I was nine years old in 1983, the year I first played in an organized baseball league. It was called Mosquito League baseball and it was for kids aged 7-11. It was the next step above Tee-Ball, which I had never played. Basically, all my friends in school signed up for it, so I did as well.
I had never watched a game in my life up to that point. I was unfamiliar with the rules and when a teammate said that “he hit it through the hole on the right side,” I was literally looking for a hole dug somewhere on the field. We were pitched to by the only adult in the league, the organizer. We were fed underhand tosses and there were no strikeouts. Basically, we were up there at the plate until we made contact. Depending on your individual skill level, you could be up there for a very long time. I can’t recall anyone complaining, neither the young children on the field nor the parents sitting in the bleachers.
It was played for fun, and fun we had.
I’m not nine-years-old anymore, and I don’t have an outlet for my much-improved skills. However, I still find the sport fun to watch. There are little nuances throughout the game that I find interesting, such as the righty vs. lefty strategy, the idea of a pitcher setting up his change-up by establishing his fastball first, to-bunt-or-not-to-bunt (Hint: if the guy at the plate is hitting .200 and you need to move a runner up into scoring position, then BUNT!!).
These are all subtle game-within-a-game challenges posed daily. I get it, and I appreciate this about the game. There are many others on my side of the coin. We are the diehards who refuse to believe that anything about this sport needs to be changed. When I was nine-years-old, I never thought the game was boring and I never thought the game moved slow. I grew up in the era of Nintendo and Saturday morning cartoons and MTV. I had distractions too, but I still watched every pitch of a baseball game without even considering that it was moving too slow.
Some of the rules of the game have changed, but they have been designed more for safety reasons, such as the rules pertaining to slides and plays at home plate where the catcher’s safety is a concern. These are different from earlier eras and that is good. That is good change.
Rules that are being considered to change the pace of play, to speed up the game, are getting increasingly ridiculous. Take for instance the new intentional walk rule, where all a team has to do is signal to the umpire that they wish to intentionally walk a hitter and forgo the four balls outside the zone. Does this really speed up the game? It shaves off about twenty seconds and it doesn’t even occur in every game. A pitch clock to force the pitcher to get the ball to the plate faster? If anything, today’s pitchers actually need to learn how to throw strikes and let their defense handle the rest.
What MLB is attempting to do is win over casual or even non-fans with their “exciting, new pace of play”. It’s lightning fast for your drive-thru mentality needs! Newsflash: Every sport is different from the others. Why does baseball need to have a running time that matches up with that of a basketball game?
Here’s another newsflash: Baseball, for the most part, has remained the same since its inception from a structural point-of-view. It’s one of the few things left that actually celebrates tradition. It’s the people that have changed. In 2017, people want things fast. People want things to happen now! In the age of the internet, where information is at our disposal within seconds, in an age where one could order something from Amazon and a drone could have it delivered to your home within hours, people want their entertainment in the same fashion.
True fans of baseball are the ones who watch on television, or go to the games live, and just let it happen. Let it all unfold on-screen. Somehow, MLB wants to cater to a new set of fans, more specifically, they’re trying to win over non-fans. What MLB needs to focus on instead is marketing. They need to take advantage of all facets of social media at their disposal and get their star players to match their faces with their names. Let the players tell the people that the game they play is exciting and fun. If you’re a non-fan, and MLB suddenly announced that all games will be played in two hours or less, would you still watch?
Somehow, I doubt you answered that with a positive.
Baseball’s issue is not that it’s too slow. No, there is nothing physically wrong with the game of baseball that requires fixing. The issue is with society. As a whole, we’ve changed in how we consume anything. Everyone and their grandmother has an iPhone now, with the solutions to all your problems just the press of an app away. So the world becomes a faster-paced place, while good-old baseball, that old stand-by, provides comfort in the fact that not everything needs to change and that there is still room for tradition.
“It takes too long” is no excuse to implement major changes to baseball. This is the binge-watching generation, for Pete’s sake! If someone can sit down, throw on Netflix and binge-watch hours upon hours of a television series, then why couldn’t you sit down for a three hour baseball game?
“Boring” is a matter of interpretation. If you’re already a fan, then “boring” is not a word you use with baseball. “Boring” is used by non-fans as an excuse not to watch. Why does MLB want to win them over? It’s near-impossible. Are these same non-fans the ones that enjoy soccer? What is so exciting about soccer? Baseball is only slow to the people that are not passionate about the sport.
If MLB wishes to attract these potential fans, then the marketing wizards need to invent some way to make these non-passionate potential fans into passionate true fans without ruining the game for the passionate diehard fans who have stuck with them through strikes and steroid accusations.
From the most important line, that being the bottom line, MLB raked in around $10 billion in revenue in 2016, so … what exactly is wrong with baseball again?