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Inside Baseball: Enough already, speed up the games

It's hard to believe this kind of message is really coming from this corner. It's October and we spend six months getting to this point to relish in the kind of moments we've seen this month in Toronto's Rogers Centre, San Francisco's AT&T Park and Washington's Nationals Park.

But enough is enough. Can we get a move on here?

Baseball has no clock and there are going to be long extra-inning games. It happens. And I gladly stayed up until 2:44 a.m. Eastern time to watch the 13-inning conclusion of Game Three between the Giants and Cubs, a game that took 5 hours, 4 minutes to play. (Call me crazy and many have but it was sensational).

But we have just seen too many games go too long already. The seventh inning Thursday night in Nationals Park during Game Five of the National-Dodgers series lasted 66 minutes. Yes, for one inning. The game itself took 4:32, making it the longest nine-inning affair in postseason history.

Now, it was full of dramatics as the Dodgers held on to win 4-3. But Clayton Kershaw's historic save was wrapped at around 12:45 a.m. And even the Washington subway system had been closed for an hour, forcing many Nats fans to find an alternate way home.

Worse yet, there have only been two games in the postseason through the division series round to end in under three hours and one of those, the Blue Jays' 10-1 Game One rout of Texas, went 2:58.

On Monday, prior to the Giants-Cubs marathon, Game Three of the Nats-Dodgers series went 4:12 and the Indians' Game Three wrap-up at Boston's Fenway Park went 3:41. And neither of them went extra innings. Game Two of the Washington-LA series lasted 3:55.

Breaks for television are longer in the postseason, no question. But the Nationals used six pitchers in the fateful seventh inning of Game Five. So we watched Dusty Baker trudge to the mound five times, chat, signal to the bullpen and watched the new reliever jog in -- and after all that, get to throw eight more warm-up pitches.

The big leagues need a pitch clock so slow-moving pitchers keep the game moving (here's looking at you, David Price and Kenley Jansen). But even though it works well in the minors, MLB veterans are not going to go for that. What MLB needs to do is cut down trips to the mound by catchers, push batters into the box and cut down the time it takes every time a team makes a pitching change. And those changes, remember, are often for one batter.

So many of these games get pushed past midnight in the East, something the game has long proven it doesn't care about. But I worry when you get a calendar like this October.

The potential is really there for wary eyes being kept to the skies during this year's World Series. Games 3-4-5 are slated for Oct. 28-30 in the National League, which is fine if it's Dodger Stadium. But how cold might it be those nights in Wrigley Field? If the Indians win the ALCS, they would be hosting Games 1-2 on Oct. 25-26 -- and Games 6-7 on Nov. 1-2. That is far too late for a cold-weather town.

I remember sitting in the auxiliary media area in the right field stands watching it snow prior to Game Four of the 1997 Florida-Cleveland World Series, and that was on Oct. 22. It was a pretty scene photo-wise and not a pretty one baseball-wise, as first-pitch temperatures were 35 degrees and fell into the high 20s.

One of these years, baseball is going to run into a big snow issue with the World Series and will face several days of trouble. Rolling the dice into November is too risky. The schedule really needs to go back to 158 games and maybe even to 154 so the season can be done in the Oct. 25 range.

TV time in TO

I'm hearing plenty of hand-wringing from fans in Toronto over back-to-back 4:08 p.m. starts for Games Four and Five of the ALCS on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Blue Jays had two matinee first pitches last year during the division series against Texas and another during the ALCS against Kansas City, and that's a tough proposition in downtown Toronto even with all the public transportation options available.

It's especially tough because people buy postseason tickets not knowing game times and then have to try to dump them if they can't get off work. The fact of the matter, however, is that's how things work in baseball. You play when TV tells you too. And this year is all about the Chicago Cubs. They're getting all the prime-time slots. The Blue Jays and Indians are essentially the junior varsity series compared to the NLCS ratings juggernaut of Chicago vs. Los Angeles.

There was plenty of consternation when Game Two of the NL Division Series was rained out in Washington, with staffers of the Los Angeles Times roasting MLB on a web video because of the early postponement. The theory was that baseball didn't want a rain delay in DC overlapping the Cubs' game against the Giants that was airing on MLB Network. Pretty sneaky.

End of the road near for Collins?

The 2017 season might be it for Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Collins at the helm of the Mets. Collins, 67, is entering the last year of his contract and baseball's oldest manager admitted the grind of this season took a lot out of him.

"I just need to re-evaluate at the end of this coming year what's going on, where I am, how I'm feeling," Collins told Thursday. "I've always said a lot of it will be dictated by how I'm feeling. This was a tough year."

Collins said the Mets' tough travel grind, which even included trips after playing on the ESPN Sunday night game, is particularly difficult at his age.

"There are so many night games where you're traveling after the game and getting into towns at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning," he said. "And the next thing you know, if you ever have a day game pop up on you, it's tough to do."

MadBum to get mad money

While the Giants obviously need to do a lot with their bullpen, one thing they're already eyeing is a new long-term deal for Madison Bumgarner, who is still making only about $6 million per season. His current pact runs out after next season and includes club options for 2018 and 2019.

"We want to make sure Madison is here for the long haul," General Manager Bobby Evans told Bay Area reporters in the wake of the Giants' Game Five loss. "We'll certainly be available when they're ready to talk. We continue to exchange volleys. We're ready when they're ready. I've even talked to Madison. We're very clear."

The Giants signed shortstop Brandon Crawford to a six-year, $75 million contract last November and got Brandon Belt locked in for six years at $79 million in April. Bumgarner's current deal is for under $36 million, an incredible bargain considering his postseason accomplishments during the Giants' three World Series seasons, in addition to the job he did this year in pitching a shutout in the NL Wild Card Game at New York.

Around the horn

*When the Indians replaced catcher Chris Gimenez on their ALCS roster, that left outfielder Coco Crisp as the only ex-Bison player among the 25 players. And Crisp was just reacquired at the trade deadline after not being in Cleveland since 2005. Counting injury rehab stints, 14 of the 25 Blue Jays on the ALCS roster have made stops in Buffalo since Toronto became the affiliate in 2013.

*Cubs pitcher Jon Lester has a Twitter account (@JLester34) but isn't all that fond of the service. Said Lester during the division series: "The reason why I have it is for my foundation. We promote things on there for my foundation and that’s all I really like to use it for."Lester was subject to the ugly side of Twitter when he received numerous vile tweets directed at him that were meant for NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt, who had hosted the first presidential debate.

“I think it’s a platform for people to sit behind a computer screen and talk bad about people,” Lester said. “When it comes to all this stuff, I worry about the next generation. My kids have to grow up with this and Facebook. And it’s real easy to sit behind a computer screen or your phone and type something and not think twice about it. But that person on the other side that’s reading it, it could have some ramifications for them.”

*I have no idea which executive at Fox thinks having Pete Rose on their studio show is a good idea. The babbling Hit King is almost indicipherable at times on the air, a stark contrast to the amazingly well-polished performance you get from Alex Rodriguez. The Fox domos who like Rose must be the same ones who like Harold Reynolds, who might rate as the most annoying chatterbox analyst in any sport.


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