Last night’s first game of the World Series ran 3 hours and 27 minutes and ended around 11:30 ET. I’d like to pose the same question that Andy McCarthy raised a year ago: How can the supposed stewards of America’s national pastime hope to build the next generation of fans when most or all World Series games end too late for most kids on the East Coast?
My 13-year-old son is an avid baseball fan — he’s even a diehard fan of the pathetic Washington Nationals — but he has never seen a full World Series game and, if current practices continue, might never see one. Last night, he made it only into the top of the third inning before determining that he needed to start getting ready for bed. (If the game had been anywhere near the end, I’m sure he could have mustered the energy to stay up longer.)
With one exception, every game of the World Series is scheduled to start at 7:57 ET. The one exception is even worse. This Sunday, the very day that clocks shift off daylight savings time, Game 4 will start at 8:20 ET — in other words, 9:20 pm for the body clocks of viewers. (Look for lots of kids at the game to be asleep by the fourth inning.) Given the dreadful pace of current games, it’s unlikely that any game will end before 11 p.m.
A few simple changes are in order:
1. Every weekend World Series game should be a day game. If baseball is afraid that it can’t compete against midseason college football and NFL games (and will lose the higher broadcast revenues it’s currently gaining from evening broadcasts), it’s merely reaping what it’s sowed. Time to start sowing better. (An added benefit: The daytime temperature in late October will be more hospitable to baseball.)
2. Weekday games should start at 7:00 or 7:30 ET. Does that somewhat favor the interests of East Coast viewers over West Coast viewers? Yes, it does. But the current system strongly disfavors East Coast viewers. And having grown up in California and spent a chunk of my adult years there, I can say that any baseball fan should be happy to keep an eye on the early innings while at work.
3. The typical game should be designed to run somewhere between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 3 hours. Cut the extra minute (or is it more than that?) that’s been added to the commercial breaks between half-innings, and you’ll save 16 or 17 minutes per game. Set a good pace for the pitchers: It was exasperating to see how long C. C. Sabathia and the other Yankees pitchers took between pitches. (Cliff Lee, by contrast, worked admirably briskly.) And don’t let the batters waste time by repeatedly stepping out of the box. It really isn’t that complicated. (The pace for pitchers and batters should, of course, also be set during the regular season.)