Two of the three Major League Baseball games on Sunday were terrific. All three were much longer than an average game. The Yankees-Rays clocked in at 3 hours, 21 minutes. The Diamondbacks’ walk-off win over the Giants came at the 3-hour, 23-minute mark. The Cardinals needed 10 more minutes to seal things up against the Cubs.
Three games into the season and the pace of play initiative is a colossal failure, with the average length sitting at a shade over 3 hours, 25 minutes. Major League Baseball brass can rest easy knowing there are 2,427 more regular-season opportunities to get that number down.
While it is foolish to draw any conclusions off such an insignificant sample size, it’s fair to point out the obvious: that the major rule change aimed at speeding things up this year does precious little.
Feast your eyes on the first official automatic intentional walk, given to Yadier Molina in the ninth inning of last night’s game. Upwards of 40 seconds were saved by not forcing Mike Montgomery to throw four wide pitches. This is the progress MLB wants. The wheels apparently turn quite slowly.
The cognitive dissonance here is astounding. Yesterday’s action featured five replay reviews, all of which took more time than any physical intentional walk would take. And yet, there’s no rush to eliminate replay reviews — which clearly slow down games more often and for longer — in the interest of speeding things up.
I’ll concede I’m in the minority in wanting the replay review to be banished from the game. But how can one argue — and keep a straight face while doing it — that the intentional walk rule is going to make any real impact when some games are being held up for 8-10 minutes while umpire calls are re-legislated in New York?
It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this site that I find the whole pace-of-play initiative to be a farce. It’s not as though it’s a bad idea to make games crisper and tighter, it’s just hard to treat any effort as serious when such a minor part of play is targeted.
The new intentional walk rule did succeed in keeping the average length of game from reaching 3 hours, 26 minutes, so it wasn’t a total loss. MLB shouldn’t, however, hurt themselves with back-slapping — not when there’s plenty of fat ready to be cut.
There’s something poetic about the first automatic free pass coming late into the night in a day full of replay reviews and marathon games. That’s how history should remember it.