Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, June 11.
I haven’t written as much during 2019 as I have in years past. There have been several reasons, one being the major step backward taken by minor league baseball making its web site much more difficult to navigate. Above all else, I have found MLB version 2019 boring, much more so than in the past few years. As recently as the 2016 and 2017 World Series, we fans witnessed amazing things game by game. But as the game increasingly belongs to geeks with computers rather than to managers and general managers, the product becomes less palatable. Even the D-Backs’ 13–8 win in Philadelphia last night was more disturbing than exciting.
As fans settled into their seats, they knew early on what they were in for. The first 3 D-backs to the plate–Jarrod Dyson, Ketel Marte and David Peralta by name-all went the distance, 3 of 13 home runs that would be hit before hostilities ended. The visitors dialed long distance 8 times, the home standing Phillies went yard 5 times. There hasn’t been such a home run derby since 1995 when the White Sox and Tigers combined for a dozen home runs–and that took extra innings with players hopped up on steroids. The Phillies were involved in the most recent home run derby, a 23–22 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field in May of 1979. 11 home runs left the lot that windy afternoon. After the first 3 dingers last night, Eduardo Escobar and Ildemaro Vargas each hit a pair with Alex Avila joining the party. For the Phillies, Scott Kingery hit a pair with Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura and newly-acquired Jay Bruce all going long in a losing cause.
The Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler blamed how the ball travels in his home ball park, rather than hanging his pitching staff out to dry. Jerad Eickhoff, the Phillies’ starter took most of the abuse from the Arizona bats by giving up 5 home runs and not surviving the 4th inning. It didn’t help that two of the home runs he gave up were preceded by walks. No matter how far a ball may get hit, a pitching coach gets more gray hairs from walks than he does from sharply hit balls. An exasperated pitching coach might mutter “Babe Ruth is dead” or something else too colorful for family consumption.
What we’re seeing now in baseball (and paying to see if we attend) is a game where players hold out for a walk or strike out in the attempt. Then a mistake happens and they launch it. Today’s players care even more about “launch angles” and the distance a home run flies than they do about their batting average. During the years I rode the buses in the minors, nobody that I can remember talked about launch angle or the speed of a hit off their bats. It was all most of our players could do to put bat on ball and occasionally register a hit. They would pass around the daily stats as an earlier generation would pass around “Playboy.” They did it to see a few simple stats–batting average, home runs and RBIs. I’ve been out of the loop too long to even imagine what today’s minor leaguers look at when they look at the daily stats.
This is the game we have now, a game far removed from the game that was played as late as 2009 when the Yankees won their most recent World Series. as long as the owners make money (usually from mind-numbing TV deals) the game will limp along in spite of attendance in many cities dropping like the stock market in 1929. If you look beyond the home runs, the game in Philadelphia last night was a dull affair with the Phillies being so far behind they never had a chance. Some teams–the Orioles, Royals, White Sox and Tigers–spend most of their games that far behind. The style of the game makes it more unwatchable than the slow pace, which only becomes a serious issue in the postseason. The bunt, the stolen base and the “hit and run” are all forgotten. Ownership also pays no attention to marketing its stars, which the NBA does superbly and even football does a better job than baseball. I fear when my teenage nephews become old men, baseball won’t be a subject to talk about in bars and barber shops as it has been for more than a century.0