Three-hour ballgames: Wake me when it’s over

The pace-of-play discussion has picked up steam again, with fans of the Minnesota Twins enduring a double whammy of sub-freezing temperatures and glacial-paced ballgames.

To date, the Twins’ 13 games have taken an average of 3:06 to complete. Compare that with the same season-opening 13 games from past decades and we get a fairly steep trend line.

Through 13 games in 2013, the average length of a Twins game has spiked over three hours.

Through 13 games in 2013, the average length of a Twins game has spiked over three hours.

That 3:06 is nearly a half-hour longer than the Twins’ pace through 13 games in 2003, which is even more alarming given that the 2013 club has yet to play extra innings. For added context, the following chart tracks back through Twins history (times in yellow indicate extra-inning games).Twins game length chart 041813

The slow-game apologists decry any criticisms of this trend by arguing that we should embrace the timeless, unhurried pace of America’s national pastime. But today’s MLB is far from the captivating game with which we fell in love.

Consider the lengthy MLB-mandated commercial breaks, the incessant walks to the mound and the painful number of pitching changes now so prevalent in MLB. Add to that the ever-lengthening seventh-inning stretch and the mandate that hitters “work the count” in an effort to wear down starting pitchers and dent bullpen arms. Is any of this what we like to see in our national pastime?

The old ballgame was invigorated with speed, athleticism and skill as the talent pool expanded through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It became a more watchable, more exciting and more beautiful game as a result. Today’s game is trending the opposite direction, not primarily through the fault of the players, but instead by how the game is packaged and managed. It used to be a kids’ game, but mom and dad can’t even bring their kids to the game anymore because three-plus hours of inactivity punctuated by the occasional spurt of action is hard to endure for adults, let alone children.

It’s time to bring back the national pastime (along with real hot dogs). I miss the tight two-and-a-half hour game packed with real baseball and free of artificial ingredients.

– Jayson Hron

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