Spring Training is rapidly approaching, and after that, the baseball season itself.
During the offseason, aside from inflating players' salaries to stratospheric levels, baseball has also been experimenting with efforts at speeding up the game in hopes of making it more popular, especially among the advertisingly desirable younger demographic, which prefers its entertainment at warp speed.
The average age of a baseball enthusiast is fifty-three. This is a problem two ways: One, advertisers overwhelmingly prefer a younger audience. And two, the current enthusiasts will in the not too distant future be deceased. No advertisers except funeral homes and professional embalmers want them. (I have no idea why I needed "professional." Probably for rhythm.)
Employing the Arizona Instructional League as a Guinea Pig, baseball has accepted the mandate of shortening the game via innovative adjustments, such as, among other proposals,
- Requiring batters, once entering it, to remain inside the batter's box, rather than to stepping outside between pitches to adjust their batting gloves and their protective cups.
- Putting the pitchers on a clock so as to reduce the delay between pitches.
- Eliminating the four "ceremonial" pitches when "Intentionally Walking" a batter and instead simply signaling "We are doing that" and allowing the batter to trot, unpitched to, down to first base.
By making such alterations, it has been predicted, a baseball game can be speeded up by fifteen up to minutes.
We now pause for a joke I have related before, and that you may possibly already know.
A company's revamping a failing brand of dog food - new recipe, new label, new ad campaign. The product continues to fail. The company wonders why that is. After many unpersuasive attempts at an explanation, the definitive answer finally comes to light:
The dogs don't like it.
Same thing here.
If don't like baseball, you don't like baseball. And no alterations will change that.
"But we are making a three-hour ballgame fifteen minutes shorter. Why wouldn't they like it?"
"The other two hours and forty-five minutes."
It's not the duration; it's the game.
Baseball is inherently and, for some of us, deliciously slow.
Let us first understand that "slow" is not necessarily a bad thing. "Slow", in fact, can be medicinally therapeutic. I am currently paying substantial money to be here at this spa. I can feel my life slowing down with every passing day, suffused in the beneficial advantages thereof.
You don't have to go to a spa. You can enjoy that same feeling at a ball game. And get a hotdog to boot. They don't allow hotdogs at the spa.
I am hardly a purist when it comes to fundamental alterations. Last season, they introduced "Instant Replay" and no collisions at home plate. I approve of those changes. Why? Because I'm in favor of getting the calls right, and of no collisions at home plate. There is another game for that. It's called football.
Some alterations are demonstrably beneficial. But none of them involve speeding up the game. "Instant Replay" actually extends the game. But it's better. Unless you miss irate managers kicking dirt onto the umpire's pants. The umpire's dry cleaners might miss that. I don't.
For me, "speeding up the game" is "lose-lose." It will win over no new followers. And it antagonizes the fans who are currently watching. Plus, it obliterates the "untouched by time" purity of the game. So you can add another "lose", making it "lose-lose-lose."
What I am saying about a game so exquisitely structured that a throw from shortstop can still nip the game's speediest runner at first base is...
Don't mess with it.