What’s Wrong with Baseball? (I’m taking a break from my usual topics)
When my dad took me to the original Yankee Stadium in 1972 I was hooked. What a memory! I am still hooked. I will forever be hooked, listening to crackling radios trying to catch a Sox score. I used to own a scorebook and watched entire games keeping score of Cubs and Sox games. I wouldn’t have the time to partake in such an activity these days. No one has the time to watch an entire baseball game anymore.
Baseball is in the process of becoming irrelevant in American culture. Just the other day I saw the ratings for a game of the week (on some Fox cable channel) was less than for an exhibition soccer match. Here’s what’s wrong with baseball:
1. The games are too long. There’s a lot of reasons. More commercials, record numbers of strikeouts (which chew up a lot of time), more time wasting batters, slow pitchers who stare at the catcher for a longgg time, and mostly, the overuse of relief pitchers. A baseball game can end in 2 to 2 1/2 hours if they try, instead, games last on average almost three hours. The Cubs played a 16 inning game the other night that took 6:27, which works out to 24 minutes per inning, dreadfully slow. The next day the Sox played a 9 inning game that lasted 4:01, which works out to almost 27 minutes per inning. Neither of these games were slugfests with lots of runs, hits, walks, etc.
2. It’s being shoved off the national stage. Baseball has no one to blame but themselves for this. Baseball is a TV sport. It is currently the only major sport with parts of its regular season not being shown on free TV. Fox showed some games on Saturday evenings, but now they have their Saturday telecast on FoxSports1, their cable channel. If you don’t have cable and/or an exorbitantly priced team package, you’re out of luck. As far as I can tell the next games on national free TV will be the World Series on Fox. Why would Bud Selig (the commissioner who is much to blame for this) allow his sport to not be shown on free TV? It’s continuing to contribute to the ruining of this great game.
3. The national cable outlets that do show games favor east coast teams, and favor other sports. I’ll talk about east coast bias for a minute. There are three networks that show baseball games nationally, ESPN, Fox, and the MLBNetwork. I would probably cash in on a bet that I’d be able to watch every Red Sox-Yankees game this year. The Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Marlins, Orioles and Mets make regular appearances on these networks. It’s to the point that I look forward to the White Sox playing the Yankees because I’m sure I’ll get to watch two, or maybe three of the games. If I miss the action and want to watch Sportscenter to catch the highlights, I’ll probably fall asleep waiting while they cover all of the above mentioned teams.
In 2004 the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since1918. The media went wild. Sports Illustrated put them on the cover three weeks in a row and then made their fans their sportsmen of the year. A year later the White Sox ended an even longer drought, from 1917. ESPN radio the next morning I heard the host a doofus named Colin Cowherd say he’s not going to talk about it because he doesn’t care about it. Sports Illustrated put the Sox on the cover, albeit in a little circle in the upper right corner, while the cover featured Tom Brady, you know, the QB from Boston. Don’t tell there’s no East Coast bias until you become a fan of a team that receives short shrift from the east media.
Baseball not only suffers from east coast myopia, but it also suffers from footballs ascendancy to the national obsession. I do enjoy football, but prefer it more once baseball ends. Football ends in February with the Super Bowl. Spring training begins a week or two later. What does ESPN talk about besides basketball (which I can’t get enough of, at least the college variety)? The NFL draft, which is months away. They talk about what each team needs, which stars and total no names might end up where. They tell us about how fast some no name lineman ran, but rarely mention teams in spring training, except of course the above mentioned teams. Bud Selig has let baseball be shoved to the curb by these media outlets and it’s nearly past the point of no return.
4. A system that favors large market teams. I am amazed at the vision of the NFL to ensure that in an era of free agency small market teams like the Steelers and Packers can consistently compete for championships. If they followed they followed the MLB model they’d have no chance. Baseball does have an exception in St. Louis, a fantastic organization that churns out championships. But small market teams like KC, Pitt, Mil, and a few others basically have existed as a farm system for baseballs richest teams. This is unhealthy to say the least.
Bud Selig’s about to retire. We need a commissioner who will fight like heck for baseball. We need one who will tell Fox it’s not acceptable for you to stop showing baseball games when the pennant races are heating up. We need a commissioner who will stand up and tell ESPN it’s baseball season now, stop talking about football for a minute and notice. We need a commissioner who will tell the managers to stop changing pitchers 3 times for 3 batters and who will tell the umpires to enforce a new 20 second pitch clock that I am proposing. We need a commissioner who will even the playing field so that every team has some hope that someday they’ll play on baseballs biggest stage.