Some kids complain that baseball is too slow. I love baseball and tell kids it’s a cool game filled with strategy and skill. Baseball also teaches kids patience in a world filled with nonstop-action movies and games.
But after watching the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs so far, I think the kids might be right. The games have been super-exciting, but baseball is getting awfully slow.
Baseball is a game of statistics, so let’s look at the numbers. Of the 24 playoff games played through Tuesday, 20 took three hours or longer to finish. Monday’s thrilling 11-inning game between Texas and Detroit lasted four hours and 25 minutes.
I coached kids baseball teams for years. The county scheduled our league’s six-inning games every two hours. Most days we finished within that time. That means MLB players are playing at about the same pace as fourth- and fifth-graders!
Why are the games so slow? It seems to me that almost every player wears batting gloves. I understand why they wear the gloves: It’s tough on your bare hands to hit a Justin Verlander fastball — some of them go 100 miles per hour! — with a wooden bat.
But it also seems as though every player steps out of the batter’s box after almost every pitch to adjust his batting gloves. They do it even if they didn’t swing at the last pitch. I’ve seen batters step out and adjust their gloves after the pitcher threw over to first base.
They’re like kids whose shoelaces keep coming untied. They have to stop everything and tie them up again.
I think there should be a rule that a batter is not allowed to step out of the batter’s box. Not to adjust his gloves. Not to go to the bathroom. Never. Stay in the box!
Then there are batters such as Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who hold their hand up until they are set just right in the batter’s box. Some batters take more time to get ready for a pitch than it takes Tiger Woods to line up a 20-foot putt.
The pitchers aren’t much better. They stand on the mound staring at the catcher for so long that it looks as though they don’t want to throw the ball.
Of course, they’re often waiting to get the pitch signal from the catcher. That’s another problem. It seems that everyone in baseball is sending signals to someone. The manager signals the catcher, who signals the pitcher. If the pitcher doesn’t like the pitch call, he signals back to the catcher. Then the batter steps out of the batter’s box to get a signal from the third-base coach. Even fielders signal one another.
Maybe instead of all this adjusting, staring and signaling, everyone should remember what the umpire says at the beginning of every game: Play ball!
Fred Bowen is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including eight baseball books. If you are a fast reader, you might be able to read one in less than nine innings.