Cool take: Four hours is too much baseball

Ticky-tack rules and micromanaging get in way of MLB's goal to pick up the pace

No Tory Lovullo, you can’t do that.
No Tory Lovullo, you can’t do that.
Image: Getty Images

Ryan Butcher started the 10th inning for the Diamondbacks in their game against the Angels on Friday night, with Jared Walsh serving as the courtesy runner at second base. But it was another of baseball’s unnecessary and irritating new rules that really wound up causing trouble for Arizona.

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After Butcher struck out Jose Iglesias, the righty balked Walsh to third. Then he hit Taylor Ward with a pitch. Torey Lovullo then decided, with the game on the line, that he’d seen enough from Butcher, and called to the bullpen for Riley Smith.

Problem was, Butcher had only faced two batters. So he couldn’t come out of the game.

Butcher, who had thrown only five of 10 pitches for strikes, only got one more toss: he plunked Kurt Suzuki, loading the bases, and leading a now-feelin’-frisky Joe Maddon to insert pitcher Griffin Canning as a pinch-runner for his catcher. Maddon then sent up his other catcher, Max Stassi, to pinch-hit for pitcher Raisel Iglesias, and Stassi drove in what proved to be the winning run with a groundout off, finally, Smith.

All of this business to help the pace of play allowed the 6-5 game to end in a crisp… uh… four hours and nine minutes.

Much earlier, Shohei Ohtani had eight strikeouts in five innings on the mound, played a bit of right field, and went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI. He also hit Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly with a line drive and was called for two balks of his own, leading to an elite reaction GIF.

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Azzurri have nothing on Kyrgyzstan

Italy opened Euro 2020, which is still called that even though it’s not 2020 anymore, with a 3-0 win over Turkey, a good early answer to the question of whether the Azzurri can muster enough offense in this tournament.

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But if you really wanted scoring in international soccer, the nets were filling up on Friday in Asian qualifying for the World Cup, as Kyrgyzstan walloped Myanmar, 8-1, and Iran put a 10-0 stomping on Cambodia, whose qualifying campaign is now mercifully over after going 0-1-7 (a 1-1 draw with Hong Kong) with two goals scored and 42 allowed.

The Iranians have hung 24 goals on Cambodia in their two games, but making the third round of qualifying still comes down to Tuesday, when Iran will need to beat Iraq to win the group. A draw may be enough to get Iran through, but the rankings of group runners-up may well depend on goal differential.

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The twist? Iran’s two dozen goals against Cambodia wouldn’t be any help in that goal differential, as North Korea’s withdrawal from Group H means that results against fifth-place teams aren’t factored into the tiebreakers.