Professional baseball players should stop stalling and start playing

When the departed Nelson Cruz hit a grand slam on Monday, it meant he and the rest of the Texas Rangers could finally leave the stadium. The Rangers needed 11 innings and over four hours to defeat the Detroit Tigers in the playoff game. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Some children complain that the baseball is too slow. I love baseball and tell kids it’s a cool game full of strategy and skill. Baseball also teaches children patience in a world full of nonstop action movies and games.

But after watching the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs so far, I think the kids might be right. The games have been super exciting, but the baseball is getting awfully slow.

Baseball is a game of statistics, so let’s look at the numbers. Of the 24 playoff games played through Tuesday, 20 have taken three hours or more to complete. Monday’s thrilling 11-inning game between Texas and Detroit lasted four hours and 25 minutes.

I coached kids’ baseball teams for years. The county has scheduled our league’s six-inning games every two hours. Most days we finished within that time. That means MLB players are playing at about the same pace as fourth and fifth graders!

Why are games so slow? It seems to me that almost all players wear batting gloves. I get why they’re wearing gloves: it’s hard to hit a Justin Verlander fastball with your bare hands – some of them go 100 miles an hour! – with a wooden bat.

But it also seems like every player comes out of the batter’s box after almost every pitch to adjust their batting gloves. They do this even if they haven’t swung on the last pitch. I’ve seen batters get out and adjust their gloves after the pitcher has thrown to first base.

They are like children whose shoelaces keep untying. They have to stop everything and tie them up again.

I think there should be a rule that a batter is not allowed out of the batter’s box. Not adjusting your gloves. Do not go to the toilet. Never. Stay in the box!

Then there are hitters like Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who raise their hands until they’re placed right in the batter’s box. Some hitters take longer to get ready for a pitch than it takes Tiger Woods to field a 20-foot putt.

Pitchers aren’t much better. They stand on the mound staring at the catcher for so long it looks like they don’t want to throw the ball.

Of course, they often wait to receive the throwing signal from the receiver. That’s another problem. It seems like everyone in baseball is sending signals to someone. The manager signals the catcher, who signals the pitcher. If the pitcher does not like the pitching call, he signals the catcher. Then the batter steps out of the batter’s box to receive a signal from the third base coach. Even the defenders stand out.

Maybe instead of all those tweaks, looks, and signals, everyone should remember what the referee says at the start of every game: play ball!

Fred Bowen is the author of 17 children’s sports books, including eight about baseball. If you’re a fast reader, you might be able to read one in under nine innings.

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