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What's wrong with Baseball?

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#1 gunnarthor

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 01:27 PM

http://deadspin.com/...ball-1628473196

 

Excellent article on deadspin about the issues baseball is now dealing with.  I'd add one thing that has hurt the game is the lack of strong rivalries, but that's not really covered in that article.  


#2 Linus

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:01 PM

The problem is more than the "median" length of a game.First of all, there are some games that last 4 plus hours which is just not good for the game.Even a diehard baseball fan is not going to stay interested in that length of game.

 

More important than the length of games, in my view, is the relative inactivity.With small strike zones and hitters essentially trying to walk and / or run up pitch counts, there is just nothing happening far too much of the time.My 16 year old son loved baseball at one point when he was younger - he hasn't watched a game in years because of the pace.To watch hitters take a pitch, step out of the box and adjust their batting gloves just about drives me over the edge.(Same thing with a pitch that is essentially belt high being called a ball.)

 

I really think calling the rulebook strikezone would solve most of the problems.Hitters would be up there swinging or otherwise risk always being in the hole - the whole strategy of working the count, etc would become a failing notion.Pitch counts would drop dramatically, reducing the need for relief pitchers which slow the game down a lot.Or, we can just outlaw batting gloves.....

Edited by Linus, 29 August 2014 - 02:02 PM.

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#3 JB_Iowa

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:01 PM

I read both the New Yorker piece and the Deadspin piece.

 

My first thought is:  none of them -- Trout, Kershaw, Puig, McCutcheon, Abreu, Simmons -- play in NEW YORK.

 

When you had Drysdale and Koufax and Mays impacting West Coast baseball, you still had them STARTING their careers on the East Coast.  Despite the move, there was an identification there.

 

But West Coast baseball is always harder to cover.  And Abreu, although playing in a big market in Chicago, is playing for a lousy team.  Pittsburgh is small market (McCutcheon) and really, so is Atlanta (Simmons) now that the days of the TBS superstation are at an end.

 

There just isn't someone who is going to be visible night after night.

 

I don't think this is all of the problem -- the points the article makes are valid.  But I do think it impacts the "big name" recognition.

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#4 TheLeviathan

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:12 PM

I think it's entirely the pace of play.  Baseball games drag on and on and on and often much of that time is filled with uneventful play.

 

That's a bad recipe for staying relevant to people's TV interests.

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#5 Thrylos

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:17 PM

I think that there are many possible root causes (and internet and access and tivos likely are part of it) but I think that the biggest problem is that fans are not paying attention to the game much any more.Ballpark visits are as much about the food and drink as they are about the game.People are talking about "ballpark experience" in this century.Teams are talking about modern stadiums (like those will help them win games.) The game is pretty much the same as it always was.The fans' attention span and dedication is not (unlike with football for some reason.)

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#6 JB_Iowa

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:19 PM

I think it's entirely the pace of play.  Baseball games drag on and on and on and often much of that time is filled with uneventful play.

 

That's a bad recipe for staying relevant to people's TV interests.

 

Pace of play is a big part of it.  I rarely make it past the 7th inning even if I'm not that tired.  But the game seems to lull me ot sleep.

 

More offense.  Faster pace.  Both would help.

 

It's ironic that the one league that has actually (somewhat) addressed the PEDs issue is perceived as suffering because they did.  The article also skims over nearly 20 years of labor peace.  

 

But fast action seems to be the watchword of the video game generations.  I'm not sure that the lyrical beauty of baseball will ever be able to penetrate that.

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#7 CRArko

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:20 PM

They need to open the league up to women players.
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#8 biggentleben

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:20 PM

http://deadspin.com/...ball-1628473196

 

Excellent article on deadspin about the issues baseball is now dealing with.  I'd add one thing that has hurt the game is the lack of strong rivalries, but that's not really covered in that article.  

