Rand: Long baseball games become a burden

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2014 - 6:53 PM

Ballplayers standing around? Moving slowly? Yep, that’s baseball. In this case, perhaps it was justified. The game was over and the Twins had won Sunday when Glen Perkins, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe strolled off.

Photo: Jerry Holt • jerry.holt@startribune.com,

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Chris Herrmann drifted in to snag a routine fly ball with two outs in the ninth and the Twins ahead by three on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The ball landed in his glove … then improbably popped out, giving Twins fans temporary pits in their stomachs.

A single followed before Glen Perkins was able to record the final out. No harm done, even if the tying run came to the plate. Except … Herrmann’s gaffe might have cost the Twins in one department: the rare chance to complete a game — and every game in a series — in under three hours. By our watch, it would have ended in 2 hours, 59 minutes with a normal squeeze. Instead, the official game time was 3:02, and it led us down a precarious research path that won’t make fans of fast-paced baseball happy.

The Twins have not played an entire series of three games or longer in under three hours for each game since July 19-21, 2013, when they took two of three from Cleveland. Two of the games clocked in at 2:59 and 2:57, respectively, but that still qualified as the fourth and final series of 2013 to meet the threshold. It has not happened for the Twins in 2014, a year in which pace of play has again become a point of discussion.

Eighteen of the Twins’ 29 games this season have lasted three hours or longer. Before picking it up a bit over the weekend, the Twins’ average game time through 26 games this season was a ridiculous 3 hours, 20 minutes. That included four extra-inning games, but none was longer than 12 innings. The last of those 26 games was a 12-inning affair vs. the Dodgers that lasted 5 hours, 11 minutes — and had reached the four-hour mark by the end of nine innings.

The first two in the Orioles series were relatively brisk — 2:51 on Saturday and the fastest of the year, 2:29, on Friday. Thanks to those games and the still-quick-by-comparison 3:02 Sunday, the Twins’ average game time is now down to 3 hours, 17 minutes.

Go back just a generation, to the 1984 Twins, and you’ll find only 11 games all season that lasted three hours or longer. Almost half the games they played that year were 2:30 or shorter.

Why does it matter? Isn’t part of the charm of baseball the fact that there is no clock — some games might last four hours, a few might be close to half that, and you take what you get?

That used to be a charm. Now it’s just an energy drain. I don’t know if a pitch clock — such as the one college baseball’s SEC started as an experiment in 2010 — is the answer. But I know this: I’m a patient person who loves baseball, and these long games are not sustainable.

 

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