Should MLB Teams Extend Beer Sales After 7th Inning Due to Pitch Clock Change?
In case you haven’t heard by now, Major League Baseball’s ballyhooed new pitch clock has actually accomplished what it set out to do — shorten MLB games for the average fan.
As the Associated Press noted, through the first 10 days of the season or so, MLB game times have shortened by 31 minutes.
That is largely due to the new pitch clock that MLB has implemented. Despite some lingering confusion over the new rules (in short, pitchers will have either 15 or 20 seconds to deliver a pitch, while batters must be “alert” and ready in the batter’s box with no less than eight seconds left on the pitch clock), it does appear to be helping make baseball games more digestible for the casual fan.
This is all good news, right?
Well, not quite, apparently.
One unforeseen impact of shorter MLB games is that fans have less time to partake in the occasional alcoholic libation.
For anyone who’s never been to a baseball game, all pro stadiums will typically close all bars and stop all alcohol sales in the seventh inning (Baltimore has bucked that trend and served until the eighth inning.) The logic of that “last call” is to give fans enough time to sober up after purchasing their final beverage.
It’s a noble, if not a little naive, gesture to promote fan safety.
However, to counteract the shorter games (which ostensibly means less time spent at the stadium, which means less money spent there, as well) teams are now openly considering — and acting on — extending the “last call” inning.
The AP noted that, aside from the Baltimore Orioles, at least five other teams have joined in on pushing back the sale of alcohol: The Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers.
One team that hasn’t extended alcohol sale hours is the Philadelphia Phillies, and that’s something that rising star pitcher Matt Strahm wants to see kept — if not made more stringent.
“Teams are now extending beer sales into the eighth inning,” Strahm said on the Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast. “Have you seen that?”
After the host of the podcast told Strahm that he had not seen those reports, Strahm elaborated:
“So let me just run this by you and see if I’m thinking about this right,” Strahm continued. “The reason we stopped it in the seventh before was to give our fans time to sober up and drive home safe, correct?”
The host confirmed that, and Strahm coninued.
“So now with a faster-pace game, and me just being a man of common sense, if the game is going to finish quicker, would we not move the beer sales back to the sixth inning to give our fans time to sober up and drive home?”
Ah. So that’s Strahm’s objection to extending beer sales, and it’s a fair position to hold. It would be a hypocritical message to promote sober and safe driving, while simultaneously making beer more readily accessible closer to driving time.
“Instead, we’re going to the eighth, and now you’re putting our fans and our family at risk driving home with people who have just drank beers 22 minutes ago.”
As to the actual potential loss of liquor sales due to shortened games, sports business writer Joe Pompliano took to Twitter to explain that the potential losses were nothing to sneeze at.
MLB games are now 30 minutes quicker than last year.
That translates to a loss of $280,000 to $1.1 million in lost beer sales throughout the season, depending on the stadium.
So several teams (Brewers, Twins, Diamondbacks, and Rangers) have already extended their beer sales…
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) April 12, 2023
A “$280,000 to $1.1 million” loss is nothing to sneeze at, and it certainly puts MLB in an interesting conundrum.
The product has undeniably become more palatable with the shorter game duration. But is a loss in stadium revenue worth it? Is it worth recouping that stadium revenue if it could lead to a drunk-driving death?
The league — and its players — are about to find out those answers in real time.
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