Massarotti: When Will MLB Speed Up Games?

By Tony Massarotti

So let me get this straight: the NBA is reducing the number of timeouts, all in the interest of improving pace of play. The NFL has decided to modify commercial breaks, all in the hope of improving viewer experience.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball keeps twiddling its thumbs and rearranging the furniture when the reality is that it needs the most significant overhaul of all.

I just don’t get it.

In case you missed it, the NBA yesterday announced rules changes for the 2017-18 season, most notably in the number of timeouts that can be called in a game. Depending on how you slice it, the number of timeouts has been cut roughly 20-35 percent, no small thing from a league that typically has among the shortest games in the four major professional sports.

Meanwhile, the NFL is cutting down on the number of commercial breaks — even if the new breaks will be a little longer — which should further help the viewing experience. No more touch, commercial, kickoff, commercial, first down. That generally means fewer transitions in a sport that sometimes has too many of them, which should at least help keep you from getting up off the sofa to grab another handful of Oreos.

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But MLB? Relatively zippo. Nothing. Nada. Baseball games this year have been longer than ever, which means pace-of-play is getting worse. Meanwhile, MLB has “tried” to address the problem by eliminating the four pitches thrown in an intentional walk, which is like trying to lose weight by cutting out … well … the Tic-Tac.

Think about it: MLB has done more to address the pace of the home run derby in recent years than it has actually done to address the pace of play in real games, which is now on track to set a record (not a good thing) for the second time in four years. Again, chew on that one for a second. While everyone on the planet is trying to find ways to get more efficient with its product, baseball is getting worse.

But hey, those in-game interviews during the All-Star Game were kind of cool, right? I mean, I liked them, too. Sort of. The All-Star Game still took three hours, 16 minutes for an affair that ultimately plated three runs combined. That’s precisely the kind of investment-to-action ratio that makes people fall asleep on the sofa during the seventh inning.

Two words, Mr. Commissioner: pitch clock. And before anyone suggests that the change is coming, stop. It should have happened already. Like, two years ago, at least. Baseball’s willingness to address the pace-of-play problem has been as painstaking as the problem itself. I suppose that is consistent, at least. But it’s also unbelievably maddening for those of us who like the game and want to see it flourish, not merely survive.

Seriously, what is taking you people so long?

Yes, we live in an impatient world. There are good things and bad things that come from it. But when Major League Baseball Players Association head, Tony Clark, suggested during the spring that baseball’s pace wasn’t really a problem, it was the epitome of arrogance. Baseball doesn’t need to change. The world does. Come again? For goodness sake, media websites are eliminating the written word because people just don’t want to spend the time reading anymore. So give them a 30-second video and be done with it. Or lose them.

Did you catch this change among the rules the NBA will be altering for 2017-18? While shooting free throws, players will be issued a delay-of-game violation if they walk beyond the 3-point line. Meanwhile, some baseball pitchers effectively do that on every play, walking off and around the mound as if they face a critical putt on the 18th green of the Masters.

Holy smokes, baseball.

Throw the freaking ball already.

We’re all getting tired of waiting.

Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.

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