The joke is about a man who was ordering breakfast at the diner. “Give me runny scrambled eggs, burnt bacon, cold toast and cold coffee.” His waitress said “We couldn’t do that.” To which the customer said “That’s what you did yesterday!”
Here’s the reverse. Something happened in baseball yesterday, not even 24 hours ago, and I wish it would happen today but I know it won’t. In fact, the “impossible, we couldn’t do that” happened twice yesterday. Two full 9-inning games were completed in less than 2 and a half hours. In fact, one was finished in an hour and 41 minutes with both_ pitchers_ going_ the distance_. And I mean 9 innings, not 6 or 7.
The two games were college games. In yesterday’s version of a marathon, the UConn Huskies beat Boston College in a game that took 2 hours and 20 minutes. UConn used several pitchers. I honestly don’t remember if Boston College used more than one, the game went by too fast. In the day’s shorter game, my alma mater (now called Rowan University) beat the Knights of Neumann University by a 2–0 final. Justin Smith, a senior righthander pitched a 9–inning complete game shutout.
I won’t go as far as to say all college baseball games are played at the pace of the two yesterday. If a college game is televised, particularly on ESPN it has the same commercial requirements that a major league game has. As a result, the game meanders along like today’s MLB games will on ESPN. Neither of yesterday’s college games were televised. The radio stations that carried them were able to manipulate their spots in between innings to the pace of the game. Neither one may have actual commercials. At UConn, the board operator usually plays music and is in contact with the broadcasters. Depending how long a break is, he can throw it back to the game in 1 minute, 90 seconds or 2 minutes at the discretion of Chris Jones, the lead play-by-play broadcaster on UConn games. At WGLS in Glassboro, New Jersey where Rowan University is located, (it was called Glassboro State in a better day) no break is ever longer than 45 seconds. When I went there, the usual break was 60 seconds. Even then they weren’t allowed to use commercials. Repeatedly after a 60-second break they came back 2 or 3 pitches into the inning. So when I began to broadcast games there, I asked my board operator never to take more than a 30-second break on any game I was handling. (OK, sometimes I had to do more than ask, but we very rarely came back late.) Somewhere after I graduated, WGLS set 45 seconds as a standard break during any sporting event, not just baseball.
Two other factors came into play yesterday that sped the game along. Neither J. O. Christian Field at UConn in Storrs, CT or “The Nest” at Glassboro has lights. Both games started after 3 PM, so playing at an MLB-style leisurely pace would not have gotten either game to a conclusion. The other factor was the freezing weather. I wouldn’t have enjoyed broadcasting a game in either of those cities yesterday. I’ve done it but that doesn’t mean at age 55 I’d wish to repeat something I did at age 21. It can only be assumed that yesterday’s pitchers didn’t want to wander around the mound. Likewise, yesterday’s hitters didn’t want to waste time stepping out of the batter’s box, taking selfies, adjusting their packages and whatever else MLB players do during a 2–1 game that takes 4 and a half hours.
I was most impressed with the pitchers. On both sides they seemed to realize that Babe Ruth is dead. They felt no need to be afraid to let the hitters hit the ball. The pitchers knew they had 8 guys behind them who would be that much more awake because of the pace of the game.
So today across the country, a new season of major league games will be played. Along the east coast, the weather, while not balmy won’t be as cold as a mother-in-law’s heart like it was the last two days. Minneapolis is under a flood warning. A blizzard warning would be worse but either one would keep a game from being played. Will MLB ever have the good sense to schedule the Twins, Rockies and both Chicago teams to always play until May 1 in either cities with enclosed parks or warm weather cities? If that plan ever works, could they then expand the rule to include the Tigers and Indians? Other than Minneapolis, Kansas City is the only other city where Opening Day might have to wait.
As you can imagine, on Opening Day the teams will go with their best starters. The Rays’ Blake Snell, the Astros’ Justin Verlander, Boston’s Chris Sale and the Mets’ Jacob DeGrom make their start right after getting hefty extensions. DeGrom faces Scherzer in Washington. For
the DeGrominator, it’s his first Opening Day start. Unlike last year, he has Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano to hopefully give him some run support. The Yankees open with Masahiro Tanaka, but they wouldn’t have if Luis Severino hadn’t hurt his shoulder and landed on the DL. (Oh by the way, if you want it called the “injured list”, check the NFL.) The Bronx Bombers have never won an Opening Day start behind Tanaka. I would have preferred they started James Paxton and forget the fact that they got him by a trade from the Mariners. After last year, there’s no room to be sentimental about Tanaka on Opening Day. Too many of last year’s losses came to horrible teams like the Orioles, and especially with their early injuries the Yankees can’t risk a bad start. In Philadelphia, the Braves turn to Julio Teheran. He and Warren Spahn are the only two Braves’ pitchers to make 6 straight Opening Day starts. Think of that-among Glavine, Smoltz or Maddux, none started 6 lid-lifters in a row. The Astros’ Justin Verlander makes his 11th career start on Opening Day, 9 of which were in Detroit. Blake Snell has never started on Opening Day until now. He beat out today’s opponent Verlander for last year’s Cy Young award much to the displeasure of Verlander’s wife (for now,) the highly vocal Kate Upton. Both teams who made the needless journey to Japan, (the A’s and Mariners) get to open their seasons at home, which is a small reward for making such a long journey to no purpose a week ago. Mike Fiers, who pitched a no-hitter 4 years ago but got pounded in Japan starts for Oakland against the Angels. With their ace Paxton traded, the Mariners go to Marco Gonzales by default as they face Sale and the Red Sox. When Corey Kluber starts, it will be his fifth straight Opening Day start for the Indians. The last Indians to start 5 season openers in a row did it between 1917 and 1921. For any SABRE friends out there, his name was Stan Coveleski. God knows when Kluber will start if the flood warning in Minneapolis comes to fruition. The Dodgers find themselves without either Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill, leaving Hyun-Jin Ryu as their opening day starter against Arizona.
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