Saving Major League Baseball: Off with batting gloves!

Time to speed up our national pastime already

March 29, 2023 1:00 am

J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox Franklin batting gloves against the Minnesota Twins during a Grapefruit League spring training game at Hammond Stadium on March 14, 2021 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball will try to speed up the game this coming season. The average baseball game has stretched to more than three hours, much of it dead time between pitches as pitchers stroll around the mound and batters shuffle around the batter’s box. Starting this season, pitchers will have 15 seconds to release the ball after receiving it from the catcher or a fielder with no runners on base and twenty seconds to make a pitch if there are men on base. Pitchers will no longer be able to stroll around the mound, rub up the baseball, adjust their caps and engage in other time-wasting gestures.

Quickening the game is a splendid, and necessary, idea. The average game time has stretched to more than three hours, and so much of that extra time is dead time, not action. The game has become long and boring, and attendance and television viewership have been falling in recent seasons. A few decades ago, most ballgames were completed in around two-and-a-half hours. Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, which ended with a solo home run by second baseman Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates a 10-9 victory over the New York Yankees, a game that featured many baserunners and multiple pitching changes, lasted two hours and 36 minutes. The same game today would take at least four hours. If the game began at 8 p.m. EST, it would not end until midnight, by which time many fans would have left the ballpark or tuned off their televisions and headed to bed.

But if the pitchers will be required to sacrifice for the good of the game, so should the hitters. Batters should not be allowed to come to bat wearing batting gloves. Yes, batting gloves contribute to game time. After almost every pitch, whether the batter swings or not, he almost always steps away from the plate to adjust his batting gloves. Even if those glove adjustments take only five seconds, they add time to a game. A typical game might include 300 pitches. Eliminating the five seconds between pitches for batting glove adjustment might shorten the game by 10 or 15 minutes.

Yes, the hitters will complain, as the pitchers are complaining about the new pitch-time limits.  “We need batting gloves to grip the bat,” they will say.  “I can’t swing properly without batting gloves.”  

To respond to that complaint, Major League Baseball should put together a video showing highlights from the careers of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Henry Aaron. They combined for 2,472 regular-season career home runs without wearing batting gloves.

Major League Baseball realizes that shorter games will produce benefits. More fans will attend and watch games if they know that they will not have to stay up until almost midnight to view the entire game. Certainly the players will also embrace shorter games — being able to leave the ballpark earlier to get to home or hotel or to commence travel to the site of the team’s next game.

Pitchers can learn to deliver a pitch more quickly, and batters can learn to swing a bat without gloved hands.  The result will be shorter games, which the players, fans, umpires, and broadcasters will all appreciate.


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James Tackach, Ph.D.
James Tackach, Ph.D.

James Tackach, a professor of English at Roger Williams University, frequently writes about baseball.