 

There are many strong rivalries in the game now, though.  The Nationals are the Braves' biggest rival by far, while they have a very fun back-and-forth with the four Marlins fans as well.

 

Boston-New York is a legit rivalry, though most of America is tired of ESPN's obsession with it.  Cardinal and Cubs fans can't stand one another, and Dodger/Giants fans genuinely dislike one another (though that got way too real recently).  

 

I don't think you can say there aren't strong rivalries, but I will say that unlike many pro sports, there isn't a rivalry for every team.  The Twins/Brewers used to be a solid rivalry, but now they're interleague instead.  Outside of that, the Twins have had a good back and forth with the ChiSox in recent history, but that was only as long as both were competitive teams.

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#9 Platoon

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:22 PM

Wednesday nights game in KC seemed to have a relatively generous strike zone, or as Dick pointed out, "larger on the outside" cuz he's just guessing!
Last night much smaller. The very first Malone pitch a perfect knee high strike, ball one! In about the 3rd inning I told my wife, Malone cannot pitch to that strike zone and not get whacked around. (My wife yawned)
Back to the topic, and the game dragged. Working the count might currently be sound baseball strategy, but if continued could be more hazardous to the game than Disco Dan Ford. Without TIVO I might have to resort to watching Americas Most Wanted! (Or soccer)

#10 Linus

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 02:30 PM

I think that there are many possible root causes (and internet and access and tivos likely are part of it) but I think that the biggest problem is that fans are not paying attention to the game much any more.Ballpark visits are as much about the food and drink as they are about the game.People are talking about "ballpark experience" in this century.Teams are talking about modern stadiums (like those will help them win games.) The game is pretty much the same as it always was.The fans' attention span and dedication is not (unlike with football for some reason.)

I don't think the game is "pretty much as it has been"; not even close.It is substantially different and most of the differences result in a slower, less active game.Whether its the strike zone, hitters approach, habits of both pitchers and hitters, use of relief pitchers there are very real differences and all have resulted in longer games and less activity.

 

Are people less dedicated to the game? Yep, it was America's pasttime.However, is the chicken or the egg?


#11 drjim

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 03:07 PM

Baseball has basically become the ultimate regional sport. Nothing wrong with that. One of the ironies of baseball is that it is not a great TV sport aesthetically, but TV is going to save it because real time content is king right now, and baseball can provide 162 days of 3+ hours.

 

Another strength of baseball in the modern age is that it is a perfect multiscreen sport. Perfect to have the game one while doing something on a phone or computer.

 

I'm pretty sure that articles of the demise of baseball are as old as the sport, but THIS time it's for real.

Papers...business papers.

#12 TheLeviathan

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 03:16 PM

It's ironic that the one league that has actually (somewhat) addressed the PEDs issue is perceived as suffering because they did. The article also skims over nearly 20 years of labor peace.

I really liked this part of your post because it brings up two big issues.

1. I think your phrasing of the first is important. That perception exists because at one point turning the blind eye was critical for reinvigorating the game. But I don't think the lack of juiced baseball is hurting the game.

2. Those 20 years of peace...who has been the biggest loser in that? In other sports a labor war has been necessitated by dwindling profits or lopsided CBAs. In baseball, the players are making gigantic profits and so are the teams. So who loses? Well, all of us that do truly enjoy the game. We get gouged buying tickets to watch a slow product trailing only NASCAR for the obnoxious rate of advertising. We pay more expensive TV/cable packages. I'd argue baseball is pricing itself out of its own market -the relaxed sports fan.

Edited by TheLeviathan, 29 August 2014 - 03:17 PM.

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#13 MileHighTwinsFan

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 03:38 PM

The chief criticism in the article is that baseball has become a largely regional game - I would contend that it has always been a regional game and that is a good thing. 

 

Certainly national ratings for baseball games and particularly the playoffs are down - but I would argue that this is a function of the entertainment options available to consumers.  At baseball's ratings peak, viewers had perhaps two other choices for television on a given night, the World Series and whatever was on the other networks. Now baseball competes with dozens of television options to include sports like college and pro football- that are on almost every night in the fall.   

