Ask Gary: Baseball games go … so … slowly

by Gary Shelton on June 3, 2017 · 1 comment

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

What is your opinion of the pace of play issue in MLB? I rarely watch a baseball game from start to finish anymore because the games are so long.  The Rays have played nine-inning games that lasted over 4 hours this year. Nobody wants to watch games like that. The commissioner has been trying to come up with new rules to speed up the game like a time clock for pitchers but it seems those ideas are meeting resistance from players and traditionalists. Baseball is so steeped in tradition there is always push back to change. Do you think anything will ever get done?

 Larry Beller

Want to hear a confession? I was at a Rays' game last week, and about the seventh, I had to fight going to sleep. Coffee. Stretching. Walking to the bathroom. All of it.

The game was so slow, and this particular one was so boring, that I was hoping someone would break out a checkers' board. And I haven't played checkers since I was a kid.

Here's a statistic for you: The Rays have the three slowest

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pitchers in baseball. Look it  up. Of all the pitchers in the game, Matt Andriese is first, Chris Archer is second and Alex Cobb is third at most time between pitches. Add all the strikeouts, with their longer at-bats, and we don't have a chance to get out of the park in reasonable time.

I think baseball is on the right track. If it can speed up the pitch clock (and enforce it), and if it can stop the batters from walking around, readjusting their gloves and posing for the cameras, it'll be quicker.

Look, I enjoy the fact that baseball is an untimed sport. The game is nine innings, and that can take some time But I think the sport is trying the patience of all of its fans. I think, internally, we're programmed to sit through 3, maybe 3 1/2 hours.

Maybe I'm wrong. Baseball still gets huge crowds (other places). The game still makes great sense. But can't we condense it?

Here we are, one-third of the way through the 2017 MLB season and the Rays are 29-27 (payroll of $72 million)  and the Cubs are 25-27 (payroll of $172 million).  So when does Kevin Cash become the manager of the Cubs?

Scott Myers

I think the award arrives any day now, right? Because it's always based on the most affordable team in the league.

I know you've got a twinkle in your eye as you type this. Obviously, Cash won't be considered unless his team at least makes a playoff run. I'm not sure they have the bullpen for that.

But, yes, we should think more about the cost when we're evaluating teams (and managers). I remember covering a World Series the Yankees won, and the following day's articles all talked about the courage and resilience and heart of this team. Well, I'm not saying that team didn't have those qualities, but it was also the most expensive team in the league.

It's like the line from Camelot, where Merlin points out that King Arthur's army had all the armor and all the swords. And Arthur says "I bet that's it!"

If I owned the Yankees, or the Red Sox, I'd wonder about the return on my payroll.  But the thing is -- and I read a report on this years ago -- is that big money usually does win the World Series. There are a lot of cheaper teams that hang in there for a while, but they don't make it to the end.

The thing is, most Tampa Bay fans aren't going to be impressed by a team winning a little while it spends less. They want it to spend more and be even better.

But, you know, Cash HAS had a pretty good year so far.

Ken Hagan said that he expects an announcement soon on the chosen Tampa location for the new Rays stadium.   Have you heard anything and which spot would you choose? I think it will be the Tampa Park Apartments site.
 
Jim Willson
I'd love to hear a decision. The news is coming slower than a Rays' pitcher delivering a pitch.
One word of warning: I don't think Stu Sternberg is whispering his plans to Ken Hagan, either. Hagan can talk to different property owners, but the decision is Sternberg's, and he isn't saying.
The Tampa Bay Apartments are possible, I guess. I still would love to see to see the team around the greyhound track.
I've said this before, too. Just so the stadium isn't in Montreal, I'm fine. No French spoken. Deal?

Behind all the rhetoric and canned interview responses, how do the Rays players – the good Rays players, those who would be coveted by a lot of other MLB teams — feel about playing for the Rays? I know some of them signed long-term contracts, but I don’t think that necessarily means they are thrilled with the Rays. On the other hand maybe the Rays organization is one that players like, enjoy. Some got traded here — they could have been traded to the Yanks or Boston or the Dodgers – but they are here. Is there resentment, playing for small crowds in a circus tent stadium for a team that can’t afford to make the moves other teams can to bolster their roster? Or do they feel more like underdogs who joyously tackle the favorites and relish the challenge? What’s the inside scoop on them, Gary?

