each if average game time for their crew is under 2:45. They'll enforce the new rules.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:35 AM (#6047766)

Except the guy who does take his time performs better and gets paid more.


No, he doesn't. Because if the guy pitching is taking longer, then the batter is too. It stands to reason that taking more time today's one-inning, throw every pitch at max effort guy does benefit from more time between pitches, but in that case it's most definitely hurting the batter.

I agree that batters and pitchers have both convinced themselves they do better by taking more time. But they can't both be right.

   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:42 AM (#6047768)

Part of the problem with the game length is the late start. An 8PM start means you know you aren't getting a game that ends meaningfully before midnight. If you don't have a rooting interest or aren't a massive baseball fan then it's going to be tough to be motivated to start watching a game knowing that you are likely going to want to go to bed before it ends. I get east coast/west coast concerns but even a 7PM eastern start puts the end of the game in or close to prime time on the west coast


That's the same time the NBA Finals and college football championship start though. The problem is that it takes til midnight, not that it starts at 8 (for only people on the east coast).


I've said this before and I'll say it again....yes baseball games are a little too long, but POSTSEASON games are WAY too long for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball. Each commercial break is longer than a regular game, and since you have like 18-20 of those per game that alone accounts for what should be a 3:20 game being a 4+ hour game.


I can't remember which game it was, but it seems like they ran out of commercials at one point. They stayed on the game during two pitching changes, and it seemed like Ron Darling had to just fill time.
   18. sanny manguillen Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:52 AM (#6047771)
It's not the length, it's the dead time. Let each on-deck circle flip over to become an aria circle. While the pitcher is psyching up, let the team's designated tenor sing an excerpt from the standard repertoire that captures the essence of the upcoming delivery.
   19. bunyon Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:59 AM (#6047774)
How is it easier to forfeit a billion dollars or so in revenue than to just make the players play the game the way everyone plays it outside of MLB?

Where are they forfeiting revenue? Fewer ads (shorter breaks) means less money. They are making money during those overlong breaks (the breaks are too long, in a baseball sense, even in the regular season). I get the supposition that more people would watch if the games were shorter but I've not seen any evidence of it.

MLB is rolling in money at the moment. I can understand why they don't see a pressing need to change anything. That might change, sure.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 12:08 PM (#6047775)
Where are they forfeiting revenue? Fewer ads (shorter breaks) means less money. They are making money during those overlong breaks (the breaks are too long, in a baseball sense, even in the regular season). I get the supposition that more people would watch if the games were shorter but I've not seen any evidence of it.


You're misunderstanding him. He's saying they'd forfeit revenue by making the between-innings breaks shorter, so they obviously have no incentive to do so. They lose nothing by making the participants shorten the between-pitch time the way the game is played at lower levels (though some of those delays have crept down, as expected).

   21. bunyon Posted: October 20, 2021 at 12:16 PM (#6047778)
SoSH, got it. Thanks. Snapper, sorry.
   22. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 12:42 PM (#6047783)
Ads can be inserted between batters. More money for everyone.

And now that MLB is all smitten with milking in-game gambling, the time between pitches for them is a feature, not a bug. Now that gamblers are their target demographic, they should want 5 and 6 hour games to keep the rubes gamers at the table. Just like how there are no clocks visible in casinos because they don't want you keeping track of time while you're handing them your money.
   23. tonywagner Posted: October 20, 2021 at 12:43 PM (#6047785)
They lose nothing by making the participants shorten the between-pitch time

In-stadium revenue? Do longer games producer more revenue from beer, food, and merchandise sales?
   24. . Posted: October 20, 2021 at 12:52 PM (#6047787)
As a golfer of somewhat ok renown, I can certainly testify that forcing people to "rush" a routine they've been doing essentially their entire athletic life is basically a non-starter. Obviously I want baseball games to take way less time -- baseball has basically become lost to me now and that's bad -- but the "just make them play faster" crowd is massively underestimating the power of sports psychology and routine in all this. ####, on the golf course, I start getting pissed off and mentally out of sorts even when the pace-keeping marshals do that passive-aggressive thing where they kind of follow your group in their carts to hint-hint to you that your group is moving too slowly. To tell the best 1000 hitters in the world that they have to cut their prep time in half, in exchange for nothing discernible? Non-starter. Why would you ever risk the millions of dollars your routine has helped you earn?

And now the sport has been intellectualized and turned into a math problem and intellectual types seem to lack the internal guardrails and norms and synapses that signal to more normal people when a project or an endeavor in which they're engaged has started to suck tailpipe badly.

Add in gambling, and the mallparks that make more money when people drift around aimlessly consuming for longer periods of time and honestly I don't see any way out. We've been kicking this one around on here now for years and the problem is getting worse, with still no end in sight. There's no reason to think 2022 and 2023 won't see things worsen. Add in the fact that the ball isn't put into play as much anymore and the players stand around a lot more than they used to and it's basically just glorified home run derby now and you basically have a non-watchable product.

   25. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 01:01 PM (#6047790)
I start getting pissed off and mentally out of sorts even when the pace-keeping marshals do that passive-aggressive thing where they kind of follow your group in their carts to hint-hint to you that your group is moving too slowly.


Hit the damn ball.

   26. . Posted: October 20, 2021 at 01:07 PM (#6047794)
Tennis put in a 25 second serve clock in 2018 and the typical tennis point takes way more out of a player than the typical pitch and certainly the typical swing at a pitch. That's probably the best precedent if people actually want to cite athletic precedent to try to get change. While obviously there's probably a positive amount of recovery between, say, 7 and 10 seconds, eventually you're recovered and there's no more recovery to get and after that you're just wasting time. That point is probably around 18-20 seconds, going by tennis. After that, it's basically channeling Tie Webb from Caddyshack -- pitchers and hitters bullshit psyching themselves up to "be the ball" and whatnot.
   27. . Posted: October 20, 2021 at 01:11 PM (#6047797)
And of course as fans, we shouldn't give a #### if the pitcher and hitter are "fully recovered." I frankly don't want a clod like Joey Gallo to be fully rested enough that he feels like he can just oafishly flail at every pitch. Better that he's "tired" and just tries to make contact.
   28. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 20, 2021 at 01:14 PM (#6047798)
To tell the best 1000 hitters in the world that they have to cut their prep time in half, in exchange for nothing discernible? Non-starter.
Only if you for some reason concede that you have to have their permission to do so. Which, sadly, is what Manfred has done.
   29. . Posted: October 20, 2021 at 01:17 PM (#6047799)
Oh, don't get me wrong -- I think imposing a 20 second clock would be awesome. I just have no optimism that it will ever really be done and am trying to explain the reasons. As fans, we have no interest in "rested and prepared" players -- in many ways, the exact opposite -- and I think the recovery time ends sometime around 15-20 seconds anyway. If a pitcher is so mechanically and athletically inefficient that he needs 30 seconds to fully recover from throwing a pitch, he should be weeded out anyway.
   30. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 20, 2021 at 02:26 PM (#6047815)
Related to this discussion ... slowball driving decrease in viewership ...

I was at the gym on Saturday, about a dozen blocks from the Juice Box in downtown Houston. The game was not on the tv at the gym. I think it was on FS1, but unlike the networks, ESPN 1 & 2, NBCSN, and the local RSN, FSN is not on all cable packages -- hell, I'd need to look it up to know what the channel is.
So I had my choice of 5-6 NCAA games, two stock car races, and golf. But no home team in the LCS.
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 02:37 PM (#6047818)
Oh, don't get me wrong -- I think imposing a 20 second clock would be awesome. I just have no optimism that it will ever really be done and am trying to explain the reasons.

A 12-second clock, when no one is on base, is already on the books. All the league has to do is have the guts to tell the umps to enforce it.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 02:40 PM (#6047820)
I start getting pissed off and mentally out of sorts even when the pace-keeping marshals do that passive-aggressive thing where they kind of follow your group in their carts to hint-hint to you that your group is moving too slowly.


Hit the damn ball.

Agree 100% with SoSH. ######## with long pre-shot routines ruin golf for everyone. A round of golf should never take more than 4 hours.

Marshals should absolutely be up your ass for playing slow. At good courses they make you skip a hole if you fall 15 minutes behind pace (usually a 4:30 rd).
   33. Karl from NY Posted: October 20, 2021 at 03:22 PM (#6047833)
How do we convince them that isn't possible.

Thing is, it is possible - because dragging out the time helps both pitching and hitting at different points in the sequence.

The hitter performs better if he takes time to wander around, re-tighten his gloves, mentally replay the pitch sequence, whatever else he's doing before he steps in the box to be ready.

Then once the hitter is ready, the pitcher performs better if he also stalls until the hitter is getting jumpy and impatient and losing focus with his timing upset.

That's how both sides want to stall - the hitter stalls before he's ready, then the pitcher stalls until he's past peak readiness.

(Of course I don't know for a guarantee and can't prove this is happening, just advancing a plausible hypothesis.)
   34. Karl from NY Posted: October 20, 2021 at 03:24 PM (#6047837)
Hell, offer the umpires a $100,000 seasonable bonus each if average game time for their crew is under 2:45.

This seems like a great way to get them to call any borderline two-strike pitch a strike and every close baserunning call an out.

Hell, you even run the risk of an ump colluding to pay off a player for intentionally getting his team out faster.
   35. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 20, 2021 at 03:27 PM (#6047839)
Hit the damn ball.

Agree 100% with SoSH. ######## with long pre-shot routines ruin golf for everyone. A round of golf should never take more than 4 hours.

Also agree 100%, but you guys haven't lived until you've watched some pro pool events where it takes some players 5 or more minutes just to rack the goddam balls, with no clock to enforce any time limit.
   36. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 20, 2021 at 04:26 PM (#6047857)
I start getting pissed off and mentally out of sorts even when the pace-keeping marshals do that passive-aggressive thing where they kind of follow your group in their carts to hint-hint to you that your group is moving too slowly.

A slow player, and no ability to play under the tiniest, TINIEST smidgen of pressure. what a surprise. A five dollar bet would probably kill you. But you talk a big game on the internet.

   37. Jay Seaver Posted: October 20, 2021 at 04:30 PM (#6047859)
Rushing turns out to be bad for both pitching and hitting.

How do we convince them that isn't possible.


The at-bat itself is zero-sum, but if both hitters and pitchers taking more time helps each perform better, then they're each going to do it, even if the net effect is that the improvements in performance cancel out. Or, I suppose, they counteract each other, but the end result is going to be X% better for whoever comes out on top - more strikeouts for the pitcher, harder-hit balls so the hitter gets more extra-base hits. And these guys are professional athletes, selected by years of attrition to believe that they can better than the other guy, so that even if this dance helps the pitcher, the hitter thinks it can help them more, and vice versa, until something shows that it's clearly lopsided. Without that, there's nobody playing the game who has a motivation to demand the league clamp down on it, and since the teams have a whole bunch of investments in personnel made under the assumption that players can do their max-effort thing, none of them individually are going to press for speeding it up.


This is the sort of thing Theo Epstein is supposed to be working on, and probably the best hope for some change is for him to write up a report and make sure it gets leaked far and wide, so that there winds up with steroids-type pressure on the league to act on it.
   38. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 20, 2021 at 04:30 PM (#6047860)
you guys haven't lived until you've watched some pro pool events where it takes some players 5 or more minutes just to rack the goddam balls, with no clock to enforce any time limit.
If the other players having large sticks in their hands isn't enough for them to enforce a time limit, that's on them.
   39. Greg Pope Posted: October 20, 2021 at 04:35 PM (#6047861)
Like any other game-theoryish situation, you have to separate out the actors from the moderators. No batter is going to give up the extra time that all the the other batters are getting. And no pitcher will, either. No team is going to give up the ad revenue today in order to build a fan base for 20 years from now. It has to be up to the MLB organization to say what's good for the long term health of the game. They need to say, "Look, we're losing the younger viewers because the game is perceived as boring. We need to speed up the action so that we have a robust game for many years to come."

I mean, it's the same with the TTO. No team is going to voluntarily run out a sub-optimal strategy. There's no benefit to them. But if MLB thinks there's a problem with the style of play, it's their responsibility to act.
   40. SoSH U at work Posted: October 20, 2021 at 04:36 PM (#6047862)
The at-bat itself is zero-sum, but if both hitters and pitchers taking more time helps each perform better, then they're each going to do it, even if the net effect is that the improvements in performance cancel out.


I have no doubt they sincerely believe it, and convincing them otherwise is nigh impossible. They're just wrong (well, at least one participant in each at bat is).

My guess is the delay is more likely to help the pitcher, particularly in the throw every pitch at max effort era. But it can't actually help both get better outcomes.
   41. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 20, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6047874)
There needs to be a culture change. Everyone in the sport doesn't give a #### if it takes forever. Many of them want it to take forever.


As others have pointed out, this is a game-theory problem. Individually a batter cannot force things to go faster, but he can force things to go slower. So the optimal strategy is probably for him to take as much time as he is possibly comfortable with. Similarly a pitcher cannot realistically force things to go faster, because he has to wait for the batter to get into the box. And if he is pitching max effort, it makes sense for him to take a breather between pitches anyhow. Jim Kaat, of course, was famous for his quick-pitches, but the effectiveness of this was limited because he had to wait for the batter.

When baseball was being invented, as Bill James has said, there was a natural clock - the sun. I remember this being a big deal in Little League because we didn't have any lights, so we had to move the game along to get them over with - and on the weekends there was another game scheduled right after ours, so if we dilly-dallied the actual clock would run out. There was a lot of peer pressure from both teams to move the game along, since if we didn't we might have to end the game early - not only would the losing team not have a chance to come back, but people would lose precious at-bats and innings-pitched.

One change that might help would be to give both the batters and pitchers some control over not only slowing things down, but speeding things up. For the pitchers, that would be simply a rule change that they don't have to wait for the batter to be in the box, and if the ball goes over the plate in the zone with the batter out of the box it's a strike. Now for the batter, I am not sure what the correct solution would be, but I have thought of a timing idea - if the batter takes something like N (4? 6?) practice swings in the box without the pitcher beginning his motion, the pitcher gets charged a ball - in this case the batter can DEMAND the pitcher speed up - much more organic than a pitch-clock, which has so many issues with enforcement.

If these two changes were implemented, the pitcher and batter would suddenly have a REASON to work fast - because if they could, they could get an advantage - the batter keeps the pitcher from fully recharging after a max-effort pitch, and the pitcher keeps the batter from "clearing his mind" after the last pitch. In a pleasing after-development, pitchers may be able to pitch longer because they won't be throwing 100 mph every pitch, and batters may be able to get more hits through the infield since fielders will have less time to re-position. Batters, of course, are swinging max-effort as well, so this may cut down on that as well, and again make TTO-based hitting strategies less tenable.
   42. . Posted: October 20, 2021 at 05:18 PM (#6047877)
Agree 100% with SoSH. ######## with long pre-shot routines ruin golf for everyone. A round of golf should never take more than 4 hours.

Marshals should absolutely be up your ass for playing slow. At good courses they make you skip a hole if you fall 15 minutes behind pace (usually a 4:30 rd).


There seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding, so I should have been more clear. The critical fact isn't the speed of the routine -- mine is not slow -- but the existence of the routine. Tell anyone, no matter how slow or fast, that they'll now have only half the time they used to have for their routine, and there will be pushback. The golf cart techeyness I mentioned wasn't meant to demonstrate slowness, but depth of commitment to routine. The idea behind all of it is that the routine before you pitch/swing is as much a part of the pitch/swing as the actual movement. The entire thing, not just the actual movement, is to be repeated and then the actual movement is just the last "part" of a routine you've repeated thousands of times already. Upset the pre-movement part and you've effectively upset the movement part, too. That's why there's the commitment to the entire thing. Same thing with like a free throw routine in basketball. Three dribbles every time, not two sometimes, one other times, five other times.

If people really want the clock and really want to try to get the clock implemented, they'll talk about the tennis clock. Tennis points take more out of players than a pitch or a swing and yet somehow the players "recover" within 25 seconds. That's the argument.
   43. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 20, 2021 at 05:28 PM (#6047878)
For the pitchers, that would be simply a rule change that they don't have to wait for the batter to be in the box, and if the ball goes over the plate in the zone with the batter out of the box it's a strike.


This is my favorite solution to the problem: As soon as the batter takes his position in the box at the beginning of an at-bat, the pitcher may throw a pitch at any time until the batter makes contact with the ball (which means the whole thing would reset after a foul ball). Pair that with the pitch clock that is already supposedly part of the rules, and you've limited the amount of time that can be taken on both sides.
   44. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 06:07 PM (#6047893)
There seems to have been a bit of a misunderstanding, so I should have been more clear. The critical fact isn't the speed of the routine -- mine is not slow -- but the existence of the routine.

My opinion is people psyche themselves out by thinking that the routine matters; it very likely doesn't. If you convince yourself that voodoo or hypnosis works, it may well work on you. You should avoid that trap.
   45. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 20, 2021 at 06:10 PM (#6047895)
My opinion is people psyche themselves out by thinking that the routine matters
Plus there's an entire mental-skills industry that depends on reinforcing that premise.
   46. . Posted: October 20, 2021 at 06:41 PM (#6047907)
Plus there's an entire mental-skills industry that depends on reinforcing that premise.


An industry that shows no signs of receding, much less going away.

To be technically accurate, the point of the routine (at least in theory) is to make it so you're actually consciously thinking as little as possible. Thinking is deemed to be contrary to top performance. I do believe in that premise, at least in golf. The mental skills types and the books and the rest talk about getting "in the zone" mentally, and the zone is essentially a place in which you're free of thoughts. If you accept that, it means you basically want to turn yourself into an autopilot robot and the only way the autopilot part works is if there's a routine. It's basically programming the robot in advance.

Like a lot of these things, there's some insight and truth in all of this, and probably some bullshit. But the mental skills people and this philosophy are here to stay. The only way it would really have a chance to go away is if you took the money out of the sport that winds up going into their pockets and turning the players back into the kind of dudes who have to get jobs in the hardware store in the offseason and good luck with that.
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 07:02 PM (#6047920)
An industry that shows no signs of receding, much less going away.

Well, there are still plenty of psychotherapists taking people's money decades after Freud was debunked as a complete fraud.
   48. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 20, 2021 at 07:49 PM (#6047930)
Pair that with the pitch clock that is already supposedly part of the rules, and you've limited the amount of time that can be taken on both sides.


I think there was some success in the low minors with a 15-second pitch clock last year. But I'd really like some league (Atlantic League, do you hear me) to try something less artificial than the pitch clock, something where the batter can "force" the pitcher to work fast. That would create an interesting additional dynamic to the batter-pitcher confrontation.
   49. Jose Canusee Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:19 PM (#6047981)
There were some early comments that long commercial breaks pay and everyone makes money off long games. There just isn't an alternate universe we can communicate with where they sped up the game and charged more for those ads behind home plate that the viewer subconsciously watch more of than the muted mid-inning traditional ad spots. TV could probably find ways to mask out fans in the stands with revenue product placement for different viewers (e.g. car dealer in the specific market) that they can't do on the billboard behind home plate. And maybe young people would watch entire games and not postgame highlights and buy tickets when they are old enough.
Chess is a game where both players usually do better by taking longer. But unable to travel during the pandemic, many grandmasters did better earning money from live online blitz tournaments with participants getting paid from revenue from online watchers than the old days of traveling to a location and people looking the next day at the results. I can't imagine anything akin to that radical change for baseball, but there would probably be ways to get similar money if not more in a three hour game.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 20, 2021 at 10:42 PM (#6047992)
you guys haven't lived until you've watched some pro pool events where it takes some players 5 or more minutes just to rack the goddam balls, with no clock to enforce any time limit.

If the other players having large sticks in their hands isn't enough for them to enforce a time limit, that's on them.


The only problem is that these days many of those large sticks go for a thousand dollars or more. A laser beam pointer would be more cost-efficient.
   51. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:03 PM (#6047998)
An industry that shows no signs of receding, much less going away


Attendance has been going down, ratings have been going down, there are many parts of the country where baseball/softball is a niche sport at best (San Francisco Bay Area, where the Oakland A's had trouble attracting more than 5,000 people to games featuring teams other than the Giants or Yankees, or say all of Florida).

Baseball's strength (in comparison to football) has always been people going to the games, and they really need that to work because they play every day, but now because of all the down time it is becoming harder to watch even when you are there.

There is this strategy of soaking your bought-in customers, trying to extract every last penny from them before you close up shop. Essentially, that was what boxing did (subconsciously) when it moved to all the big fights being pay-per-view - the result was big paydays for the top fighters for a few years, but an industry as a whole that died on the vine. Baseball has a choice - either change, or hang onto your core customers and soak them for all they've got. I can see movement in both directions, but the inability to even enforce the measly pitch clock that they instituted a while back doesn't give me great confidence.
   52. Howie Menckel Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:05 PM (#6047999)
Thinking is deemed to be contrary to top performance. I do believe in that premise, at least in golf.


hence the old chestnut "beware the wounded golfer" or "ill golfer."

point being that their non-swing focus is on an externality that is not usually relevant to overthinking. the "excess" thinking goes to hanging in there, basically, which often is better than having mental bandwidth to think about getting the two-year exemption or the million dollars or the trophy (and/or the trophy spouse) if you win.
   53. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:17 PM (#6048008)
Attendance has been going down, ratings have been going down, there are many parts of the country where baseball/softball is a niche sport at best (San Francisco Bay Area, where the Oakland A's had trouble attracting more than 5,000 people to games featuring teams other than the Giants or Yankees, or say all of Florida).

Baseball's strength (in comparison to football) has always been people going to the games, and they really need that to work because they play every day, but now because of all the down time it is becoming harder to watch even when you are there.

There is this strategy of soaking your bought-in customers, trying to extract every last penny from them before you close up shop. Essentially, that was what boxing did (subconsciously) when it moved to all the big fights being pay-per-view - the result was big paydays for the top fighters for a few years, but an industry as a whole that died on the vine. Baseball has a choice - either change, or hang onto your core customers and soak them for all they've got. I can see movement in both directions, but the inability to even enforce the measly pitch clock that they instituted a while back doesn't give me great confidence.


#51 - totally agree. If I hadn't grown up with the game and fallen its love with its history and its rivalries, I doubt if I'd ever become newly attracted to it today, even though the talent level is at an all time high.
   54. bunyon Posted: October 20, 2021 at 11:36 PM (#6048013)
Also agree. But, if you’re over 55, the balance of short term profit vs long term health leans heavily toward profit. And the key players making mlb decisions are older.
   55. Howie Menckel Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:23 AM (#6048018)
There is this strategy of soaking your bought-in customers, trying to extract every last penny from them before you close up shop.

but enough about the newspaper industry - let's get back to baseball !
   56. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:30 AM (#6048019)
Baseball has a choice - either change, or hang onto your core customers and soak them for all they've got.

The existence of Official Gaming Partners of Major League Baseball™ are a clear sign that "change" isn't on the agenda.
   57. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:11 AM (#6048022)
Has anyone done a study of the time between pitches and the speed of pitches? Cant help suspect there is a correlation there.
   58. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 08:26 AM (#6048029)
Yeah, every ten seconds you wait, you get 0.1mph or something. And 5 hour playoff games.
   59. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 21, 2021 at 08:49 AM (#6048032)
1) A 4+-hour game may be tough to watch (I agree), but to the players, this is their job. I have never heard a player say that they wish the games were faster, or that they get bored out there. I mean, during the regular season, if you are a starting pitcher, 4 out of 5 games, you are just sitting in the dugout the whole night, watching these long games. If anybody would be getting bored, it would be them...and they never complain, either. It is a little bit like the avid golfer - if you are a slow golfer, you probably aren't thinking, "Man, this round is taking forever." You are simply playing at the pace you find comfortable or enjoyable. So the change is never going to come from within - it can only be imposed on the players via changes in the rules, with sticks and carrots (mainly sticks, probably).

2) I am a huge Red Sox fan, and I am struggling to stay up for these games this week. If my team was not in the playoffs right now, I just don't think I would get past about the 5th inning most nights. My wife was joking (but not really joking) that when the Red Sox make a deep playoff run, she knows that there is going to be this 2+ week stretch where I (and some of her coworkers who are fellow diehard fans) are going to running at about 75% capacity during the day, because we are so trashed from several nights of 5 1/2 hours of sleep. It's not just an off-day for the Red Sox on Thursday - it's an off-day for me, too! There is no way I'm watching the Braves-Dodgers game tonight...I'm going to bed! I mean, is there anybody who isn't a fan of the four remaining teams who is watching these games, end-to-end? No way.

3) This just doesn't happen in any other team sports, because the rest of them have clocks. And it doesn't happen in golf, because the golf is always during the day. And in tennis, they've actually figured out how to modernize the game with things like legit time limits, the cyclops system, the super-quick reviews, taking a little out of the balls as men's serves got above 120 MPH consistently, etc. It is good television because they made a bunch of smart, subtle changes that responded to changing player behavior. I actually think tennis is the sport baseball should be learning from right now
   60. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 21, 2021 at 08:50 AM (#6048033)
Yesterday really takes the cake - two pretty routine 9-inning games that both went over 4 hours.


I'm assuming you're talking about Tuesday's games, not Wednesday's, which ran a relatively quick 3:24 and 3:32.

Anyway...Tuesday's NLCS: 97 events (as always, AB + BB + side changes + pitching changes) in 254 minutes, or a whopping 2.62 MPE. (It didn't help that LA had eight pitching changes, four of them mid-inning. Ouch!)
Tuesday's ALCS: 98 events in 244 minutes, or 2.49 MPE.
Wednesday NLCS: 98 in 204, or 2.08 MPE.
Wednesday ALCS: 99 in 212, or 2.14 MPE.

You'll note that the number of events for each game were very similar (nine-inning games usually average between 90-100 events for all of baseball history), but while the MPEs of Wednesday's contests were typical for modern playoff games (usually around 2.1 +/- 0.1), Tuesday's were not. Was there something in the water on Tuesday?

Thing is people aren't really tuning in.


I've barely watched the LCS's, mostly because I don't like the teams. I'm no longer hamstrung by having to get up at 5AM on weekdays to do the radio thing, but I find I just don't have the interest to watch ballgames hour after hour. (Last night, I mostly watched the NYCFC-Atlanta MLS match. At least soccer matches are always over in two hours!)

There were some early comments that long commercial breaks pay and everyone makes money off long games. There just isn't an alternate universe we can communicate with where they sped up the game and charged more for those ads behind home plate that the viewer subconsciously watch more of than the muted mid-inning traditional ad spots.


This, right here. The games will keep getting longer and longer until MLB and/or TV starts paying a financial penalty for long games. Until then...

   61. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2021 at 09:12 AM (#6048039)
I'm assuming you're talking about Tuesday's games, not Wednesday's, which ran a relatively quick 3:24 and 3:32.


Well, he did write that yesterday...
   62. Greg Pope Posted: October 21, 2021 at 09:25 AM (#6048045)
I actually think tennis is the sport baseball should be learning from right now

Tennis is a good analogy because it is also a game that doesn't have a clock. But they still decided to put in rules to speed things up.
   63. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 10:42 AM (#6048058)
Pitchers not pitching don't complain? I feel like there's a whole cottage industry in the book world about pitchers talking about how bored they are when they aren't pitching and the hijinks they get up to because of it.
   64. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 10:47 AM (#6048060)
Attendance isn't really going down. Well, the last two years have caused mayhem but beyond that baseball has had a very stable all time high plateau of attendance.
   65. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2021 at 11:02 AM (#6048063)
taking a little out of the balls as men's serves got above 120 MPH consistently
That seems like a pretty cruel remedy. Will the women get maimed too if their serves get too fast?
   66. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 21, 2021 at 11:32 AM (#6048067)
Attendance isn't really going down. Well, the last two years have caused mayhem but beyond that baseball has had a very stable all time high plateau of attendance


This year I subscribed to MLB.tv, so I could watch out-of-market games. Not counting the Red Sox, the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Yankees, the Mariners (this year) or the Dodgers, I saw a whole lot of empty seats out there. The product needs to be good enough that people have a good time even if their team isn't particularly going anywhere. I am not quite sure how MLB accounts for "paid" versus "actual", but my bet is there were a LOT of no-shows. How many of those folks are coming back? If I was MLB and looking at that I would be worried, especially since the RSN's are imploding. MLB trying to start their own streaming service is a good thing, but it's also not too far from the pay-per-view deathtrap. One needs to be able to pull in the casual fan (new) fan as well as the dedicated lifer. The RSN's would/could do that, but a dedicated MLB-only streaming service would not, it would just be another means to soak the already bought-in customers.
   67. BDC Posted: October 21, 2021 at 11:36 AM (#6048068)
pitchers talking about how bored they are when they aren't pitching and the hijinks they get up to because of it

Maybe things have changed since the chicken-and-beer 2011 Red Sox :)
   68. bunyon Posted: October 21, 2021 at 11:42 AM (#6048070)
I’m a baseball fan before I’m a Braves fan so if there are postseason games underway, I watch if I can. I do worry the game won’t be there in my dotage but my guess is it outlives me. Not sure I’d be so confident if I were 15. Not sure I’d care either.
   69. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:05 PM (#6048072)
Attendance isn't really going down. Well, the last two years have caused mayhem but beyond that baseball has had a very stable all time high plateau of attendance

Attendance peaked at 79,484,718 in 2007. In 2019, the last pre-Covid year, it was 68,506,896. That's a decline of nearly 14%.

Major League Miscellaneous Year-by-Year Averages and Totals
   70. Russ Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:33 PM (#6048079)
A lot of us watch baseball because we grew up watching/playing the game. If you go a generation or two without that being true, you're unlikely to scrabble back. That worry should motivate the owners to make a more viewable game, but it doesn't seem to have.


This is 100% true. I have tried watching baseball on TV with my Quebecois wife and children and they find it interminable. In-person, it was great and everyone liked it, but on TV it's excruciatingly long and boring for someone who was not brought up with it.

Honestly, even for me, I find the random amount of time to completion unmanageable. I generally only watch soccer and hockey live, because only those two (plus basketball) are super consistent on the length of games. Obviously soccer has always been within 5-10 minutes of predictable. Unlike baseball, hockey aggressively intervened to cut down time at various points (automatic icing, reducing time for restarts on face-offs) and it really worked. Watching hockey, even with overtime, is very predictable. The longest game for the Penguins last year was 2h44m, the shortest was 2h15m. Most were between 2h25 and 2h35. It makes it very easy to plan to watch games when you can build your schedule around it.
   71. Karl from NY Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:49 PM (#6048080)
The at-bat itself is zero-sum, but if both hitters and pitchers taking more time helps each perform better, then they're each going to do it, even if the net effect is that the improvements in performance cancel out.


This is correct. There's a paradox known in advertising. Suppose Coke and Pepsi spend a million each on advertising and split the market 50-50. They could each spend zero and still split the market 50-50... but they each have to still spend the million or else they'll lose the market 100-0. It's in each of their interests to act adversely, even if the net effects cancel out. Both this and the at-bat time problem are variations on prisoners' dilemma, where each party gains to itself by acting against the system as a whole.

I find the random amount of time to completion unmanageable.


For a sport that really runs afoul of that, try Nascar. Events can be anywhere from two hours of uninterrupted green flag to ten hours of crashes and delays and shutdowns to clean up. It has to have a serious effect on tv ratings.

Attendance isn't really going down. Well, the last two years have caused mayhem but beyond that baseball has had a very stable all time high plateau of attendance.


Is this really attendance, or ticket sales? I think the sport has got to be at an all-time high of no-shows, even absent the pandemic. The high recorded attendance numbers don't mean people are actually there - it means the front offices have correctly calibrated corporate packages and group giveaways to take up any slack in demand, or even "selling" to their own reseller entity as the Cubs got caught doing.
   72. tonywagner Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:58 PM (#6048082)
Attendance peaked at 79,484,718 in 2007. In 2019, the last pre-Covid year, it was 68,506,896. That's a decline of nearly 14%.

The new stadium boom years were 1989-2009, so it makes sense the peak would occur late in that period. Probably unsustainably high. The current (well, pre-COVID) levels may still represent a good plateau.
   73. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:01 PM (#6048084)
My wife and children (ages 18 and 16) do not get why I like baseball, except they think that's what an American middle-aged white dude probably likes to watch. That's not a good sign for the future...

I think if you don't like baseball, it probably hits you the same way a lot of Americans dismiss watching soccer (even elite soccer, like the EPL), because they just see a lot of nothing happening ("nothing" being defined as legit shots on goal). Similarly, if you don't follow baseball, and then you sit down for five minutes and watch a playoff game, there's a good chance you see this:

1) You saw two guys come up to the plate. One of them struck out, probably on like six pitches, including a couple of foul balls. There were 20 seconds between each pitch. There was a lot of stepping off the mound, yanking on your batting glove velcro, tapping the plate with your bat, shaking off some signs, asking the catcher to run through the signs again, random crowd shots, etc...and it took 2:30. To the very casual viewer, that looks like nothing happened.

2) You probably saw a ball put in play, so that's something! It probably came after several pitches, and it was a line drive single to left, or a grounder to second for a 4-3 putout, something. This also took like 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

I mean, that's pretty boring, right? The beauty of baseball is often in the pitch selection, the ability to fool the hitter, the ability to hit a spot that is literally a couple of inches difference between a weak grounder and a home run.

The fact that a soccer game can be awesome with a 1-1 final is very similar to the way a baseball player that fails to get on base 65% of the time is considered a high on-base guy. If the definition of "success" comes from a binary look at the world - you either scored a goal on that possession, or you failed; you either hit an extra-base hit, or you didn't do anything interesting - then baseball and soccer are probably not going to work for you. Basketball and tennis are more your thing; football is somewhere in the middle, probably; hockey, probably not.

But baseball's got to think about how to get their product down to a reliably 2:30 hour television production, which it can - if it wants to do so.
   74. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:02 PM (#6048085)
Baseball in this form won't be a viable business once the cable bubble fully bursts and the Gen Z kids raised on highlights and phones comes of age. It will be repackaged around the home run and turned into something like home run derby, with like a point system based on distance, entirely turned over to things that generate phone highlights like bat flips, trash talking, and long-distance taters hit into stands with point values built into them with fresh bright colors and big ass ads.

The sport is running totally on tradition (*) and those of us wired to operate in the pre-net, pre-phone longer form world, i.e., basically on fumes. If it was starting from scratch and you got your pitch books together and presented it as a proposed venture in Silicon Valley, the VCs there would laugh you out of the room.

(*) And the public subsidies of the non-baseball components of the mallparks. Where those components don't exist, the sport's already non-viable -- apart from the exception-proving-the-rule Fenway and Wrigley.
   75. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:10 PM (#6048088)
Soccer really "isn't" a bunch of nothing; that's an American conceit -- but even if it was, you can get in and out of a soccer match in 2 hours.

