Saturday, July 5, 2014

Texas Rangers 5 at New York Mets 6 - July 4, 2014

I am an idiot. Just two days ago, I wrote a post about MLB games getting slower and slower. So what did I do yesterday to celebrate the 4th of July? Went to another MLB game. In my defense, the pitching matchup featured Yu Darvish against Jonathon Niese, which promised to be a relatively quick game. I had never seen Darvish pitch before, including my time in Japan, so I thought it was the best chance to see him strut his stuff, particularly against a weak Mets squad that ranks 14th in the NL in slugging. As I shopped for a ticket on StubHub, I noticed a bargain in the Delta Club section: a $170 face value ticket for just $49. Without thinking twice, I snapped it up and was glad I did. The seats were of the padded variety as you can see below, and that came in mighty handy as the game turned into another insanely long affair.

The view of the action from this section was OK as you can see below, but the unnecessary additional fencing bisected the hitter, which was mildly annoying and precluded any other pictures.

Being July 4th, the teams had their special "Stars and Stripes" caps on, with the American flag in a star behind the team logo. Hurry, buy one now!

The game started ominously when Shin-Soo Choo belted a Niese offering over the center field fence to lead off. After Elvis Andrus singled, Alex Rios lined a shot off Niese's back. Niese recovered to throw out Rios, but was taken out of the game by Terry Collins without even trying to throw another pitch. Niese was none too happy, tossing his glove and knocking over a bubble gum container on his way to the dressing room. Carlos Torres came in and got the remaining two outs quickly, but the inning took over 15 minutes with the injury replacement. Note that if every half inning took 15 minutes, games would be 4½ hours.

In the bottom half, Darvish looked out of sorts after giving up a double to Curtis Granderson. Bobby Abreu singled him home and then Lucas Duda hit a two run homer that required a brief umpire conference to confirm it hit the top of the fence above the orange line. When Travis d'Arnaud finally struck out, another 16 minutes had passed. Including the three-minute break as the teams switched (supposed to be 2:05, but who's counting), the first frame took 34 minutes. I silently cursed myself for believing this game would be any different.

Darvish recovered and retired the side in order through the second and third as the Rangers grabbed another run off Torres. The Mets got that one back in the fourth and then Adrian Beltre crushed a line shot in the 5th to make it 4-3. Citi Field is the 40th ballpark in which Beltre has homered, a record for active players (Carlos Beltran is second at 38). At the halfway point, more than 2 hours had passed, and things just kept getting worse.

The Rangers tied it in the 7th on an unearned run off Jeurys Familia and the spectre of extra innings loomed. Thankfully d'Arnaud doubled home a pair in the bottom of the 8th off Jason Frasor and although Texas tacked on a singleton in the 9th, the game ended when Robinson Chirinos popped out, a ball that was caught by second baseman Daniel Murphy ranging all the way to shortstop due to the swirling winds. The game finished at 11:19 pm, 4 hours and 8 minutes after it started. There were 11 walks (every pitcher except Niese walked at least one batter) and a number of pickoff attempts, mound conferences, and otherwise silly delays. According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, it was the longest "nine-inning game in MLB history in which home didn't didn't bat and fewer than 13 runs scored". Unbelievable. I noted that neither recap on made reference to this statistic. MLB knows their sport is in trouble, but they are doing their best to keep fans from understanding just how terrible the average game has become.

I have received some criticism in other quarters for my attempts to enlighten fans about the trends that are threatening to make baseball the dullest sport out there. Baseball fans have been brainwashed to think that the game is beautiful in any form. It is not. The game needs pace to be enjoyable. Nobody wants nine inning games that last longer than four hours. Nobody. If you are a real baseball fan, you will be alarmed at the trends. If you are part of the mindless masses on the other hand, you will just ignore these signs and believe the hype emanating from MLB headquarters. Baseball is America's pastime. Actually, sitting around watching millionaires talk about strategy and scratch themselves is now America's pastime.

Amazingly, few of the 30,377 on hand left, waiting for the fireworks show after the game. That is one way to keep your audience captive. I did not hang around, taking the picture above from the subway station as the show started. On the way home, I stopped at Donovan's Pub, a regular watering hole for some friends of mine after Friday night Mets games. We sat around and complained about the abomination we had just endured, waxing about the good old days. Yes, I am one of those guys now.

That is it for me and MLB in NYC this season. The game that I grew up watching has disappeared and it isn't coming back anytime soon. It isn't worth five hours (including the time to get to and from the ballpark) to watch such garbage from teams I don't really care about. I'll still travel for the Jays when possible, and the minors are always a welcome respite, but until 2015 at least, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field can be torture chambers for fans other than myself.



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