Credit: © Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: © Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

MLB Has Created Momentum

Here's How They Can Sustain It

Offsides with Marc Ryan
July 11, 2019 - 12:47 pm
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I was the kid who waited by the mailbox for his Beckett Baseball Card Monthly to arrive. You know, the monthly price guide in the late 80’s and early 90’s that told you what your baseball cards were worth. I knew every stat back then: Wade Boggs .357 and Don Mattingly .352 in 1986. Some of them have stayed with me.

Then, baseball lost me. Stats inflated by artificial colors and flavors in the form of horse steroids, strikes over greed, and an arrogance to not adapt the product to the current times when all other major sports were doing so turned me off in a major way. I broke up with baseball about six years ago. She just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

The fact that MLB replaced outgoing commissioner Bud Selig with Rob Manfred didn’t register with me at the time. “More of the same,” I thought.

Only, I was wrong.

Baseball FINALLY has the commissioner it needs to see it through in the 21st century, and the changes we’re seeing, while incremental, are beginning to be felt.

MLB has added instant replay, and implements it in timely fashion (most of the time). They’re testing out a 30 second pitch clock in the minors, there’s a shorter commercial break between innings, hitters now can’t step out of batter’s box to scratch their playmakers, adjust their gloves, or generally waste time, and there are fewer mound visits permitted per game.  

Baseball has long been the only sport with an untimed game. College basketball games last two hours, NFL games three, college football three and a half, and NBA two and a half. Many find it impossible to plan a family outing or a date around a baseball game these days because the time of game could be two hours or eight! And we haven’t even broached the weather issue, yet. Imagine being on a first date in a rain delay. No thanks.

These changes help on all of the above fronts. Additionally, we just witnessed the most compelling home run derby in the history of the competition (won by a rookie from the University of Florida, of course), and a competitive All-Star game. This week, baseball has felt fun again, and that’s a great feeling to someone in me who grew up obsessed with it; playing it, collecting it, watching it. This Week in Baseball was a must watch Saturday morning show as a kid. You may have been watching Thundercats. I was watching that.

 

So how does baseball keep this momentum moving forward? There are a few key ideas that I believe will take the sport from the Neanderthal age to present time. Rob Manfred would be smart to institute all or some asap:

 

  • Shortening the season. We just don’t have time for things that don’t matter anymore. You can’t convince me one game out of 162 matters.
  • Robo umpires at home plate. The strike zone was never supposed to be subjective. It’s clearly defined. Knees to letters, adjusted only for height of batter. How many times have you watched a game and heard an announcer say “He (the umpire) is really calling the inside strike today?” That should just never happen. I’m tired of each ump having a different interpretation. Use the K-Zone technology for every at-bat, and we’ll all live in a much less stressful world.

 

  • Bring back the stolen base. Still, the most exciting play in the sport to me. Moneyball and analytics have rendered it almost obsolete. I still remember Vince Coleman and Ricky Henderson stealing 100+ bases. Do you?

 

  • Use old school baseballs, not the pocket rockets we’re seeing today. Look, folks. The balls are juiced. The commissioner admits something is different with the baseball. He just won’t admit MLB itself is behind the juicing. Riiiggggggghhhhhttttttt. Especially when you consider MLB purchased the baseball manufacturer (Rawlings) last year and is now in charge of producing the balls themselves. Look, we love home runs and I understand with players swinging upward and focused on their launch angle, there will naturally be more home runs. Yet this season, we’re on pace to have six of the top eight home run seasons by teams in baseball history. No bueno. I want what I’m seeing to feel legit. I want singles, doubles, and triples, too. Right now, it’s home run or strikeout seemingly all of the time.

 

In the mid 80’s, the World Series averaged a 25 share in terms of tv ratings. I’ll spare you the technical side of what that means, but know that by last season, that number had dwindled to 8. Yes, we have more viewing options now than we’ve ever had before. Yes, people today are attending fewer games of all sports and watching fewer games. But during this same timeframe, the NFL has seen massive increases. Baseball, our national past time, has fallen by the way side, and until this year, I felt they waited too long. I thought they lost us, perhaps forever. Now, I’m hopeful for a rejuvenation period. I hope to get back together and have amazing makeup sex with the sport I was in love with as a kid. If Rob Manfred considers more of my proposed changes above, we could be headed for that steamy reunion.

 

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