 

If we look back before television and the migration of teams to the West Coast, during what many would call the golden era, the game was strictly regional, focused east of the Mississippi and primarily along the eastern seaboard.  While radios might have been flipped on to the World Series, you likely had little connection to any team other than your local team during the regular season.  You certainly weren't hearing Dodgers vs. Giants games in Kansas City.  

 

With the unbalanced schedule, division rivalries are strong. Now with the added value of winning your division title, I would suspect they will only get stronger.  As a fan, I find myself watching or listening to games between the Tigers and Royals or among the other teams in the AL Central, that was simply not possible during my childhood.  

 

With interleague play, I can now see teams and players that, as a young person, I could only read about in the paper or get to know through my baseball cards. 

 

While you can complain all you want about 4 hour games - I would not trade the excitement I witnessed in KC this week when the Royals made two dramatic comebacks (much to my disappointment, but also admiration) to win games critical to their playoff hopes.  

 

Baseball has a cycle to it that is unique - the possibilities of the spring, the constancy of the game during the summer months and the thrill of pennant chases in the fall provides a narrative arc that no other game can replicate.  Baseball is still the best game for radio - with a pace that has allowed generations of fans to work on their cars, do the dishes or sit out on their porch on a gorgeous summer evening to enjoy. 

 

A visit to the ballpark is more interesting than ever.  With new and creative food and drink options, family friendly entertainment between innings, a wider range of teams visiting home parks and the unbeatable ticket prices - there is still no better sports entertainment option available for cash strapped families.  

 

NFL football may be our national game - but it also a television based game. A vast minority of football fans ever step foot into an NFL stadium.I would venture to say that a much higher percentage of baseball fans make multiple trips to a ballpark every summer.

 

For the serious fan, the explosion of coverage of the minor leagues and the prospects that will eventually don our favorite team's uniform provides even an even deeper bond to our teams.  New statistical analysis and better color commentary from announcers allows a fan to deepen their knowledge and appreciation for the game like never before.   

 

I won't invoke the Mark Twain cliche, but as far as I am concerned - baseball is alive and well. 

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#14 notoriousgod71

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 05:53 PM

Here are the things I dislike about baseball in no particular order:

 

Interleague play- not interested in any of the matchups/ Yankees-Mets is as nauesating at Yankees-Red Sox.

 

Wild cards (and additional wild cards)- way to water down the postseason like every other sport. One game playoffs used to be exciting because they were two evenly matched teams between rivals. One game playoffs between teams with 94 wins and 90 teams is just a man-made creation to try and draw money and ratings.

 

Relief pitcher usage- I could deal with drawn out at bats if it was not necessary to make three pitching changes per inning (the post season is even worse).

 

Replay- controversy is good for the sport. Umpires are a part of the game too and bad calls make games/series more memorable.

 

Blocking the plate- I take back my previous point. Controversy when you rule a guy safe at the plate because the catcher was standing in front of the plate and the runner is ten feet away is horrendous.


#15 biggentleben

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 09:45 PM

People complain about the length of baseball games, but the average baseball game is shorter by over 30 minutes than the average NFL game.  People who want to say that baseball has no action would be surprised to find out that those 30 extra minutes that an NFL game is in length constitutes just short of the 35-40 minutes of actual play time during an NFL game between the huddles, Peyton pre-snap show, and reviews, which baseball can absolutely dwarf with an average of something like 75-90 minutes of actual play activity during a game.  The major difference, I believe, has to do with the violence of the game and the mindlessness - and understand that I'm saying this as a guy who had every intention of playing football as a career before that was taken away by surgery, so I love football.  Every moment of baseball is calculated and as much mental as physical.  In football, it is rare that the better athlete doesn't win in head-to-head competition, but if that held true in baseball, Chris Young of the Mariners would be the best pitcher in the league, and Jason Heyward and Charlie Blackmon would be fighting for the titles of the best hitter in the game.  I love the chess aspect of baseball, but much like our average newspaper has diminished to a sub-middle school reading level, Americans simply don't want to engage their minds that much in their entertainment - see video games, Michael Bay, and Skip Bayless.

