Midnight madness

Why is the World Series like Italian neo-realist cinema? Because both have produced classics that too few Americans got to see.

This year’s World Series, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, has produced two classics so far — Game 2 and Game 5. Houston won Game 2 in eleven innings by a score of 7-6. The Astros got the game to extra innings by scoring one run in both the eighth and ninth innings to overcome a two run deficit.

Then, they scored two runs in the top of the tenth, only for the Dodgers to tie the game in their half of that inning. Houston followed with two more runs in the top of the eleventh and held on for dear life as the Dodgers were only able to answer with one run in their half of the inning.

The game took four hours and nineteen minutes, thus ending after midnight in the eastern time zone. Even if we factor out the extra innings, we’re talking about a game of more than three and a half hours.

But that’s nothing compared to Game 5. The Astros won that contest 13-12 in ten innings. This game, even more dramatic than Game 2, lasted five hours and 17 minutes. It ended at 1:38 a.m. in the east and 12:38 in the central time zone.

Despite its length, Game 5 sustained an average 12.8 overnight household rating in the nation’s metered markets, well down from last year’s Game 5 but still quite good. However, viewership surely was much lower when the game produced high drama in the ninth inning, in which the Dodgers scored three runs to tie it, and when the game reached its dramatic resolution in the tenth.

How many students age 18 and younger, and how many adults who work day jobs, were able to watch the whole game in the East and Midwest? Not many, I assume. How does baseball expect to create a new generation of ardent fans when very few of them get to watch the sport’s most dramatic moments?

Furthermore, even if the majority of the audience had been able to watch to the bitter end, it’s presumptuous, and even maddening, that baseball demands that its most loyal fans show up bleary-eyed for work or school latter in the morning.

Sunday’s 13-12 classic reminded me of two other World Series games. Pittsburgh defeated the New York Yankees 10-9 in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run. I wrote five articles about that game.

It took two hours and 36 minutes to complete. That’s less than half of the time it took to complete Sunday’s (and Monday’s) Game 5.

Game 4 of the 1993 World Series was almost as wild as Sunday’s Game 5. Toronto defeated Philadelphia 15-14. That game lasted four hours and fourteen minutes, an hour less than Houston’s win over the Dodgers (which, granted, went one inning longer).

Baseball needs to pick up its pace of play. It needs to become less self-indulgent. It needs to limit the time allowed between pitches, limit visits to the mound (by players, not just managers), prohibit batters from stepping out of the batters’ box, and ditch video review.

With baseball, especially its showcase games, we’ve reached the point where less is more.

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