Sports Medley: Basketball and Baseball Woes
by Tony Medley
Meaningless Basketball Games:
Thanks to the NCAA and the NBA, February is the winter of a sports fanís
discontent. Back in the day, the NCAA basketball tournament consisted of
conference winners playing a semi-final round one weekend and the final
four the following weekend. As a result, virtually every game throughout
the season was important because, if the team did not win its
conference, it didnít get into the tournament.
When the NCAA discovered how much TV money was lying around unclaimed,
it started March Madness. This put almost half of the NCAA teams into a
tournament in March to determine the eventual champion. What this also
did, though, was make all games played before March virtually
meaningless. Instead of limiting the tournament to the elite teams,
fully 20% of all Division I teams qualify for
the tournament. Confirming the meaninglessness of these pre-March
Madness games, Kentucky coach John Calipari said, ďI just want the
regular season to get over with. The real stuff starts in March.Ē So why
spend good money to see any of these pre-tournament games (and itís not
cheap any more)?
The NBA is just as bad, if not worse. When the league started out after
WWII in the mid-40s it was a dubious financial proposition. So the
owners started their playoff system in which most of the teams qualified
for the playoffs, which packed arenas and made money. That continues
today when more than half of the teams in the league qualify for the
playoffs. The result is that the long, tedious, NBA season consists of
little more than exhibition games. The serious stuff starts with the
playoffs in March. If you watch a December NBA game and compare it with
a playoff game, the difference in intensity makes the December game look
like a Harlem Globetrotters Ė Washington Generals game.
So for a sports fan who cares about quality, interest in sports stops
after the Super Bowl and restarts in March, leaving February as a vast
wasteland with no football, no baseball, and no meaningful basketball.
Baseballís half-hearted attempts to speed up the game:
Baseball has instituted several rules to attempt to speed up the game.
That games are getting longer, is indisputable. Look at this table about
the average times of games since 1950 (itís worth noting that in 1919
the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 in 51 minutes):
are too many basic reasons for these longer games to cover completely in
one column, so Iíll just deal with two now. The first is that the
pitchers dawdle between pitches. When I pitched in high school and a
little in college I would throw a pitch. The catcher would return it to
me. I would look in, we quickly would agree on a pitch, and I would
throw another pitch. That took about seven seconds.
you watch a major league baseball game, and I have timed this, pitchers
take between 25 and 40 seconds between pitches. Thatís absurd and there
is no reason for it. But there is also no reason to institute a new rule
to correct this because MLB rule 8.04 covers it:
the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the
batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the
pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call
The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the
ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing
stops when the pitcher releases the ball.Ē
rule is completely unenforced. The solution is simple, put a clock on
the scoreboard and the second the pitcher receives the ball start the
countdown and enforce the rule. No new rule is needed.
batters are equally to blame. When I was playing and batting, after the
pitch I stayed in the batterís box and waited for the pitcher to throw
another pitch. There was no stepping out of the batterís box or anything
like that. There is no reason to do that.
however, these prima donna batters step out of the batterís box after
each pitch and adjust their batting gloves! They unzip it and then zip
it up and that takes 15 to 20 seconds (Dodgers strikeout king Yasiel
Puig is one of the worst offenders). Whatís a batting glove? We never
heard of batting gloves when I played. Are todayís batters such wusses
with hands so tender that they canít hold a bat for 2 to 3 minutes four
times a game without getting blisters?
Baseball has instituted a rule that the batter must keep one foot in the
batterís box between pitches. This is really silly because they can
still diddle around. If MLB wants an effective rule to speed up the game
it would ban those ridiculous, unnecessary batting gloves.
My time has run out but I have a lot more to say; more anon.