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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball Isn’t Being Ruined By Anything

Editor’s Note: Why is everyone trying to force it to be a certain thing when they can chill the fuck out and slam a cold one – Cam Lewis

Baseball is a beautiful sport. It’s peaceful, but also passionate. Simple, but complex. Mellow, but suspenseful.

As great as it can be, baseball currently has a problem: their fans fucking hate it. It seems like every month, there’s a new problem with how the game is played, whether it’s the time taken to complete games, the manner in which players carry themselves on the field, or how information has impacted both the product on the field and the presentation of it.

This is a sport guarded by purists that is impossible to change, and yet, all anybody wants to do is find ways to fix it.

You know what I love? Taking one of my hobbies and thinking of ways to shorten the time I spend doing it. Pace of play is currently one of the most pressing issues in the sport as people are trying to speed up something that they actually enjoy. If you read any of the reaction supporting a pitch clock or any other pace of play measure, you’d think some poor schmuck was subject to watching an endless loop of Yankees-Red Sox games with unlimited bullpens and extra innings.

Another unfuckingbelievable thing that baseball fans have to explain to people who don’t watch this sport is why throwing your bat in the air can be misconstrued as an act of war. Nothing in sports make grown people wet themselves quite like a baseball dude having a little fun.

Just last Sunday, 25-year-old David Bote, hit a WALK OFF GRAND SLAM OFF THE BENCH in just his 34th game in the bigs, punctuating it with an otherworldly bat flip that would come with overcoming a 3-0 deficit with one swing. Afterwards…he apologized? He fucking apologized for being too good and too happy in that one moment during Sunday Night Baseball.

“Obviously I meant no disrespect by any means,” he said on Chicago radio station WSCR 670. “It was just the heat of the moment, I got it good and I was wishing it out.”

Bote may be a good guy and truly feel bad for showing up the sad Nationals franchise, but he could just be saying that because he knows how dumb this sport can be. There’s a pretty good chance that he didn’t want vultures circling around his head and had to stand up straight and acknowledge that for a brief moment, he lost his head and forgot to play the game the right way.

This game, man. I’ll tell you what, if you show every player, coach, manager, analyst, and fan a few clips from the Korea Baseball Organization and encourage that brand of fun to become the norm. People might actually want to watch full games!

In addition to hating their idols showing any semblance of being human, some baseball fans will also gripe over something like analytics. In an era of the internet, and the endless amounts of information, you would assume that anybody would want to learn about something they claim to love.

And for the most part, baseball analytics are easy to access, comprehend, and digest once you get all the jargon down. Here you have a number that represents a real way to measure something in a game of outcomes, whether it be oSwing%, or, how often a hitter will chase a pitch outside the zone, or spray charts, that show where hitters put balls in play.

As a kid, I didn’t go to many games, but I knew a home run off the bat when I saw it on TV. The way the ball exploded off the bat just looked different when you knew it was going to go a long way. Fast forward all these years later, and that’s become a science called launch angle, and it’s what many fans, bloggers, writers, and front offices look at when judging how good a player is at the plate.

But for some reason, broadcasts and the mainstream media trying to educate even the most casual fan on the way the game is played on the field is seen as a bad thing. As a journalism student that avoided math like the plague growing up, I get it. It sucks. I can’t tell you the formulas for things like Fielding Independent Pitching, but these things have a place in the game and have undoubtedly made it better. The best part is, more information allows fans to understand how their team operates, or, hell, gives them even more ammunition to complain about the front office.

Baseball is a sport that will make you think and feel. You can spend hours, days, weeks, months, or even years trying to figure it out, only to realize that it’s impossible. The sport now is in a place where the actual game being played isn’t the only thing going on. You can surround yourself with thought and information from the sport from sun up till sun down, and do it all again the next day.

This isn’t the same game from the 1980s. It’s evolved, and we’re better for it.

 

  • Abogilo

    Great write-up Cam.

    I think there are many people who hate analytics because it devalues things that they were good at (like Jack Morris and pitcher wins).

    Or it causes things to happen that they don’t like (everyone knows pull hitters pull the ball, so put the defense there – now Chris Davis can’t get a hit more than once a week).

    Combine this with the idea:
    Baseball doesn’t look like it did when I was 15
    + I am not as happy with my life as I like to remember I was when I was 15
    = I am not as happy with baseball as I was when I was 15
    = we have to fix it!

    Analytics become an easy target because they are something that was more easily ignored in the past, and they are based in math that is already hated by many.

    • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

      I think analytics have their place, but when they start to slow the came down, the way they have now, something has to give. I remember being 15 and a came was 90 mins long. Now, you have to book an afternoon off. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you. But those that want to drive analytics down the throats of baseball, at the expense of just letting the players play, I don’t agree with that.

        • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

          Right, so all those pitching changes, moving players around the infield, pitch calling from the bench, all based on analytics, none of that slows the game down…naw, not at all 🙂

          • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

            Edit, not saying any of that doesn’t happen regardless, but just when it gets to excessive use, based on analytics. That said, I know you have to do what you have to do to try and win. I’m just hoping a bit of a better balance takes place at some point.

          • Abogilo

            I certainly can see your point, that knowing more about how to maximize value within the rules can lead to strategies that extract value at the expense of other things that are less relevant to winning (like length of game).

