Why I Quit Watching Major League Baseball

Posted: August 6, 2019 in Opinion, Sports

Loved this guy.

When I grew up could name every starter at every position on every major league baseball team, I kid you not. In 1971 you could have asked me who the 2nd baseman was for the Montreal Expos and I could have told you in an instant – Ron Hunt. I had several favorite players, including Oakland A’s pitcher Vida Blue who was 17-3 at the All-Star Break in ’71. Hey, he ended up 24-8 but still. I also loved the ’68 Detroit Tigers with 31-game winner Denny McClain. I could go on and on with names like Willy Mays, Ernie Banks, and Mickey Mantle. And oh, how I loved Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, the greatest baseball team ever assembled. Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey, Sr. Those 8-players were referred to as “The Great 8” and included the all-time hit leader (Rose), three Hall of Fame players in Bench, Pérez and Morgan (and Rose should be in), six National League MVP selections, four National League home run leading seasons, three NL Batting Champions, twenty-five Gold Glove winning seasons, and sixty-three All-Star Game appearances. Those eight guys played together eighty-eight times during the 1975 and 1976 seasons and lost only nineteen games.

Incredible.

Man, I loved baseball. Loved everything about it. From early childhood I remember traveling to games at Crosley Field with my Dad and sometimes my Uncle Myrl and but always with a car or truckload of kids. I remember going down to the little fence that was separated the fans from the players (it was different back then) before the game when Pittsburgh Pirate Willie Stargell ambled over to talk to my cousin Kevin and I. He asked where we were from and generally just chatted us up. It was great and I was in awe. Once, when my cousin Mick cut his knee goofing around as we walked into the stadium we were directed to a room so somebody could take a look at it. It was the actual training room. I don’t know if Dad had connections or something but there we were, and there on the training table beside Mick was Pete Rose. As I stared he talked to us like we were old friends.

Great memories, man.

I also played baseball as a pitcher from a young age up through high school and was even offered a few small college scholarships. Nothing big, just some little like DePauw in Illinois, places like that. Bottom line, for years baseball and basketball were by far the two main sports in my life.

Oh, I still enjoy high school and little league games, but the majors? Not so much. Over time, my love for major league baseball faded away. Why, you ask? I think there are several reasons.

The Big Red Machine.

First of all, when I was a kid you could count on your team to have the same players for much of your life. Sure, there were trades but for the most part guys stayed on the same team. This is true for other sports as well, especially the NBA, and although I understand why it’s happening I do believe it’s harder to maintain loyalty when players are hopping around from team-to-team. Today’s kids have favorite players more than they have favorite teams. If your guy leaves you simply go with him.

In addition, players have become commodities to the point that they’re removed from games at the slightest hint of injury. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a line drive nick a pitcher in the shoulder, only to see him taken out as a “safety precaution.” Do I get it? I guess I do. Like I said, they’re commodities. I do realize the days of Pete Rose playing with broken bones and Bob Gibson throwing 28 complete games are gone forever.

Still, it’s hard for me to watch players getting a boo-boo and sitting out games.

Note: This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. I remember when Pete Rose managed the Reds back in the late 80s and Eric Davis sat out a game because he’d slept funny on the plane and had a “sore neck.” I can imagine Charlie Hustle looking at him like he had a platypus on his head.

And what about the length of games? Good Lord man, in 1975 the average length of games was 149-minutes. In 2019 it was 188-minutes. That’s a 26.2% increase. There are several reasons, including TV delays and pitchers coming in to face just one batter, but the primary reason is the length of time between pitches. The total time for the inaction pitches in 1984 – the elapsed time between a pitcher releasing one pitch and his release of the next pitch – was 32-minutes and 47-seconds. The total time for inaction pitches in 2018 was 57-minutes and 41-seconds. In addition, in 1984 there were an average of 70-inaction pitches that were returned to the pitcher and thrown back to the plate within 15- seconds. In 2018 the average was 10. Amazing really.

Today’s pitchers lollygag around doing God knows what instead of throwing the ball. Do your damn job, man! And oh yeah, major league baseball needs a pitch clock. Badly.

Note 2: The pitchers aren’t the only ones to blame. The overall pace of the game is s-l-o-w. Everyone needs to pick it up.

Noted asshat Joe West.

Another reason I find it hard to watch games is the behavior of the umpires. Umps used to stay in the background and do their jobs professionally. If they were approached they maintained dignity and stayed above the fray, rarely interacting with a player or manager. Nowadays? Not so much. I’ve seen umpires stare down players, go charging towards managers, just generally behaving like they were the main attraction.

So umpires, just do your job like a pro. After all, it’s not about you. Nobody paid admission to watch you call balls and strikes, act like a clown or try to exert your dominance out there as if you’re the main attraction. You are not.

And how about the hitters and the way some of them armor up? Hell, Barry Bonds looked like a damn medieval knight out there. It took him 5-minutes to unstrap all the protective gear he wore to hit. Because of this he could crowd the plate and not fear an inside pitch. Cowardly, man.

Barry Bonds, pre and post roids.

And let me tell you about the days of yore, w-a-y back in time when I was a youngster. Back in those days the number 61 was magical, mystical, even awe-inspiring. Roger Maris had hit 61 home runs in 1961, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 60 that was set in 1927, a span of 34-years. You know how many players have topped 61 since? Six. Bonds hit 73, Mark McGwire 70, Sammy Sosa 66, McGwire 65, and Sosa 64 and 63. All these home runs were hit in a span of 3-years, 1999-2001. Whether it was steroids, a juiced ball, smaller parks, or a combination of the three, something was amiss. Hence, the sacred records of baseball mean nothing anymore. Thanks cheaters!

Note 3: Babe hit his in a 154-game schedule, Maris in a 162-game schedule. This was quite a controversy at the time.

Like I said, back in the day I could name every starter on every team in major league baseball and most of my friends could too. Baseball was the game and was in fact called America’s Pastime. Sadly, those days are over. In today’s fast-paced society and instant gratification era, kids have shot the National Football League and the National Basketball Association right past Major League Baseball, dropping it to at least number three in America’s hearts. If you don’t believe me, count the number of baseball jerseys kids are wearing next time you go to a mall or a school. You’ll see a lot of football and basketball jerseys. Baseball, not so much.

I don’t know, it just seems that the times have passed the game by. One of the few major league players anyone would recognize walking down the street would be Bryce Harper, and that’s because of his hair. Quick, picture Mike Trout in your head. You can’t, can you?

Sad really.

PS- I swear I didn’t look this up. Off the top of my head, here are the World Series starters for the 1968 Detroit Tigers:

1st Base- Norm Cash

2nd Base- Dick McAuliffe

Shortstop- Mickey Stanley (moved in from the outfield for the Series for his bat, replacing Ray Oyler)

3rd Base- Don Wert

Left Field- Willie Horton

Center Field- Jim Northrup

Right Field- Al Kaline

Catcher- Bill Freehan

Notable pitchers were Denny McLain (31 wins), Mickey Lolich (World Series MVP) 

 

Comments
  1. JamesThompson says:

    https://www.mlb.com/apps/beat-the-streak keeps me up to speed with the players around the league.

Gimme a holler.

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