With attendance down, baseball looks to shorten games to keep fan interest.
This is particularly noticeable in the spring and fall, and during weekday night games when schools are in session, and the parents need their charges bedded down at a decent hour. One could hardly hold that against the attendees.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that if you were able to shorten the games by 15 minutes, I doubt it will make much difference in attendance, which is also down slightly for the 2016 season. But are there are things that can be done to speed up the pace of play to make the game more enjoyable?
The pitcher’s clock is likely to make very little difference, in my opinion. I have no scientific evidence, but I believe most pitchers throw the next pitch at about that pace already.
I really don’t see how limiting the infielder’s shifting positions will help, as most of the time, the shift is accomplished in less time that it takes the batter to make his way from the on-deck circle, pine tar his bat, and dig a hole with his cleats to his liking before stepping in the box anyway.
And shrinking the strike zone could actually lead to more walks and more pitches thrown, quite possibly slowing the game even more. Besides, it appears the strike zone is more of an umpire’s opinion than an actual zone, and often fluctuates within the at-bat, at least when compared to the pitch location by one the networks’ tracking boxes. Not dogging umpires, just saying that is almost impossible to get it correct every time.
Perhaps eliminating the specialization of a relief pitcher, where he faces one batter and is then replaced by another relief pitcher, would help, but even that doesn’t occur in every game, so the impact would be minimal. Pair that with a limit of the number of times fielders can go to the mound to talk to the pitcher during an inning and you may see some small differences.
So, is baseball doomed to fail? Hardly. According to Baseball-Reference.com, over 55 million fans have passed through the turnstiles so far this season. Yes, that number is down about a half-million from 2015, but pace of play is only one of many factors that may contribute to lower attendance.
Baseball is just a slow-moving game, and that doesn’t fit with the fast-paced lifestyles we experience today. But it will always have its place in American sports, as a place for family enjoyment, even if we don’t stay for the whole game. It’s a place where a family can pass some time together and that is sorely needed in the world today. Baseball doesn’t require constant attention to be enjoyed.
That’s part of the reason it was called America’s Pastime.