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2020 exceptions aside, leave MLB’s soul alone

Some around baseball reportedly want to permanently make games seven innings. (REUTERS/Darryl Webb)

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And I think a lot of sports fans are desperate for some form of professional athletic competition that takes their minds off the coronavirus pandemic. 

It’s why Major League Baseball’s proposed plan of resuming play as early as May in Arizona, which includes seven-inning doubleheaders amongst other tweaks to fit as many games as possible, seems like such an attractive option. 

As it should, too. 

America’s Pasttime leading a charge back to normalcy is exactly what we need — even if it doesn’t identically resemble the game we all love. 

But of course, there has to be an unnecessary amount of noise from the hot-take artists and short-attention-spanners that try to damper the first semblance of sports’ good news in weeks. 

MLB analyst Buster Olney mentioned that an increasing number of personalities within the game are warming up to the idea of seven-inning games becoming the norm in baseball (h/t Chris Carlin, ESPN Radio). 

Carlin went on to share his opinion about that idea, which has received its fair share of backlash. 

“That has to be a reality sooner rather than later. Two-to-three years, not 10,” he wrote. “CBA is coming up. Don’t let the sport slowly lose interest because there’s no clock.”

Before I go any further I want to stress that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I will always respect that. 

But the idea of Major League Baseball adopting seven-inning games makes no sense to me — which is just another opinion. 

The wonderful thing about baseball is that it’s not controlled by a clock. The players on the field and only they have complete control of the outcome of a game. 

Not time, not overly-meddling officials, just the players. 

But in an age where concentration wanes and viewers are more restless, the calls of shortening games or trying to make them more exciting continues to grow. 

Fans want the same excitement as they would in an NFL, even though football games on average last longer than MLB games. 

NFL games average around three hours and 12 minutes despite the viewer only getting 12 minutes of actual playing time. In 2018, a study from Streaming Observer’s Chris Brantner revealed that football fans will watch almost 24 hours of commercials during a single football season. 

Considering there are only 16 games per season, I suppose sports fans are okay with sitting around and watching limited action and more advertisements. 

Baseball games have clocked in at around an average of three hours and five minutes. For a majority of that, the focus is on the field of play. 

The free flow allows for conversations of strategy — it’s the thinking man’s game. It’s not an onslaught of chaos plagued by whistles.

I’ll agree that 162 games a year are a bit excessive. I wouldn’t mind seeing 145 of 154 games, instead. I wouldn’t mind seeing the DH make its way to the National League, either. But changing the length of the game changes everything. 

And for a game whose appeal is remaining largely unchanged for almost one-and-a-half centuries — connecting our generation to our father’s and their fathers’ — it takes one of the more special aspects of the game away.

Batters would get fewer plate appearances, somewhere between 150-200 per season, which makes any record from the game’s first 144 years unbreakable.

Two-hundred hits in a season would be almost impossible. So would the 50 home-run mark.

On the mound, there would be less magic behind a seven-inning no-hitter, bullpen jobs would be lost, and forget any sort of strikeout record. 

I understand that some want to look for ways to spice up baseball to keep up with football or basketball, but the beautiful thing about the game is that it’s not those other sports. 

And the last thing baseball — an American institution that is amongst the country’s greatest contributions to the world — needs to do is cater itself to people who ultimately don’t like the game. 

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