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Can the new speed-up rules really save big league baseball?

By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times

As a proud fan of what sports writers and broadcasters used to call the “boys of summer”, I’m pleased to report that recent rule changes by Major League Baseball show promise that the game might be saved from itself.

By the way, that “boys of summer” moniker was applied to the big league ballplayers in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s when baseball was the dominant professional sport in the U. S. and claimed a worldwide audience with the World Series.

But that was before professional basketball emerged as the seemingly year-around NBA and the American version of football morphed into the spectator and TV juggernaut known as the NFL. Both feature high scoring, fast paced action that gradually and then in larger numbers drew fans away from the slow-moving, even boring at times, sport of baseball.

Not only has MLB been steadily losing spectators who buy tickets, but the radio and TV ratings also eroded, further reducing team revenue, and causing some owners to seek greener pastures, so to speak, with new stadiums in cities seeking their own teams in “America’s pastime”.

Speaking of baseball and TV, I want to complain bitterly about the absence of free TV coverage of big league baseball games. Major League Baseball created its own pay-per-view network a few years ago and all but a few teams, including our Cincinnati Reds, now allow their fans to see the games virtually anywhere in the world – for only $139 yearly.

My optimism about the future of baseball is based on early results of the impact of new rule changes enacted this year to speed up games and hopefully attract younger fans.

I’ve only seen a few innings this season, but I know a couple who have seen games in person in both leagues and they are enthusiastic about the rule changes. Players have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds to release the ball with nobody on base and 20 seconds if there is a baserunner.

But perhaps the most important statistic is that, on the average, nearly all games finish in about 30 minutes less than last season.

(Contact Keith at keithkappes@gmail.com).



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