If you love the game of baseball, as I do, you need to pay attention to the writings of Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated.
For my money there is none better. He knows the game, his analysis are usually right on the mark, he pulls no punches and has no particular bias. Best of all, his research produces information that seems to elude other writers.
A recent article focused on a troubling trend in baseball. In the past 10 years major league teams have added 29 minutes, 11 seconds of dead time to the average game.
The even-handed Verducci is quick to point out that this has not hurt the popularity of the game--so far.
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"Baseball is more popular than ever," he writes. "More people consume baseball in more ways than ever before, and player salaries, ticket sales and television rights fees reflect these flush financial times.
"The worry for the next commissioner, however, is that these customers are not engaged enough and not young enough."
In other words, we old fans are dying out and being replaced by people who like a lot of action in their games.
An average baseball game in 2014 is three hours and eight minutes.
But Verducci says that is not as much of an issue as is the slowing pace of the game.
The writer cites a recent game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets in which a half inning with no runs, no hits, and just three balls put in play, took 21 minutes, 44 seconds.
Unusual? Perhaps, but certainly not unprecedented in 2014.
"In just 10 years," according to Verducci, "the time in between balls in play has increased 10 percent. You have to wait an extra 32.4 seconds today.
"Multiply that extra time by the average of 54.04 balls in play per games, and that's how you get the added 29 minutes, 11 seconds of down time over the course of an average game."
Last week at Camden Yards, during a game between Baltimore and Boston, I paid close attention to slow pace. Here are some of the things I witnessed.
Rule 6.02 requires "the batter shall take his position in the batter's box promptly" and is not supposed to leave the box except for specified reasons. Rule 8.04 requires pitchers to deliver the pitch with the bases empty "within 12 seconds after he receives the ball."
Verdcucci has some suggestions to speed up the game:
Verducci writes that if those ideas don't speed up the pace of the game the next step would be rules changes.
One that I find particularly appealing is placing limits on pitching changes.
"Every night managers burn through multiple relievers who face just a few batters," Verducci writes. "We are talking about a huge change in recent years on how the game is played. The number of times a relief pitcher was used for just one or two batters jumped 31 per cent from 1998 to 2012."
Hmm, sounds like a man who would make a refreshing successor to Bud Selig.