The person with the most difficult job in baseball might be Steve Palermo. The former American League umpire recently was appointed to lead a study to crack the mystery of why baseball games are getting longer. Palermo has gathered information for six weeks and expects to present his findings to baseball club owners. He spoke recently with The Sun's Mark Hyman.
Q: One of baseball's main selling points has been that there's no game clock. Why the big concern about games that stretch on for three hours or longer?
A: Granted, the game is not dictated by a clock, but you are trying to provide entertainment. I'm looking at ways to maintain a continuity of action.
Q: What does the research say about the time of games?
A: In the last eight or nine years, it has gone from 2:30 to about 2:53. That's about two minutes a year we've allowed to slip away. You're going to have some 15-12 games that take 3 1/2 hours to play, but it would be nice if an average game was in the 2:30 time range.
Q: What kinds of factors will you look for?
A: At common denominators. At those things that take the greatest amount of time during games, and whether they are creating these delays. There are 200 to 250 pitches thrown during an average game. That is a common denominator. You know, minimum, 54 times during a game that a hitter is going to step into the batter's box.
Q: How will you gauge whether the work you've done has been successful?
A: I'm not sure how to define that. If I take a half-hour off the game, and it's not entertaining, that's not success. I guess the object would be to very subtly reduce games to about 2:30 and to do it in a way that creates an action-packed pace.