What is wrong with Major League Baseball?
It’s a deep question which can’t be answered easily but here are some thoughts on the matter.
Now there are those who say nothing is wrong. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The other camp has a view that all is wrong with the game and let’s start again from scratch. Get a medium to contact Abner Doubleday to provide his input once again.
I tend to fall in the middle ground area on this subject believing there are some changes needed to pick up the pace a bit to quell what ails baseball. Here are what I feel are the patient’s symptoms.
To start with- I am a big fan of the timely home run which can win a game or a series, but I figure the big shot has gone too far (figuratively and literally).
As of September 27th, there had been 6,647 home runs slugged over the fences at a variety of ball parks, including those so called pitcher-parks where home run balls go to die.
The number is staggering. We are not looking at a slight increase in going yard over last season. It is a jump of 1,062 home runs! When we compare to the stats from 1998, the first year there were 30 teams in MLB, we see a home run difference of 1,583 more this year.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denies the ball is juiced, allowing career single digit home run hitter to smack double digits in taters for the first time. It may be just coincidence that MLB took over the manufacturing of the ball and there was a time when Manfred said out loud more home runs could translate into more bums in the seats.
Well, he got the home run increase but for the fourth season in a row attendance at parks around the league has dropped by 9 percent from the dizzying heights of 2015. The simple answer is to start with the ball. Of course, that creates other problems, especially for agents of players who might have had 15 round-trippers this season and are getting contracts which reflect an increase in power. Using a ball which doesn’t fly out of the park so much would impact those players (and those hard done by agents).
Another issue is the big bang or bust scenario which gets played out several times each week. We have players taking a pitcher deep or missing the ball completely. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of in-between these days.
There were 41,985 strikeouts as of September 27th, an increase over last year of 778 and when we look at 1998 again, the difference is a shocking 10,092 more k’s marked in the score book this past season. That is disturbing when you combine the two because it means infielders and outfielders are standing around watching guys jog around the bases or walk slowly to the dugout.
So, is it any wonder why more people are staying away from the game because it has lost some lustre and seems to take forever to play these days? Not really but you can also blame ticket prices, weather and maybe a younger crowd which needs to be entertained or they break out the phone to check their social media sites.
One of the more exciting plays in my opinion has always been the stolen base. You have the speedster on first, a good hitter at the plate, a catcher with a strong arm and a pitcher with a dynamite move to first and home plate. That sets up a classic confrontation, adding to the lure of baseball. However, in 2019 there were 247 fewer stolen bases in MLB this year with 2,227 swipes. Back in 1998 it was a racetrack in comparison with this year as 1,057 more bases were stolen then as opposed to now.
Are players getting so much bigger that they can’t swipe a bag or has speed become such a small, meaningless detail in the strategy of the game?
I am not sure what the answer is, but baseball needs to take a hard look at itself, come up with a plan and execute it. If you fix it, the fans will come.