Tom Lindley

Tom Lindley

A batter steps away from the plate after watching a pitch clip the outside corner of the strike zone.

He adjusts the hitting glove on his right hand, then does the same to the Velcro strap holding the glove in place on his left.
He steps back into the batter’s box and readies for a second pitch.
“Strike two!” bellows the umpire.
The hitter again moves away from the plate, adjusts both gloves a second time, and contemplates his precarious position.


The TV camera continues to focus on the hitter, and the commentators share their thoughts as a third pitch sails high and away.


Again, the hitter repeats his game-delaying ritual - adjusting the right glove, then the left - that adds neither excitement nor intrigue.


In a recent broadcast of this ritual of batting glove adjustment punctuated by an at-bat, a TV analyst complained but pointed out that the exposure must please the player's agent.


No doubt, he suggested, agents who know the value of name recognition promote this attention-grabbing practice. They’re always on the lookout for the next endorsement deal.


Baseball is a great game played by athletes who possess unimaginable skill - whether it’s hitting a 95 mph pitch that’s breaking at a sharp angle or diving for a ball, making a spectacular catch, then recovering in time to throw out a runner.


There’s so much to celebrate and enjoy. That’s why it’s too bad that players fail to understand that the game's slow pace stymies efforts to attract younger fans and hold the attention of older ones.


That's a challenge baseball’s new commissioner will face. Rob Manfred assumes his duties as the game’s 11th commissioner on Jan. 1, 2015. He succeeds Bud Selig, who led the sport during some transformative years.


If Manfred is unable to speed up play, baseball could someday face a catastrophe of its own making.


Since 1981, the average length of a Big League game has stretched to 3 hours 3 minutes - a half-hour increase that might be good for concessioners but not so for fans who want an action-packed game.


In fairness, attendance at the ballpark is holding steady, down just 2,500 per game from the record of 32,785 in 2007’s pre-recession days.


League officials and team owners must worry, however, when they read that viewership for the World Series – the game’s premier event -- has fallen a dramatic 50 percent on Selig’s watch.


Manfred has acknowledged that baseball must pick up the pace. Creating a committee to study the make recommendations is a start.


Actually, the easiest step would be to enforce the rules already on the books. One is that pitchers must deliver a pitch within 12 seconds when the bases are empty. The same goes for batters who must keep one foot in the batter’s box. That would cut out the need to readjust hitting gloves between pitches. Think that wouldn’t make a difference?


And how about just sending the batter to first in situations that call for an intentional walk? That would save close to a minute.


And, really, why the need for eight warm-up pitches when a relief pitcher comes into a game? A few throws may be needed to adjust to the mound, but these guys are pros, so that’s not asking too much.


It also would make sense to cut down on the incessant trips to the mound to talk strategy or discuss how a pitcher feels after working an inning or two.


The Atlantic League - an independent, eight-team league - recently adopted a rule for the limited use of timeouts instead of unlimited confabs between pitcher and catcher or the infielders.


This shouldn’t be that hard for major league baseball. Just put a few time management folks to work, study some options to clip wasted minutes here and there, and the game is well on its way to curing its ills. Pick up the pace, and you’ll produce more action.


Baseball needs to give this immediate attention. If not, the next generation of fans is likely to tire of watching batting gloves being adjusted and turn its attention elsewhere.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

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