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Friday, August 22, 2014

Balance of boredom has shifted from pitcher to batter.

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees beat Houston 3-0 in two hours seven minutes.  Here, check for yourself:

http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_08_21_houmlb_nyamlb_1&mode=box&c_id=nyy

The Yankees scored all three runs in the second inning and each team used only one pitcher.

I have two modes of watching a game:
1. record and fast forward between each pitch; implicitly this includes commercials in addition to the inexcusable dead time between pitches during a plate appearance (PA);
2. monitor the game while doing other stuff; yesterday that was watching the Detroit-Tampa game on another TV even less attentively than the Yankee game and using my laptop.

So while I may have missed stuff it seemed like the "fast" Yankee game had the usual junk: every batter needlessly wasted a lot of time between each pitch, by leaving the batter's box without asking for time out, the umpire not calling time out and the pitcher foolishly waiting for the batter to re-set in his box.

What a bore.  I'm guessing that the balance of boredom shifting from pitcher to batter started about five years ago.  The pitcher has the ball and controls pace much more than a quarterback or point guard who may be forced to give up the ball.  I guess to counter that and to have something to demonstrate and justify their existence, hitting coaches instructed their batters to step out.

The idea was probably to disrupt the rhythm of the pitcher and to establish same for themselves.  Pitchers would counter by backing off the rubber,  Back and forth they would go, while Major Baseball League (MBL) commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig remained in his usual state of oblivion.  The owners, of course, were too busy counting their money and media types were first ignoring, then deploring steroid and other performance enhancing drug (PED) use.

Batter delay went through these general stages:
- fiddling with gloves and uniform but staying in the box
- putting one foot outside the box, I guess signifying not being ready and, oh, how about time out while I jerk around
- walking away
- starting about two years ago: walking away and turning his back on the plate and the pitcher.

You would think that the batter would want to watch the pitcher intently, maybe looking for a tell, maybe to intimidate.  No, these clowns are pretending to be thinking, concentrating, psyching, blah, blah, blah.  Who knows what the heck could possibly be rattling around in their empty heads.  It's pretty simple and basic: see ball, hit ball.

Yesterday's Yankee game exemplifies the shift.  The batters as far as I paid some attention, all walked away between all pitches during all PA.  The pitchers, waiting far too patiently for the batter to re-set in his box and, as immediately as could reasonably be expected, pitched.  At least 90% of the unnecessary dead time between pitches was due to the batter.

Jerry Remy
Last night I had the Red Sox-Angels game on TV two while I watched some of the Yankee game replayed on TV one, trying to examine the pace.  Former Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy was doing color commentary in his Boston accent that makes my teeth hurt.  Remy and play-by-play guy engaged in an extended discussion about how slow the games are and losing young people, etc.  Remy ridiculed the pitching coach constantly waddling out to the mound to give words of wisdom.  Remy said if I make an error at second base, would I expect the fielding coach to come out and talk to me?  Or the hitting coach to talk to batters during a PA.

Remy said the only trip to the mound should be by the manager to remove the pitcher.  No coach.  No catcher.  This is pretty radical but obviously, there's no need for any trip.  Just replace the pitcher.  But, OK, Remy was way ahead of his counterpart doing the Yankee game: former career back-up catcher John Flaherty.

The real story is that the election (effective January 2015) of a Selig replacement last week has unexpectedly freed everyone, including Selig himself, to challenge two things:
- pace and length of games: Remy lamented the late start of World Series games for kids
- the lost generation of Americans (18-34) who ignore baseball and will pass on their apathy to the next generation; more on that specifically in a future post.

And yet, no one is prepared to actually do anything.  Not one player, coach, manager, general manager, owner, commissioner has shown any imagination or leadership.

Nor have we fans.  How's my call for leaving games after two hours going?  How about my call for a boycott of sponsors?

We get the baseball we deserve: boring and increasingly irrelevant.  Shame on us.

Oh, and that two hour seven minute Yankee game was way too long.  Minus dead time, it could easily have been completed in 90 minutes.

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