The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 15, 2011

MLB: Heed the words of the Godfather


Enid News & Eagle

ENID — The Major League Baseball playoffs have been a lesson in everything that is wrong with baseball today.

The games have produced plenty of late-inning high-drama moments, but getting to those moments for the viewer has been the equivalent of having to sit through a three-hour drive through the Panhandle before finding a Waffle House at the end of the trail. It may not be gourmet, but anything seems exciting by the end of that trip.

Certainly the adage about something being as exciting as watching paint dry was coined by an exasperated baseball observer.

Earlier this week, an 11-inning 7-3 win by the Texas Rangers in the ALCS over Detroit took exactly four hours to play. That same day, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in the NLCS in a comparatively brisk three hours and 10 minutes.

Is anybody really sitting through these games that doesn’t have a dog in the fight?

Sure, the finishes are compelling, but it means sitting through numerous batters stepping out of the batter’s box, pitchers stepping off the mound and television commercial breaks for every trip to the mound by a pitching coach. In other words, it’s hardly excitement personified.

The numbers for baseball aren’t good. Television viewership ratings from the previous weekend show not only were the MLB playoffs destroyed by regular season NFL football, the ratings were below several cable TV shows.

Last week’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears pulled in 16.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen. WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” drew 5.4 million viewers that same night. TBS’ coverage of the NLCS could only round up 3 million viewers, fewer even than “Keeping Up With Kardashians,” which pulled in nearly 4 million viewers.

Really, though, who could blame folks for wanting to find out what Kim (or is it Khloe or Kourtney?) Kardashian is up to next in her self-absorbed universe? Everybody knows a train wreck is more compelling than a slow-moving traffic jam on I-35.

In the time it now takes to finish a playoff baseball game, viewers can take in an entire NFL game, switch back to the baseball game and still catch the last two innings.

Or if a fan wanted to fly out to Dallas from Oklahoma City to catch the Rangers, he or she could leave OKC at the start of the game and arrive in time to still catch at least six innings of baseball.

Or pop a classic movie in the DVD player such as “The Godfather,” not miss a single classic line (“You have to answer for Santino, Carlo”), scroll through all of the credits at the end, and still catch the end of the ballgame.

There are simple ways to speed the pace of baseball’s slow dance. It’s time to put a clock on the pitcher and limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box would be a good start.

We will never go back to the days of two-hour games with the emphasis on relief pitchers and limiting pitch counts of starting pitchers.

But soon MLB is going to have to heed the words of Michael Corleone and be prepared to answer for letting America’s pastime become America’s naptime.



Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.