Leave it to the Lords of Baseball to ruin even their best intentioned acts.
The owners last week adopted proposals from former American League umpire Steve Palermo to cut down on the interminable length of games, and many of them, like authorizing the umpires to call a pitch thrown over the plate above the waist a strike and to keep hitters in the batter's box, are good.
However, the edict to cut the length of breaks between innings from 2 minutes and 25 seconds to 1 minute and 45 seconds, starting after the All-Star break, has drawn fire from a number of quarters, not to mention radio and television broadcasters who bring baseball into your homes.
"This is another classic example of the owners failing to understand what they're doing. They haven't got a clue," said Jeff Beauchamp, general manager of WBAL (1090 AM), the flagship station of the Orioles' network.
The station airs commercials that total 1:40 between each half-inning, and those spots are locked in for the year, so the announcing team essentially will have five seconds to close one inning and set up the next.
Beauchamp correctly notes that in the interest of speeding up the games, the baseball owners have cut into the place where the stations make up the millions in rights fees they pay to the teams.
"I know that people will read this and say, 'Great. Fewer commercials,' but that's what allows them to hear the games. We want the games to move along more quickly, but for us to do what we need to do in 1:45 is impossible," said Beauchamp.
Bill Brown, director of programming for Home Team Sports, which televises Orioles games, is not as vexed as Beauchamp.
Breaks during Orioles telecasts run 90 seconds, 10 seconds shorter than the radio side, so the change should not be as noticeable, Brown said. The only differences will be that some game summaries and promos may move within the course of an inning, rather than before them, and Tom Davis' HTS segments will be "tightened up significantly," said Brown.
"I can guarantee you that we will not miss a pitch in bold capital letters," said Brown.
It's a pity that the baseball owners have forced their broadcasters to make such a pledge.
Bullets, Caps on Channel 50
The Washington Bullets and Capitals yesterday announced a multi-year deal to take their over-the-air games to relative newcomer WFTY (Channel 50) in Washington.
The Bullets will appear at least 30 times on Channel 50, which will carry 20 Caps games. HTS, which produces both teams' cable telecasts, will handle the production. No announcement was made about commentators, but it is expected that one pair of announcers will handle chores for HTS and Channel 50 for each team.
No Baltimore affiliate was named in the announcement. Currently, Channel 50 only appears on the North Arundel Cable system in the Baltimore area. Here's hoping that local operators will find room for the station, especially in light of the fact that the nifty 50 is an affiliate for the fledgling WB network, whose Baltimore station is the low-powered Towson State University station.
Should Monica Seles, who hasn't played since she was stabbed two years ago at a match in Hamburg, Germany, be seeded at the top of the Women's Tennis Association rankings when she returns? Chris Evert thinks so and said so last weekend during NBC's French Open coverage.
Evert said she thought Seles, who will meet Martina Navratilova in a televised exhibition in late July, would play in the U.S. Open, especially since both will be televised by CBS.
John McEnroe agreed with Evert about Seles' seeding, but couldn't leave well enough alone, saying that Navratilova had been "told she has to lose" to Seles in the exhibition. Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champ, who like Seles, is represented by the International Management Group, called McEnroe's comments "shoddy journalism."