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Baseball Sure Takes Its Sweet Time, Wall Street Journal Finds

Baseball. It sure goes slowly. Sometimes something happens. Mostly, nothing happens.

People at the Wall Street Journal watched baseball. They noticed how deliberate the game is. They thought, huh, there sure is a lot of not much happening.


They could have stopped there. They could have written "baseball games are the overinflated snack-chip bag of sports." They could have written "unless you're getting pleasantly day-drunk or teaching your kids the manly art of shelling peanuts with one hand, baseball is an expensive waste of an afternoon." But no. Those sorts of unsupported statements do not sell papers. In fact nothing sells papers anymore. Still they decided to try to sell papers by finding out numbers. Old habits and all.

They watched baseball games and timed the things that happened. They concluded that in a baseball game that takes three hours, about 18 minutes of stuff happens. The paper's sample size was n=3. This is not considered a large pool from which to draw conclusions. But it would take forever to watch more games. Have you seen how slowly they go? So three it was.

Here is what the paper found constitutes the dark meat on baseball's basket of hot wings:

The almost 18-minute average included balls in play, runner advancement attempts on stolen bases, wild pitches, pitches (balls, strikes, fouls and balls hit into play), trotting batters (on home runs, walks and hit-by-pitches), pickoff throws and even one fake-pickoff throw. This may be generous. If we'd cut the action definition down to just the time when everyone on the field is running around looking for something to do (balls in play and runner advancement attempts), we'd be down to 5:47.


Wait, so. Really only six minutes of stuff happens. Why that is not much at all. How will you fill the other 174 minutes you spend at the park? We begin to see where this recent spate of baseball poindexters comes from. They like to read during the 34ish minutes between batters, and during the 43ish minutes between innings, and the 75ish minutes between pitches.


During the three games the reporters witnessed a triple by Bryce Harper. It took 15 seconds. In baseball that is a many consecutive seconds of stuff happening. Against a backdrop of fuck-all taking place, it arrives like birthday fireworks. That sort of thing keeps people loitering around ball parks by the millions. Your favorite baseball memories may well be long moments. One of mine was watching Kevin Millar hit an inside-the-park home run for the Marlins in 2000. Kevin Millar is not the fastest man ever. Apparently it took about 20 seconds for him to score. Twenty seconds does not sound like long when you are watching a movie or riding an airplane or washing dishes or studying. But that is the amazing thing about baseball time. You could have read the entire Iliad in the 20 seconds Millar needed to get back and collapse on home plate as if his heart had exploded. He retired in 2009 and may be running yet.

In America's Pastime, Players Pass A Lot Of Time [WSJ]

Photo credit of San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera: Associated Press.

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