            I am of the belief that at the top level of any sport, everyone should be trying to play at the maximum level, and put themselves in the best situation to succeed. However, since the point of baseball is not to produce the best athletic performance but instead to extract the most entertainment dollars from the public, I am probably looking at this wrong.

  • Regulator Johnson

    I don’t think wanting to improve the pace of play is as crazy as you make it out to be. I enjoy doing lots of things that I might not like as much if you made them 10% longer without actually adding any more content.

    Otherwise, rock on brother.

  • Tweeds

    There are a couple of things wrong with today’s game you failed to mention and the most glaring problem is all the Foggy-Blogger-Boys who actually think they know something about the game & that their opinion is the only one that matters because they have saved all the baseball links on google. They also seem to think throwing out F-bombs brings more force to their opinions. And as far as throwing bats is concerned if pitchers could still get away with chin music that BS would soon stop! When did making an ass of yourself suddenly become cool?

    • El Cabeza

      Or maybe they just use the word fuck because that’s how they talk in real life and they want their piece coming off like a barstool rant? If you want to be sheltered from ‘f-bombs’ don’t read the ‘Foggy-Blogger-Boys’. There’s lots of bad word free content on sportsnet.ca.

      • Richard Lee-Sam

        Neither of us read Barstool. We have this writing style because this is the way we actually talk, and when we write things like this, we don’t want to come off as something we’re not.

        • El Cabeza

          haha I didn’t even know Barstool Sports was a thing until I saw your reply and googled it. I was referring to a literal bar stool, in that your writing style is like a conversation taking place on a bar stool.

  • The Humungus

    I am on the cusp of middle age and a straight, white, cis-male, therefore my opinion is the most relevant.

    The following things are great about baseball:

    – large adult sons
    – bat flips
    – adrian beltre/felix hernandez at bats
    – monster dongs

    But three true outcome baseball kind of sucks. And like, I don’t enjoy it much.

    As of this morning, there have been 81 more hits than strikeouts across the league this year. That’s ugly.

    • Jeff2sayshi

      Agreed. Three true outcome baseball takes all the strategy out of the game, and it has become more boring. This idea that a strikeout is no different than any other out, while it may be analytically true, it feels like watching nothing happening, and takes away the possibility of a random, entertaining event.

      Bote’s grand slam was super exciting. I watched that one at bat only (yeah, I got lucky to tune in just after (I think it was) Baez got hit. Same thing with the Yankee-Red Sox Sunday night game the week before that, where Bos scored 3 in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras. The problem? a 3-1 game was ENTERING the bottom of the 9th after midnight. That’s over 4 hrs to play a not particularly high scoring game.

      Baseball is fun when there are things happening. When players are no longer putting the ball in play, it’s losing part of its fun.

  • dolsh

    Great article. Considering that most of the articles out there are focused on how bad 2018 has been (and it really hasn’t been *that* bad), I love that this is something different to read.

    Also, I really doubt that pace of play is an actual problem. Fans that love the game really aren’t concerned with this. I’m not concerned with it, but I love the in game strategy. And I’m weird.

    Baseball’s “problem” is finding more fans. Or, in terms that they’re actually more likely to use, finding more revenue. They look at the crowds that show up for fast-paced sports and dream in dollar signs. I think there’s a belief that if baseball was this fast-paced 90-minute sport that more fans would show up. I’m not convinced that’s the case. There are a lot of people that think baseball is a little to weird and confusing.

    • El Cabeza

      I disagree, at least from my perspective. I love baseball, but I don’t love sitting through 3 pitching changes in an inning and games that take longer than 3 hours. I have other things to do and other interests as well.

      Finding ways to keep games inside 3 hours (eg. run commercials on screen) as much as possible, would help keep people who love it watching it, and help get new people to love it.

  • lukewarmwater

    Having watched the games since the mid 1950’s there have of course been a gazillion changes. When I was working on a baseball book, covering triple A ball, a flame thrower, bonus baby was compared to the legendary Bob Feller because the youngster could throw a fast ball 91 miles an hour. Today that is a change up.
    But as an old timer now, even I get antsy like young people with the incredible length of games. Let us not forget the play reviews that add to the length of the game. I totally agree with another poster in that who wants to watch 3 pitching changes in one inning.
    Or some triple A pitcher trying to get out one of the better hitters who fouls off 7 or 8 pitches in a row before he drills a ball 400 feet for a home run as the pitcher has nothing left in the tank. I can think of a couple recent games where a pitcher threw 45 pitches in one inning.
    The constant stepping out of the box. The pitcher taking for ever to throw the freaking ball. The catcher going out to the mound to ask the pitcher with his glove covering the mouth. ” So what’s the name of that new night club the team is going to after the game”?
    Of course commercials play a huge part in the revenue and thus for the advertisers a 4 hour game is heavenly. Or is it, as click of the remote echoes through out baseball land.
    For a guy who as youngster could pretty well name every player on the 16 team league. I recently watched the Oakland A’s versus the Jays and only recognised 2 or 3 of the every day players. Tampa used 5 rookies in their infield and beat the Jays 7 to 0.
    Any parent or grand parent recognises the short attention span of their children. When the grand parent finally finds the perfect cure for insomia , namely a long, long, long boring baseball game. The game is in trouble as the huge decrease in attendance this season indicates.