Jeff Passan: MLB Not Taking Advantage Of Opportunity; Games Less Enjoyable

If you found Game 1 of the World Series highly entertaining, well, you may have been in the minority

The DA Show
November 01, 2018 - 10:15 am

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Video of MLB columnist, Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan

If you’re a Dodgers or Red Sox fan, you were probably glued to Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. If you’re a casual baseball fan, however, you probably didn’t make it through nine innings.

Twelve pitchers and 24 strikeouts can have that effect.

“I don’t think the word over-managing exists anymore; I think that’s just managing right now,” Yahoo Sports MLB columnist Jeff Passan said on The DA Show. “(My column) was sort of me trying to pull up to a 30,000-foot view of the sport and where it is right now. As I was writing, I was trying to envision the person who got stuck down in the bomb shelter accidentally 15 years ago and came up and watched a baseball game for the first time last night. Fifteen years is not a particularly long time – but let’s remember, in 2003, Moneyball came out. The evolution of baseball since then, it’s the greatest change in baseball since integration.”

Indeed, baseball used to be a sport, a game. Now it’s an exercise in data. 

“Baseball people have been obsessing over the tiniest details of information for the last few years now in order to get the most minuscule of marginal advantages,” Passan said. “What that’s done, I think, has made the game more sterile and, honestly, much less enjoyable in many regards. I still love baseball. I still enjoy a well-played baseball game as much as any sport out there. And yet, I understand if the random, average fan watching a four-hour World Series game in which they don’t have any stakes (finds it unenjoyable).”

Think about it.

“They’re seeing 24 strikeouts, they’re seeing 12 pitchers, they’re seeing two dozen position players, they’re seeing stops throughout the game, they’re seeing an average of upwards of 30 seconds between pitches, they’re seeing fewer balls in play than have ever been before, they’re seeing more strikeouts than there were hits – which was the case in the 2018 season. Is that a game that’s going to entice new fans?” Passan asked. “I don’t think the answer is yes, and I think that as 3 million fewer fans came to baseball games this year, that’s an issue with which Rob Manfred and the rest of the people at 245 Park Avenue are grappling right now. 

“They recognize that they had – and they may still have – a chance to feed on the questions about football’s long-term viability because of concussions and because of all the other issues that plagued that sport. I don’t know that they’re grabbing that opportunity the way that they can because the day-to-day game that they have just is not something that’s intriguing to kids right now.”

Passan believes a pitch clock will help. The average time between pitches this season was 24.1 seconds. If a 20-second pitch clock is introduced, games would drop from an average of 3 hours and 4 minutes to 2 hours and 45 minutes – which would be the shortest game length since 1985.

“That, to me, is one step where you can get the game moving faster,” Passan said. “I think a pitch clock is going to help. I see that happening if not next year, then very soon.”