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JOHN STEIGERWALD: Baseball has it all wrong

on July 21, 2013 3:00 AM

Major league baseball games are about to get longer.

Commissioner Baghdad Bud Selig said during the All-Star break that, beginning next season, the use of replay to review calls will be expanded.

What could go wrong there?

Umpires will be able to go to the videotape on trapped balls in the outfield and line drives down the foul lines.

So what happens when a ball might or might not have been trapped by a charging outfielder? Will the umpires now be taking a default position and calling it a hit until the video can be reviewed? If he doesn’t signal out initially, and the play runs its course, how do you put the genie back in the bottle? What if he signals out and the base runners stop running and then the call is reversed and it’s called a hit? 

What if the charging outfielder makes what looks like a catch and throws to second base to double off a runner and the replay shows that it was not a catch? The runner may have stopped between second and third when he saw the umpire rule that it was an out and tried to get back to second. If it turns out that it was a base hit, how does the replay account for where that runner would have been if the umpire hadn’t raised his fist in the air? 

Baseball games are already taking way too long, and this can only make them longer. 

And when fans get used to trap plays and line drives on the foul lines being replayed, how are they going to accept a runner being called out when the replay shows that he was obviously safe? 

It has all the makings of a fiasco, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.

Back in 1960, the Pirates and the Yankees scored a combined 19 runs in Game 7 of the World Series. The game lasted less than 2ᄑ hours. In an age when fans can watch a network devoted only to NFL touchdowns and simulate a baseball season on a video game in one rainy weekend, baseball should be taking drastic measures to make its games shorter.

• I’ve given the NFL a way to shorten the time of its games, but for some reason, they haven’t listened to me. The solution for baseball is the same: fewer commercials.

Baseball games are taking more than three hours now because of longer breaks between half innings. It’s a byproduct of all the money being paid to the players. The revenue is in the local TV contracts, and the revenue for the TV outlets comes from commercials.

MLB and its advertisers have to come into the 21st century and understand that everybody is equipped with a remote control. It’s easy to switch over to “America’s Got Talent” as soon as the last out is made and get back to the game 2ᄑ minutes later. 

Advertisers are wasting millions on commercials that most male viewers will never see. 

Just because commercials have always been run between innings and during pitching changes doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever. I would get more bang for my buck with a 15-second commercial dropped into one of the natural pauses in the game than I would get from a 30-second spot in the middle of a 2ᄑ-minute cluster that millions of people bailed out on. Make the commercials more valuable by reducing the number. 

The games could be shortened by at least 15 minutes by reducing the time between innings.

Putting a clock on the pitcher and making hitters stay in the box could knock off another 10.

• As much as the purists and the diehards don’t want to hear it, baseball is a slowly dying sport, and the Idiots Who Run Baseball need to face up to it and make changes. Shortening the games would help, but it might be too late. Did you know that the median age of the viewers watching Tuesday’s All-Star game was 53?

Some other ominous signs:

More women over 50 than men 18 to 49 watched the 2012 World Series.

In 2012, the MLB Game of the Week on Fox drew 2.5 million viewers. The NHL Game of the Week drew 1.6. But the really bad news for MLB is in the 18-49 group. It put up an 0.7. The NHL had a 1.2. Baseball is not attracting young viewers.

The 1984 World Series was watched by an average of 34 million people. The 2012 World Series was watched by 12 million.

In the ’80s, 40 percent of the people watching TV in America were watching the World Series. Fox will be happy to get 10 percent this year. Thirty years from now, MLB could very well be getting the kinds of numbers that the NHL is getting now. 

• It’s time for the National League to allow the designated hitter. I hate it, but I’m 64. Younger viewers don’t appear to be all that wrapped up in the nuances of the game.

• If I owned the Steelers, Maurkice Pouncey would have been traded by now. He looks more and more like one of those “in the wrong place at the wrong time” kinds of guys. Wearing a hat with “Free Hernandez” on it speaks volumes.

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