Americans should quit getting their rocks off trying to fix the national pastime. It can’t be fixed, and that dirty little secret about Major League Baseball is as obvious as its All-Star Game is outdated.
Hey, nobody said the truth was fun to read.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is looking at declines in attendance and television ratings. The sport is in worse shape than the Pirates’ bullpen prior to that five-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers before the All-Star break. (Didn’t see that one coming? Judging by the crowds at PNC Park, not too many saw it actually happening.)
Manfred is aware his sport has problems. He has had in-depth discussions about play’s pace and games’ lengths. He has heard radio hosts and columnists pitch solutions, as if any of us have a clue what to do.
We don’t. If we did, we wouldn’t be shouting about the Same Old Solutions:
Add the DH to the National League!
Curb mound visits!
No-pitch the intentional walks!
Those tweaks might speed up games. They might increase scoring. But we’re talking about speeding up a game that is inherently plodding, and this leisurely aspect is what a lot of hardened baseball fans love about it. Still, for people of my generation, the ball is never put into play enough to keep anybody’s attention.
There's less than 18 minutes of actual activity within an average three-hour game. That’s not me talking. That is from Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, and it’s a direct quote.
Less than 18 minutes of actual activity within an average three-hour game!
That’s the problem with baseball.
Attend a football game and you’re likely to see an elite athlete get hurt. It’s an awful sight. Attend a baseball game and you’re likely to see as many pitchers grabbing their crotches as balls (pardon the pun) put into play. And it’s an awful-kind-of-hurt to see so much nothingness.
Football is violent. Baseball is boring. You can’t change either sport without fundamentally altering what fans love about it.
Manfred has no attractive options. Getting games under three hours won’t change the fact that pace, not length, of MLB games is what keeps shrinking the attendance and TV numbers. Look at it this way: The college economics course you took lasted an hour and felt like forever; every hour-long episode of Games of Thrones feels like it’s over in the blink of an eye.
I’m a millennial. And while I dare not speak for all of us, I feel comfortable saying most of us lack the patience for anything that offers only 18 minutes of entertainment for every three hours.
There is no saving baseball for my generation. The problem for us is that baseball is, well, baseball.
Adam Crowley is a CP contributor. Listen to “The Adam Crowley Show” weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on WBGG-AM (ESPN Pittsburgh).