If you listen to Rob Manfred, otherwise known as “The Idiot in the Baseball Commissioners Office,” major changes have to be made in the time it takes to play a game or the world as we know it will come to an end. There are several proposals coming out of the Commissioner’s Office designed to shorten the length of games.

Suggestions include ideas such as starting extra inning games with a runner on second base, reducing the number of innings from nine to seven, limiting catcher’s trips to the mound,  etc., etc., etc. All of the suggestions, except one, would take miniscule amounts of time off the game. If you accept the fact that the fans, and who else’s opinion counts, want shorter games, requiring the pitcher to throw the next pitch in a reasonable amount of time is the only change that would accomplish a significant reduction. 

A study done by Baseball Reference in 2010 found that the number of pitches per game had increased steadily over the past several years to 292. I did my own unscientific survey in 2017 and found that the number now exceeds 300 per game on the average.  

At an average of 300 pitches per game, if just five seconds could be taken off the time between pitches, the average game could be shortened by 25 minutes. This would be relatively painless and, short of major changes in the way in which the game is played, makes the most sense if you accept the idea that the fans want a shorter game.

I have always felt that the tempest in a tea pot that is the pace of the game question is a problem dreamed up by the media and the baseball gods and that the average fan is content to leave the game alone.

The fans can’t be too upset with the length of games. The Commissioner’s Office reported this week that the Houston Astros were paid $438,901.57 per player for winning the World Series and the losing Los Angeles Dodgers got $259,722. per player. The Yankees, who lost to Houston in the ALCS, got $139,897.63 per man and there were 57 full shares. The Nationals, Indians and Red Sox, who were eliminated in the first round, got $36,000. per player.  These figures, which are the highest in history, are based on gate receipts.

50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card games, 60 percent of the receipts from the first three games of the four Division Series, 60 percent from the first four games of the two Championship Series and 60 percent of from the first four games of the World Series go into a pot which is divided among the ten teams that make the Playoffs according to their level of success.

In 1903, in the first World Series ever played, won by the Boston Americans, the players on the winning team, including Sanford’s own Freddy Parent, the Flying Frenchman, received $1,182. each.

This year with the Los Angeles Dodgers facing the Houston Astros, the World Series itself drew 346,702 fans, an average of almost 50,000 per game. Of course, the fact that Dodger Stadium holds over 54,000 and Minute Maid Park holds over 43,000, contributed to the large attendance. The average game in the Series by the way, took three hours and 42 minutes to play. (The fact that there were two extra innings games contributed to the length but Game 1, which the Dodgers won 3-1, took only two hours and 28 minutes balancing the average.)  

Forbes Magazine reported that baseball for the 15th year in a row had record revenues, topping $10. billion in 2017 for the first time, compared to $9.5 billion in 2015. Overall attendance at ball games was 72,670,425, down 489,249, a loss of less than 7/10 of one percent, from last year.  The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals, both of who had sub .500, disappointing years, lost over 300,000 in attendance each meaning that, on the average, the other twenty-eight teams had increased attendance.  Twenty-three of the teams exceeded 2,000,000 in attendance and 28 averaged over 20,000 per game.

All eyes will be on the Winter meetings to be held on from Dec. 10-14 at the Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort at Orlando, Florida. As of this writing, the free agent market has been quiet but can be expected to heat up then. Doug Fister who gave the Sox some good innings down the stretch has signed with Texas for $4. million. The other Sox free agents of note are Eduardo Nunez, Addison Reed, Chris Young, Kyle Kendrick, Rajai Davis and Mitch Moreland. Of course, Davis and Moreland will probably not be back. Davis was a rental for the stretch run and Moreland does not seem to fit the Sox plans, particularly with Sam Travis available and the Sox looking to trade for a big bat.  

Meanwhile, the Yankees, with a boat load of young talent and as much, if not more, power than anyone in baseball, don’t seem to be too anxious to hire a manager to replace the outgoing Joe Girardi. They have interviewed several candidates, including Rob Thomson, their current bench coach and were scheduled to interview Carlos Beltran this week. I thought that Beltran, who just played in the World Series with the Astros and had no experience coaching or managing, would be an odd choice for a team with so many young players. 

They also interviewed Chris Woodward, the Dodgers current bench coach, who played for seven different major league teams, but has no big league managing experience; Henry Meulens, currently the bench coach for the San Francisco Giants who also served as batting coach there and Eric Wedge, who managed the Cleveland Indians from 2003-2009 and the Seattle Mariners from 2011-2013, and has won 774 and lost 846 as a manager. His Indians won the American League Central in 2007 and took the Red Sox to seven games in the ALCS after beating the Yankees in the ALDS. 

On Friday night it was reported that the Yankees had named Aaron Boone, who played for six different major league teams, hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history and has been working as a baseball analyst and color commentator with ESPN but also has no coaching background as their new manager. Boone takes over a team that may have as much talent as the Astros and Red Sox and a young nucleus of players who already have a year of success and playoff experience under their belts. 

It would appear that the delay in selecting a manager means that they are not going to be doing a lot of shopping in the off season although they could use another starting pitcher. 

I suppose most Red Sox fans were not surprised to see that the “Manager That Got Away,” Torey Lovullo, was named Manager of the Year in the National League after taking the Diamondbacks to the NLDS where they lost to the Dodgers. Lovullo took over a team that was 69-93 last year and led them to a 93-69 finish and a win in the Wild Card Game over Colorado before being swept by the powerful Dodgers.

Carl Johnson lives in Sanford and writes a weekly baseball column for the Journal Tribune Sunday. Contact him at [email protected] and check out his blog at baseballworldbjt.com.

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