Over the course of the past decade or so, Major League Baseball has been on the decline as America's Pastime. The viewership has been sinking and the quality of play has become oftentimes tough to watch. I love baseball as a sport and always have.
Over the course of the past decade or so, Major League Baseball has been on the decline as America’s Pastime. The viewership has been sinking and the quality of play has become oftentimes tough to watch.
I love baseball as a sport and always have. Baseball has the richest history of any North American sport and has an incredible culture from youth all the way to the pros. Whether it be clubhouse characters or the bright stars on the field, or the sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark, to the crack of the bat and the snap of the glove, it’s a tradition like no other.
Then in terms of the on the field product, baseball can be incredible to watch. There are the obvious situations that can electrify a ballpark. Whether it be a close extra inning affair, a grand slam, all those flashy plays.
But on the other end, watching a low-scoring match is almost like watching a chess game. There is so much nuance and situational awareness that is required before the actual gameplay. It can be one of the most fascinating sports to watch.
So, why has professional baseball taken such a hit recently? For a few reasons.
First off, the games at the pro level are just too lengthy, with average game times exceeding three hours.
With 162 games on the schedule, it is just about impossible for someone to devote that many hours each season. Even for diehard fans, you can’t expect someone to devote three hours a night to a game, and that’s assuming it lasts the typical length.
Baseball has never been a fast sport or one that is built for an impatient person, but nowadays, it’s excessive and only trending in the wrong direction. The league has made some adjustments like in extra inning rules and has experimented with pitch clocks and whatnot. Either way, the length of games is the biggest issue.
The next issue, and really all the issues from this point on are related to game length, or vice versa, they’re all connected.
But the next issue in play here is player egos. The players nowadays come from a different environment than former players. They have been softened by youth programs and travel leagues and have been pampered every step of the way.
Thanks to that, these players have no interest in changing their ways for the sake of the product. They don’t want pitch clocks, they don't want a reduction of innings played, they don’t want rules involving speeding up at bats. Every idea the league has considered has been resisted by the players and it is because they are selfish and set in their ways.
Just look at the ongoing issue with the use of foreign substances for pitchers. The league is simply asking pitchers to stop doctoring the balls and it has created a frenzy. Pitchers have been struggling and whining every step of the way.
The game won’t slow down until the players make adjustments … but their egos will absolutely not allow that to happen.
The last issue is the emergence of other sports. This one does not require as much of an explanation. Ultimately, kids and young adults are more interested in other sports and it is a direct response to game length and the quality of play. Each passing season the sport is losing more and more ground.
So what is my point exactly?
My point is that baseball is one of the greatest sports on earth and it is a shame to see its highest organization failing.
My solution is simple: Follow the Little League model.
The local Little League All-Star tournaments are being played so I was able to watch some action last week. One thing is for sure, watching these games is the most enjoyable form of the sport there is.
Even at the high school level, games can drag on and be a little too ticky tack.
At the youth level though? The total opposite. Pitchers pitch the ball, batters hit the ball, and fielders field the ball. No nonsense, no on-field rituals, no overthinking, they just go out there and play the game.
Little League baseball at this point is the anti Major League baseball. The games never drag on, get dull, and have you clock watching. Players are not old enough yet to have fully formed egos, so they do not think about each play the way that pros do. They just want to have fun and play the game.
The product is a fast-paced, high-scoring event that is genuinely exciting and unpredictable.
That is another point for me to add on here. In professional baseball, once a team falls behind three or four points, the game is effectively over.
Not at the youth level though … seems like every team is capable of putting up three or four runs in any given inning.
I know that this idea is a little out there, but I really do think Major League Baseball should look at what works for Little League when trying to come up with solutions. I wouldn’t be opposed to the league trimming games from nine innings to seven and trimming the schedule from 162 to maybe 142. It also needs to be heavy handed in enforcing new ways of speeding the game up, regardless of what the players’ gripes are.
Little League baseball, especially during All-Star time, is one of the best sports to watch because of all of the aforementioned items. It’s just a great community tradition with some fun games to watch and that are unpredictable.
As a lifelong MLB fan, it truly saddens me to see the game continue to work its way backwards and to even see myself laboring to make it through a single contest. Having said that, Little League baseball is one of the few things keeping my love of the game intact and should be recognized as the best level of baseball there is … because that’s the truth.