Has MLB forgotten its about winning?
The Major League Baseball season finally is upon us after a long offseason of talk about speeding up the game and making it more exciting. Apparently, the pace of the game is not fast enough for some viewers, whether they be watching in person, on television or on a handheld device.
I don’t want to go too far into how the pace of a baseball game is conducive to fans talking about the game between pitches, between innings. We discuss strategy, consider upcoming hitters and potential pinch hitters, speculate about who is ready in the bullpen.
I’m not entirely against change in a game that I have been enthralled with over the last five decades or so. I understand the players used to leave their gloves on the field and didn’t wear batting helmets. I can recall when they lowered the mound after the 1968 season because the pitchers were becoming too dominant, and I don’t have a problem with the designated hitter.
And regarding the effort to shorten games I am happy to see they are actually doing something that I think should be the first step, shortening the time between innings.
I understand that could be a revenue reducer with less time for commercials. But revenue has never been a problem for the owners, even when they are doling out huge contracts to the people that the fans are actually there to see, the players.
I do have a problem, though, when some parts of this recent urge to change things could affect the competition on the field. After all, baseball, and probably all other sports, began primarily as a competition between teams.
A bunch of guys got together in a field and played, trying to defeat the other team. Town teams were formed and those teams faced opponents from other towns. Teams were formed with people working at the same place, or attending the same church or living in the same neighborhood.
That idea can still be seen on summer evenings in the area when slow-pitch softball season brings out all of us out-of-shape has-beens.
Eventually, way back when, people came out to watch baseball teams play, and some entrepreneur got the idea to sell food and drink and even to eventually charge admission.
In an effort to put together the best teams, some organizers started paying players with the Cincinnati Red Stockings the first professional team 150 years ago.
Now, fast forward to modern times and we have found that managers have come up with an effective way to use a pitching staff. In the past, the best pitchers started games and pitched as long as they could and as often as they could. Other pitchers on the staff were used in mop-up situations or only as a last resort.
Eventually, bullpens came into being and the relief pitchers’ roles grew in importance. Managers started using match-ups as an effective tool to try to stop the opponent’s hitters and WIN THE GAME. Yes, we joke about the best job in professional sports is left-handed reliever, because they usually only have to face one batter. But the strategy is, for the most part, effective.
One of the proposals being bandied about to speed up the game is to force relievers to face at least three hitters or finish an inning. The owners pushing this rule to reduce time-consuming pitching changes are taking a weapon used frequently by their managers to WIN GAMES.
Another current MLB issue is the effectiveness of defensive shifts. Managers and their staffs have long charted where opposing batters hit the ball against certain types of pitchers and pitches. In this day and age, that information is more widespread and managers have devised a strategy based on that research which helps their teams to WIN GAMES.
The shift has sharply cut into the offensive numbers in recent seasons, as part of a strategy to WIN GAMES. Of course, the owners and those who think of baseball as an entertainment instead of a competition, would rather take that weapon from their team’s strategists because it seemingly makes the game less exciting.
I understand baseball people have concerns about the future of the game. But please, don’t stop competing and trying to win just to keep the fans happy.