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#16 DocBauer

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Posted 29 August 2014 - 11:44 PM

I am not a marketing expert...never even met one. Still think they just get lucky sometimes. So I don't know that I have the solutions to the problems in a practical sense, but think I can at least identify the areas of concern that need to be addressed.

1) Eliminate or reduce inter league play. I liked the idea initially. It sounded neat. We get to play who this weekend? But the novelty has worn off. And it has also taken any novelty away from the All Star game. If you want to continue inter league play, make it not only limited, but squeeze it in to limited time frames. Am I nuts? But I swear when inter league began it was for a stretch or two. Now it feels like it pops up on the schedule as only another series that does nothing more than, maybe, raise an eyebrow.

2) Promote your stars! Baseball is not unlike the NBA. It's a longer season, and while it has mass appeal, studies and TV ratings have shown there is a regional bias to ratings and popularity. No surprise there. But while most of the free, and not free world, knows about LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, how much of the world knows about Mike Trout? (As example) I can almost guarantee you that you could poll a 1,000 people of mixed race and age in this country and they would be able to recognize those mentioned NBA stars, to some degree, at least at a 50-60%. But I bet Trout would be known at least half of that rate, unless you happened to run in to a string of baseball fans.

3) Promote the game! I'm 48, I'm not young...I'm not old. But I have memory and perspective. When I was very young, you heard commercials and reflected public commentarily about Chevrolet, hot dogs, apple pie and baseball. (I'm not just being nostalgic, this was reality) Now we hear about Japanese cars, (3 out of 4 in my household), burger wars, whatever, and football. In this arguement, the NFL. I've heard and read how the baseball "game of the week" used to be a big deal, but now we're simply saturated by baseball games and we've lost magic with game saturation. What the hell? Basketball is almost as long of a season, and is on multiple stations every day all season long. The NFL, and college football to a degree, is on 3-5 games a week. Baseball is BIG in central and parts of South America. It's grown in Australia, and has a foothold in Europe and even Russia. Not to mention Asia. But what has MLB done to promote the sport? He'll, it was an Olympic trial sport, then a medal sport, and just died after a few years. What did MLB ever do to promote itself over all this time? The NBA is Olympic and Global. The NFL has had NFL Europe...a domestically nice minor league option that failed globally but should be re-visited stateside at least...but still attempts to go global with foreign games and cable appeal.

4) Appeal to minorities. This isn't about race, it's about PEOPLE. It's about the beautiful game of baseball and the men who play it. The legitimate all time HR king in baseball is a classy and deserving black man who endured a tremendous amount to arrive at his top of the mountain named Frank Robinson. The steroid era "illegitimate" HR king is also a black man, Barry Bonds. Jackie Robinson went through absolute hell to become the first black player in MLB. Oh, he also became a legendary HOF player. Regardless of how you feel about FA in baseball, it was a black man, Curt Flood, who stood up for the rights of baseball players. In our beloved Twins history, Kirby Puckett could be argued as the best and most popular player in franchise history.

Where is the black athlete in baseball now? There are precious few these days. There have been efforts the past several years, spurred especially by former Twin Torri Hunter and others to bring baseball back to the inner cities.

5) Speed up the damn game! It's a BEAUTIFUL game if you understand it. But too many younger generation watchers and potential watchers/ lovers get distracted before they really understand what's going on pitch to pitch, batter to batter, inning to inning. Put a clock on the pitcher/batter between pitches and stick to it. Put it on a big clock around the stadium. Whoever decided it was OK for a batter or pitcher to walk around for 20-40 seconds between every pitch to adjust and gather themselves?

