It’s a span of 48 years. But it’s getting harder to be a fan.
Friday night’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox crisply displayed what is wrong with baseball and why its popularity is dwindling. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported attendance through June 14 was down 6.6 percent from the same time last season, and 8.6 percent overall.
But that was midseason, and Friday night — um, make that Saturday morning — was the World Series, and it was epic! Except it wasn’t.
Who has 7 hours and 20 minutes to watch a ballgame? That’s a full-time job. I tried. I made it until 3 a.m. I lasted 17 innings. I didn’t have any relief viewing available in the bullpen. I was sound asleep — dreaming of a 2 1/2-hour game — when Max Muncy lifted the most merciful fly ball in baseball history. When a guy named Max says the game has gone on long enough, baseball fans listen.
Muncy’s walk-off home run came against Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi. OK, so Eovaldi wasn’t the starting pitcher, but he threw 97 pitches — 36 more than actual starter Rick Porcello.
Why was the game so long? Tremendous thrilling comebacks? Big innings matched by big innings? Great drama time and time again?
No. The vast majority of the game was a mind-numbing array of camera angles showing the exact same thing. Pitch. Stand. Spit. Wait. Think. Stare. Batter steps out. Pitcher wants the signs again. Wait. Get a new sign. Stand. Wait. Think. You know what? I think he might be ready to throw the next pitch. Wait. Wind. Pitch.
Over and over again.
Imagine the Super Bowl. Tom Brady comes to the line of scrimmage. He waits until he feels the gravitational pull of the moon is right for snapping the ball. No play clock. No game clock. He takes the snap whenever he wants. Defensive linemen stand and stare at Brady, rubbing their chins. Wonder when he will start the play? Defensive backs fiddle with their pads and tug at their jerseys. Brady comes to the line of scrimmage. He crouches. A linebacker moves toward the line of scrimmage. He may blitz. It doesn’t feel right. Brady backs away. Wait. Stand.
Exciting. Except it’s not.
How about the NBA? LeBron James holds the ball at the head of the key. He surveys the defense. Are they in a zone? Will they double-team me. Dribble LeBron. Come on, start the play. LeBron stares. His teammates, sensing some indecision, gather around him at the head of the key. They take too long, and the head official comes and breaks it up. No shot clock. No game clock. The Lakers start the play whenever they feel good and ready.
Exciting. Well, maybe if you’re a baseball fan.
Baseball’s beauty used to be the lack of a clock. Just ask George Carlin, “Baseball has no time limit. We don’t know when it’s going to end!” The lack of a clock is now baseball’s enemy. It’s almost as if the pitchers are afraid to throw the ball. What if I give up the big one? Oh my, better ponder some more.
Again, think of football. What if Brady went back to pass, and before releasing the ball he went through a minute-long process of evaluating all the negative and positive outcomes. Maybe baseball needs the threat of a sack? If a pitcher takes too long to throw a pitch, perhaps a baserunner could be allowed to leave the base and sack him.
But don’t land on him with your full body weight. Wait. That’s a different column.
Baseball reminds me of Monty Python’s soccer game for philosophers. It would be the same skit with Archimedes pitching. He waits, thinks, waits, and suddenly gets an idea. He throws the ball, and Socrates blasts it for a walk-off homer.
How bad must Friday’s game — er, Saturday’s game — have been for anyone who watched it live? I had the game on DVR. I stayed behind for about 11 innings. I was able to fast forward between pitches and commercials. It was still a merciless beating to watch.
Yes, I know it was the longest game in World Series history. I know it was a rarity. But with today’s launch-angle-go-big-or-go-down-swinging mentality, long games are going to be more frequent — especially in the postseason when pitchers are focused on the sole purpose of avoiding the long ball. That’s my prediction anyway.
Wait. Before this column is published, let me think about it for a while. I’ll get back to you next week some time.