Marlins President David Samson Wants Shorter Games: He’s Got a Point

David Samson
David Samson
Steve Mitchell USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins president David Samson has drawn criticism in recent days for his comments about the length of his team’s games. Three hours is the usual duration of a Major League Baseball game, but according to Samson, it’s still too long.

“Pace of game is about our fans,” Samson said. “It’s very much a TV issue and an in-game-experience issue. No one is complaining about pace of game where it goes 12 innings and it’s three hours and 20 minutes and it’s a 5-4 game. That’s not the issue. If it’s a 3-1 nine-inning game that goes three hours and 12 minutes, that’s not enjoyable.

“If we want to engage fans 18 to 49, we have to play faster. We’re not going to put up with 3.5-hour games. Our fans don’t want it.”

Sure, baseball enthusiasts, go ahead and blast Samson for his comments. But he’s 100 percent right.

Unlike timed games like football and basketball than span anywhere from two to three hours, baseball has no cap, meaning it can last as long as it will take before there’s a winner and a loser. And Samson: don’t be worried about it just being the always hard-to-watch Marlins; this is a league-wide issue.

Baseball would be so much more attractive in terms of TV viewers if the game’s pace wasn’t so slow. Knowing that when you sit down to watch a ball game is at least a three-hour commitment is discouraging. This is why “Titanic” isn’t a typical choice for a movie night.

In today’s 24-7 digital world, patience barely exists. Every piece of news and information can be attained in the click of a button, the refreshing of a browser or an ESPN ScoreCenter update. Da-na-na. Da-na-na. Time is precious, now more than ever, and people don’t want to just sit 3.5 hours watching a game drag on and on — not unless there’s game-changing action at each and every turn, which is more likely with the NFL and NBA.

Baseball is a different type of game, one in which nothing can happen for eight innings and fans have no choice but to sit and wait. I’m not going to say baseball is a boring sport, because there is certainly some intense action and excitement at times, but overall it’s hard to say the game is as action-filled enough to keep me wildly tuned in for three hours.

There’s a list solutions that has been mentioned time and time again as to how to speed up the game. A pitch clock. A mercy rule. Less commercial breaks on TV. I don’t know how to fix it, because each one of those options has a major drawback. I do know, though, that a faster-paced game would make the game more attractive to watch.

I also believe a shorter game would benefit those who go out to the ballpark to catch games. How common is it for fans to leave after the seventh or eighth inning because the game started at 7 p.m. and they have work early the next morning? And if the seventh inning is dragging at the three-hour mark, you already feel like you’ve been trapped in the bleachers for the entire night.

Imagine a game in which the game was winding down around the second hour, and the latest the home team would be getting its last licks would be around the 2.5-hour mark. It’s not too significant of a change in time, but it would put MLB games closer to the length of NBA games and consequently a bit more interesting. The games would end earlier, action would come quicker and I believe more fans would want to tune in to or attend games.

Shorter games are a quick fix, whichever avenue the league chooses to go down. Baseball is an old-school sport but this is a new-school change that is largely overdue.

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.