Cards-Cubs showed that picking up the pace is a worthy goal

The knocks baseball takes from those inside the sport about games being too long can get tiresome.

Manny Machado was the latest player to throw such comments around following his non-playing attendance at the All-Star Game. As reported by the Washington Post:

“It was a little boring to watch it,” Machado said. “I don’t know how people go out there and watch games. Now I know why sometimes people don’t come to games”.

Most athletes don’t like watching their sport in events or games that they could have been playing in, and the All-Star Game is an exhibition after all, so I’m not going to criticise Machado too much for his off-the-cuff comment. However, the idea that games can be boring and go on too long gets thrown around a lot.

The comments are at odds with the amount of people that turn out to stadiums every year and watch on TV and whilst ensuring the next generation enjoy the sport is important, the ‘baseball is doomed’ hyperbole does a disservice to the great talent on show and the excitement MLB generates every season.

There are 2,430 regular season MLB games every year and it’s to be expected that not all of them will live long in the memory. Even the Premier League, the so-called most exciting football league in the world, serves up its share of stinkers.

I do have some sympathy with the overall pace of play agenda though.

A four-hour game can be an enthralling watch, but it’s when pitchers take ages between deliveries and batters mess about after every pitch that the ‘dead time’ increases and the game can feel like it’s dragging along.

The same happens in most sports, from tennis players that have to get their towel then bounce a ball 10 times before every serve, to cricket teams that can’t bowl their overs at a decent rate (essentially every international team nowadays). Maybe I’m being harsh, but it often comes across as if those players think they’re the most important thing and everyone else has to wait for them.

It’s fine to take a few seconds to compose yourself at a crucial point in the match; doing it all the time is annoying and absolutely can make people change the channel to something else.

David Price is a classic case in point. He’s a great pitcher and if he’s producing results for your team then you won’t care how deliberate he is. For everyone else, it can be very frustrating to watch. On the flip side you have a pitcher such as Dallas Keuchel. I can’t say I enjoy watching him mow down my team in double-quick time, but I do appreciate the way his approach creates a great tempo to a game. Commentators always pick up on the impact this has on the infielders and keeping them alert. I don’t know how true that really is, yet I could imagine how it could be a help.

Last night’s game between the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs was one of the most enjoyable I’ve watched so far this season. Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright were on the mound, two guys who generally are on the speedier end of time between pitches, and they were on top of the hitters, with Lester taking a perfect game into the sixth before Wainwright himself broke it up.

There were no runs scored until the eighth inning when the Cardinals hit back-to-back jacks (the first by Paul DeJong who made a spectacular fielding play at shortstop earlier in the game) to take a 2-0 lead, only for the Cubs to hit back with three runs in the bottom of the frame, with Kris Bryant racing around from first base on a Rizzo double for what proved to be the winning run.

The game finished 3-2 to the Cubs and took just over two and a half hours to play. It was a classic pitchers’ duel and you can’t expect them every game, even with two quality starters on the mound. There will always be games that take longer, sometimes exciting and sometimes not.

However, it does make a difference when a game moves along at a decent clip. The game isn’t boring, and certainly isn’t ‘dying’, but encouraging everyone to play their part in just quickening up a bit – including the potential of shortening advert breaks, which MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said is being looked at – is a good idea.

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