Team exec thinks shortening games to seven innings is what baseball needs

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Buster Olney spoke with a team executive who cited long games and a rash of injuries as two problems that can be solved with one radical move: shortening games to seven innings:

“I think they ought to change the games to seven innings,” he said.

Seven innings? You mean, in each game? Seven innings instead of nine?

“Seven innings,” he said again, and he went on to explain that if baseball adopted this, it could represent tonic for all the problems he sees.

Seven innings instead of nine would mean the games would finish closer to two-and-a-half hours than three hours or longer. That would be a better fit for the common attention span in 2014.

A younger audience might be more attracted to a shorter, more intense product, he said.

1. Why do people who think baseball games are too long and need to be shortened in order to hold viewers’ attention spans never mention that most NFL broadcasts last around three and a half hours?

2. Why would cutting games to seven innings necessarily limit injuries? Most recent studies have failed to find a link between innings’ pitched and arm injuries. Indeed, almost all of the Tommy John surgeries this year popped up in spring training after side sessions or one or two innings pitched. We really know next to nothing about preventing pitching injuries so cutting the length of games may have zero payoff in this regard.

3. The biggest argument against seven-inning games? Beer sales cut off in the seventh inning. Cut them off in the fifth now? That, my friends, is a hill I WILL die upon.

4. Is it crazy to think that the executive advocating for seven inning games really has a crappy back end of the bullpen, and he’s merely projecting his problems on the rest of baseball? That’s my theory anyway.

Nine innings. That’s the game. Ain’t gonna change. Shouldn’t change even if anyone took this seriously.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.