I turned on the Yankees game Sunday at 1:05 p.m., just in time for the first pitch. I lingered long enough to watch the Yankees score their first three runs in the bottom of the first.
Then it was off to the laundry room. I sent three loads of clothes through the washer and dryer, including a shaky attempt to launder a couple of backpacks (you don’t want to know how that turned out). When the final shirt was folded and put away, the Yankees were still struggling through the sixth inning.
I headed to work. It took me an hour to get my daily budget started and type up the story for the Thunder game, which started at 2 p.m. and had long since ended. The Yankees were still going. I turned to the Masters for a while, where the leaders were now on the back nine, then back to the YES network. Yankees were still going, now in extra innings.
At 5:56 p.m., after nearly 5 hours, the game ended.
It was an extra-inning game, but it was long and plodding before it got to the 10th. And here is what’s bothersome about that: 1. This is not at all unusual for a Yankees game, and 2. There are new rules in place this year designed to speed up the game.
The number of mound visits has been restricted, and they’re using a clock to try to get innings to start faster. If you’ve been to a major-league game in the past few years, you’ve seen the clock ticking in the outfield between innings. I find it annoying, but I’m glad they’re trying to address the issue.
It’s an issue for me, anyway. I’ll take Amtrak to New York two or three times a year to catch a Yankee game. The last train north leaves at 10:45 p.m. on weeknights, and you’ve got to leave the stadium an hour ahead of time to have any kind of safety margin in making the train. I haven’t seen the end of a live Yankee game in two decades.
If you live in the city, how do you get home in time for a full night’s sleep before it’s time to leave for your day job the next morning? The answer may lie in the empty seats you see at many games by the ninth inning.
When I was a kid, I’d park in front of the TV set for a baseball game and not leave until it was over. I can’t remember the last time I watched a game start to finish on TV. As much as I love baseball, I don’t want to invest that kind of time in a daily sporting event.
You’re probably reading this, expecting that at some point I’ll offer a solution. I’m afraid I don’t have one.
I don’t want to see the clock used between every pitch. It doesn’t fit in baseball. Absent that, I don’t know how you encourage pitchers and batters alike to get a move on.
Part of the problem lies in the way the game has changed. Some games have incredibly high pitch counts as pitchers try to paint the corners and batters wait for the right pitch. Those extra pitches don’t produce much action ... just strikes, balls and fouls.
Occasionally I’ll hear a baseball person say they don’t think the longer games are a big deal. Attendance is fine, the money is good, so what’s the problem.
As a lifelong baseball fan, all I can say is, it’s a problem for me.