When the New York Yankees resume play with the Boston Red Sox, my schedule shuts down.
All of my homework responsibilities are put off for another day as I plop in front of the biggest television I can find and prepare for a marathon. I have come to expect that each and every Yanks-BoSox game is going to take forever. The game will likely feature a playoff atmosphere, at least 36 pitching changes, pinch hitters, pinch runners, mound visit after mound visit, probably a blown save and some late inning heroics that have me relieved that the contest has finally come to an end, as well as wanting more.
Recently, veteran umpire Joe West has called both teams’ long-winded style of play both “embarrassing” and “pathetic.” This was an unfair outburst at both teams who play the game as well as any. A request to speed up the game simply for time’s sake brings into question the integrity and the fundamentals of the game itself.
Each episode of the largest rivalry in professional sports lasts for four hours or more because both teams feature many of the most patient and properly trained batters in the league. Players such as Nick Swisher and David Ortiz have fantastic eyes for strikes and balls, and will take pitches, step out of the batters’ box and try to disrupt the pitcher’s timing. Yes, it makes the game last longer, but this is what good hitters do. It just so happens that both teams have deep lineups with several batters whose approach is to work the count and look for the pitch they want. And for those of us who had any sort of a stint in little league, looking for a good pitch to hit and working the count is what we are taught at a young age.
Perhaps this is why Pittsburgh Pirates – Florida Marlins games do not last nearly as long.
Another reason why these games seem to go on for ages is the fact that both teams have deep bullpens, as well as deep benches, and have the
ability to mix and match for several of the final innings. Managers Joe Girardi and Terry Francona have what seems like a fully-stocked arsenal of arms and bats on call, and neither is afraid to slow down, access the situation and make the correct moves.
Also, unlike other games that do not have the same historic rivalry implications, all of the games between the Yankees and Red Sox matter … to a whole mess of people. Beyond both teams playing in the same division, neither team wants to lose, simply because losing to a team that they have been feuding with for nearly a century is a painful blow to either ego.
I could shell out statistic after statistic about the Yankees seeing more pitches than any team in baseball last season, or the Red Sox’ average walks per game, but that is not what this column is addressing. The bottom line is that both of these clubs compete at a high level and win 90 or more games each season because of the little things that might take a few extra minutes.
And honestly, fans pay enough money for tickets, umpires get paid enough to stand there and fans at home invest enough time glued to televisions that an extra 30 or 45 minutes to maintain the integrity of a heated rivalry are an acceptable addition. I do admit that I am a bit of a hypocrite, as I often complain about the length of these epic contests as I watch, but when it is all said and done, whether I am mildly furious or bragging to my inferior Fenway-loving friends, I am generally satisfied with the level of play, and calling it “embarrassing” and “pathetic” is just that. As Denzel Washington once said, “let the boys play!”
Bobby Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.