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Calling for the fastball; MLB trying to find ways to shorten games.

Byline: Bill Ballou

BOSTON -- Baseball is not a fast game, but neither should it leave fans fast asleep.

This season's combination of bad baseball and long, long games have been doing that to Red Sox fans.

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner has been named to a committee to investigate ways to speed up games, and his team's manager has a suggestion that hits close to home, since Werner made his fortune in television.

John Farrell, who has seen every minute of every game except for the three in which he was ejected, was asked about slow baseball Tuesday afternoon, a few hours between the two slowest teams in baseball -- the Red Sox and Rays -- took the field.

"I don't know that our strategy from the dugout takes into account the length of the game,'' Farrell said. "We're all about making the right decisions and, hopefully, executing on a consistent basis to win games.

"I do know this -- the Red Sox have notoriously been the team that has played longer games, and that's been in part because of a lineup that's been deep, one that sees a lot of pitches, and we would hope that would not change our view of evaluating players.

"If there is a way to shorten down the game, to me it's the elapsed time between half-innings. There's probably eight minutes you can shave off a game, inside the time elapsed between innings.''

That seems like a poke at TV commercials and promos, and Farrell definitely has a point there.

Games have gotten longer throughout baseball over the past 20 or so years and Boston does, indeed, take longer to play its games than every team except for the Rays. Sox games at Fenway have been agonizingly long this season, averaging 3:15, in part because they have been so bad at home there are not many 81/2-inning games here.

The Mariners are averaging 2:52 for their home games, in contrast.

This year, Boston has played 133 nine-inning games, and 90 of them have lasted more than three hours -- two of them going on past four hours. Ten years ago, in contrast, the Sox played 150 nine-inning games and 90 were shorter than three hours, none above four hours.

The Sox are ahead of the 1994 Tigers as the team that sees the most pitches per plate appearance, an average of 4.05. The '94 Tigers saw 4.03. The 2014 Red Sox were 68-88 through 156 games, while Detroit was 53-62 in the strike-shortened season of 1994.

So much for that as a game plan.

The average time for a major league game was 2 hours, 33 minutes in 1982 and it is 3 hours, 2 minutes so far this season. That figures out to be an increase of 19 percent. At that rate, the average game will last for 3 hours, 37 minutes by 2048.

While almost everybody seems to be complaining about the length of games, the reality is sort of like those Gallup Polls in which 70 percent of voters think congress is doing a lousy job, but 70 percent of congressmen get re-elected every two years.

In 1982, box seats along the fence between the Red Sox dugout and home plate cost $7.50 and bleacher seats could be had for $2. Red Sox attendance that year was about 1,950,000. In 2014, those same box seats cost $165, those same bleacher seats cost $40, and attendance will be about 2,950,000.

This is just the regular season, of course. Playoff games are even worse thanks in large part to the between-innings stuff Farrell referred to. From the first World Series in 1903 to the end of the World Series in 1975, not one nine-inning postseason game played by the Red Sox lasted as long as three hours. That included 55 games.

Of the last 71 postseason games played by Boston, 66 have lasted three hours or more.

However, ratings remain high, attendance remains high and revenues remain high, so just how much Werner and his panel will change things is a debatable point.

Contact Bill Ballou at wballou@telegram.com.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Ballou, Bill
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 24, 2014
Words:693
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