Same ole game

Same ole game
September 16
13:22 2020

The game of baseball has been called the “national pastime” for as long as I can remember. In the early to mid 20th century, it was the most popular sport in the country and resonated with all populations. In 2020, that can no longer be said as baseball ranks third behind football and basketball in popularity in the United States when it comes to professional sports. If they don’t change and bring more excitement to the game, there is a strong chance the sport’s popularity will continue to decline.

Unlike the other major sports leagues, Major League Baseball has primarily stayed the same for as long as I have been alive. The only changes that come to mind in the last 50 years have been instant replay, interleague play, and the introduction of the designated hitter in the American League. Every other league has made significant changes during that time, so to only have a handful of changes probably isn’t enough.

For example, the NBA introduced the three-point line, made changes to defensive rules to allow better offensive flow, and brought in instant replay. The NFL ushered in a two-point conversion, moved the goal posts to the endline, added a second wild card team, and made a change in overtime rules, just to name a few. Even the NHL has made impactful changes to their sport. Helmets were made mandatory, allowed replay to assist referees, and adjustments to the overtime rules.  

I know the baseball purist will say that the lack of significant rule changes in the sport of baseball is what makes the sport unique and special. I agree that the game has great heritage, but the lack of changes could be the downfall for the sport.

Growing up, I remember watching Baltimore Orioles’ games on television with my father and grandfather, because they were the closest baseball team to D.C. at the time. I did not like watching those games that much, because it just seemed so slow to me and not much action going on. My dad and grandfather would try to explain the game and the strategy behind it, but for me, I would have rather been watching a football or basketball game, to be honest.

The slow pace really bored me. I also hated the fact the other team could essentially neutralize your best player by walking him, which I thought was unfair. I thought by now the game of baseball would have evolved a little more to make the game more exciting.

I will give baseball credit and admit that I do like the seven inning double headers during this shortened season, as well as placing a runner on second base to start extra innings. These are the type of changes that inject some life into the game. They also place a little more urgency on getting wins and create more offense.

To begin competing with the NFL and NBA, baseball must speed up the game. Through the first two weeks of this season, the average length of a nine-inning game in MLB is 3:07. This is up two minutes from 2019 and up 11 minutes since 2015. Looks like the sport is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to length of games.

I think one of the biggest issues when it comes to condensing time is the long period between pitches. It seems that the batter must adjust every single piece of equipment they have after every pitch. When you are watching the game on television, it seems like an eternity between pitches. I think if baseball found a way to cut the games down a half hour or so, it would make for a more watchable product.

To watch a game in person versus watching the game on television is a totally different experience. Baseball is one of the few sports that is without a doubt better to watch in person, because everything seems to be moving faster.  Yes, it’s great to go to an NFL stadium or NBA arena, but those sports are almost as good watching at home, with all of the different camera angles that make sure you don’t miss any of the action. Baseball, on the other hand, primarily has one angle, which is behind the pitcher looking into the catcher until the ball is put into play.

One of the main reasons baseball has fallen to number three in major sports is the fact they have lost many of their African American fans. For much of the 20th century, baseball was one of the top sports African Americans enjoyed.  Even into the 1990s, baseball still was an attraction for African Americans due to stars in the sport that looked like them. Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn, Derek Jeter and a host of others were prominent stars throughout the decade.

Nowadays, there are a few Black stars in the sport, but none are really household names like we had 25 years ago.  During those days, several players had signature shoe deals and nationally televised commercial campaigns. I think baseball should invest more into bringing more African American youths back into the sport to jumpstart more interest from that community.

I don’t want baseball to change fundamentally, because it is a great sport. My hope is that it will come up with some rule changes and additions that allow the sport to change with the times. Maybe this will be the way for baseball to be the national pastime once again.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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