Pitchers and catchers have reported.
Magical words, yes?
We’re just days away from Spring Training games and the offseason is… complicated. I haven’t been able to post much these past few weeks; I’ve been putting in a lot of hours at work and I took a vacation to see my family on the east side of the States. Oh yeah – I have a toddler who makes life as fun, as joyful, and as eternally exhausting as it can be.
I’ve thought about wanted I wanted to do on this blog in 2019, from fantasy baseball to historical posts to commentary on the modern game. So much to write about, so the logical thing to do WAS….
Mess with the way the site looks. Because that was as productive as any article.
But hey I like the way it looks and now we can move on.
I won’t talk about two names that just keep coming up in baseball news for the same reasons. I’d rather just talk about the undercurrent of what’s happening in baseball. There are several facets of the game that are changing or threatened by change. In the middle, the fans are — well — spectators to the whole thing.
We’ve got rule change proposals including implementing a universal DH, using a pitch clock, requiring a minimum number of batters faced for any pitcher, roster sizes, and more. Baseball is very concerned about its future and its ability to gain a younger viewing audience, an audience more attracted to the NFL and NBA.
One of the major discussions over the past couple of years has been the proposal to ban the shift. From what I’ve watched and read, the shift ban seems to be gaining momentum, but who’s to say if / when that will happen? I’m not a fan of the ban but if it happened, I would bet within a couple years we’d be accepting it as part of the game.
And while everyone has opinions on all of these issues, one thing is certain: baseball is coming to a major crossroad in its history. High profile free agents are not getting the progressively higher payouts we’ve seen in the past couple of decades. Owners have said, “No, we can get comparable production for much, much less.” And here we go, back to the king of current baseball debates. Is advanced metrics ruining the game?
I’ve stated where I stand: we love a game that relies on high populations of numbers, percentages, trends, and value. It was inevitable that advanced metrics would begin to make sense in the long run. I’m going to take the coward’s way out and say I don’t have passionate stance when discussing the old ways — the old romantic lure of “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in” — and the collective movement that focuses less on RBI and batting average and more on OPS+ and swinging for the fences. Steals are diminishing, bunts are frowned upon, and more hitters are meditating at the Temple of the Launch Angle.
I can’t pick a side. And the reason is that, as I’ve said before, there is room for both in baseball. In a 162-game marathon season, it makes a lot of sense that owners would seek to maximize every facet of their roster. Statistics are the very heartbeat of baseball.
But in October, maximizing output over the course of the season means little when the guy who just singled is 270 feet away from winning you a postseason game. One run means more at this point that at any point in the season. That’s when old school baseball seems to make sense. Take a chance on a stolen base. Try to bunt him over and give yourself two chances to move on to the next round, or perhaps take home a title.
It could be compared to a football game… you wouldn’t throw the ball to the sidelines and run out of bounds the entire game. For most of the game, you would try to maximize your yards first then run out of bounds. But if you’re down by 2 points with :29 seconds left on the clock at the 50 yard line, two quick 10 yard gains to the sideline could make all the difference in the world.
What would Cleveland have given for just one more run in Game 7 against the Cubs? Sure, swinging for the fences might give you more runs over time, but at this one moment, when all you need is one run to fulfill the hopes and dreams of an entire city, a bunt doesn’t seem so crazy. One run is worth more at this moment than at any moment in that same campaign.
My fear right now is that we are an en-passe and baseball is in trouble. The players’ union will certainly push back against the owners’ unwillingness to commit to long-term, large contracts. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends after the 2021 season. It seems possible that a strike could happen, and all of this effort to draw in new fans would seem to be in vein.
That was nice and sunny, wasn’t it?
So pitchers and catchers have reported! And baseball is not two star players still waiting to be signed… it’s thousands of teams across the country at every level waiting for the sun to thaw so they can take BP. It’s relay drills. It’s the sound of the bat-on-ball echoing in the late winter air.
For every team, for every fan base, it’s hope.
Welcome to 2019 baseball! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe!