I love baseball. With players now in spring training, I begin to look forward to the season. I usually attend half a dozen Blue Jays games as part of a group with shared seats just six rows behind the Jays’ dugout.
But changes are afoot, and I fear for the game. In the last couple of years, Major League Baseball tried to speed up games by automatically putting a man on second base if the game went into extra innings. That was minor compared with this year’s numerous new rules. For example, pitchers and batters will have fifteen seconds to get set and for a pitch to be thrown. No more batter backing out of the box, taking several practice swings; no more pitcher going to the resin bag a second time. And the pitcher can only throw over to first base twice for pickoff attempts.
In addition, bases will be larger, presumably to allow more runners to slide in safely. There’s no more infield shift, moving players to the side of the infield where a batter usually hits. We’re told all this and other changes will mean that the average game will last about 2-1/2 hours, not the three hours it now takes.
Professional basketball, football, and hockey all have quarters or periods that last a specific amount of time. Baseball is the only major league sport where there has been no clock. As a result, you conceivably could go to a baseball game and never come home, waiting all the while for the game with a tied score to be concluded. To me, such a languid pace is perfect.
Rogers Centre, home to the Blue Jays, has carried out its own foolish alterations. They’ve reduced the number of seats by 3,000 and put in more dining chairs, tables, and drinking areas. They’ve even created standing room around the spot where a relief pitcher warms up so people can leer down at him. Is nothing sacred? Stadium officials say they’re trying to bring in spectators who wouldn’t normally attend. I can’t see how more non-fans in the stands will improve the game.
Beyond that particular dumbing down, I’m sure you get my point. A baseball game is like Beethoven’s Ninth. You could play it faster, but why would you?