- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2008

They played very expeditiously yesterday at Nationals Park. Bud Selig - the Master of “Go Faster!” - would have been proud. Had the Nats’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers not been extended to extra innings, the game would have been completed in a succinct 2 hours, 34 minutes.

Of course, the teams combined for only 17 hits. They also had planes waiting for them - the Nationals’ bound for San Diego, the Brewers’ headed home to Milwaukee. Such factors have always been great at speeding games along. Still, it was an impressive display of hurry-up baseball, especially coming just a few days after the commissioner’s latest get-the-lead-out memo.

There was nothing overtly hasty about the game, either, nothing like what happened Friday night in Oakland, when home plate umpire Tim Tschida wouldn’t let the Red Sox’s J.D. Drew go back to the on-deck circle for some pine tar. Tschida’s shooing along of Drew incensed hitting coach Dave Magadan, who got ejected for, uh, exercising his First Amendment rights. It also didn’t sit well with David Ortiz, who asked the media afterward, “Do you know what it takes to figure out how to hit a baseball?”

No, Big Papi. Why don’t you tell us?


“[It] takes time. It’s not just throw the ball and hit it. Hitting is not easy. Pitching is not easy. Every time when I’m hitting and I take a pitch and I step out, I’m thinking about what I want to do with this pitcher. I think about what the guy is going to throw me, how I want to approach it, whether I want to stay inside-out. It’s the same thing with the pitcher. … That’s part of the game.”

It’s also a part that has increased steadily over the years, lengthening the average game from two hours to almost three. So Selig, concerned that baseball is boring Generation Xbox silly, keeps trying to nudge the players back in the batter’s box, keeps trying to get relievers to hustle in from the bullpen. It’s a near-impossible task, a lot like asking kids to make their beds every day, but it keeps his mind off congressional hearings.

“Those rules have been in effect for a couple of years now,” Manny Acta said. “There isn’t much we can do about it. They just want me calling for a new pitcher as soon as I come out of the dugout - and they want the relievers to be ready to come in and not throw extra pitches. Sometimes [the delay] isn’t us. Sometimes we’re just waiting for TV [to come back from commercial].”

MLB also wants to cut down on chronic batting glove fiddling and wristband diddling - not that the Nats have anybody on the Ten Most Dilatory List. That might be why nobody in their clubhouse saw any difference between this past weekend’s games and any other games - as far as the umps Keeping Things Moving, that is.

“I’m not a guy that takes my time [at the plate],” Rob Mackowiak said. “I stay in the box. There are guys around the league, though, who step out all the time. Everybody knows who they are.”

Isn’t that right, Mr. Ortiz?

If baseball needs any help in this matter, I have plenty of ideas. Here are 10, right off the top of my laptop:

* Play every game like the Nationals and Brewers did yesterday - like it’s Getaway Day. To further inspire the players, occasionally show footage on the Big Screen of a jet idling on the runway.

* Find faster presidents for the Presidents Race. If Teddy Roosevelt can’t run 40 yards in under five seconds - even with a humongous head atop his shoulders - impeach him.

* Require each team to have at least one guy in the lineup who’s a notorious first-ball hitter.

c If a batter stands at the plate and admires his home run rather than taking off for first, the hit gets reduced to a double.

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