The pace of play in Yankees-Red Sox games is, to put it nicely, typically slow. Three-plus hour games are the norm in the rivalry and most games are usually closer to four. Everyone knows it and, most of the time, everyone jokes about it – over the past three days, I heard quips or comments on the pace of play from players, coaches, fans, broadcasters and writers. Scan through Twitter and you’ll see plenty of examples.
Umpire Joe West, who is one of MLB’s crew chiefs, apparently doesn’t think there’s anything funny about it at all. West ripped the Yankees and Red Sox in a story in the Bergen Record today, calling it “embarrassing, a disgrace to baseball.” He also called the Yanks and Sox, “pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.”
The first two games of this series took 3 hours, 46 minutes and 3 hours, 48 minutes, respectively, and West made his comments before last night’s game, which was actually something of an anomaly: The teams only needed 3 hours, 21 minutes to play 10 innings. Not surprisingly, the Yankees and Red Sox hold the record for longest nine-inning game ever, having taken 4 hours, 45 minutes to play back on Aug. 18, 2006.
(That game was actually part of a doubleheader, which was also the longest timed doubleheader in MLB history, with both games taking a combined 8 hours, 40 minutes. I vaguely remember my legs going numb somewhere in the middle.)
My initial reaction to West’s comments is that this is a reasonable message delivered incredibly poorly. Do the Yankees and Red Sox have players that take a lot of pitches and foul off a lot of pitches and otherwise make the game go longer through the natural course of play? Absolutely. That’s just the way it goes. But there are also plenty of guys on both teams who aren’t exactly efficient when it comes to getting in the box or taking the rubber, and that all adds up, too. If baseball wants to get serious about pace of play and start enforcing some legitimate rules on what guys can and can’t do, I’m all for it.
Unfortunately, that message gets lost when you have an umpire using words like “disgrace” and “pathetic” about the teams he’s supposed to be officiating. West has been around a long time, but that doesn’t mean he can (or should) use inflammatory language like that; for lack of a better reason, name-calling is never nice. Even more, it doesn’t exactly help the notion if impartiality.
Joe Girardi was asked yesterday if he felt MLB had stressed pace of play this year, and he shrugged. “That issue is made every spring training … so it’s not anything new. Are they trying to enforce it a little more? Right now it appears [they are]. The jury will be out on that at the end of the year.”