The loudspeakers at Fenway Park play a little Bob Marley music to introduce Shane Victorino whenever he comes to bat for the Boston Red Sox. For a lot of major leaguers these days, intro music has become a routine part of the aesthetic experience at the ballpark. A famous example would be Metallica's "Enter Sandman," played for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, until he retired. Mute the music and it's still baseball — it's just a little less cool.
On that note, MLB in 2014 is going to limit, to 15 seconds, the amount of time a "walk-up" song gets to be played. This doesn't affect sing-a-longs such as "Sweet Caroline," or "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," or whatever music is played between innings at your local MLB stadium. And, presumably, if your closer wants to have "Enter Sandman" or "Hells Bells" played, they'll get the full allotment of time. But the walk-up songs, the songs played for every at-bat, they're about to get cut off like an Oscar's speech.
For Victorino, that means "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley is going to end before all of the chorus can be sung — which fans at Fenway have taken to doing. It needs at least 20 seconds, probably 25, for the gist to be heard. It might sound silly to someone from, say, Bobby Doerr's generation, but Victorino thinks the truncated music situation will damage the experience for fans and players.
“Everybody has their own rhythm and way they go about an at-bat,” Victorino said. “If over the course of a season there’s a problem then Major League Baseball should tell Mr. So-and-So they’re taking way too long between pitches and this needs to stop or fines will come your way. I just don’t think everybody across the board has to [punished].”
In 1963, the Boston Globe reports, the average length of an MLB game was 2 1/2 hours. As of June 2013, they were lasting 2 hours, 57 minutes — about as long as ever. MLB, which periodically tasks itself to shorten the amount of time games take because some complain, apparently has found an inefficiency with these walk-up songs. It can't be all of the commercials they pack in between innings that extend the games past bedtime. No, not that.
Of course, one of the best things about MLB is the lack of a clock, unlike most other major sports. We'd all probably prefer games to be shorter than they often are, but there's never been a need — thank goodness — to put in a timer.
So with this dictum from the boss to "move it along," perhaps we'll see umpires staring at the second hands on their wrist watches while ballparks play the latest by Kid Cudi, or a classic by Led Zeppelin. Anything that makes baseball more like the NFL has to be met with circumspection, if not outright resistance.
If Victorino gets upset enough when the season starts, perhaps he could strike a deal with the teammates around him in the batting order to "borrow" some of their time, at least for one at-bat per game, so the fans can hear enough Marley for the song to matter.
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