This week MLB announced its latest bright idea to speed the pace of games: reduce intentional walks to a signal from the manager.
Of course, this will change the game as the chance of wild pitches, balks, stolen-base attempts and ensuing bad or good throws will be eliminated.
As for speeding games, this rule change will save, over the next 100 years, a total of roughly six minutes. It’s the equivalent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers combating the flooded Mississippi with eyedroppers.
As if MLB, accountable only to team owners, doesn’t already know, the only way to ensure that games’ times are decreased without altering the good and longstanding nature of baseball is the one thing that causes them night tremors: shortening TV/radio commercial time between half innings, time that has more than doubled from when they first watched baseball.
To lose just 30 seconds per half-inning would guarantee that every game, after 8 ½ or nine innings, has been shortened by at least eight minutes, a significant savings.
But MLB and team owners will mess with the game before they’ll mess with their money. They’d have to negotiate some relatively slight givebacks on TV and radio rights to save the game from its runaway excesses. That would be the right thing to do — but not more important than money.
Reality always finishes a distant second to the sell. This past week and weekend, ESPN commentators and basketball experts conducted earnest chats and debates about the NBA All-Star Game and its attendant slam-dunk contest. Either they were serious — as if both events are significant and history making — or their families were being held hostage.
Also, over the weekend, NBC and NBCSN flooded the senses with some nice features in celebration of “Hockey Day In America,” which, we learned, is any day when friends and strangers of all ages and in all places, come together to play hockey and to solidify friendships or make new ones.
One feature followed a bunch of good ol’ middle-aged beer-bellied, hockey-playing buddies from Tennessee who sojourned north to play a team of strangers in a game of pond hockey. Afterward the teams mingled, beer cans thrust toward the camera, a great time had by all, new friends forever. Here’s to hockey!
That was followed by a promo for this Saturday’s Flyers versus Penguins, outdoors in prime time. It was a standard NBC NHL come-on in that it emphasized the tacit promise of violence and bloodshed, with words such as, “These teams do not like each other.”
There was no mention that the last time they played, there were no fights, not even a penalty for roughing. It was nonetheless an attractive, freewheeling game won, 5-4, by Pittsburgh. But alas, no carnage.