Baseball

World Series Games Don't Have to Take So Long

The postseason no longer features baseball at its best.

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Once upon a time, the postseason provided fans the opportunity to see baseball at its best. Today, it gives us the chance to watch mound visits and pitching changes at their most.

In Game 1 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox deployed 12 pitchers. By comparison, when the Dodgers and the New York Yankees met in 1963, they needed only 11 pitchers to get through the entire series.

Over the four-game sweep, the LA starters covered 35 1/3 innings. A single reliever was needed, to get a grand total of two outs.

Watching managers take the ball from one pitcher and hand it to another is about as exciting as watching someone buy snacks from a vending machine. Baseball has always been a game in which most of the actual playing time features a lot of people standing around waiting for something to happen. Now each game features a lot of people standing around waiting for the game to resume so they can stand around waiting for something to happen.

It's as though Major League Baseball, responding to the perception of many people that the game was slow and tedious, decided to address that complaint by making it even…slower…and…more…tedious.

This is not just a postseason phenomenon. Starting pitchers, not so long ago, used to manage the heroic feat of lasting nine innings on a regular basis. In 1993, Chuck Finley led the majors with 13 complete games. In 2018, eight different guys tied for the lead, with two. Next year, I predict, all pitchers will be tied for the lead, with zero.

During the National League Championship Series, the Milwaukee Brewers took this trend to its logical endpoint by sending out a starter for the express purpose of facing exactly one batter—after which he was excused for the evening to gleefully calculate his per-batter earnings.

Not only does the plethora of pitching changes foster boredom; it stretches games out to epic lengths. Game 1 took three hours and 52 minutes. That's six minutes longer than the film Gone With the Wind—which, when it came out, was the longest movie ever made. Game 1 took just three minutes less than it took to play the last two games of the 1963 series.

Maybe there are some fans who get a thrill every time a manager makes the long hike to send his pitcher to the showers. For everyone else, I have a suggestion that would speed things up: Stop letting relievers throw warmup pitches when they enter the game.

This ritual has been around forever, but it wastes a lot of time. MLB grants two minutes and 55 seconds for a new pitcher to reach the mound and prepare his essential appendage. Every reliever who enters in the middle of an inning robs fans of three minutes of our allotted life spans.

And why does a professional ballplayer need this process? When a backup quarterback trots out on the field, he doesn't get to make a few practice throws before taking a snap. When a pinch hitter steps to the plate, he doesn't insist on hitting some soft tosses to hone his stroke. Getting ready is what the bullpen is for, after all.

Abolishing warmup pitches would save a couple of minutes each time a reliever is called, and in the course of what has become a normal game, the minutes would add up. It would also eliminate an empty interlude that holds the attention of nobody in the stands and subjects TV audiences to yet more commercials.

Purists will say that relievers, deprived of their mound tosses, would be less effective. This is probably true. But it's a feature, not a bug.

If relievers were more prone to missing the strike zone or serving up meatballs, managers would be less inclined to use them. Or they would insert subs more often at the start of an inning, when they are guaranteed warmup time. Either way, the game would move faster, and fewer fans would drag themselves off to bed long before the final out.

If you like baseball as it is now, with frequent delays and interruptions and games that last for days, maybe you'd be even happier dispensing with the players. Then you could direct your full attention to an even more exciting pastime: watching the outfield grass grow.

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  1. Shorter Chapman: “the game has evolved to use more relief pitchers, especially in the postseason, and I’m unhappy about it.”

    1. this is what happens when these clowns get paid by the word…

    2. Hehe. Thanks. That saves this potato from reading an entire Chapman, regardless of accuracy. Eh, who am I kidding? I wasn’t going to read it anyway! *rimshot*

      1. Then you will miss Chapman’s deep insights into how the use of relief pitchers in major league baseball is a metaphor for the Federal Reserve messing with the interest rate and screwing up the structure of production.

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  2. Also, how is this at all relevant to libertarianism, as opposed to being some nutsucker’s screed against the use of relievers in the modern game?

    1. Nothing on this site is relevant to libertarianism. You of all people should know this.

      1. Tony knows nothing, Red Tony even less…

    2. Actually I sort of was kinda hoping for a titty bit more SPORTS! on Reason. They might as well. It’s not like it’s a libertarian magazine or anything.

      1. Guest columns coming soon from Colin Kaepernick

    3. Chapman could have written about a relevant news topic – say the rise of right wing terrorism in just the last several days.

