The Red Sox and Yankees are killing baseball, minute by interminable minute
The third-place Red Sox beat the Yankees, 19-3, Thursday, improving to 2-6 vs. New York this season. The Sox trail the first-place Bronx Bombers by 10 games, 11 in the loss column. The two teams have scored an aggregate 72 runs in their last three meetings.
Are we having fun yet?
Not me. I believe the Sox and Yankees are on a mission to kill baseball.
These ancient rivals play interminable games. They grind. They foul off a million pitches. They step out of the box. They teach their pitchers to strike every batter out. They do not want “the chaos of the ball in play.’’ They drain all the blood from your face. They do this until the only people still “watching” are old folks who fall asleep in front of the TV.
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer once explained this to me. In 2005, Schieffer filled the anchor chair for Dan Rather while CBS was figuring out the Next Big Thing. Ratings surprisingly went up with Schieffer, the “old guy” in the seat. Schieffer explained it saying, “That’s because the old people watch me and they fall asleep and the station stays on CBS. It helps with the ratings.’’
This is the Red Sox-Yankee formula for baseball entertainment in 2019. The Red Sox scored seven runs off Masahiro Tanaka in the bottom of the first Thursday. But that didn’t stop Rick Porcello from throwing an astounding 60 pitches in the first two innings to “preserve” the lead. Porcello gave up two runs and juiced the bases before getting out of a second-inning jam. It took 65 minutes and 97 pitches for the Sox and Yanks to record the first nine outs of a 19-3 game.
Things picked up once the game was out of reach. Yankee catcher Austin Romine pitched the eighth for the Yankees, the second time in four games that a position player pitched against the Red Sox. Boston batters crushed Romine for three runs, including two homers. The game took 3 hours and 28 minutes, which is relatively tidy by Sox-Yankee standards.
Is this really necessary?
When the Sox played the Yankees in London the games went 4:42 and 4:24. Back to back. A great way to sell the product overseas, no?
The Red Sox’ average game lasts 3 hours and 23 minutes per game. Crushing all the competition. The Sox are a full seven minutes per game better than anybody else. That’s 700 minutes over 100 games.
The Sox step out. They grind. They take more time between pitches. They walk. They strike out. They strike everybody else out. Great product. They have seven-man meetings on the mound where everybody covers their mouths, as if they are protecting nuclear codes. Brandon Workman throws 44 pitches over 1⅔ innings, most of them curveballs in the dirt. Porcello throws 60 over two innings.
Thanks. Thanks for killing baseball.
The Sox scored a whopping 12 runs off Tanaka in less than four innings. Boston led, 12-2, after four. And the game was already two hours old. It was a perfect follow-up to Wednesday’s lengthy lineup delay when the Sox lost to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
In the Sox’ series finale in St. Petersburg the Bostons were involved in one of the truly stupid moments in baseball history when Rays manager Kevin Cash sent his lefty reliever to first base for one batter in order to have him return to face Rafael Devers. This resulted in a multiple-meeting, clarification holdup of 21 minutes, during which exactly one pitch was thrown.
Great for baseball. Let’s give everybody 21 minutes of nothing. That’s a party-starter for a new generation of fans.
I spent last weekend in Cooperstown, celebrating this great game with more than 50 Hall of Fame ball players and over 50,000 fans who made the trek to celebrate the careers of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. I spoke with Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Randy Johnson, Eddie Murray, Wade Boggs, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Thome, Tony La Russa, Cal Ripken, Dave Winfield, and a raft of other Hall of Famers who love this game. The old and young men are not delusional. They know they have lost a generation of fans. They know the product is increasingly the purview of old folks who have a lot of time on their hands. They worry about the game’s relevance in a society of Instagram and Instant Karma. They feel it slipping away.
Who will be there to replace the fans who are dying off? Who will care about a sport populated by players who see no problems with the pace of play, and arrogant team analytics departments that stress successful strategies that push fans away?
The Red Sox had their way with the Yankees Thursday. They reminded us of the team that won 119 games and the World Series last year. They played the way a team with the highest payroll in baseball is supposed to play.
But who was still watching when we were deep into our third hour and it was still the fifth inning?
Horse racing and boxing were once among the most popular sports in America. Now those sports are dead.
Red Sox-Yankees is the best baseball has to offer. All four games of this Fenway weekend series will be nationally televised.
But who wants to watch this product? And are the people involved aware, or concerned, that they are contributing to a systematic slog that is slowly killing the sport?