Whether it's umpire "Cowboy" Joe West calling them "pathetic and embarrassing" in July 2010 or Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated complaining that their games are marathons earlier this week, everyone seems to have an opinion.
Since everyone else is letting their opinions known, I figured I would put my thoughts on this subject out there.
First of all, someone like Joe West needs to simply call the games, keep his opinions to himself, realize he's not the reason people come to the ballpark and oh yeah, enforce the rules MLB has in regards to ensuring the speed of the game.
That's right. Baseball has plenty of rules in place to "speed up the game," yet they are rarely enforced.
Rule 8.04(b), for instance, says that a pitcher has 12 seconds to pitch from when he receives the ball and there's no one on base. If they don't deliver the ball in that time, the umpire can add a ball to the hitter's count.
So, part of speeding up the game is in the umpire's hands. They simply need to enforce the rules regarding how long a pitcher is taking, how long mound visits last, how often a batter can call time when in the batter's box, etc.
A second key factor in the length of baseball games are commercials. The "bigger" the game, the more/lengthier commercials you'll see. If it's a Sunday night game on ESPN (as the most recent Yankees/Red Sox game was), the commercial breaks are longer.
This is in MLB's hands, but the television network actually controls it. MLB has allowed the television networks to control too many aspects of baseball such as playoff start times. Back in the day, most games took under three hours and were generally about two hours long. The biggest reason is before television, there were no commercials and in the early days, the commercial breaks weren't three minutes long (minimum). I don't believe this will ever change.
The main reason a team like the Yankees or the Red Sox play long games is the caliber of players they each employ. They are famous for making a pitcher work, and they are very picky about what they swing at, resulting in an at-bat taking several minutes (especially if they have a "slow-working" pitcher on the mound, such as the other night with Josh Beckett pitching).
This is what I'd rather see: My favorite team taking their time to do to their best instead of rushing. We all know that if you rush, you will make mistakes. I don't want a Yankee rushing his at-bat, causing his team to lose simply because he didn't want to wait for his pitch or to draw a walk.
In my opinion, the greatest thing about baseball is that there is no set clock or length of time. The game could be over in two hours, or it could go until 3 a.m.
If people don't like how "slow" baseball is, they need to realize that a "fast" NFL game is still going to eat up at least three hours of your time and the last five minutes of any basketball game, whether it's college or NBA, is going to seem like it takes three hours as well.
The beauty of baseball is in the individual battles that happen on every play and that those battles will go on until one of them "wins the battle." Baseball is a game for people with patience, and that is something that is severely lacking in the "microwaved-burritos, on-demand-TV-shows, instant-movie-viewing, instant-game-recapping society" we live in today.