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Monday, April 12, 2010
Should we care if Yanks and Sox play forever?

One cool thing about Joe Posnanski: He's not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Metaphorically speaking, I mean. In my mind's eye, I don't see him digging ditches or planting vegetable garden. What he will do is delve into the data when it suits his purposes, and he's dug into game times. The takeaway? American League East teams play the longest games, and the longest of those -- by a lot -- are the Yankees-Red Sox games, 20 minutes longer than the average of any other intradivisional matchup in the American League.

Is that really a problem, though? Joe:
Well, yes. It's not really our responsibility to tell Yankees and Red Sox fans that they should prefer shorter games.

But the Red Sox and the Yankees are the industry leaders, right? I understand that their games run long because they have lots of good, patient hitters, and that other teams can't replicate those excellent lineups. But that's not the whole explanation, right? It can't be. Both teams usually have good pitchers who throw lots of strikes. Shouldn't all those strike-throwers balance (to some degree) all those pitch-takers and fouler-offers?

No, (as Posnanski notes) the Yankees and the Red Sox simply slow the game down. And as long as it's just them, there's really no reason to obsess over it. Country Joe West was upset because the players were pushing back at his efforts to keep the game moving (which is technically one of his jobs). I don't think he was offended by the crimes committed against the Game; I think he was personally offended. Which isn't an outstanding foundation upon which to build a reasonable argument.

So let me try. If the Yankees and Red Sox want to play four-hour games and their fans don't mind, fine. But those two franchises are, in almost every way that matters, the industry's leaders. Players from those teams, when they're older, will play for other teams. Coaches from those teams will be hired to manage other teams. Employees from those teams' front offices will be hired to fill higher positions for other teams.

Actually, these things have happened already. I don't mean to suggest that catchers all around the majors will suddenly start making a dozen trips to the mound every inning just because Posada does. I'm saying that the best players on the best teams are deliberately slowing the games down, and if they're allowed to do, 1) they'll do it more often, and 2) players on other teams will take their cue.

Somebody had to say something. More to the point, somebody has to do something. As much as I love baseball, I don't want to see the Royals and the Tigers playing four-hour games someday.