By: Kurt Snyder
Do you get the feeling when considering the state of our game that all fans do now, the ones who care, is express what Major League Baseball should be doing instead of what they are?
The game is struggling because of the things that have been taken away more than what has been added. And what has been added hasn’t done it much good.
Discussions in the media and on game broadcasts over the last week have centered on mound height, instant replay and why baseball schedules interleague series the way they do.
The Tigers just finished a short 2-game series with the Cubs at Comerica Park, weeks after they had a 2-game stint at Wrigley. The question? Why not do a 4-game home and home? More interesting. More compelling. More fan-friendly. Cool road trip?
Something to think about.
On the ever-popular pace of play and length of game topics, is instant replay really a good thing for moving games along?
And for those looking for more excitement at the ballpark; when did fans like it more? Was it back in the days when managers would charge out of the dugout to argue a perceived bad call, or today where they rarely make a peep anymore after enduring instant replay decisions?
Every mention of baseball’s great managers during a broadcast is almost always accompanied by an extremely animated argument with an umpire. How many times do we see the same Earl Weaver clip, when the great Oriole manager is mentioned?
With instant replay, the absence of those seemingly meaningless arguments are missed. Sorry, they are! It was entertaining. And more than ever, the game is starving for entertainment from any source; the entertainment they need to draw new fans and keep them.
I know they have to get calls right, but the human factor may be more important to preserve in baseball than any other sport.
Craig Monroe suggested last night that umpires looking at instant replay in New York are going to protect their fellow umpires when the play is close. This time, I have to agree.
I would rather rally around the vim and vigor of my manager as he argues a bad call than be insulted by umpires who can still fail even with the luxury of looking at a play dozens of times, from different angles and in slow motion.
MLB needs to look at every aspect of the game. Was there excitement in areas of the game that no longer exist? Well, yeah, plenty. Even instant replay, brought in to improve the game, has removed action.
The obsession over making games safer for players is also watering down sports. All of sport is so concentrated on making their games safer, the entertainment factor suffers. It sounds wrong, but the safer they make a sport, the less exciting it becomes.
Hockey is far less physical. Fights are rare. And hockey fans miss it, big time. I rarely watch hockey now because it has lost its physicality; the essence of old-time hockey.
Football is so spooked by concussion concerns that any lowering of your helmet on either side of the ball may now draw a flag.
And basketball? Well, watch playoff game highlights from the 80’s and 90’s and compare them to the kind of game you see today. What’s more exciting? Players used to take a real chance driving the lane, when they could find themselves bloodied or bruised or on their back. It was playoff basketball. But now you could drive a truck down the lane in June and it would barely be touched, for fear of flagrant fouls. And during the regular season, the seas part for players driving to the basket.
These are all examples of initiatives that ruin games and threaten the vitality of sports.
What they have done with the rulebook in baseball has been criminal.
Action was stripped from the game when you can no longer run over the catcher at the plate.
Action was stripped when a runner could no longer take out an infielder at second to break up a double play. All in the interests of safety.
Let excitement and action be damned. Water it down. Protect the players. Geez, it’s sports! Players get injured. It is part of the game. And no one knows it better than the players themselves. They get paid big money putting themselves at risk. But it is, or was, part of what made sports exciting. But the commissioners know better, right?
The fans will still watch.
They will still attend the games.
They will still care.
Well? Maybe not!
Our game is slowly getting screwed up. It has to be, when you start complaining about baseball being all about home runs. Where have we gone when fans want less homers? Where have we gone when fans want more baseballs to stay in the park?
Baseball has a lot of bumps and bruises, but what we are doing to fix things may ruin it permanently.
Pick at a scab enough and it’s going to bleed. Keep picking and it will be scarred forever.
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