Velcro, I have long believed, is an enemy of speedy baseball.
Too often a guy steps out of the box to undo and redo the fastener on each of his batting gloves, as if fearful it busted between pitches.
Thursday night, I sat down in front of the YES Network broadcast of the Yankees—Red Sox game from Fenway Park with one mission: see who was stepping out of the box, how often, and get a sense of how much they were slowing down the game.
An immediate disclaimer – I’m a big New York Yankees fan from central New Jersey, and thus a Boston Red Sox hater. Here, however, my aim was to pick out guys putting the brakes on the game and laud anyone consistently at the ready.
Pace of play is one of baseball’s many issues, and the length of time between pitches is enough of a problem that a pitch clock is employed in all full-season minor leagues this year – 14 seconds with no one on base, 18 seconds with a runner on (19 in triple-A). It could be coming to MLB as soon as the 2023 season.
It would be great if players controlled the game and made such a clock unnecessary. Game time is down to 3:07 from 3:11 in 2021, but something more dramatic is required.
I’m not one to watch old games, but occasionally I’ll stumble onto my favorite one.
The rate at which the pitcher delivers, the catcher returns the ball, the batter resumes readiness, and the next pitch comes in the classic Yankees-Red Sox one-game playoff in 1978 looks like modern baseball sped up.
That 5-4 game lasted 2:52 however, 22 minutes longer than average for the 1970s. Thursday night’s 6-5 Yankees’ win nearly 44 years later took 2:56.
The TV view means my counts were not definitive, but they gave me a solid sense.
Giancarlo Stanton simply plants himself in the batter’s box, not even resetting his feet between pitches unless he fouls a ball off. He left the box zero times in four plate appearances. Rafael Devers, who accounted for all five Boston runs with two dingers off Gerrit Cole in four at-bats, also settled in and didn’t wander.
Others who appeared content to stay in the batters’ box, or maybe just stick a foot out to look for a signal: The Yankees’ Gleyber Torres, Matt Carpenter, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and the Red Sox’ Franchy Cordero and Rob Refsnyder, who pinch-hit and had only two at-bats.
For a terrible player, Joey Gallo was too concerned with his batting gloves. But Boston DH J.D. Martinez tied New York catcher Jose Trevino for the most seen step-outs with eight and was the second most frequent guy to play with his velcro, captured doing so at least six times.
The worst offender was Boston catcher Kevin Plawecki.
The telecast cut away from him a lot, but he stepped out at least six times and was constantly tugging at his gloves, unfastening one and then the other – a purposeless habit that must be eliminated. (Cut to a shot of a baserunner and odds are he’s fiddling with velcro on his sliding mitten, which should be outlawed unless a hand is injured.)
I casually watch a lot of baseball, but few games as intently as I watched this one. During most games, I read a bit, skim Twitter, and plug in more attentively for the big moments. This game didn’t feel particularly long, but it’s just because the game has retrained me. It’s better for everyone if it’s played more quickly.
Frankly, I came out of it without a bad feeling about the hitters. I don’t recall anyone holding up a hand to ask the ump for time.
I had the Yankees stepping out 20 times and the Red Sox 30, but they weren’t holding up ready pitchers. Maybe the pitchers would get set quicker if they knew their opponents were ready.
How about both just get ready, chop-chop?
My original idea was to put a stopwatch on the guys when they wandered, but the broadcast angles simply didn’t allow for any clear idea of when they left and when they returned or any clear judgment call of how much time they cost the game as compared to the pitchers.
The pitchers were too slow, generally, but not so slow I felt especially impatient, except for when one got in a bad jam.
When Boston starter Josh Winckowski walked a couple of guys in the fourth, he had a base-runner obsession, strike-zone complaints, and a catcher conference. His temporary loss of composure slowed the game as much as anything else.
Pitching great Dave Stewart is currently involved in a group trying to get Nashville an MLB team. Not long ago he told OutKick 360 about how the best teams he played for hung around the clubhouse after games, rehashing how things unfolded. It’s not like that anymore – today’s players clear out quickly.
If that’s the case and they’ve got somewhere to be, it shouldn’t be so hard to get them to play faster.
Get in the box. Get on the mound. Pitch the damn ball. If they don’t hit it, get it back and do it again.
Paul Kuharsky co-hosts OutKick 360. Read more of him at PaulKuharsky.com.