Everyone. Relax. Take a breath, and really think about this statement:
BASEBALL IS FINE… MOSTLY.
The sport that has survived gambling, the great depression, systemic racism, steroids and labor strikes is not going to be destroyed by “the kids and their short attention spans”. There’s quite literally nothing “broken” about the game in the current form that it has taken. Sure, there are things that we could adjust, and i’m not saying all the trends are positive, but let’s all agree that the game older than any living soul, or the souls before them, isn’t going anywhere.
It’s become disturbingly trendy for pundits and sportswriters to complain about both issues on the field and in the front offices across the league, and it has led to some wild (and mostly silly) ideas that in some cases, would be interesting and fair adjustments to modernize the game, and some that just wont work on any level. It is important to keep in mind that baseball is unlike any other sport. It has such a long history that we have to look at it with the bigger picture in mind, and figure out what are just growing pains of the game, and what’s actually something worth addressing. For example..
“TANKING” – LET IT GO
The evidence is there: “Tanking” culture can actually lead to good results. Look at Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and in some ways, Chicago (NL). These are teams that took this approach and have begun to (or already have) see results. It’s producing better baseball, and without the price tag of having a super team of free agents on every roster. It doesn’t always work. Tampa could tell you about that, and I don’t know too many White Sox fans that are having fun right now, but we have to let this play out. The fact is that franchises are attempting to build perennial contending teams, which means that not only will the overall product of the game improve, but there will be less teams trying to do it. We need to let this one ride and at least give it a chance to develop.
SHORTER REGULAR SEASON – I Like It
As a bit of a purist, It took me a bit to get there on this idea, but after some thought, I could work with this. Shortening the season down towards the 150 mark would be a good start, and doesn’t really mess with the structure of the game itself. It would allow the regular season to start a bit later, and avoid weather related issues in the early months, while keeping “October baseball” intact. I could see it helping with attendance too. Figure less games, means fans have less opportunities, and prioritize attendance more than usual.
ELECTRONIC STRIKE ZONES – Hard NO
Anyone who has seen Angel Hernandez call a game behind the plate has probably had this idea pop into their head at least once. I urge you to fight that reflex, and think about the bigger picture. Taking the umpiring element from home plate is something that sounds good in a vacuum, but I guarantee would be a regrettable decision in the long run. Let’s remember these guys are waay more accurate and consistent than we commonly think (even Sam Holbrook… Infield fly MY ASS), for example, since 2008, the top 10 umpires in games called, vary only 8 points in batting average(.252-.260), and less than a run per game (8.41-9.11), so while yes, it can be infuriating at times, the home plate umpire is a necessary human element to the game, that can read situations on the field from a perspective that literally no one else has. I know it can be infuriating at times, but it’s needed. Besides, if we can deal with NFL refs, these guys are fine.
CURBING RELIEVERS – OK, I guess…
I am a big fan of Brian Kenny and Keith Law. They are guiding lights and true innovators in a sport that can be a little slow to change, and can outright resist it at times. I have to side with the old guys a little on this one though, and agree that we need to chill out on bringing relievers in for every other match up. Pitching changes can bleed the energy from a game, and kill its momentum in its tracks, this much I agree on. However, we can’t just dismiss the validity of analytics on this matter, and you have to respect a team for trying to win every game, and that means putting your team in the best position possible. That being said, I do agree the games need to be more streamlined, and that’s the most obvious place to start, in my opinion. A begrudging agreement on this one.
7 INNING GAMES? BASERUNNERS IN EXTRA INNINGS? – GTFO, SON.
Shut it down. Clown ideas.
There are a TON More issues at stake here: Three Outcome Hitters, pitcher injuries, exploitation in scouting and front offices, diversity in management, etc… but the truth is, it’s impossible to tackle all of those at one time. These ones in particular just happened to have caught my attention recently.