THE BUZZ, REDUX
David Pinto responds to my previous post commenting on his posts about the woeful state of Major League Baseball.
First, a correction: I don’t say that baseball is boring but that most people find it boring. I actually like the game, although I didn’t come to it until my mid-20s. But I read Baseball Prospectus*, enjoy the number crunching stuff, like historical comparisons, and all the rest. But I’m not the mainstream viewer; I don’t like reality TV or hip hop “music,” for example.
Basically, David’s arguments are twofold:
First of all, baseball has actually made an inroad into game times this year. The average time of a 9-inning MLB game this year is 2:46, while last year through the same point in the season, the average time was 2:52. And they are doing by enforcing the strike zone and stopping batters from stepping out.
Man, six whole minutes have been shaved! Honestly, I haven’t discerned this from watching the games. I know MLB sent down an edict a few years ago mandating strike zone enforcement, but Rob Neyer and the BP folks have found that it isn’t working very well. Ditto for stepping out of the box; I know the umps are supposed to enforce the rules, but most aren’t.
Two, football is much more predictable:
In football, if a team is down 16 points with a quarter to go, they are going to pass. The other team is going to run. Joe Montana is going to throw to Jerry Rice. Lawrence Taylor is going to make a great tackle. The third string safety isn’t going to make the big interception. The fourth string running back isn’t going to break one for 50 yards. But the equivalent happens in baseball every day.
Well, that’s not really true. Indeed, there are many more exciting ways for teams to make comebacks in football. Larry Brown won a Super Bowl for the Cowboys almost single-handedly a few years back by intercepting a couple of passes. Backup tight ends–hell, pass eligible offensive linemen–have been known to catch TD passes in Super Bowls. Not to mention the fact that a team can score at any time, including on defense. Blocked punts, fumbles, kick returns, interceptions, and all manner of other things can make a game a contest. In baseball, if a team puts up six runs in the first inning, it’s essentially over, especially in the National League. But a team can go up three TDs in the first quarter of a football game and still lose.
Now, a lot of exciting things happen in baseball every night, too. But most of them aren’t things that will engage the casual fan. I wish I’d seen the Astros pitch a no-hitter using 6 pitchers the other night. But, to the casual sports fan, that translates into one boring ball game: No scoring, no action, a lot of visits by the manager, a lot of stops in play while the new kid comes in from the bullpen and takes his warm-up tosses. . . .
*Full disclosure: I’m employed by the company that publishes BP and derive an infinitescimile portion of my income from the sales of BP. But I actually read BP and was familiar with their work, especially via Rob Neyer and ESPN.com, before I started working here.