Friday, April 6, 2012

A Short And Fairly Obvious Reason Why Baseball Is Dying

There were eight MLB games played yesterday. There were home runs hit in half of them.

In one game, a team scored more than 6 runs. It took them (Toronto) 16 innings to do it.

(It also hasn't been particularly cold in much of the country, so you can throw out that obvious no offense excuse.)

This is where the game is now: with dozens of teams that scrape for every single crumb of offense, with the last market advantages coming to defensive players, which means that the usual sabermetric virtues will soon dominate. With pitching bullpen roles and incessant platoon moves, with slowly eroding attendance and viewership levels, especially outside of the plus markets. With fewer and fewer guys who you make you stop everything and pay attention during their at bats.

And with, seemingly, no real words of protest from anyone in The Media, since offense must mean steroids, and we all feel really really bad about putting our heads in the sand about those back in the day.

Well... there's a problem with all of this.

The baseball you grew up is, and always has been, the baseball you regard as "right" in the long term. In the '70s and '80s for me, that meant a 4 to 5 runs per game level of offense, with steals and triples much more so than on base percentage and VORP. In the '90s and Aughts, it meant 5 to 6 runs per game with lots of power.

I'm not saying it was smarter baseball, because it wasn't.

But I am saying that from a pure eyeball standpoint, the guy who hits triples is a lot more fun to watch than the guy who draws walks. And usually better on defense, too. And the guy who hits home runs is a lot more fun to watch when he hits 40 to 50, rather than 20 to 30.

People will counter with how wonderful it is to watch Roy Halladay, and I get that. But how wonderful is is to watch Kyle Lohse post the same zeroes? No scoring is simply that; no scoring. Keep dancing all you like, but eventually, this gets old. Take it from an A's fan who wishes he wasn't.

There are, of course, other problems with baseball in the modern age. The time commitment for fantasy is off the charts. The announcing crews in many local networks are criminals against humanity. There's no good way to bet these games, the way we do with football.

But the biggest and most solvable problem is this... people like offense. They come to the park to see it. And they are not wrong for thinking that games without offense... are games that are less fun to watch than hockey, soccer, or paint drying.

So, Lords of Baseball... ready to start juicing up the balls yet?

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