The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins had outbreaks of the novel coronavirus early in the shortened 2020 season. The teams had to postpone games and make them up later.
This meant the Cardinals and Marlins played doubleheaders — two games on the same day — to make up the games they had missed. MLB decided that the doubleheader games would be only seven innings so that the players, especially the pitchers, would not be exhausted by playing so many games in a few days.
The standard length of baseball games has been nine innings since before the pro games began in 1869. But maybe this is one pandemic change MLB should keep.
A big problem with baseball is the games are too long. This season, the average time of a nine-inning, MLB game is the highest in the history of pro baseball — 3 hours and 7 minutes. That’s 21 minutes longer than the average MLB game was 15 years ago, which was 2 hours and 46 minutes.
The first 70 seven-inning MLB games played this year, however, averaged just 2 hours and 34 minutes. And more than a third of the games were finished in less than 2½ hours. That’s a big difference.
I’m not saying every MLB game should be seven innings, but maybe at least some should be shorter. MLB teams could schedule doubleheaders on Sundays and make the games seven innings. Or how about having one day a week when all teams play seven-inning games?
The folks who run MLB may find that some fans, especially kids and their families, prefer a shorter game. If a family goes to a Nationals game during the week, the game usually starts about 7 p.m. If the game lasts 3 hours and 7 minutes (and some are longer), that means the family is heading home after 10 p.m. and the kids are getting to bed close to midnight.
It’s the same with games on television. Most kids can’t watch a three-hour, nine-inning game because they have to go to bed.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has tried to make the games shorter by changing the rules about relief pitchers and meetings at the mound, but the games keep getting longer.
Maybe it’s time for drastic action. Maybe it’s time for seven-inning games.