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Joe Maddon questions motivation behind changing baseball’s pace of play

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New Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon spoke out recently regarding the debate currently occurring in baseball about how the pace of play needs to be improved to attract a bigger audience and stave off the dwindling numbers who still follow the game.

Maddon doesn’t appear to be a big fan of calls to speed-up the game, and his stance seemingly involves an idealized, composite version of young baseball fans the Cubs skipper refers to as “Little Joey.”

The burgeoning movement to alter the pace of play generally revolves around new commissioner Rob Manfred’s apparent interest in somewhat changing the course of Major League Baseball. Some ideas that have been floated includes concerns that baseball moves far too slow for the average, modern fan.

Maddon, one of the most eccentric, knowledgeable and successful big league managers in the game, wonders what exactly is behind this desire to dramatically change the way the game has been played for ages.

“I’d like to know the real reason why we need to do something about it,” Maddon told SI’s Tom Verducci. “What is the purpose behind the faster game? I’m not really clear on that. So that, I don’t understand.

“To me, I think it’s more of a media kind of thing — probably deadlines at the end of the night based on more items being carried simultaneously as opposed to the newspaper the next day. It has to be tied into that somehow. Little Joey, 10 years old, wishes the game is four hours. I was wishing for extra innings every night. I never cared about how long a baseball game was. Listening to it on the radio or watching it on TV, [I was] hoping it goes longer.”

Verducci notes that Maddon’s voice and opinion should carry a lot of weight when Major League Baseball considers any changes to the game. While Maddon’s Rays teams played some of the longest games in baseball — for a multitude of reasons, the new Cubs skipper has been on the forefront of modernizing the game in other ways, including being an “early adopter of advanced baseball information,” not to mention the fact that Maddon continues to operate “on its cutting edge.”

But in the end, despite his evident aversion to altering the way baseball is played for the sake of change only, Maddon insists he’ll accept anything that preserves the game for future generations.

“I need to know more as to why the pace of the game is such a huge issue and who it’s bothering,” Maddon said. “Of course, at the end of the day, I’m like Colin Powell: I’m going to give you my best advice and my strongest loyalty, absolutely. If it’s something that comes from the top and it’s vital to the survival of the game of baseball, of course, you jump on board.”

(photo credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)