      Add eleven to the rightwing murder count in Pittsburgh.

    4. This is part of their manifesto for going Full Retard.

  3. Relief pitchers ought to have already warmed up in the bull pen anyways.

    1. Everyone wants pitchers to destroy their arms these days.

  4. Another in a long tradition of deadline-looming-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-write submissions. Slow news day at Reason?

    1. What, exactly, is a ‘news day’ at reason?

      1. Good point. Poor choice of words on my part.

        Better question: who names their kid “Reason Staff”?

  5. we could improve the game by including live fire entry where the reliever must cross a field of gun fire to reach the mound, could also include balls that occasionally explode on contact or time delay to get the fielders more involved.

  6. Libertarian option 1: if you don’t like the way baseball is played, don’t watch it.
    Libertarian option 2: if you don’t like the way baseball is played, whistle up a gazillion dollars and start your own league; with no relievers, pitch clocks, batters not allowed to leave the box once they step in the first time, and no commercial breaks. Bingo, 90 minute games. Free advice; don’t even think of selling stock.

    1. Oh yeah, and no video replay appeals, and no umpires, just infrared beams to define the strike zone.

    2. I’ve somewhat taken option 1; I only occasionally watch a game. If the folks running MLB are wondering why, this is part of it. Sometimes it seems as if managers are using a different pitcher for each batter, especially in later innings. It’s not just boring; it’s weird. Do so many of their pitchers really suck so bad that they’re only usable against a few batters?

      1. It’s not suck so bad, it’s match up much better. I do wonder about the lefties who come in for one guy, but it’s usually effective…

        1. FINALLY! Proper usage of the word “lefty” by a Reason commenter.

  7. MLB rivals the NBA for tedious games.

    The NBA would be great if each team didn’t have seemingly unlimited timeouts. One per quarter is enough.

  8. Feh. Like Chapman understands baseball.

    1. probably never got picked as a kid

  9. This article should be titled “Why I am a conservative (when it comes to baseball)”

    1. I think George Will has that trademarked…

  10. The length of the games are not the only problem MLB knows is a problem. Between the high number of strikeouts, walks and home runs, the amount of time something actually happens in the field is practically nil. There is little action for the fan to see compared to the old days. My advice? Switch to ice hockey.

  11. Yet another reason why you couldn’t make me give a shit about sports.

    1. sarc – No congrats for the Sox?

      This Red Sox team may very well be the best of all time, including the 1927 and 1998 editions of the New York Yankees.

      How about Alex Cora?

      How about Steve Pierce?

      How about David Price overcoming his post-season demons?

      1. Congrats to the Red Sux.

  12. There are so many ways a libertarian can wail and gnash his teeth when it comes to professional sports generally and baseball specifically.

    But at least I know how to bitch about relief pitchers now.

    P.S. Why American Sports Are Cartels

  13. Here’s a thought, if your gnat-like attention span won’t allow you to sit and enjoy a baseball game as is, go watch a different sport. Or use that 3 minutes for a pitching change to check your instagram or twitter feeds, or whatever it is you kids do these days. While you’re at it, stay off my lawn.

    The libertarian solution to this is to let the free market sort things out, not top-down bureaucracy from the league to change the rules.

    1. So you don’t think customers should communicate their perceived problems with products? And management should let customers walk away rather than change the product when warranted?

  14. People still watch baseball? Make it longer says I. The sooner it’s not a thing, the better.

      1. My sister attended (most of) that game.

  15. “Over the four-game sweep”

    It wasn’t a four-game sweep, the Sox won the series 4 games to 1.

    Jesus H. baldheaded Christ, did you even watch the Series before writing this?

    1. He was referring to the ’63 series.

  16. Chapman’s article here was excellent in demonstrating how libertarians will argue about anything. I didn’t think wanting to shorten the game was all that controversial. Imagine if he’d have touched on the DH.

  17. “Abolishing warmup pitches would save a couple of minutes each time a reliever is called, and in the course of what has become a normal game, the minutes would add up.”

    Seems like a reasonable idea that could easily cut half an hour or more out of a game. Unless you have to pee a lot and don’t want to miss a pitch, what’s not to like?

  18. I can forgive you being wrong about baseball, but Stroheim’s “Greed” was over 7 hours long. It debuted 15 years before “Gone With The Wind.”

    There will be complete games as long as there are shutouts, no hitters, and perfect games. It still takes going the full 9 to bask in the greatest glories of pitching. That’s a pretty braindead prediction, no CGs next year.

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