A Clock in Baseball? What’s Next?

As I took a look back at the past month and a half that this space has been filled with my ramblings, there seems to be one bit of a common thread: Take a step back, stop and smell the roses, and enjoy the moment.

Maybe it’s because 59 and-a-quarter is dangerously close to 60, maybe it is a rather serious lifestyle change, maybe I’m finally just starting to grow up a little after playing or talking about a kid’s game for most of my life.

Whatever the case may be, I am having a hard time understanding why they want to put a clock into the game of baseball.

It seems the masses feel the games take too long, and the way to speed it up is to put a 20-second clock on the time a pitcher has from catching the return throw until he delivers again to home. It was used in the Arizona Fall League recently and will be implemented at the Double A and Triple A levels this summer, with three clocks spaced around the stadiums. Not too worry, the Dash will still be normal.

Personally, if I were to shell out a couple hundred bucks to attend a Major League ball game, I would want as much bang for my buck as I could get. It is a family night out, so does it really matter if game time is 2:55, as it was in 2010, or 3:08 as it was last year?

As is always the case with our National Pastime, it isn’t quite that simple. There is already a rule on the books giving the pitcher 12 seconds; it just is never enforced. Huh. Imagine that. That’s just with all bases unoccupied though, and doesn’t take into account a hitter calling time, the pitcher dropping the return throw, etc.

Whenever out-of-the box thinking is required pertaining to sports, my No. 1 ā€“ and really only ā€“ source is my brother-in-law, Bill. He is wired a little bit loosely for somebody with a responsible job at a university. That’s probably why we get along so well.

Bill also is an avid sports nut, which is redundant but very appropriate, and a die-hard Pirate and Steeler fan. When the NHL went outdoors to the Big House in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago, the concern was how to involve the fan sitting in the 90th row in a crowd of 110,000. Bill’s solution was to just put ice over the entire football field, put out four teams with two different colored pucks and let them have at it.

Personally, I thought it was brilliant. I mentioned it to the president of the Chicago Blackhawks not long ago and while he laughed, he wasn’t sold. They did a normal-sized rink at Wrigley Field.

Back to this baseball timing thing, Bill and I put on our thinking caps, in and of itself dangerous. Seven innings seemed too simplistic, so we started on the math, even more precarious. There is a reason neither one of us balances the checkbook.

Assuming we want a two-hour game so that we can get home and do whatever we need to do with that extra hour, and we know we need a half hour or so for commercials between innings, we are left with 90 minutes of baseball. Since that is divided so nicely among nine innings, we are left with 10 minutes per inning, or five per half inning. Perfect! And maybe we should start balancing the checkbook with creativity like that.

Therefore, when the buzzer sounds at the five-minute mark, SWIIIIITCH! If it is mid-play, we could do it like a hockey line change. If the right-fielder is not involved in the play, he runs in and their guy runs out. Saves even more time.

If it takes five minutes to load the bases and you have no outs? Tough Break! SWIIIIITCH!

OK, it’s silly and stupid at the same time. So is putting a clock on one of the few timeless things we have left. Was Gone with the Wind too long? Did we walk away from a Beatles concert saying, “If only they hadn’t played Hey Jude?”

The point is that we planned a night out at the ballpark. What in heaven’s name is so important that we can’t afford the extra 15 minutes to see the conclusion? And if something is that urgent, well, SportsCenter will have the results at 11 anyway.

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