Caray's remedy for faster games is right on
Braves announcer suggests adopting a pitch clock similar to college baseball
Braves television announcer Chip Caray is on a splendid mission, and it involves offering his advice on how to make baseball games end within the same century that they start whenever possible.
"We live in a fast-paced, Twitter-based society, where we want instant gratification with everything," Caray said. "In many ways, that works against what baseball is. Baseball is a long, drawn-out, six-month affair, where we don't really know what a team is all about until they play 40, or sometimes 60, games. As a result, when we see every at bat, batters getting out [of the box] to adjust their gloves, pitchers walking around the mound, players waiting for their walk-up music. We're slowing down the pace of the game that is already inherently slower than everything else we see in sports."
According to Caray, that slower pace isn't necessarily deadly for baseball's growth beyond Baby Boomers -- and he is correct.
The problem is when that slower pace is dominated by inaction.
To sum up a nine-inning affair earlier this week in Atlanta between the Braves and the Brewers: Inaction nearly trumped action. One replay review lasted slightly more than two minutes, and another nearly five minutes. There was also a 10-minute pause, courtesy of a bullpen fiasco by the Brewers. It occurred during the seventh inning, which spanned 47 minutes.
The entire game lasted three hours and 36 minutes.
That said, neither the Braves nor the Brewers are used to participating in these types of games. Both play some of the swiftest contests on average in the Major Leagues -- about 45 minutes or so faster than that game which wouldn't end. By contrast, slightly more than half of their peers are making the three-hour-plus game routine.
The Rays lead the way by staying on the field an average of three hours and 18 minutes. As has been true forever, the Yankees and the Red Sox are also among the top five in this category. So are the Dodgers, which is unusual for a team from the National League -- where the lack of the designated hitter on a regular basis often translates into less offense, and thus fewer games with a tendency to last longer.
Games everywhere are threatening to last even longer than that.
If Harry Caray and his son, Skip, were alive today, it makes you wonder how they would use their legendary blunt tongues during telecasts to describe this epidemic of marathon games.
"Harry would have rolled with the flow. Dad would have been like, 'Swing, batter. Let's go,'" said Chip, 49, the grandson of Harry, the son of Skip and the play-by-play television voice of the Braves. He was a TV and radio broadcaster for the Braves during the early 1990s, when they began their record streak of 14 consecutive division titles. Then, after a pit stop with the Mariners and longer ones with the Cubs and national television, he returned to the Braves in 2005. Through it all, he has seen enough baseball to become nearly as prolific as his grandfather and father at analyzing the game.
So Caray has deep thoughts on these long games.
He has lots of thoughts.
"Ultimately, this game is about putting the ball in play, and fans want to see action, all of the nuisances of the game," said Caray. "People want to see the guys hit the ball, field the ball and the close plays at first base. They want to see guys turn double plays. But with all of the power arms we have these days and the ability of the pitching coaches to really dissect and break down other team's lineups, who would have thought -- post-PEDs -- we would be seeing this much of a dramatic shift in the way the game is being played?
"As we are talking today, we've got eight teams in Major League Baseball with more strikeouts than hits, and a ninth team has exactly the same number. The Braves are one of those teams, and they are the only one of those teams doing that. In a lot of cases, we've traded power for a lack of contact -- and a lot of teams aren't getting the power or the contact.
"I don't know whether sabermetrics is involved with all of this, where the sabermetric guys say a strikeout is just another out. I'm sure they can [produce numbers] to show that, but I don't believe it to be true.
"I want to see the ball in play, period."
The same goes for most fans. The more times the ball isn't going from the pitcher's hand to the catcher's mitt (provided we aren't talking about passed balls or wild pitches), the quicker the pace of the game.
Caray knows how to make this happen.
"This is a season of experimentation for baseball -- with replay and the transfer rule -- and baseball already has experimented with QuesTech," said Caray. "So follow the lead of colleges and have a pitch clock. If we want to train players to be cognizant of pace of game, why not put the pitch clock up there in Spring Training for everybody to see?
"The rule says if the pitcher has the ball and is ready to pitch -- and if the batter is ready to hit -- you've got 12 seconds to throw."
Umpires don't enforce that rule. They should.
"If nothing else, with the games starting later and with all of the [longer] commercial breaks, let's make the pitcher and the hitter aware of how much time they're taking doing nothing in games," Caray said. "There's nothing more fun than a two-hour-and-15-minute game that is well played. The pitching is better. The hitting is better. The fielding is better."
The watching also is better.