I’ve been reading a lot lately from elder baseball writers and commentators that baseball is breaking and needs to be fixed or it is doomed. The sport is dying they say and rattle off arguments that have little critical thinking behind them and rely more on anecdotal evidence. To those people I'd give them the old Apple response(you’re holding it wrong), baseball isn't broken, you are. Maybe it’s my serial 'industry-murdering-millennial' mentality but I feel like the people trying to 'doom and gloom' the future of the sport don’t understand the real problem. In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated Tom Verducci lays out his arguments for what is wrong with the game and how it is disappearing. While he may think the sport is disappearing, I refute it is evolving and adapting to a different world. A world that cares about power and competition at it’s highest level in professional sports not obsolete “strategy” for nostalgia’s sake. I'm hardly alone in this SBNation’s Grant Brisbee has given his take and as always it is spot on. Where I differ on opinion with Grant is I think this entire "not my baseball" mentality is out of touch with reality. Tom is a respected journalist and rightfully so he has earned every bit of his reputation however with the state of the game what it is he is out of his element.
In Tom's article he uses a game from June 2nd to try and embody where he sees the game going. Any great writer can craft a narrative from numbers and that is exactly what he attempted by using this game. This premise falls on its face right away however as he tries to lay out what is beautiful about baseball but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Reading his account you would think batters lackadaisically stepped in the box, pitchers piped pitches in and only few batters cared enough to swing and it took too long and it was too cold and the there was a fly in the soup yada yada yada. Here’s how I saw the game, the best pitcher I’ve ever seen picked apart a bad baseball team and a relatively unknown pitcher with low expectations went pitch for pitch with him. Late in the game a young, exciting player hit a home run, that just happened to be the hardest and longest against the best pitcher in the milky way galaxy, and the home team then looked to steal a win from an opponent they had no business beating. The best catcher in the league, playing for the Dodgers, then stepped in for the second to last at bat and against the odds ties things up with a solo home run and we get some extra innings. Add in a go ahead home run in the 12th, a little “free baseball” never hurt anyone. The underdog but overachieving home team would have try again another day. BTW the next game, same teams only 19ks, 18 runs(only 3 HR) and an incredible 9th inning rally but that didn’t fit the narrative so no mention in the article. The one thing I agree with Tom on is the time it took, I love extra innings, they aren't the problem. I want pitch clocks now and I don't know what Commissioner Rob Manfred is waiting for. I don’t agree with the premise that the time taken is inherent with the increasing power in the game. The training regimes these athletes have been implementing to unilaterally throw in the mid to upper 90s and some above 100 don’t show up in game. Guys can be trained to throw hard and do it in a timely matter.
Look I get it old people you look around and the game is not the same one you grew up with. Deal with it. You’ve seen enough of this world to know things change. It is funny most the "baseball is doomed crowd" want to preserve things like sacrifice hits and intentional walks but also worry about the future marketability of the game, those two things will never coincide. Clips of massive Stanton and Judge home runs are sexy and fun. Gifs of Kershaw's knee buckling curve and Kluber's slider falling off the table are what make fans cover their mouths, shrieking enjoyment and shoving devices in their friends' faces forcing them to watch. Those are things to embrace not put in their place. Casual fans likely could not care less about 200IP pitchers and don’t want to see pitchers throw until their arms fall off. Look around the sports media landscape, are highlights from the NBA of guys missing shots after running out the clock or the NFL of runs of 2 yards on first and ten? No? Because fundamentals are boring and no really one cares about them in pro sports. We assume they happen these are the best in the world at what they do, fundamentals aren’t what drive viewership, super human feats pushing the preconceived notions of human capabilities are. Yea there is some dead time baked in but every sport has their own equivalent. Every other sport has a clock however. How baseball's fear of clocks reached the current Captain Hook levels I can't understand. I believe a pitch clock would go the longest way in speeding up the game to a tolerable pace. The flashes of brilliance of a home run or strikeout are the compelling reasons for me, a person under 50, to constantly tune in. I personally find the beauty of the game in the batter/pitcher match up. The defense is a wild card; awesome when they can contribute, better if in a spectacular fashion but not a requirement for my enjoyment. The strategy of cheating on a fastball or dropping a quick pitch is all I need to appreciate a good game. According to Verducci home runs are easy and people “around the game” complain they can’t be defended against. Yes they can, that is what a swing and miss is. Defense has simply moved to include preparation, training and the match up now. Surely the noble type of fan who loves players that run out ground balls can have higher level of appreciation for the game on that premise. Meanwhile stupid, idiot fans like me get to appreciate the gifs and clips and the sport can thrive. Again, you are over thinking the problem if your solution is to criticize the things that make something great to a majority of people.
The troubling future laid out in the SI piece seems to suggest baseball will soon be nothing but batting practice interrupted by walks here or there. However the reality is, bubble or not, cable contracts have never been more lucrative. Attendance throughout the league is up. Fans are showing this is what they want and who can blame them? So how should I watch baseball you ask? However you damn well please but don't make the mistake to think yours in the only acceptable flavor.
Since Tom choose to pick on Cody Bellinger I'll let him speak for himself, here he is hitting a home run off of the best reliever in baseball.