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Murph: Four new rules to improve the pace of MLB games in 2018



Nobody loves fun at the old ball yard more than yours truly, sports fans. A couple of beers, a 7th inning stretch, a hot dog, maybe a $35 crab sandwich if throwing caution the wind.

You can’t beat it. America, baby.

That said, I don’t want nine innings to last as long as it does these days.

So yes, let’s work towards quickening the game. The news that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and players’ union chief Tony Clark are meeting about pitch clocks, mound visits and other ways to trim the time-of-game fat is welcome news.

I say: Make the moves. Let’s make this beautiful game leaner and meaner.

The average game in 2017 lasted three hours, eight minutes. That’s 25-30 minutes longer than a crisply-played, artistically-dazzling game of baseball should last. I have no scientific evidence that shows that two hours, 40 minutes is almost the perfect length of game. I just know it is. Past experience, intuition, the indefinable flow of what is right and what is wrong — all combines to tell me that a baseball game that takes too long can be annoying. But a baseball game that moves at a regular clip is an immense joy.

I know I’m old and crusty, but 1986 was a pretty good year for baseball: Roger Clemens and the Red Sox, Dwight Gooden and the Mets, Will Clark and the Giants, etc. Average time of game in 1986? 2 hours, 44 minutes.

I remember 1993 as a pretty good year, too. The Giants won 103 games. Barry Bonds went bananas. Baseball was super fun. The average length of a game? 2 hours, 48 minutes.

Now we’re 15-20 minutes longer, and it’s all extraneous stuff. It’s not an extra 15-20 minutes longer of diving catches, stolen bases and home run trots. It’s 15-20 minutes of mound visits, replay reviews and — my all-time pet peeve — players stepping out of the box to readjust their batting gloves … AFTER … EVERY … PITCH.

So, rule Number One: Players keep one foot in the box at all times. Only exception: a foul ball gives you a chance to readjust.

Rule Number Two: Catchers go to the mound only once per pitcher, per inning. If you got something so important to say, shout it. Or give him sign language.

Rule Number Three: Pitch clock, yes. Pitchers have turned into world-class dawdlers, for no good reason other than the old phrase, “work expands to time allotted.”

Rule Number Four: Replay reviews have a 60-second time limit. If you can’t tell in 60 seconds, back to the original call.

Bottom line, it can be improved. Pace is important in life — in a grocery store line, on a golf course, at a speech where the speaker drones on and on and on and on and on and … wait is that the ghost of Tony La Russa making another pitching change?

I’m not guaranteeing the 18-and-under crowd will flock to baseball like it’s New York City in 1954 because of these changes. I am guaranteeing, however, an overall more pleasant experience for all involved. And that tends to help one’s product and marketability.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. The “Blog Clock” countdown says it’s time to end this essay.

See how easy that was?