How to speed up MLB games seems to be a big topic on conversation on Sports Talk Radio. With MLB games averaging 3:02 hours last season - the concern is understandable. Here's my recommendations for speeding up the game while trying to minimize changing the game itself.
1. Get rid of the 7th inning stretch. Back in the day when the action was in comparison "quick" I can understand why fans would need a break (biological or otherwise) in the seventh inning. Today with games averaging 3:02 - there are already plenty of breaks including long commercial breaks every half-inning. I'm as patriotic as the next guy but getting rid of the singing of God Bless America would by itself get the games back under 3 hours in length (we already sing the National Anthem to start games). Also ban playing any other crappy songs (looking at you Red Sox - real fans hate Sweet Caroline). I would, however, grandfather the Cubs and the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame from this rule.
2. Limit walk-up music - not essential to the playing of the game and it is a delaying factor as players style up to the plate to hear "their" song. Only allow walk-up music for the first time through the order. If you are a rookie - no walk-up music even if you are a starter. If you are hitting below .250 after the All-Star break - no walk up music for you either.
3. Make umpires responsible for teams being ready to play coming out of commercial breaks between innings. Make it part of their review process. Penalize umpires who can't get teams ready to play. Empower umpires with the ability to charge teams with a ball or strike to start inning if a team isn't ready to go. Batter not ready - he starts with an 0-1 count. Pitcher or defense not ready - count is 1-0 before first pitch is thrown.
4. Limit number of times catcher can go to the mound. Catcher gets 3 mound visits per game. After the 3rd visit if he goes to the mound the delay costs his team a ball. If pitcher has yips - too bad. If pitcher and catcher not on same page - too bad. Catchers would limit mound visits early in games to make sure they can go to the mound late in a tight game when the count is full and they want to make sure pitcher is on same page. Exception would be to check to make sure pitcher isn't injured but the umpire would have to agree to allow that visit prior to catcher going to mound.
5. Stop beer sales after the 8th inning not the 7th. This has nothing to do with speeding up the game but the last 2 innings are the longest and to make fans like me sit there without a cold brewski dampers my enthusiasm for the game. Almost cruel.