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posted: 8/19/2013 5:30 AM

Let's hope instant replay puts focus on baseball's slow play

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  • What Commissioner Bud Selig really needs to be hoping for is a way to pick up the ever-slowing pace of major-league games.

      What Commissioner Bud Selig really needs to be hoping for is a way to pick up the ever-slowing pace of major-league games.
    Associated Press

  • Yes, Commissioner Bud Selig, it is taking longer and longer to play major-league games.

      Yes, Commissioner Bud Selig, it is taking longer and longer to play major-league games.
    Associated Press

 
 

The biggest benefit of baseball adopting instant replay might be the focus on an ongoing issue of the time of games.

Or specifically the pace of play.

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The late, great actor philosopher W.C. Fields might have said, "I once spent a year in the ballpark I think it was on a Sunday."

The time-traveling Mark Buehrle certainly wasn't pitching that day. More likely a team used a struggling starter and six relievers to throw a total of 250 pitches.

In a world where time is increasingly short, baseball games are getting longer.

Veteran baseball writer Rick Hummel addressed the issue in his St. Louis Post-Dispatch article Sunday about the pending instant-replay proposal.

"The average time of a nine-inning game is 2 hours, 58 minutes, nearly three minutes longer than last year and six minutes longer than in 2011," Hummel wrote.

The White Sox' victory at Minnesota on Sunday exceeded the average by a minute, which wouldn't be bad if the score were 10-8 instead of 5-2. The Cubs' 6-1 loss to the Cardinals went over by 13 minutes, leaving many previously filled Wrigley Field seats empty at the final out.

"That three minutes (extra) per game translates into 122 more hours of baseball during this season than last season," Hummel noted.

Now, this being the greatest team sport on Earth, the question could be what better is there to do with the equivalent of five more full days than to watch baseball.

The answer is nothing as long as a game sprints instead of sleepwalks.

There is no entertainment value in a pitcher walking around the infield between pitches, a batter stepping out of the box to adjust his batting gloves, or a coach visiting the mound for a chat about the conflict in Egypt.

Throw the flippin' ball already! Get back in the flamin' box already! Shut up and play the freakin' game already!

One of the beauties of baseball is that there isn't the clock that dictates every other major team sport. But, please, even though baseball is my favorite sport on too many days, sitting through nine innings is a chore now.

Everything in life moves faster, which makes baseball look like it's standing still. Not long ago a game flowed at the speed of a board game that people played at home. Now it's the tortoise trailing behind a video game's hare.

One of the fears about instant-replay reviews is that they will slow down the action, especially with managers being able to challenge as many as three plays in any given day game.

"It will take a lot less (time) than the manager arguing," Hummel quoted Tony La Russa, one of committee members who designed the review system.

How ironic that this aspect came up. When a manager emerges to argue with an umpire, well, something fun actually is happening.

At least such a dust-up isn't a pitcher fondling the rosin bag, a batter taking shadow swings between pitches, or an outfielder running back to the dugout because he forgot his sunglasses.

An argument between manager and umpire is more like a fastbreak in basketball or a long pass completion in football.

To Bud Selig's credit -- and there's so little to credit the commissioner with -- he has been an advocate of accelerating the pace of the game.

The results are false starts, however. Players don't want their routines disrupted, and umpires aren't particularly inclined to disrupt them.

So maybe the issue of instant-replay reviews will bring attention to the issue of games dragging and lead to a solution.

Sounds like a win-win situation if all the parties hurry up and finally get something done.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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