I took my now 16 year old, massive soccer fan, to a handful of Yankee games in 2012. He was kind of into them, kind of into spending an afternoon with dad or mom and dad. Not much the following two years until 2015, when he was 10, June afternoon Yankees/Jays. Slow and ponderous and by about the third inning he had his schtick for the day down --- "Dad, do you realize that if this was a soccer match, we'd already be halfway through the second half?" A couple more updates in that same vein, and we're out by the fifth inning. There are millions of his generational cohorts with exactly the same perspective and they will all be laughing out loud at the baseball fans who insist that "There's no action in soccer." Never say never, maybe they'll feel the pull of tradition too when they get older -- but there have to be grave doubts in the MLB offices about them being able or willing to support the sport like their fathers and grandfathers did.
   76. Darren Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:12 PM (#6048089)
I would prefer shorter games and less down time. With that said, when I watch a game, I'm on my phone looking at twitter and engaging in other distractions. Is it possible that MLB views the slow pace and long breaks as a positive for today's viewers, who are bound to be juggling several interests at once?
   77. nick swisher hygiene Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:22 PM (#6048091)
I feel like I’ve posted 76 three or 4 times here over the last couple years, so I’ll just say: yeah, 76.

Baseball as radio background noise>baseball as multitasking background: the historical development is natural. The mistake is to assume “exciting” is a core part of the baseball brand…
   78. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:23 PM (#6048092)
Since at least the late 1970s, i.e., as long as I can remember, there's been a faction of fans and writers who have held that "the beauty of the sport is in the pitch selection and the battle of wits between pitcher and hitter." I've never, ever subscribed to that and when you actually go to the games, from the vast majority of the seats you can't really even tell what the pitch was or its precise location. I'd hold far more that the beauty of the sport is in the movement of the players and the vast expanse of green and the perfect symmetry of the diamond and the perfect dimensions of the diamond and the basepaths. There are few things in sports more purely aesthetically pleasing than a major league shortstop circling a ball, throwing on the run across his body, and getting a fast runner by a half step. I thought that in 1980 -- thanks, Mario Mendoza! -- and still think that in 2021.(*) You have to go way, way down at least my personal list before you'd get to "a pitcher outsmarting a hitter with a curve away."

(*) Thanks, Xander Bogaerts.
   79. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:26 PM (#6048093)
Except there are a million other things that can now be the multitasking background for net surfing and tweeting, many more comfortable and cheaper. The sport might not have had "exciting" as its brand even BITD, but it was sufficiently compelling to hold the essentially unimpeded attention span of tens of thousands of attendees per night. It's not anymore, and not only because attention spans have shorter and more deflected.
   80. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:32 PM (#6048096)
Suppose Coke and Pepsi spend a million each on advertising and split the market 50-50. They could each spend zero and still split the market 50-50... but they each have to still spend the million or else they'll lose the market 100-0. It's in each of their interests to act adversely, even if the net effects cancel out.


How does that apply to this situation? If Pepsi doesn't advertise, Coke still can.

If the hitter doesn't take his time but the pitcher does, then the hitter also takes his time.

I'm sure that both the hitter and pitcher believe they have to take long ass pauses between pitches. In all likelihood, they've been told as much by coaches. But if forced to speed things up, there's no way both participants in the at bat would suffer (one might, but not both).

   81. bunyon Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:35 PM (#6048097)
But the typical elite athlete believes they will win if they are at their peak. If I'm a hitter, I want to rest/be deliberate because it makes me the best hitter I can be. And if I'm the best I can be, I'll win.

The pitcher thinks the same.

Of course they can't both win - and they know this. But they think they will. They aren't playing game theory, they're playing combat.
   82. Karl from NY Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:42 PM (#6048099)
there's been a faction of fans and writers who have held that "the beauty of the sport is in the pitch selection and the battle of wits between pitcher and hitter."


There is one of Keith Hernandez's books that is all about this. It goes through the entirety of a single game pitch by pitch and tells you what everybody was thinking. I read it years ago and came to this viewpoint. That's where the core of the game really is, at least for the participants -- but yes, it's mostly invisible to spectators.
   83. bunyon Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:48 PM (#6048101)
But the battle of wits is no longer pitcher/hitter. It's bench coach/hitter. Or even bench coach/hitter-IT guy pre game.

You could shave a couple seconds per pitch just by making catchers (or pitchers) call their own game.

I do think a lot of the beauty of baseball is in that battle of wits. But it doesn't have to take 30 seconds to decide "curve ball".
   84. BDC Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:49 PM (#6048103)
Sanny Manguillen mentioned opera first (#18) so I feel I have my entrée … in the 19th century and earlier, before Wagner made it standard to dim the house lights and demand everybody's concentration for four hours, opera was something people came to late, left early, caught a few highlights, and spent much of the time in a bright theater talking to the folks around them and watching the other attendees. It must have been maddening for the aficionados, but opera like baseball has lots of boring bits, and the style of inattention that Darren mentioned in #76 and nick swisher seconded can sustain a lot of popular interest if the venue is a fun and sociable place to be. Opera became much less popular after you were expected to sit still and watch it.

Geez, I spent most of my air-conditioned games this year reading my book or talking to the people I was with or wandering the Dome, chatting with the ushers I have gotten to know. The games were only a minor distraction.
   85. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:53 PM (#6048106)
Look where Bucky ####### Dent was on the basepaths when his Game 163 homer went over the Monster, and look at where Giancarlo Stanton was when his Game 163 flyball rattled against the Monster. From my perspective, that's a sublime encapsulation of the decline of baseball. The spreadsheeters would make their counterarguments, and that's fine and their arguments may even be "right" from some perspective, but even there, I'd point out one of the best sports movies ever, North Dallas Forty, where "Tom Landry" was the spreadsheeter, and rightly depicted (*) -- as against the other features of the sport and the people who play it -- as a bland, soulless, barely-even-human automoton. To really get to the essence of this, we'd have to ask ourselves how the Tom Landrys of today became so celebrated by so many factions, including those with no vested interest whatsoever in spreadsheeting. I mean, yeah, if you make your living as a spreadsheeter or you have ambitions in that direction, sure. But if you're just a fan, or a writer? Makes no sense.

