Baseball, long-regarded as America’s least interesting way to use bats, is looking to shake things up in an attempt to shorten its games, presumably to attract more younger viewers here in the go-go, Fast & Furious, Snapchatting, Bagel Bitesing 2010s. According to ESPN, Major League Baseball and the players’ union have agreed on a plan to change the rules on intentional walks, allowing team managers to simply signal from the dugout that they’d like to send the opposing batter directly to first, rather than go through the tedious rigmarole of the pitcher tossing four balls to the catcher while making a big, melodramatic show of shouting, “Ooooooooooops.”
In addition to saving the pitcher’s dignity, the rule change would also save some time—about a minute per walk that could be better spent on smacking some dingers. Of course, as ESPN also points out, intentional walks are already on the decline anyway: Last season, there were just 932 in total, or one every 2.6 games. That works out to just an average of 14 seconds a game that would be saved, or barely enough time for the stadium DJ to actually get to the second verse of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.”
It’s the one where he name-checks Willie Mays and Ty Cobb.
Nevertheless, it’s all part of the MLB’s persistent drive to ditch the old-fashioned way of doing things and speed up the game, which has involved considering everything from automatically putting a runner on second in extra innings to installing a “pitch clock” to limiting trips to the mound. On most of these proposals, the players have resisted, not wanting to drastically change the sport they love, or lose those few moments when they can all just get together in the middle of the field and, like, really feel this.
But the intentional walk change, for its part, seems to be all but a done deal, which has already upset some fans who see this as eliminating one of baseball’s most crucial opportunities for amusing fuck-ups—whether it be someone actually clipping the ball for a base run, or the catcher missing the toss and hilariously scrambling around for it while the other team scores and he dies inside. Nevertheless, you can’t argue with the fact that it will make baseball games at least 14 seconds shorter to nap through.