As the next era of Major League Baseball has been ushered in through the introduction of Robert Manfred as the game’s next Commissioner, baseball has already been subject to changes. Forget the fact that Manfred has suggested he may outlaw defensive shifts, but this season, we will see pitch clocks instituted throughout minor league baseball stadiums. Now the question becomes, what is MLB trying to do?
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The most obvious, cut and dry answer is very simple, but for the baseball purist, it shouldn’t please you. MLB is out to change the way the game is played in hopes of garnering the attention of potential fans, at the expense of existing ones.
Sure, we see the writing on the wall, but should we have to accept it? Does it even work? Take a look at some opinions from around the Twitterverse.
Warne gets it right on the head with this take. Baseball is a sport, and a televised one. MLB knows they are competing with dozens of other options viewers have. By working to make the sport more exciting for customers that have not previously been interested, could cause a massive issue if the theory doesn’t play out, and at the cost of the existing following.
Then there’s this exchange I had with a fellow tweeter.
As you can see Larry gets exactly where MLB is coming from (while it appears he doesn’t agree with it). The sport is trying to reinvent itself to capture the most marketable portion of the season. Regardless of following residing at an all time high throughout the season, baseball wants the money to print itself during the time in which the World Series rolls around.
Enter my counter argument. “Baseball needs to understand this isn’t remedial. Structure of the sport isn’t conducive to it.” While shortening a game from three hours to two and a half may condense the action for the casual viewer, it still doesn’t help them to understand what is going on. The fact of the matter is that counts will still go full, home runs may stay few and far between, and a player is dunking or scoring on every player.
Baseball is a thinking man’s sport. You can casually observe and be a fan of the sport, but the draw is what is happening BETWEEN each play, and why the outcome of the next may be what it is, there is no remedy to that. You either care to that extent or you don’t and the time length a game takes place can change that for no one.
Then there’s the World Series. Baseball wants to be one of the big dogs, it wants some of the market share that the NFL experiences. Guess what, the sport does not lend itself to that kind of possibility. The NFL plays 16 games on one day, each week, for a couple of months. That culminates into one game that the nation, fans or not, view as an event. MLB is a grind that the masses cannot tie themselves to. 30 teams play 162 games over the course of eight months, and that results in a seven game series.
Looking at the World Series as a whole, each game is an event, but not one of them is deciding until one of the two teams has won three games. At that point, two fanbases are fully engaged, with the greater population of baseball fans tuning in. If MLB is hoping that because the game has been shortened by a half an hour that those channel flippers will stop on the greatest spectacle in October, they are sadly mistaken.
I don’t know where I stand when it comes to pitch clocks yet, I’ve yet to witness their existence. I think they may have a place, and I think the game of baseball can definitely reinvent itself, but to what extent is something I think could go too far. As Mr. Warne suggested above, sacrificing the game that has drawn so many in for the hope of a payoff, however minute it may be, could be more crippling than beneficial.
The jury will remain out until new practices are instituted at the major league level, but for those of us who crave the analysis between the pitch, be warned; baseball is changing.
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