It took 3 hours and 51 minutes for the New York Yankees to defeat the Minnesota Twins last night in the American League Wild Card Game. A 45-minute first inning featuring six runs and a pulled starting pitcher erased any chance for a speedy contest.
Judging from the glut of bad jokes and lamentations about blowing past bedtime on Twitter, this was a great inconvenience to the viewing public. Full disclosure: many of those bemoaning the slow game have also expressed their disdain for the social media platform but continue to use it daily, so their complaints should be taken with a grain of salt.
Baseball may have a pace of play problem. Regular season games routinely checking in at over three hours is not ideal to growing the sport. But those bitching and moaning about a lengthy winner-take-all game have a reality problem. Complaining about a playoff eliminator is different than complaining about a mid-May game overstaying its welcome. To be clear: it’s stupid then, too, just more understandable.
During the six-month regular season, the Twins and Yankees combined to play roughly 972 hours of meaningful baseball. That’s a little over 40 days’ worth. That doesn’t include the time spent in spring training, or taking batting practice, or traveling, or anything else that comes with being a Major League Baseball player.
Are we really going to fault the players for taking an extra few seconds between pitches to be fully prepared? Are we really going to fault the managers for taking an extra trip out to the mound to discuss a scouting report? We’re going to do this when the stakes are so nakedly obvious in a loser-goes-home situation?
Yes, sports are an entertainment product packaged up and sold to networks. And yes, it would certainly be nice if games ended before midnight on the East Coast. But what took place in the Bronx last night was a baseball game between two teams desperate to stay alive. Both teams took extra care with the stakes so high. A glut of first-inning runs led to slightly-longer-than-average run time.
Deal with it or turn it off. No one is forcing you to watch the game and stay up past your bedtime. The teams will keep playing even if you turn your television off.
Postseason baseball tends to be even more protracted than the regular season — and it should be. People tuning in have no excuse to be ignorant about the time commitment they are undertaking.
I know full well how much of a cranky, get-off-my-lawn take this is. But I can’t help myself. Complaining about last night’s game taking too long showcases such a fundamental misunderstanding that it’s painful.