(*) As he was in real life, as were his Cowboys and their computerized bland, ruthless efficiency. These games are not about efficiency.
   86. bunyon Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:53 PM (#6048107)
76, 77 and 84: Then MLB needs to market it that way. Marketing it as action packed excitement won't survive the second inning.
   87. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:55 PM (#6048108)
But the battle of wits is no longer pitcher/hitter. It's bench coach/hitter. Or even bench coach/hitter-IT guy pre game.


It's computer versus computer, and wristband versus wristband. Once you reach that point, whatever beauty it once had is long gone.
   88. Darren Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:59 PM (#6048109)
Except there are a million other things that can now be the multitasking background for net surfing and tweeting, many more comfortable and cheaper. The sport might not have had "exciting" as its brand even BITD, but it was sufficiently compelling to hold the essentially unimpeded attention span of tens of thousands of attendees per night. It's not anymore, and not only because attention spans have shorter and more deflected.


Good points. As an old guy who grew up with baseball, it's a great main activity that I can watch while juggling other interests. Younger viewers have no real reason to include it in their attention grabbers.
   89. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:59 PM (#6048110)
I think pace of play is a bigger issue than length of games, but they're both an issue. Periodically when I'm watching a game and I notice my attention flagging I start timing the pitches on my watch. Usually when I look, it takes ~25 seconds between pitches, longer when there's a foul ball or pickoff attempt or whatever. The other day during the ATL-MIL game, Burnes was basically throwing a pitch every 40 seconds for several batters.

I still enjoy watching baseball, but when you combine that with fewer balls-in-play, the appeal is a lot lower. And basically impossible to sustain for 162 games a year.
   90. bunyon Posted: October 21, 2021 at 02:22 PM (#6048115)
The idea that younger folks today have lower attention spans isn't that accurate in entertainment. They'll spend hours watching others play video games. They'll do mammoth binges of shows. I've worked with many who, if interested and motivated, will spend hours on a project.

It's a lot like when older folks say kids today are more interested in their phones than talking to them. Yes, they are. But it's not a measure of how interested in their phones they are. It's a measure of how interested in talking to the geezer they are.
   91. Howie Menckel Posted: October 21, 2021 at 02:30 PM (#6048118)
there's a distinction between how long the games take and what time the game ends.

if the game ends past midnight on a weekday, that's not manageable for most people.

but if a game goes from 7 pm to 10:30 pm, and the latter time is manageable, there's a perfectly simple way to eliminate most of the nonsense.

as I have noted before (probably too often), I'll watch maybe a half-inning, then freeze the game and blather on here or run an errand or eat or make a call or whatever. the players perform for me (or anyone) as quickly or as slowly as I make them, with the FF button, and on my schedule. they step out of the batter's box, I pop them right back in. Manager tries to go to the mound, I send him back to the dugout a couple of seconds later, no matter how long he was out there.

at 10:30 pm, the game ends and I am finished watching at the same time. but in between, I can get a lot done - yet I don't need to miss a single pitch.

if there's an interesting controversy, sure, I'll stop and listen to the commentary. but especially if the announcing crew sucks, I have no need to listen to them.

I understand how people under 35 find this unfathomable, because they can't imagine getting off Twitter or their texts while they are "behind" in watching the game. but for old farts over 50 - hey, try it sometime.

you might like it.
   92. nick swisher hygiene Posted: October 21, 2021 at 02:41 PM (#6048121)
79, 88–I don’t think any of us really disagree. Maybe the question is, how much of this shift is something baseball could have prevented, and how much is just due to the age of the sport and its basic compatibility/incompatibility with particular economies of attention?

I’d like to blame MLB, because #### them! they’re doing a terrible job! But do I really think that if they got their #### together and came out with a product where ballgames clocked in consistently between 2 1/2 and 3 hours, with less of the bullshit most of us hate, that they’d grow the sport? I doubt it. I think you’d need a really fundamental redesign.

Aside from everything else, the failure of baseball at celebrity production has to be a problem. But again, cause or effect? Even as the game trends toward fungible commodified pitching, I think it’s mostly the latter…
   93. tonywagner Posted: October 21, 2021 at 02:54 PM (#6048122)
#91: Timeshifting! I do it too.

For the technology minded, here is a tool that can automatically skip breaks and/or non-action pitches in MLBTV streams:
https://www.npmjs.com/package/mlbserver
   94. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 02:56 PM (#6048123)
Peak attendance was like 34k fans a game. It's at about 30 to 31 before Covid hit.

A)all time peak still had a ton of empty seats each game

B)peak had new stadiums to get to the peak. This plateau is still tremendous and looked to have been stable.
   95. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:01 PM (#6048124)
I understand how people under 35 find this unfathomable, because they can't imagine getting off Twitter or their texts while they are "behind" in watching the game. but for old farts over 50 - hey, try it sometime.

you might like it.


I have. I don't.
   96. Karl from NY Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:06 PM (#6048125)
I'm not convinced the plateau is really true, meaning butts-in-seats, as compared to the front offices optimizing for "tickets sold" in ways that end up with a lot of tickets going unused in package deals and the resale market. Think about Yankee Stadium's infamously empty "moat".
   97. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:07 PM (#6048126)
Baseball is a great sport to follow via written media and games are great on radio. The problem is written media is in the crapper and radio is not the dominant form of media entertainment anymore.
   98. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:08 PM (#6048127)
Re 96. Sure but teams always had unused tickets and even more unsold tickets. It's not like more actual butts were in the seats back in 1932 or 1952 or 1972.
   99. . Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:13 PM (#6048128)
Baseball is a great sport to follow via written media and games are great on radio. The problem is written media is in the crapper


In the same vein as the North Dallas Forty comment, the game would still be awesome to follow on written media ... if so much of the output of written media today wasn't centered around spreadsheeting.(*) Which it is. The day-to-day narrative form is basically gone now.

The games are still awesome on radio.

(*) And, to a degree, the next thing rather than the current thing. I don't really care about the '21-'22 winter free agent crop, or the status of the Orioles' "rebuild," in June 2021. So much of modern media sports output is daydreaming about next year's teams, in lieu of this year's. Yawn.
   100. McCoy Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:35 PM (#6048141)
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