Baseball takes things slow, too slow

By Norman Chad
Monday, April 26, 2010

So umpire Joe West recently complained about how long Red Sox-Yankees games take to play -- "It's pathetic and embarrassing," he said -- setting off a minor firestorm about baseball's slow pace. Now, I'll let you be the judge about Red Sox-Yankees games -- there's undoubtedly one on TV at this very moment -- and let me be the judge about baseball's slow pace.

The line at the post office is slow. Baseball is slower.

Granted, complaining that baseball is too slow is like complaining that Too Tall Jones is too tall. Part of the game's appeal is its leisurely pace. But there's a fine line between leisurely and languid, just like there's a fine line between comatose and dead.

Defending his turf, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said last month, "Have you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, 'Man, this movie is so good, I wish it would have never ended.' That's like a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why would you want it to end? . . . If you don't want to be there, don't be there. Go home."

Now, I'll give Papelbon the benefit of the doubt here -- after all, he's a relief pitcher, not a customer relations specialist -- but I wish he'd understand that a really long movie might run 2 1/2 hours while Red Sox-Yankees games routinely approach 2 1/2 days. I wish he'd understand there's a difference between sitting in a movie theater and sitting in 42-degree weather.

Most of all, I wish he'd just wind up and deliver. Papelbon once had a ball called on him because he took too long to pitch. He wanders around the mound so much, I half-expect him to build a gazebo out there.

West said it succinctly and correctly: "They take too long to play."

Frankly, I haven't watched a baseball game on TV start to finish since the advent of the remote. I used to click away between innings, now I click away between pitches. I once watched the entirety of Ken Burns's Civil War documentary during a single Jason Bay at-bat.

(Speaking of which, this reminds me of an NHL TV problem that it will not address: two intermissions. You cannot give viewers two 15-minute opportunities to wander away. Heck, Elvis could rise from the grave and be in concert for the first time in 33 years, and if his show has two intermissions, half the crowd would be at IHOP by the time The King came out for his third set.)

Hey, I like watching pitch after pitch fouled off as much as the next guy, but I cannot stand to watch strikes called balls. The strike zone is like the Bermuda Triangle: You hear a lot about it but nobody knows exactly where it is.

And how many precious seconds are lost to hitters messing around with their batting gloves? You know, I've never seen a surgeon ask for time, step away from the operating table and adjust his surgical gloves.

Then there are the endless mound confabs. In Game 4 of last year's World Series, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and pitcher CC Sabathia met at the mound eight times in one inning; I thought one of them was trying to refinance his second mortgage. Frankly, all mound meetings should be banned -- unless you're Crash Davis and need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose's glove.

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