Many of those I have seen questioning Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s various proposals to streamline play assert that fans are not upset about the length of contests as they are today. Others, like myself, would like to see some minor tuning with recent changes such as streamlining of expanded replay – both in the dugout and New York umpiring review studio.
However, a significant number of observers simply want the game to be left alone. (You can sample some of the recent discussion at The Cardinal Nation’s free fan forum here.)
Early in the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training opening telecast on FOX Sports Midwest on Saturday afternoon, color commentator Rick Horton made it clear he wants MLB to avoid major changes to shorten games.
To reinforce his point, the former Cardinals pitcher concluded with an extreme contrast to the pace of baseball:
“We don’t want to be the Kentucky Derby – a lot of fun for three minutes, then it is over,” Horton said.
The crew came back around to the subject during the bottom of the fifth inning. Always-perceptive play-by-play man Dan McLaughlin made some comments I feel are very interesting and deserve additional attention.
After the pair agreed they would not want to see extra innings begin with a runner on second base – one of the many changes under consideration to be tried in the minor leagues – Horton added that the players are against the idea, too.
In responding to Horton, McLaughlin expanded his remarks.
“That needs to be mentioned. I think a lot of people out there think, well, the commissioner says this is what he wants – this is what is going to happen.
“All that has to be bargained with the Players’ Association. And the players have been more of the traditionalists, if you will, than those trying to make some of the moves in the game.
“I think from Rob Manfred’s point of view, he’s got broadcast partners that he needs to appease. And shortening the game to make sure that those broadcast partners are happy is probably first and foremost on his list. And I understand that.
“But to guys like you and I who just enjoy the game of baseball for no matter how long it takes – and many others – they could care less,” McLaughlin concluded.
Perhaps those who assert that most fans don’t mind the current length of games are right – but then again, when all is said and done, maybe fan opinion is not what really matter$.
Should we be surprised?
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