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Trouble in the Perfect Marriage

March 30, 2023

Happy Opening Day everyone! With all the analysis of the new rules, I’ve been thinking about how radio can learn from our great pastime. I am a huge Washington Nationals and MLB fan, and I understand the intent of all the new rule changes. The pitch clock, bigger bases, no defensive shifting, and others are supposed to help quicken the “pace of play” and increase offense. Looking at the Spring Training numbers, they do seem to be working. Everyone in the sport is excited about them.

I could see younger players adjusting quicker since rules are always being tinkered with in the minor leagues. I’m surprised though that even veterans are on board. “I love it … I can totally dictate pace.” said future hall-of-famer, and former Nats great, Max Scherzer about the pitch clock. As intimidating as he is, I wouldn’t want him to know I’m disagreeing with him, but sorry Max, I am. To me, the new rules seem not only impulsive but baseball also seems to be changing too much all at once. Radio should take a page out of baseball’s book, but then ball it up and shoot it into the trash can. Oh wait … wrong sport.

I previously wrote about how baseball and radio have a perfect marriage. These days though I sense trouble. The marriage is still great but with so many changes all at once baseball is giving its radio spouse and their children – the fans – some hard times.

According to a USA Today article, the average time of the first 50 Spring Training games was 2 hours and 39 minutes, which is down from 2 hours and 57 minutes at the same point last year. The excitement about the *checks math* 18 minutes seems a little over the top though. Baseball wants to speed up games but radio stations aren’t fans (no pun intended).

We can all agree that higher time spent listening is something every station strives for. A shortened game isn’t the best because it means less chance for fans listening to the broadcast to hear the advertisers’ messages. Even with the pitch clock, baseball still isn’t a timed game – teams still have to get at least 27 outs, no matter how long it takes.

I’ll admit I am a baseball purist and was upset (and still am) when the National League adopted the designated hitter and did away with pitchers hitting. It didn’t happen very often but when Madison Bumgarner, or any other pitcher, would hit a home run or a ball would get stung to the gap, it was just fun. To see them running around the bases like excited kids playing a game, it took you back to your Little League days when everyone played every position.

As much as football is threatening to take the title, baseball is still America’s pastime and radio is America’s favorite medium. We should always think about how to make things better, but to change so many things at once and so dramatically, you risk frustrating your most loyal fans. Baseball is still a game after all, so why are they so hell-bent on trying to shorten the game and give us less opportunities for fun of our own?

As our Programming Research Consultant Steve Allan has said, the way to measure if you’ve been to a baseball game is not by the number of innings you saw or actual time elapsed. You’ve been to a baseball game if you had enough time for a beer.

So why don’t we make sure we have as much actual time for that beer as possible by spending time listening to the radio broadcast and sounds of the game and hoping that the seventh inning stretch never ends.

-Matt Weaver, Information Systems Coordinator