Baseball games are shorter, but is the pace-of-play any better?

There is a disconnect in baseball regarding the angst over pace-of-play. Everyone seems to think shorter games means a quicker pace. Wrong!

Games are shorter because commercial breaks are shorter. The pace is controlled by the time between pitches, and that has not been addressed.

Because you don’t know when the action is going to occur, baseball is a game of anticipation. All too often, however, the "action" does not match the anticipation. The pace-of-play drags.

Here’s a perfect example; Watching an Angels-A’s game on TV last August 24th (2014) I got out my stopwatch for a 10-pitch at-bat between A’s pitcher Fernando Abad and Angels’ hitter Kole Calhoun. It was the 8th inning. There were no outs and no one on base. The Angels were up 9-3. Here are the times between each pitch (the stopwatch started when the pitcher got control of the ball): 

1 & 2 21 sec
2 & 3 25 sec
3 & 4 27 sec
4 & 5 25 sec
5 & 6 35 sec
6 & 7 50 sec
7 & 8 34 sec
8 & 9 32 sec
9 & 10 60 sec

There was an average of 34 seconds between pitches. Calhoun eventually struck out. The at-bat lasted 5½ minutes. Subtracting the time between pitches left 19 seconds of action. That means for an alarming 94% of that at-bat – nothing happened! No pitch, no swing, no foul ball – nothing – except the pitcher and the batter doing myriad uninteresting things while everyone else... waited. Did the anticipation really match the action? Is that the pace-of-play baseball wants?

Plain and simple, that at-bat was dominated by inaction not anticipation. Does anyone, but the most rabid baseball fan, have the patience for that? What about on Sunday afternoons in September when there are pro football games a remote click away - Monday and Thursday nights too.

The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan says pitcher David Price likens the pitcher-batter matchup to a chess match. Aside from the fact that there are 7 defensive players behind the pitcher, up to 3 baserunners, first and third base coaches, a batter in the on-deck circle, teams in the dugouts, fans in the stands and watching on TV, unfortunately, he's probably right. Most of what happens in a baseball is a cat & mouse game between two individuals - the pitcher and the batter. Sometimes it's great drama. Most of the time it's not.

Baseball needs to address the inaction between pitches because it's beginning to look more like a chess match. When's the last time you watched a chess match?

Bill Grimes

March 19th in baseball history: Tragedy strikes Cubs camp

Cubs'announcer killed

MESA, ARIZONA | March 19, 1965 - Tragedy struck the Chicago Cubs on this date in 1965. Announcer Jack Quinlan was killed in a car accident on the outskirts of Mesa, Arizona where the Cubs were training. He was 38. The accident occurred late in the evening when Quinlan's car struck a parked truck. He was returning to Chandler, Arizona after playing golf in Mesa.

Quinlan was a broadcasting boy wonder after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1948. He started doing Cubs games in 1952 at the age of 25.

Hall of Fame Cubs' broadcaster Jack Brickhouse wrote in his book A Voice for all Seasons, "He was dynamic and authoritative, and with his sense of humor they added up to a superb announcer. Sometimes I thought you could actually hear his smile on the air."

Contributing sources:
Thanks for Listening, by Jack Brickhouse, 1996
The Chicago Tribune, March 20, 1965

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March 18th in baseball history: 1st franchise move in 50 years

Braves' move signals major shift

CansecoST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA | MARCH 18, 1953 - The Boston Braves got official permission from the other MLB owners on this date in 1953 to relocate to Milwaukee. It was the first franchise move in major league baseball since 1903 when the Baltimore Orioles moved to New York City to eventually become the Yankees. It opened the flood gates.

Expansion and relocation were in the air. As Braves owner Lou Pernini put it, "The country has changed in the last 75 years. You can't deny Los Angeles and San Francisco are major league in every respect, and so are Montreal, Baltimore and some other cities."

The next season the St. Louis Browns packed up and moved to Baltimore to become a reincarnation of the Orioles. By 1958 the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively. The Milwaukee Braves moved again in 1966 to Atanta, where they remain. Montreal and several other cities, such as Seattle, Anaheim and San Diego eventually got new teams. By 1972 there were 30 major league teams in two leagues, more than double the number the two leagues started with.

Pernini also thought back in 1953, "A third major league is the only answer for the future." That has not come about. In fact, in 2001 there was discussion among the owners about contraction - eliminating teams. That has not occurred either.

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press, St. Petersburg, FL, March 19, 1953, by Jack Hand
MLB team histories 

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March 16th in baseball history: Mexico shocks USA

Beat at your own game

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - In a shocker, Mexico eliminated the United States from the first World Baseball Classic on this date in 2006. With the likes of Alex Rodriquez, Johnny Damon and Vernon Wells on the U-S team Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 in Anaheim.

Roger Clemens took the loss. The winning pitcher was Culiacan, Mexico native Oliver Perez, at the time a 5-year major league veteran, but certainly no Roger Clemens.

The United States' mediocre record was 3 wins and 3 losses. The team had an impressive .337 team batting average and 3.13 ERA in the first round, but slipped in both categories in round two - .242 batting average and 4.32 ERA.

Japan ended up beating Cuba to win the 2006 Classic.

Contributing sources:

The New York Times, March 17, 2006, Anaheim, CA 
2006 World Baseball Classic results

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March 15th in baseball history - Spring training hot-spot: Indiana

Staying close to home

VARIOUS LOCATIONS | MARCH 15, 1945 - More spring training camps opened on this date in 1945 to prepare for the season, but not in the hot-spots you'd expect. The country was still in the midst of World War II and travel restrictions forced teams to train close to home.

Indiana turned out to be a popular place.

The New York Yankees - Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Cleveland Indians - LaFayette, Indiana
The Chicago White Sox - Terre Haute, Indiana
The Boston Red Sox - Pleasantville, New Jersey
The Philadelphia Athletics - Frederick, Maryland
The Detroit Tigers - Evansville, Indiana
The St. Louis Cardinals - Cairo, Illinois
The Chicago Cubs - French Lick, Indiana
The Pittsburgh Pirates - Muncie, Indiana

... Just to name a few.

Major League Baseball also drastically limited exhibition games at the urging of The United States Office of Defense Transportation. Teams could only play games with other teams if they were on a direct route to their home city. Side trips were not allowed. Some teams played very few exhibition games against other teams that spring.

Contributing sources:
Spring training locations - Baseball Guru
United Press International, March 16, 1945

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