SLOW DOWN ON RULES CHANGES

Patrick Creighton: MLB could learn something from NBA

Jose Altuve should be marketed better. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

In an effort to speed up pace of play, Major League Baseball has decided to implement a new rule, limiting trips to the mound that can be made by managers, coaches, and players that do not result in a pitching change to 6 per 9 innings.

While teams will get one extra trip per inning in extra innings, the rule extends to catchers talking to pitchers and position players on the infield talking to pitchers as well.  Umpires will have the ability to deny mound trips should a team use up all of its permitted visits.

Baseball tells us the length of games is a ‘fan issue’, and not from fans at games.  The problem is fans watching on tv.  Baseball has plenty of research that shows fans watching at home think the games are too slow and too long.

Last year, the average MLB game was 3 hours and 5 minutes.  The average NFL game was 3 hours and 7 minutes.  The average college football game was 3 hours and 24 minutes.  However, its fans watching baseball who are complaining and MLB is taking notice.

While it’s good to see baseball listen to their fans, their course of action is highly questionable.  It appears they are trying to put a small patch on a hole that will lead to a massive burst in the dam.

When mound conferences occur, the defense is changing signs, changing indicators, realigning the defense, etc.  Not permitting these conferences leads to the batter having an advantage.  This is great for offense, but therein lies the problem.

Pitching duels don’t last 3 hours.  Games with lots of baserunners and lots of hits make for longer games.  Limiting the ability of the pitcher and defense to make adjustments to situational baseball or to change up signs that may be stolen will only leads to more walks, more hits, more baserunners, and more runs.  All of those things make the game longer.  

Now, I am not someone who has a problem with the length of games.  I love baseball, and enjoy the intricacies of the game.  Baseball is the thinking man’s game.  There is strategy to implement on every pitch, but not everyone looks at baseball this way.  The hardcore fan does but the casual fan does not, and every sport needs the casual fan to boost their ratings and sell their merchandise.

So why are fans complaining about the length of baseball games and not of NFL or CFB games?  The biggest reason is that fans aren’t engaged in the game.

This is where MLB could really learn a lesson from the NBA.

While TV ratings in general are down 9%, and the NFL’s ratings were down nearly that same number (correlation to the market), the NBA’s ratings are actually up.  This is because the NBA markets their players incredibly well, which causes people to care about those players, those teams, and be engaged in the game.

Regardless of what market a player is in, the NBA markets their better players.  Not only do they show their highlights on the court, but they give players an everyday face as well, endearing them to the culture.  Baseball fails miserably here, still a slave to its local/regional mindset.

As a result, casual fans have no idea who the better players in the league are, no connection to those teams, and no real engagement into the game.  

During the World Series, Game 2 went 4 hours and 19 minutes.  It was a great game with a terrific comeback.  No one complained about the length of the game, it was considered an incredible game.  Game 5 went 5 hours and 17 minutes in what was one of the greatest games in recent World Series history.  No complaints about game length.  Why?  Everyone watching the game was engaged.  They knew the teams, they knew the players, and they had a reason to care.

Baseball should look at the model the NBA uses in promoting its players and copy it to the letter.  Let fans around the country know who the stars of the game are and what teams they play for.

The NBA doesn’t worry about market size or how good the team’s record is, as Giannis Antetokuonmpo plays in Milwaukee, Joel Embiid plays in Philadelphia, Demar DeRozan plays in Toronto, Anthony Davis is in New Orleans, Damian Lillard is in Portland.  None of those players are on teams that are higher than 6th in the conference, except DeRozan, and he plays in another country.

MLB should be showing the world Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon in Colorado, Brad Hand in San Diego, Freddie Freeman in Atlanta, Avisail Garcia in Chicago, Jonathan Schoop in Baltimore, etc.  Heck, Jose Altuve was MVP and the most exposure he got for most of the year was a picture of him standing next to Aaron Judge looking like a 4th grader standing next to a giant. While Altuve is starting to make the national landscape, it should be noted that he’s led the AL in hits 4 straight years and in AVG 3 of the last 4, has gone from 13th to 10th to 3rd in the MVP race before winning in 2017 and he’s STARTING to make the national landscape.  This is a horrendous failure of marketing by baseball.

Rob Manfred needs to make a phone call to Adam Silver, and ask for some pointers, because MLB is light years behind the NBA in how to market players.  Well marketed players make fans care.  Fans who care don’t complain about game length.

Patrick Creighton can be heard on “Nate & Creight” 1-3p Mon-Fri on Sportsmap 94.1 FM & Sundays 12-5p CT on SB Nation Radio.  Follow him on Twitter @Pcreighton1

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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