An unnamed MLB executive’s idea that games should be shortened from nine innings to seven innings is drawing criticism from around the league. In a blog post by ESPN’s Buster Olney, this anonymous executive feels that a shortened game would solve most of the problems MLB is facing.
One of the problems that the executive is worried about is the fan base. For many, it has been a family tradition to go to baseball games, with the older generation of baseball fans giving way to a younger group of fans. Father takes his son to a ball game, son grows up, takes his son to the game, and on and on. The executive feels that in todays digital age, younger fans are more interested in instant gratification, and a long nine inning game is not going to draw in young fans.
Another problem the anonymous executive pointed out was that teams are having a hard time finding good pitching. The MLB executive also feels that there are too many pitchers in the league now that are getting injured. The thinking is that a shorter game would lower the amount of injuries pitchers are facing in today’s game.
This executive is drawing a lot of criticism from people all around MLB with the idea of shortening baseball games to seven innings. One idea floating around is that if a baseball game is shorter, a starting pitcher could actually increase his chance of injuring himself by throwing harder than they should. A starter may go six or seven innings in a nine inning game. If the game is seven innings and a starter goes four or five innings, they could start expending more energy in the shorter period of time they are in the game. This would greatly increase their chance of getting hurt.
On the fan side, while today’s generation is considered the digital generation, teams can easily make the current game more attractive to young fans, and many already are. Post game concerts have been used for many years by teams to bring more people into the stadium. In 2013, four out of five MLB ballparks offered wireless internet (WiFi) to fans. Teams could capitalize on WiFi to make the games more attractive to fans. Transmitting game data to apps on electronic devices the fans like a live score card, between inning trivia or games, the options are endless and would be sure to be attractive to younger fans.
At nine innings, games can be long, going beyond three hours. Many ball parks stop beer sales to fans around the sixth or seventh innings. The idea is to help people sober up some before the game is over. Shortening a game to seven innings, you would see beer cut offs potentially moved to the fourth or fifth inning. While this could mean a loss in revenue from beer sales, stadiums could also see more people drinking more beer in a shorter period of time which could cause all sorts of problems.
Instead of changing a baseball game to seven innings the anonymous MLB could have drawn less criticism by looking at the game and rules today and seeing what could be done to make the game flow better and be more attractive to new fans. A rule that is rarely ever enforced could cut quite a bit of time from a game. The rule is that pitchers have 12 seconds between pitches. Enforcing that rule could save quite a bit of time depending on the pitcher. There are better things to look other than shortening the game by a couple of innings.
Commentary by Carl Auer