In a recent interview with the Bergen Record, veteran umpire Joe West ripped into the Yankees and Red Sox for the typically slow pace of their ballgames.
The Yankees and Red Sox are notorious for their epic, nine-inning marathons and four hour affairs. As a result, West stated, "It's pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play." He went on to say that this issue is "a disgrace to baseball."
Yes, the Yankees and Red Sox are a disgrace to baseball, according to a longtime Major League umpire. The same Yankees and Red Sox that provide the game of baseball with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue (the Yankees, in fact, brought in $441 million in 2009, $173 million more than the second-place New York Mets). The same Yankees and Red Sox who consistently provide the best television ratings for networks and make up more back page headlines than the rest of Major League Baseball. Yes, the very same Yankees and Red Sox who quite literally represent and define baseball in America thanks to the long, historic, and heated nature of their decades-old rivalry. What would baseball be without these two teams?
Since 1995, either the Yankees or the Red Sox have made the postseason every single year. During that span, the Red Sox accrued two championships (2004 and 2007) while the Yankees won the Fall Classic five times (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009). During that same time frame, only the Florida Marlins became World Series champions more than once (1997 and 2003). For Joe West to come out and publicly criticize the two teams that have made baseball what it is today in such a way is absolutely ludicrous.
Boston and New York play long games because they are and have been the two best teams in baseball over the past decade. Both lineups are full, from top to bottom, of players who see more pitches per plate appearance than the rest of the league. Last season, the league average for pitches per plate appearance was 3.84; the Red Sox were ten points higher at 3.94. The Yankees and Red Sox also ranked first and second, respectively, in walks AND on base percentage. The Yankees scored the most runs in baseball last year while the Red Sox were third. And let's not forget that the Yankees and Red Sox play more primetime, nationally-televised games than the other M.L. teams and ad revenue and longer commercial breaks has quite a lot to do with the pace of games as well. Do you think all this might have something to do with the fact that they play long games?
Mariano Rivera was asked about West's comments and responded, ""It's incredible. If he has places to go, let him do something else. What does he want us to do, swing at balls?"
Mo sums things up pretty nicely with that quote, I think. As for me, I'm going to have to agree with Jonathan Papelbon for the first and probably last time in my life; during spring training, Papelbon asked WEEI.com, "Have you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, 'Man, this movie is so good I wish it would have never ended?' That's like a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why would you want it to end?"
(Photos courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)