Cecil DeBald

Cecil, I think most of the Rays players -- the good ones -- like it here. I think they wish they didn't have to move when it's time for the big contract, but when fortunes away you, you can get used to other colors, you know.

Every great now and then, you'll hear a player lament the small crowds at the Dome. Let's be honest. Most players want it all, and yes, that includes big crowds cheering their names. I think they'd rather play on natural grass without catwalks.

But it's an open market, too. Logan Morrison is here because he didn't have a better offer. Colby Rasmus needed a team that would accept him after his hip surgery. Alex Cobb has spoken of his gratitude for a team that would accept him after Tommy John surgery.

As far as the home grown players, most of them came up through the minor leagues with this team.

The guy I've always wondered about -- and he keeps his thoughts to himself -- is Evan Longoria. Now, Evan likes this team, and he's never talked about wanting to be elsewhere. But if you're an athlete, don't you privately have to want to try out a team that has a better chance to win?

I'm sure, Cecil, that most players are like most of us. They don't have one consuming thought on their situation. I'm sure there are times they'd like bigger crowds or better odds (the money is obscene everywhere), but there are times the joy of playing major league baseball is enough.

I really do think most players on this team like playing for this team. But, sure, all of them want to be richer and more adored. Don't we all?

The events this week regarding Tiger Woods have been so disappointing on so many levels. Fortunately nobody was hurt by his actions but certainly he could have done serious damage to himself and others driving in that impaired state. Do you think Tiger has reached the level of needing rehab for what appears to be a prescription drug dependency? Does this further distance any suggestion that he can ever return to the PGA tour and do you expect his sponsors will dump him now?

Larry Beller

If a sponsor stuck with him during his serial cheating scandal, I don't think they're going to leap because of this one, whether they should or not. A lot of people simply shrug when they hear "prescription drugs." But under the influence is under the influence.

I'm like everyone else. I wanted to like Tiger, too. He had the great smile, and he was new, and he was the best shot-maker I've ever seen. I mean, deep in the woods, and he'd hit an impossible shot.

But like I wrote this week, I don't know if Tiger Woods is a good guy. Part of that is his cultured image. I'd love to see him giving a clinic to underprivileged kids. I'd love to see him on a hospital  visit.

Instead, we see him selling watches and cars. Look, I'd love for Tiger to be a guy that we all look up to. But is he?

 In your years of covering Tampa Bay sports teams, which athlete had the most negative effect on their locker room? And the best?

Jim Willson

The worst? I'd say ex-Rays' outfielder Pat Burrell, who was a sour, unhappy guy from the day he walked into the Rays' clubhouse. Even the Rays' front office rolled their eyes at what a negative influence Burrell was. Now, to be fair, Burrell did much better after he left Tampa Bay, but when he was here, he was one of my least favorite athletes to deal with.

Former Lightning goalie Marc Denis wasn't a bad guy, but he was a horrible goaltender. When the Bucs cut Josh Freeman, I was shocked by how little protest there was in the Bucs' locker room. They knew he had lost his focus.

The best? Tampa Bay has had some great leaders.

Let's start with Derrick Brooks. He was a great player, and a quiet leader. He told me once that the other players in the locker room knew where to find their fire. And he played like that. I thought he was the best leader I've been around.

Dave Andreychuk taught the Lightning how to win. I always admired him because he had been a star, but by the time he got to Tampa Bay, he was a cattle boss, pushing, prodding, leading a talented young team. I'd put him second.

The Rays' best leader is still playing third base for them. Evan Longoria is the voice of perspective.

 

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Larry Beller June 3, 2017 at 6:42 am

The last time I remember a Rays player making negative comments about the small crowds at the Trop was David Price when the Rays were a winning team and about 9,000 people showed up on a Monday night after a successful road trip. He was vilified by the fans on social media and radio talk shows. Since then no player ever talks about it but it has to bother them. Except for that disastrous first road trip this year’s team has played very well on the road and just so so at home. It seems like most free agents who come here use the Rays as a rehab assignment to get their game back together before moving on to bigger and better things. Who can blame them? Playing at the Trop in front of small crowds almost every night is only 1 step above the minor leagues.

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