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Every Day We Suffer (Through Baseball Games)

Ralph Freso/Getty Images

This past Saturday, I obtained free tickets behind home plate for the White Sox-Yankees game through a convoluted chain of events that started in spring of last year and ultimately involved baseball, an essay contest with a $25 Paris Baguette gift card for second prize, and a series of Instagram DMs. It's a long story. Needless to say, I was delighted by someone else's kindness and shuffled merrily to Yankee Stadium, whereupon it rapidly became clear that I had not “chosen” to “enjoy” the game, but rather the game had made me its prisoner. 

The weather: 90 degrees, sunny, humid, cloudless, pigeons. Attendance, according to Baseball-Reference: 44,001, plus pigeons. Yankee Stadium: a sauna. The first six innings took approximately three hours, and by the time the shade had finally started to creep in, we got a little taste of everything: a grand slam, a three-run homer, a benches-clearing spat that was confusing in real time and aggravating in retrospect, and a replay review. In the end, the game totaled three hours and 40 minutes, and the White Sox still lost.

Thanks to PitchCom and/or sample size, MLB games have been faster this year than last by four minutes on average, which still does not preclude very, very long games. The White Sox-Yankees matchup wasn't even close to being the longest game of the weekend, thanks to the Orioles and Rays, who had a hellish series. The two teams played a 13-inning monstrosity on Friday that set this season's record for longest game at four hours and 22 minutes, and then beat their own record two days later with an 11-inning game that lasted four hours and 31 minutes. As expected by us all, the Orioles won both games.

All of this got me thinking about which teams make their fans suffer the most, and how such a thing could be quantified. A sweeping analysis of franchise histories and the textures of specific seasons is one way to go about it, but I decided on something more simple and immediate. On a day-to-day basis, there's nothing worse than a shitty team that also takes hours upon hours to finish a single game. If a team loses quickly, it hurts, but at least you didn't have to watch them for very long. If a team loses and it took four hours for them to get there, that's a different story.

With that in mind, here's a graphic illustrating which teams have made their fans suffer the most so far in 2022:

Data: Baseball-Reference (for every team—you get the idea)

That's the Braves tucked behind the Red Sox, Orioles, and Marlins, the Rockies behind the Rangers, and the Angels behind the Twins. The top-five and bottom-five teams in terms of average game length are, in list form:

Top-5 Teams in Game Length (rounded to the minute):
1. Philadelphia Phillies — 3:17
2. New York Mets — 3:12
3. Chicago White Sox — 3:12
4. Miami Marlins — 3:12
5. Milwaukee Brewers — 3:12

Bottom-5 Teams in Game Length:
26. Cleveland Guardians — 3:03
27. Oakland Athletics — 3:02
28. Toronto Blue Jays — 3:02
29. Tampa Bay Rays — 3:02
30. Detroit Tigers — 2:57

The Tigers have a commanding five-minute lead in playing their games as fast as possible, which means that sure, they're losing a lot, but at least they have the decency to make it quick. Their pace is especially remarkable considering that they're averaging under three hours, which the league as a whole hasn't done since 2011.

The Phillies remain in mediocrity hell, and seem to enjoy hovering there for as long as possible, matching the Tigers with a five-minute lead over the next-closest team. The Rays are as efficient time-wise with their wins as they are with their finances. If you're going to see the Mets or the Yankees, they're probably going to win and also take their time doing it, so you'll get your money's worth (as I have personally learned).

You can otherwise interpret this information however you like. Maybe it isn't actually always suffering! Sports can be funky like that. For all the jokes about being trapped in Yankee Stadium, I know that I went to the baseball game, sweated out half my body weight, and at the end of it, I still felt the same gratitude that I had held before—you know, a glazed-over, heat-haze kind of happiness. What a chump.

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