After presiding over all the developments that have contributed to the alarming lengthening of baseball games over the last two decades, outgoing commissioner Bud Selig has formed a committee to make recommendations on measures that would shorten games. It’s like closing the barn door after you’ve let all the horses out.
Under this mandate, officials in the Arizona Fall League have been experimenting with some game-shortening measures. They did exactly the same thing there in 1992, Selig’s first year on the job, and many ideas proved effective—but they were never implemented, because they would mean a loss of revenue from TV sponsors—like the oil-change companies that sponsor pitching changes, for instance. Now, with three-hour games a blessed relief from four-hour games, it’s long past time to do something.
I’ve got ten ideas for shortening games. From least to most radical, here they are, with their predicted effects on the Tigers if implemented.
1. Enforce existing Rule 18.04, which mandates that a pitcher deliver the ball within twelve seconds after receiving it from the catcher. This rule is enforced about as often as the Michigan law that makes it a felony for any man to seduce and debauch an unmarried girl. Effect on Tigers and their fans: Much less time for text messaging between pitches.
2. Tell the umpires to stop routinely granting “time outs” to every batter who requests them. That wouldn’t require any rule change either. Effect on Tigers: Victor Martinez strikes out 100 times in 2015.
3. Time between innings reduced from whatever amount of time can be sold to sponsors (nobody’s keeping track now) to ninety seconds. Effect on Tigers: Bernstein commercials yanked; Call Sam Studios become 1-800-CAR-HIT-U Studios.
4. No player can adjust his batting gloves more than once during any plate appearance. Penalty: automatic strikeout on first violation, ejection from game on second offense. Effect on Tigers: Miggy finishes season 0-for-162.
5. End replay challenges. Baseball was fine for 150 years without them. Effect on Tigers: Rod Allen experiences existential crisis.
6. Or make replay instant and automatic. This would end the boring charade of managers sauntering onto the field while looking back into the dugout for a signal relayed from the clubhouse guy who’s been watching TV. When video can show conclusively an umpire call is wrong, a league official instantly reverses the call and the decision is announced on the PA and stadium scoreboard. Effect on Tigers: Brad Ausmus gains ten pounds because of his more sedentary lifestyle.
7. Limit conferences at the pitcher’s mound to three in any game: two for any player, one for the manager. Effect on Tigers: Alex Avila devises a new set of signs using cue cards.
8. Mandate relief pitchers be instantly summoned from the bullpen with a phone call, run onto the pitcher’s mound, and be allowed only three warm-up pitches from the mound. Effect on Tigers: Joe Nathan retires: too much work.
9. Limit a team’s pitching changes during an inning to two a game (three for an extra-inning game). Effect on Tigers: Pitching staff reduced to nine.
10- Three balls for a walk. Two foul balls with two strikes on the batter is a strikeout. Effect on Tigers: Team-wide mutiny led by V-Mart.
Total effect of these changes: 140-minute games become the norm. Families start bringing their kids to games again, even on school nights. Games become so short that a new rule is instituted: Players who leave the dugout or bullpen to engage in a shouting or shoving match on the field must engage in a full-fledged brawl to fill all the extra time. Brawl sponsor: 1-800-IAN-HIT-U.