MLB Games Should Be Longer
ALSO: MEET BASEBALL'S DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
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Did You Know?
The San Francisco Giants hit 18 pinch-homers, a major-league record, this season . . .
Atlanta’s leading lefty, Max Fried, was NL Pitcher of the Month for September after posting a 1.54 ERA . . .
Speaking of pitchers, the Dodgers joined the 1927 Yankees as the only teams to have their league’s top three pitchers in winning percentage: Julio Urias (.870), Walker Buehler (.800), and Max Scherzer (.789) . . .
Houston’s Zack Greinke, hobbled by a sore neck in September, will work out of the bullpen in the playoffs . . .
Toronto lefty Robbie Ray should be a Cy Young shoo-in after leading the American League with a 2.48 ERA, 248 strikeouts, a 1.045 WHIP, and 193 1/3 innings pitched.
Why MLB Games Should Be Longer, Not Shorter
By JB Manheim
We have all heard many arguments for reducing the time it takes to play an average nine-inning baseball game, and MLB has initiated, or at least tested, a number of rule changes to advance this cause -- between-inning and pitch clocks, batters maintaining contact with the batter's box, relievers facing at least three batters, to name just three. The objective is ostensibly to attract and retain fans in an age of collective ADHD.
This is wrong-headed. MLB should be celebrating the length of its games, and working to extend them even further, daytime starts into the twilight, and night games into the zero-dark-hundred hours. It's all about economic value, demographics, and fairness.
The Athletic recently published a table showing the average cost for a family of four to attend a major-league game, broken out by team. On their own, the numbers are daunting. The average cost across both leagues in this latest accounting is $253, with the Red Sox topping the scales at $376 and change. Given that the average length of that major league game today is 188 minutes, that means that a Red Sox family of four fans is paying literally $2 per minute for the privilege of eating a $6 hot dog in the Fenway sunshine.
But what happens when you put these seemingly abstract dollar amounts in context -- when you think about the real cost of attending an MLB game for a working-class family? The table below answers that question by calculating the number of hours of work that would be required for a minimum wage worker (at $15 or $12 per hour) to take his or her family to a game in each major-league city.
2021 MLB Fan Cost Index Converted to Minimum-Wage Hours of Work
TEAM $15/hour $12/hour
Boston Red Sox 25 31
Chicago Cubs 24 30
Houston Astros 23 29
NY Yankees 23 28
Washington Nationals 23 28
LA Dodgers 21 25
SF Giants 20 24
Texas Rangers 19 24
Philadelphia Phillies 18 22
St Louis Cardinals 17 22
Seattle Mariners 17 22
NY Mets 17 21
Chicago White Sox 17 21
Baltimore Orioles 16 21
Cleveland Indians 16 20
Atlanta Braves 16 20
Oakland Athletics 16 20
Milwaukee Brewers 16 20
Minnesota Twins 15 19
Kansas City Royals 15 19
Cincinnati Reds 15 18
Detroit Tigers 15 18
Colorado Rockies 15 18
San Diego Padres 14 18
LA Angels 13 16
Pittsburgh Pirates 12 15
Tampa Bay Rays 12 15
Miami Marlins 12 15
Arizona Diamondbacks 10 12
In effect, a minimum wage worker in Phoenix would have to put in one and one-half days' effort to earn enough to take the family to a game at Chase Field, while a similarly-situated worker in Boston or Chicago would have to work three to four full days to visit Fenway or Wrigley. And those numbers assume that all of the requisite earnings are, in fact, disposable income, a self-evidently false assumption.
Consider the opportunity costs. Instead of attending a game at Fenway, a Boston worker could purchase 117.5 gallons of gasoline at the national average price of $3.195, or provide the family with groceries for two weeks on the "low-cost" food budget estimated by the USDA. At the MLB average cost, a worker in Phoenix could purchase a roundtrip airplane ticket to New York City and back, with enough left over to check a bag or buy some peanuts. It's any of those or a myriad of other more essential choices, or spend a mere three hours and eight minutes at a ballgame.
Now, here's the value question: Does a $12/hour worker in Boston or Chicago deserve only a 10% return on the time invested to attend a game -- three hours of entertainment for 30 hours of labor? Even at the MLB average, that worker must work for two and a half days to earn the same three hours of diamond bliss. That's not fair! And MLB now strives to make it even less so.
No, to be fair, MLB games should be extended to, say, four hours per nine innings, or even four-and-a-half. While still a luxury expense, at least the one-third to one-half additional return on the worker's entertainment dollar would send the right message: Baseball Cares!
Surely there is a way to achieve this goal. The floor is open for suggestions.
JB Manheim, Professor Emeritus at The George Washington University, is author of This Never Happened: The Mystery Behind the Death of Christy Mathewson and two forthcoming sequels. His satire, like his novels, pokes at the boundary between the myths and the realities of baseball. Visit his website at jbmanheimbooks.com.
Adam Duvall Could Be Pivotal Man In NL Playoffs
By Dan Schlossberg
This is the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — otherwise known as Adam Duvall.
The veteran outfielder, who split the 2021 season between the also-ran Miami Marlins and NL East champion Atlanta Braves, is a different hitter with men on base.
For the season, he led the National League with a career-best 113 runs batted in — a number that would certainly please a hitter like teammate Freddie Freeman. But Duvall got there the hard way.
He hit just .228, four points lower than his eight-year career batting average of .232.
It seems that the 6-1, 215-pound right-handed hitter, who turned 33 in September, is an absolute terror with men on base.
With runners in scoring position, he batted .326 with a .367 on-base percentage and .757 slugging average. Overall, his average with runners on base was .293 — not too shabby in a year when .300 hitters were scarce.
Add late-inning situations to the equation (late-inning pressure plus runners on base) and Duvall’s average jumped a few points to .296.
But with the bases empty, Duvall hit only .172 (47-for-274). That’s where the Jekyll-and-Hyde analogy comes in.
Non-tendered by the Braves last fall, Duvall signed with Miami. But the payroll-paring Marlins sent him back to Atlanta in exchange for backup catcher Alex Jackson with minutes to spare before the 4 p.m. trade deadline on July 30.
Duvall then proceeded to hit 15 home runs for Atlanta over the final two months.
His return plugged a gaping void in left field, where Marcell Ozuna had been stationed before he (a) fractured two fingers with a foolish head-first slide at Fenway Park in May and (b) got arrested on a domestic violence charge against wife Genesis.
Duvall, far superior to Ozuna defensively, is a popular clubhouse figure, especially since he’s a diabetic who played through the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020 when he could have opted out. Had he not injured himself by pulling an oblique during his first at-bat of the National League Championship Series, the Braves probably would have defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers and gone to the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
One of four outfielders obtained by Atlanta to fill the gaping void that opened when Ozuna and Ronald Acuna, Jr. were sidelined simultaneously, he is the only one virtually certain to return. Jorge Soler is an unrestricted free agent, Joc Pederson carries a $10 million option unlikely to be picked up, and Eddie Rosario might not fit if Acuna and Duvall return and Cristian Pache gets another crack at center field.
This time around, Duvall can command a multi-year contract. He can opt out of his deal, which he probably will, but wants to stay with the Braves. Duvall does strike out a lot and seldom steals a base but his uncanny knack for producing in the clutch makes me a man who will draw MVP votes — at least for 2021.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Ball Nine, Here’s The Pitch, Sports Collectors Digest, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. The popular speaker, author, and tour host can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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