Yankees: Enough Already With This Pace Of Play Obsession

John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports /

Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to put earpieces in batters helmets to speed up the game. Someone else wants to reduce commercial breaks from three minutes to one minute and put sponsors on uniforms to make up for the revenue loss. The intentional walk is no more. Enough already!

The Yankees have never needed to manufacture excitement. And when Mariano Rivera was pitching, it could have taken ten minutes for him to get from the bullpen to the mound and no one would have cared. With the first chords of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and the bullpen doors opening like a matador entering the arena, Rivera struck the soul of the game in a way that no one can duplicate or manufacture. You want drama, you want excitement in baseball, it’s here in the three minutes of what they call “down time”.

And yet, Major League Baseball seems obsessed with doing just that. Today, it’s the intentional walk that’s reduced to a mere point of a finger. Tomorrow, it’ll be the new rule being tested in the minors this year to manufacture excitement by completely altering a game that goes beyond ten innings. There’s talk of changing the strike zone again too because of all the “low strikes” being called.

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What’s next? Will they adopt the idea proposed by Steve Phillips, the former General Manager of the New York Mets, to change the number of balls to three and strikes to two? There’s no doubt that would sure speed up the game. But, at what cost to the game itself.

Above all else, baseball is a form of entertainment, just like going to a movie. And a three-hour movie that is a cut above the rest will win an Oscar just as easily as a 90-minute bomb will have you walking out of the theater shaking your head.

In the 1960’s, automobile manufacturers became obsessed with the front grille of cars they were producing. And they competed and kept adding pounds of American-made steel to their designs until the Ford Corporation came up with the design of all designs – the Edsel. Due to its bizarre front-end styling, the model became the laughing stock of the industry and was quickly removed from the market.

When (not if) will Major League Baseball design its first Edsel? Because it’s not about the introduction of a single rule change like the elimination of the four-pitch intentional walk. Instead, like the Edsel, it’s about the cumulative effect of these changes on the game of baseball.

Although, it is instructive to note that Yankees catcher, Gary Sanchez, hit a sacrifice fly during an intentional walk at-bat last season. Here’s the clip.

Gary Sanchez is instructive in other ways too as an example of the inherent drama of the game. Consider this, Yankees fans. When Sanchez strides to the plate and the pitcher steps off the rubber calling the catcher out for a chat, do you find that “down time”? Or, is your attention drawn to the TV or away from the hot dog vendor if you’re at the game in anticipation of what you might witness from Sanchez with a bat in his hands?

Yankees fans know their baseball. And they don’t care if they get home ten minutes sooner or fifteen minutes later from a game they are attending. Now, that might be a difference for the so-called fans sitting in the $500 seats behind home plate, whose lives are so precious that every minute counts. And every minute of a ballgame needs to be as thrilling as the last sale they had made before the limo brought them to the Stadium.

And that’s what worries me. Who is baseball targeting with these changes? Surely, it can’t be your average everyday Yankees fan and fan of baseball in general.

Yankees Reliever Tyler Clippard Speaks For Players

In a story that appears in today’s New York Daily News, Yankees reliever, Tyler Clippard, warns that the rule changes MLB is instituting are a “slippery slope”:

"“If enough players are against the ruling, we would be more inclined to just ignore it,” Clippard said on Wednesday. “You would see a lot of weird stuff happening.“If there’s a pitch clock and you take more than 20 seconds, what, they’re going to call a ball? Fans don’t want to come to a game and see that. You going to stand out there for a minute and a half and walk a guy without throwing a pitch? How can that be good for the game?”"

And there’s the essence of it. “How can that be good for the game”? Clippard has been in baseball for a considerable length of time and his opinions, and those of other players as well should carry some weight. After all, it’s their game, not ours and not the suits that sit in MLB offices dreaming up these changes. Clippard goes on to say:

"“What are we really trying to do here?” Clippard said. “We could just play home run derby if you really want to speed things up.“I’ve never once had a fan say to me they wish the games were shorter. The only people you ever hear that from are ones who don’t like baseball. They’re not going to watch the games anyway.”"

A voice of reason steps in to raise a very practical point. They’re (anti-baseball people) not going to watch the games anyway.

Next: Shortcomings Of The Extra Innings Rule Change

We’re all familiar with the statement we hear all the time about things other than baseball – Can’t you just leave well enough alone? Baseball doesn’t need drama and excitement to be manufactured. It’s already built into the game. And when those bullpen doors open and Aroldis Chapman steps on the field to throw 105 MPH fastballs taking leisurely strides in while he’s preparing himself mentally for the batter he will be facing, that’s enough for me. Let it be.