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Kahuna's Essay Column
September 3, 2017
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Break It: When Rob
Manfred replaced Bud Selig as commissioner of Major League
Baseball, this column was understandably celebratory. Anyone, the
reasoning went, had to be better than Selig.
While Manfred initially approached the job with a thoughtfulness
and practicality that was not always in evidence during Selig's
reign of error, some of Manfred's recent initiatives have muted my
enthusiasm for his tenure.
Things like the recent "player's weekend", and
non-solutions like the no-pitch intentional walk, and the
consideration of robot umpires indicate Manfred's willingness
to cheapen the ideals of the game even further.
If there is one thing this column has consistently railed against
it is this: baseball needs fewer gimmicks, not more.
The reliance on gimmickry suggests that the game, by itself, in
not worth following. This, should be, considered unthinkable by
the baseball establishment.
Instead, baseball executives seem to be signaling that they do not
like baseball, they do not expect you to find it interesting, so,
therefore, they have to give you something else to keep your
This backward, wrong-headed philosophy has caused baseball to be,
ironically, a slower paced, slightly less exciting game.
The owners, with the tacit approval of the player's union, are
following a strategy to make their sport more appealing to fans of
other sports. This is being done at the expense of die-hard
They get away with it, because they can count on die-hard fans to
love baseball, no matter what they choose to do to it.
It's sad, but true. Baseball will continue to be reshaped, not by
people who cherish and respect baseball, but rather, to appease
the opinions of people that find baseball to be too slow and
And if recent world history has taught us anything, it has to be
that appeasement can only lead to disaster.
Relevant Question Of The Month: What do think of
baseball's efforts to improve the "Pace of Play"?-L. B.
The one thing that everyone needs to understand is that if
Major League Baseball wanted the games to take less time, then
It is becoming increasingly clear that Major League Baseball has
no real interest in reducing game times, and is merely paying lip
service to the idea.
As a matter of fact, despite all apparent efforts to the contrary,
the average time it takes to play a game has, on average,
increased by approximately five minutes.
One has to ask, if baseball is directing so much energy into make
games take less time, why are they taking more time? The answer,
it seems to me, is that baseball wants its games to take as long
as they can get away with.
Think of it: the longer fans are in the ballpark, the more
opportunity exists to sell those fans something. Or more of
If games are played in just over two hours, like Major League
Baseball contends is their ideal, fans have one fewer hour to buy
food, beverages, and souvenirs. Why would revenue conscious owners
If Major League Baseball had a real interest in limiting the
average time it takes to play a game, they would put a lot of
energy into keeping batters in the batter's box between pitches,
reducing the time spent in between innings, and putting a limit of
the number of times the catcher can visit the pitcher on the
Instead, baseball talks about red herrings like a pitch clock and
institutes the no-pitch intentional walk (which will save, an
average of, around one second per game per season)
This, it seems to me, is a lot like saying you want to prevent
your house from fire while dousing it in gasoline.
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