6) Call the damn strike zone the way it's in the rule book and described to be called! Hitters are all different. Some hit low, some high, some inside, some outside. But pitchers all throw differently as well. The rule book states above the knees and just below the letters. It's been this way since before I was born. I can deal with painting the black, or just outside, if the ump and pitcher are both consistent. But someone please show me where a strike should be called only if below the belt line.

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#17 biggentleben

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 12:13 AM

There is a pitch clock in the rule book - 12 seconds.  It is never enforced, and interestingly on his last start, Fox Sports South put the clock on Ervin Santana, who was the exact median in length of games started this season among qualifiers.  Once the batter was in the box, on average he threw the ball at around 13 seconds, and he's average.  I would love to see the same clock done on one of the notoriously slow workers like Clay Buchholz.  That said, the pitchers aren't all to blame.  Only two of every three pitches that evening with Santana was able to complete the clock once the pitcher was set because the batter would step out or call time, and even when they didn't, many were swinging and adjusting until nearly 8 seconds into the pitch clock, meaning they wouldn't have even been ready for a pitch thrown.

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#18 TheLeviathan

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 07:03 AM

People complain about the length of baseball games, but the average baseball game is shorter by over 30 minutes than the average NFL game.  People who want to say that baseball has no action would be surprised to find out that those 30 extra minutes that an NFL game is in length constitutes just short of the 35-40 minutes of actual play time during an NFL game between the huddles, Peyton pre-snap show, and reviews, which baseball can absolutely dwarf with an average of something like 75-90 minutes of actual play activity during a game. 

 

I simply could not disagree more with this assessment and I question your initial remark.  Baseball games are averaging 3 hours and 8 minutes this season and football stands at 3 hours and 10 minutes.  

 

I'm also not a huge fan of comparing the "action" between the two sports.  Yes, the violent aspect of football is important for fan interest, but if that's all it was we'd still love boxing and we'd be increasing our rugby love and not soccer.  So tracing it back to that is misplaced IMO.  The NFL huddle is regulated and enforced strictly to the point that it's common for an NFL huddle to take a shorter amount of time than what exists between pitches in the same at-bat.  

 

Baseball's problem is that it's not only slow but it FEELS slow.  In football you know you're going to get something happen at least every 30-40 seconds.  In baseball?  You may wait 10 minutes before anything notable happens.  Feeling slow is a great asset for those of us that just love to go to the ballpark and watch.  It's an awful problem if you're a TV game.


#19 Willihammer

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 07:10 AM

There are people on one side of the issue saying games are too long and people on the other (including the Deadspin author) saying there are too many strikeouts in the modern game and nothing happens. Which is it?

#20 birdwatcher

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 09:04 AM

My admittedly eccentric view is that all of professional sports, which includes college football and basketball, are enjoying the benefits of operating in an ultra-long and unprecedented financial bubble. In my opinion, even if all the little things like length of games were fixed, this won't stave off what I predict is forthcoming.

 

I stopped attending games quite some time ago. I just can't feel good about paying for an experience that the average family of four can't afford. As someone who loves baseball, who grew up shelling out my paper route money at Met Stadium and worked at the stadium as a teenager to bask in it all, not having an acceptable "baseball experience" has broken my heart.  I am one of the lucky ones who can afford season tickets, let alone a single game, but think about how estranged you'd feel about baseball if you were priced out of the experience.

 

I predict the bubble will burst, and when it does, it will burst big-time. Teams, their TV partners, and their sponsors will find their sources of revenue dwindling, rapidly and significantly. There will be no other solution than to deal with the expense side of things, so player salaries will be the first thing to be under pressure. The pendulum may swing to the point of bankruptcy and contraction. I don't believe professional sports will recover from this downturn until the game day experience once again becomes something the middle class can afford.

 

Now how's THAT for a whacky viewpoint?