Friday, February 20, 2015

Go! And Make It Snappy!

The concept of time is a strange one, as those who consider themselves "conscious" believe that time is an illusion. Well, it can be depending on how you're spending it.

Let's be honest... How long does a sporting event usually last? About three hours or so, right? But, of course, athletes aren't playing for three hours straight. Heck, their breaks between gameplay aren't even all that long. Are we wasting time? Well, we very well could be, and it looks like baseball is going to make a change to that.

As announced to the mainstream media Friday morning, new rules in Major League Baseball will be incorporated this season. While they aren't as exponentially large as say, instant replay, they will not only adjust the way we watch the game, but see how teams adjust to the lesser amount of "freedom" they can have when it comes to movements and warming up. Two rules that were incorporated include: adjustments to the instant replay rule (shocker), and a rule that was tested in the Fall Leagues--the batter's box rule. The third rule, which the post is ultimately about, has to do with time management in the game.

The rule states as follows:
In truth, this rule has been enforced slowly but surely over the past several years. The time for pitchers to transition from pitch-to-pitch on the mound has been closely watched for a while, and it has become a problem for both the pitching, and the fluff between.

Is it a good move? It's way more of a yes than a no here. Why? I can't begin to tell you how many people I have spoken to in my 7+ years of willingly talking shop with people that I have been told that baseball is the slowest and least exciting sport because of the long pauses between each pitch and play. Due to a lot of the fast-pacing of its other Big Four brethren, it does contain more pauses and more monotony than, say, hockey. Before you go asking: "But what about the pauses between each play in an NFL game," note how I said the word "monotony" above. Different plays can occur in that time clock period in football, while the same event is almost always occurring in baseball. Why prolong the same action with a variant flair on it?

Despite that point, a type of rule like this could be a blessing in disguise for the NFL, considering games are nearly three hours in length, and only an average of eleven minutes are dedicated to play execution.

I remember going to the Army/Navy football game a few years ago, and how I would dread each time I heard a referee proclaim, "Media timeout." It was cold, and I sat up in the higher levels of Lincoln Financial Field with my family. This was me by the end of the game, even though I was bundled up:

In this world of funding, sponsoring, and advertising, you can't really stop the plethora of commercials pertaining to beer, local stores, movie previews, and insurance companies. However, those can be curbed so that you're not watching only five minutes of game before commercials, or seeing a kickoff return and then another minute of that same guy at a bar being suave with the glass of beer he can't drink on-screen due to media regulations. When you're at home, that's an opportunity for you to get food or go to the bathroom. When you're at an outdoor game, a venue where you run the risk of facing the elements, you will be sarcastic in saying: "I'm dying of suspense out here." Come on--this rule is great for not having to sit out in the rain in a poncho that you had a total ball in opening while waiting for the next pitch in total dread. Sure, the overall atmosphere may make a difference, which makes it seem like the pace of the game isn't as big of a deal during a football game. But what if you're losing by a lot and the weather is beyond lousy? Game, set, and match, naysayer.

The change in pace is going to be a test for production crews--both the television crews and the stadium crews. Veterans who have been working games for years are going to feel quite a difference in pacing, but if they're that professional, the change will be a smooth and welcoming one. However, there is a question and concern for this rule: Who takes the hit (as receiving a fine for a rule break) if the pace of the game is affected, the stadium crew, or the television crew? I guess we could find that one out sooner than later.

These kinds of changes aren't going to be overly noticeable, but they will guarantee that we're not having long pauses between the actions occurring on the field. Honestly, the only group that will likely take any kind of hit from this rule to shorten time is the sponsors. They pay good money for :30 spots, and if they're not all in within a time frame, they could certainly pull out or downsize on a deal. Of course, that would be a bigger deal in a national telecast, but when it comes to local telecasts, the deals aren't as immense or as crucial. Larger networks that show more than sports do exist, like WGN. However, those guys may broadcast more than one team as well, and advertising costs will work in their favor since they have more programming to give spots to. See? The rule change looks more reasonable than not.

Would this rule benefit other leagues? It could. In regards to other sports like soccer, the halftime break is necessary, as the coverage for each half is nonstop. In hockey and basketball, breaks between each period or quarter are usually very rare, and are very short when they do occur. For sports like football and baseball, the pacing is extremely inconsistent, and it got out of hand in baseball. Because the NFL is already having a lot of issues in other regions of the game, a pacing regulation may not ever occur, and even if a rule does come to pass, it could face a huge backlash with the defense claiming: "These men need longer breaks between each play to prevent further injury." I feel like I can see the future with things like this, and it's rather sad.

In conclusion, this rule is definitely going to help Major League Baseball with pacing, and consistency in play. A watched pot never boils, so continually waiting for something to happen isn't going to be much fun anymore. Sports are supposed to be well-paced and full of some sort of action. It isn't supposed to be chess. Watching games this year might be a little different, as there won't be as many ear-grating diatribes from commentary on television, and you're not going to sit for a longer stretch at the ballpark. I say it's a win for the good guys here.

Slow and steady doesn't mean you'll win the race--efficient and steady means you will, especially if you're watching a game.


All sources of rules came from the MLB Public Relations Twitter page (@MLB_PR).