Pace of play? The Diamondbacks and Rockies hold the longest 9-inning game in National League history
You don’t hear about pace of play this season as much as you did when the new rules to speed up baseball games were instituted in 2015. But don’t be mistaken; it remains one of commissioner Rob Manfred’s top initiatives. And frankly, he’s fighting a losing battle right now.
Game times are up in 2016, surpassing the dreaded three-hour mark as of mid-May. The biggest culprit? There’s just more of stuff. More pitches, more walks, more strikeouts and more balls staying out of play. Those add up, and you had the perfect storm Friday night when the Rockies hosted the Diamondbacks.
It took 4 fours and 30 minutes for the D’Backs to pull off the 10-9 comeback victory. The game time bested a 15-year National League record for longest nine-inning game by 3 minutes. The previous record-holder was a Dodgers-Giants tilt from 2001.
This one had all the ingredients for a extraordinarily long game: 19 runs; 30 hits; 13 walks; 16 strikeouts (eh, that’s not too bad); six mid-inning pitching changes (serenity now!).
As pointed out by the Rockies’ SB Nation blog, Purple Row, the teams combined for 46 at-bats with runners in scoring position. That is pretty amazing to fathom but easy to understand when you see that there were 12 doubles (tied for the most in a game this year), six stolen bases, five errors, three wild pitches, two balks and all of those damn walks. There were actually 60 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, and imagine how much longer this game would have lasted if the teams had hit better than .196 in those RISP situations.
I never want to complain about game times; my life is always better at the ballpark. But it’s games like this one that make Manfred tear out what’s remaining of his hair. Moreover, there’s really nothing he can do to stop these types of games from occurring. For all of his rules and suggestions, he can’t force pitchers to throw strikes. He can’t stop fielders from booting balls. He can’t stop hitters from taking so many pitches. Like the fans, he just has to sit there and wait for the game to, at some point, end.
With not much to go on other than police reports, some conversations, a gut feel and conscience, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred ruled on Aroldis Chapman’s domestic violence case Tuesday.
And it feels like he ruled justly. It’s difficult to say unequivocally that the suspension’s length of 30 games is completely fair because there is so much that we (and Manfred for that matter) don’t know and will never know about what occurred between Chapman and his girlfriend on Oct. 30. She said he pushed her against a wall and choked her. He said he poked her on the shoulder with two fingers and she fell down.
But again, this feels proper for what we do know. If you think Manfred was weak in this instance, take a look at what he had to work with in this first case under the league’s new domestic violence policy:
Chapman was not arrested. He was not charged with a crime. The witnesses present gave inconsistent accounts of what occurred. There was no video or any other smoking gun to corroborate the victim’s claims.
But it still resulted in Chapman losing nearly $2 million in pay and being banned for almost one-fifth of his team’s season.
By comparison, in 2014, the NFL suspended running back Ray Rice for two games — one-eighth of a player’s season — after he had already been arrested and charged with simple assault and after he was later indicted by a grand jury for aggravated assault. One month after handing down the suspension, commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he was too lenient.
Manfred didn’t want to make a similar admission.
Maybe you think instead that 30 games for Chapman is too harsh. We know some sort of physical altercation occurred, but there’s no way of knowing the truth there. Even in his statement on the suspension, Manfred singled out Chapman’s use of a gun inside of his house rather than any sort of physical violence as the main reason for the ban.
Thirty games for firing a gun at a wall in his house and some unclear assertions of physical violence? How does the crime fit the time? I’ve seen people take that stance on Twitter to argue that Manfred brought the hammer down too hard on Chapman. If you think so, I’m sorry, but I’d much rather have a commissioner who takes a harder line against domestic abuse than one who follows in the missteps of his professional equals.
Those in positions of power in sports have a long history of overlooking domestic abuse. It’s time for a change. Call this an overcorrection or making up for the errors of previous regimes if you are so inclined, but it’s better late than never. This issue needs to be addressed and handled in sports with the gravity and sensitivity it deserves. Firing a gun in a house with children present, even if there is no intent to cause physical injury, can be cited as intimidation and domestic abuse. Honestly, with the lack of hard evidence against Chapman, Tuesday’s announcement feels like the floor for anyone found in violation of MLB’s broad policy against domestic abuse, sexual assault and child abuse. If Chapman’s actions garnered him this type of punishment, what lies ahead for those in baseball who are arrested and charged with such a crime? That will be a huge precedent-setter.
I would have been OK with a longer suspension. Conversely, I don’t think 20-25 games would have led to much more outrage. But it’s pretty evident that the parties involved reached the number 30 following some long negotiations. Manfred, in his first attempt at levying such a penalty, put forth a judgement with some meat and consequence on it. Chapman, as a reward of sorts for accepting the 30-game ban and not filing an appeal (something that once seemed inevitable), he stays on track to become a free agent following the 2016 season, given that he’s not suspended again.
For the New York Yankees, they still have Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in the bullpen, and they knew this decision was coming. Now that it’s here, I think a pro sports league commissioner, after dealing with a player accused of domestic abuse, deserves something rather rare: a decent amount of commendation.