Commentary

Play ball! Really, play ball!

Updated: July 11, 2012, 11:21 AM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Clayton Kershaw yawnsAP Photo/Lenny IgnelziThe Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw seems to agree with Rick Reilly's take on the pace of play in baseball.

Things that nobody reads in America today:

The online legal mumbo jumbo before you check the little "I Agree" box.

Kate Upton's resume.

Major League Baseball's "Pace of Play Procedures."

Not that baseball games don't have a pace. They do: Snails escaping a freezer.

It's clear no MLB player or umpire has ever read the procedures or else how do you explain what I witnessed Sunday, when I sat down to do something really stupid -- watch an entire televised MLB game without the aid of a DVR?

Cincinnati at San Francisco was a three-hour-and-14-minute can-somebody-please-stick-two-forks-in-my-eyes snore-a-palooza. Like a Swedish movie, it might have been decent if somebody had cut 90 minutes out of it. I'd rather have watched eyebrows grow. And I should have known better.

Consider: There were 280 pitches thrown and, after 170 of them, the hitter got out of the batter's box and did ... absolutely nothing.

Mostly, hitters delayed the proceedings to kick imaginary dirt off their cleats, meditate, and un-Velcro and re-Velcro their batting gloves, despite the fact that most of the time, they hadn't even swung.

Buster Posey of the Giants, The Man Who Wrecked Your Dinner Reservations, has this habit of coming to the box, stopping outside it and unfastening and refastening his gloves before his FIRST SWING! What exactly was he doing in the on-deck circle? His cuticles?

I knew I was in trouble in the first inning when the Reds' Brandon Phillips stepped up. My notes on his five-pitch at-bat:

Strike: steps out, examines the trademark of his bat at length.

Ball: steps out, grabs barrel of bat, seems to be talking to it.

Ball: steps out, takes three practice swings, taps corner of batter's box, steps one foot in, taps plate, places other foot in, stretches, fiddles, finally looks at pitcher, calls timeout! Does it all again.

Swing and a miss: steps way out, adjusts belt, adjusts jersey, addresses barrel again.

Grounds out to short.

Apparently, the bat didn't listen.

By the way, the average number of seconds per pitch this game: 31.34. Thirty-one seconds per pitch? This is not a misprint. Do you realize people can solve an entire Rubik's Cube in 22 seconds?

All of this, of course, is in direct violation of MLB's "Pace of Play Procedures" (hah!), which state: "Umpires will not grant time for batters to step out of the box if to do so would unnecessarily delay the game."

Unnecessarily delay the game? The only delay these hitters knew was unnecessary. And when they weren't doing that, the pitchers were lollygagging behind the mound, re-rubbing pre-rubbed baseballs or gazing up to identify cloud animals.

New rule: Umpires who don't order batters back into the box within 12 seconds -- because the rules state that a pitcher must throw the ball within 12 seconds of receiving it -- will get the room at the hotel next to the newlyweds.

There's also this amusing passage in the "Pace of Play Procedures" (hah!): "When given permission to leave the batter's box under Rule 6.02, batters may not step more than 3 feet from the batter's box."

Whoo-eee! That's rich. These guys wandered away from the box like 2-year-olds at a petting zoo. Six times they left the dirt circle around the plate altogether. Left the entire circle!

And by the way, this nonsense about there's only a two-minute, 10-second TV break between half innings? Bullfeathers. Only once did the break between half innings take 2:10 or less. The rest of the time, it was miles over. The break before the top of the fifth was four minutes and 12 seconds! Where did everybody go? Out to feed their meters?

There were more ways to waste time in this game than in a month of Teamsters meetings.

There were 14 attempts by pitchers to pick off runners, not one of them even coming close. Most of them resembled somebody tossing a turkey to a co-worker.

New rule: Pitchers get two pickoff attempts per runner. For every one after that, the umpire adds a ball to the hitter's count.

Four times the hitter, after going through his Art Carney routine, got into the box, decided the pitcher was messing with him, and called time out.

Twice the pitcher wanted a timeout.

Five times the catcher called time out to go out to the mound to discuss, what? ObamaCare?

Four times the pitching coach wanted time. That's 15 timeouts in a game that didn't even have a clock. Can you imagine if Tom Brady could call a timeout anytime he wanted? You'd be in Foxborough long enough to vote.

And explain to me why a reliever who's been warming up in the bullpen for five minutes still needs eight pitches to warm up on the mound. Do field goal kickers get eight practice kicks? Dumb.

Like tennis grunts, all this crud is just a lot of bad habits that only serve to annoy the very people MLB is supposedly trying to captivate -- the fans. It doesn't sell more TV ads, doesn't get the game done before the kids have to go to bed, doesn't do anything but make your thumb hit the CHNL UP button sooner.

This game was mercifully won by the Giants, 4-3, on their last at-bat, when Reds right fielder Jay Bruce botched an easy fly ball.

Three hours and 14 minutes, 170 step-outs, and three double-shot macchiatos for that?

Please, I beg of you, bring on the NFL.

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com