By: Jonathan Kostoff – Staff Writer
“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd. Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,” I do care that the average Major League Baseball game surpassed three hours last season for the first time.
Being at a baseball game is about enjoying a nice hot dog with ketchup and mustard in one hand, a cold soda in the other and having your mitt in position to catch a foul ball while sitting right next to the people you care about.
Though you share the love of baseball with the other 30,000 people in the stands, the game has been steadily growing, which, in turn has lost the attention span of so many.
I am an avid fan and Indians season ticket holder, but the game itself is beginning to take a toll on fans, including myself. Personally, I have countless friends that refuse to watch baseball or go to games solely because of the time commitment.
Recently, newly elected MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the players’ union, headed by Tony Clark, have agreed upon some new rules for the 2015 season that should help speed up the game, which could bring more fans back to the ballpark and to their TVs, as well as heighten the buzz around what once was America’s favorite pastime.
The new rules mandate that managers stay in the dugout during replay challenges and that hitters keep, at minimum, one foot in the batter’s box during at-bats return promptly to play after TV commercial breaks and appropriately time pitching changes.
With these implemented changes for the 2015 season and postseason, everyone from manager to hitters to pitchers will have to change their habits they have grown accustomed to over the years. They will have to change the culture.
Veterans like Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians and Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox think the mental edge of the game could change negatively, as well as their approach during at-bats. They, as well as other veterans, enjoy the game just as it is and want to honor how the sport has always been played.
However, of late, there has been too much dead time between at-bats, pitching changes and between half inning and inning changes. Thirty years ago the average game was two hours and 35 minutes. Today, the game has hit a high of three hours and two minutes.
During each team’s spring training games, players will have to figure out how to approach these changes.
For hitters, they will have to adjust how they go about their at-bats. Players, like Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, have been notoriously known to take extra time between pitches. He, as well as other players in the game, will have to follow these rules or a warning will be given, followed by subsequent fines of up to $500.
By no means are the new rules put into place to alter the integrity of the sport or disrupt it. Former Comissioner Bud Selig reviewed this issue and addressed how the MLB has continually looked at speeding up the game to draw more youth interest in the sport, as well as maintain the current fans’ interest in the game.
But it will be strange to see baseball playing on a shorter clock. A key difference between America’s major professional sports (NBA, NFL, MLS and NHL) is that baseball does not rely so heavily on time. Between innings now, a timer will begin counting down from 2:25 for a local game and 2:45 for a nationally televised game.
The changes will have a positive effect on the game and bring in more fans and keep the veteran fans even more intrigued in the game. Keeping the interest of our youth who enjoy the sport is key so they do not divert their attention to another sport or do not lose interest in the sport that their parents and grandparents have grown up with.
I will always be a fan,no matter how long the game is, but hopefully for those I know and those I do not know, these changes will bring attention back to America’s pastime.
New Rules for 2015:
- Umpires will enforce Rule 6.02(d), which requires hitters to keep one foot in the box during an at-bat, subject to certain exceptions.
- Timers will be used to ensure that the game resumes promptly at the end of inning breaks.
- Managers will no longer come out of the dugout to initiate a replay challenge. A manager will also keep his challenge after each call that is overturned. Last year, a challenge was retained only after the first overturned call.
- At the end of each half inning, the clocks will start counting down from 2:25 for a local game and 2:45 for a national televised game to account for commercials.