My occasional friend, Poker Hall of Famer Eric Drache, recently texted me a trivia question:
What is the least number of pitches that a pitcher can throw and complete a nine-inning game?
The correct answer will be given at the end of the column.
(I’d like to plead with readers not to jump to the end of the column right now. I already lose half of you who only want to read the “Ask The Slouch” section, I don’t want to lose the other half to a trivia question. Besides, some of my best work is done in the trenches – in the middle of the column – plus this week I might be giving away a brand new Chevy Volt in Paragraph 13.)
Anyway, it strikes me that baseball’s got some problems.
The other night I was watching the first four minutes of the first meaningless NBA game of the season – 76ers-Celtics on TNT – and, I must tell you, it made Major League Baseball look like a slow dance in a barnyard.
NBA vs. MLB? I love both sports, but one game is constant motion and the other is constant motionlessness.
This doesn’t play well with the young ’uns.
It’s a go-go-go viewing culture out there; those kids will watch 377 half-minute car-chase videos before they’ll watch “Casablanca.”
Millennials think microwave ovens take too long.
Baseball is just too slow, with more work stoppages than a Teamsters shop.
Basketball plays well with any music as a backdrop – rock and roll, jazz, country, hip-hop, et al; baseball plays well to a funeral dirge.
In particular, two things are killing off viewership during what should be a glorious postseason: the parade of game-stopping pitching changes and beyond-midnight finishes.
(Also the offense-stifling defensive shifts, but I have to be self-medicating to discuss defensive shifts.)
Because of a surge of new analytics – undoubtedly culled from Nate Silver while he was sitting on the latrine – managers now spin the roulette wheel on relief pitchers. If one guy gets two straight outs, he’s gone! Bring in the next two-out specialist! And on and on.
I suspect there will be a new MLB roster rule by 2020: eight position players, 17 pitchers. This will allow teams to use two pitchers per inning EVERY INNING OF EVERY GAME.
So you get Game 4 of the Brewers-Dodgers National League Championship Series, which took nearly four hours to play nine innings of a 1-1 tie; at least 1-1 MLS matches are over in two hours. The game lasted 13 innings, a 5-hour-15-minute trudge with 16 pitchers. This was trumped by the historic Game 3 of the Red Sox-Dodgers World Series – 18 innings over 7 hours 20 minutes, ended only because Larry King had to go to the bathroom.
They sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the first pitch, but games shouldn’t be ending by the dawn’s early light.
Could you imagine the Super Bowl wrapping up at, say 1 or 2 am ET? The World Series is the sport’s greatest stage, yet its most dramatic moments occur when half the nation is asleep.
Would it kill them to start earlier, maybe even play one weekday afternoon game, where kids squirm to get out of school to see it and parents play hooky from work?
Rob Manfred blames Mike Trout for not making himself more marketable. Trout’s to blame for baseball’s declining interest levels and midnight madness? Rob, Rob, Rob, your No. 1 charge as commissioner is to market the game. Or, as the proverb says, “Those who live in multimillion-dollar glass houses should not throw stones or sliders.”
Okay, here is your trivia answer:
A pitcher can complete a nine-inning game throwing ZERO pitches.
This is courtesy of the intentional walk rule instituted in 2017 – pitchers no longer need to throw four pitches outside of the strike zone, the manager can just signal for the batter to take first base. Thus a pitcher, theoretically, could intentionally walk every batter and then pick each of them off base, recording all 27 outs without ever throwing a pitch.
Granted, this is a very unlikely scenario, but starting with Nov. 8, 2016, America has seen repeated unlikely scenarios unfold – so, heck, maybe one day soon we’ll even get a 2-hour-48-minute World Series game that ends before midnight.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Did you run out of Yuengling and Fritos watching Game 4 of the World Series? (Steve Friedman; Minneapolis)
A. I actually anticipated it would be two games-in-one, so I only viewed the even-number innings, allowing me to ration my beer and chips and see Max Muncy’s game-winning homer.
Q. With LeBron James’ presence pumping up the Lakers fan base, are you excited again to be in L.A.? (Matt Phillips; Reno, Nev.)
A. I don’t get excited, I go to goat yoga.
Q. Isn’t having an AOL address the technological equivalent of wearing bell-bottoms? (Chris Rocchio; Castleton, N.Y.)
A. I am wearing bell-bottoms right now. What’s your point?
Q. The University of Chicago dropped its football program in 1939. Do you think this will be the start of a trend? (Joe Kramarz; Spokane)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.