One of the charms of baseball is that it has no clock. Unlike basketball, football, hockey and soccer, there is no endpoint determined by the hands of time. You play until all the outs are recorded. And that could be a very long time if the score is tied -- hence the cliched but apt term "free baseball" to describe extra innings.
As a fan growing up, we relished "free baseball." It meant a day or night at the ballpark was being extended.
With the lengths of games these days, though, free baseball is starting to feel like a punishment ... and the lack of a clock in the sport is starting to feel like a burden instead of a charm. A generation ago, games lasted about 2 hours and 30 minutes -- maybe a little longer, maybe a little shorter.
The 1984 Twins played just 11 games that lasted 3 hours or longer and had 80 games -- almost half the season -- that were 2:30 or shorter. That's just 30 years ago. This year's Twins have ALREADY had 17 of their 26 games go 3 hours or longer.
As someone who both loves baseball and can generally be described as patient, it takes a lot to get us to a breaking point on this, but we are awfully close. We weren't even at last night's slog-fest -- a five-hour extra-inning affair that had reached the four-hour mark by the end of nine innings.
It's time for some radical changes, as discussed on this week's Sportive Podcast (language warning, as usual). Hitters are so trained to work deep counts and get rewarded either with walks or favorable counts. Umps have to call more strikes. We're not sure if that means physically expanding the strike zone or actually calling it the way nature intended. But this has to happen. Swing. The. Bat. Also: Some sort of "shot clock," the maximum amount of allowed time between pitches, would be keen -- as would a limit on the number of times the pitcher and catcher can meet on the mound.
We weren't even at last night's game. We can't even fathom the misery. On nights that are 70 degrees and clear instead of 40 and damp, it become somewhat more tenable. And not every game will feature a million walks. But there are enough examples of slow play. Baseball, and the walk-happy Twins, have a real problem. Having games that routinely last more than three hours and could go four or more is just not sustainable for anyone.