I only know it started on Wednesday because I was checking my fantasy football team and the site listed the score. I know St Louis split with Boston and it is now 1-1. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up as a huge baseball fan. We lived halfway between Chicago and Detroit and would usually get to both a Tigers and a Cubs game over the summer. Saw the White Sox a couple of times but they were never as interesting. We got WGN from Chicago early in my childhood so watching the Cubs became a big part of my life. I played little league for a couple of years to so I loved baseball. And, of course, I collected baseball cards and they are sitting in a closet downstairs as we speak. The history of the game and the numbers behind it also fascinated me. I remember watching the series even when I didn’t care about either team.
Now, that has changed. I gained back a little interest when I started playing fantasy baseball because you had to know something about the players to draft a good team. Still love the numbers and have expanded my interest to the minors and trying to figure out which prospects are worth drafting. I get the MLB extra innings package and love watching early in the season. At yet, I have not seen an inning of the Series and I probably won’t.
Think there are a couple of reasons for my disinterest. Aside from the fact that football has become my favorite sport.
First, the weather. Baseball is not a cold weather sport. It is meant to be played in the summer when you can sit outside on a warm night and enjoy the game with friends and family. I know that there are cold weather games in the spring but those offer the promise of the summer to come and, in the spring, everyone still has a chance at winning it all. (Technically, some teams really don’t have a chance but they just haven’t realized it yet). Games in the fall just reflect on the summer that has just left and only make it more obvious that the cold and dark winter is coming. There is nothing sadder than seeing fans bundled up against the cold realizing that there team is about to be eliminated. There is nothing good about baseball in late October.
Secondly, is the pacing of the game. I read somewhere that the Red Sox see more pitches than any other team. I understand that is a winning strategy in the days of pitch counts where you want to get the starter out early so you are facing the bad part of the bullpen. While that is an effective strategy, it is painfully slow and can be boring to watch. I know purists will be upset with this but games used to wrap up much quicker. The second game of the series was 4-2 St Louis and took over 3 hours. Of the 18 innings, no runs were scored in 15 of them. I’d like to know how much of that 3+ hours was time when things were happening. I’ll bet it is a small fraction. Yes, you can talk all you want about the drama and the chess match, but the last time I looked, chess wasn’t a big draw on TV either and it at least has a clock and time limit between moves. There is nothing more frustrating than watching some pitcher nibble at the corners trying to hit a small spot in the strike zone where the statistics show the batter doesn’t hit as well. Because, most of the time, they miss. And, don’t get me started about the at bats where someone fouls off 20-30 pitches in a row (maybe that’s a stretch). The announcer will always say “great at bat” while I’m falling asleep in my chair. Sorry, but I can’t devote 3+ hours of my time to that much inaction. So, for me, baseball is background noise. Even early in the season, I will have mlb up on my computer and the game playing in the background. When I watch extra innings, I constantly flip to different games when one slows down. Couple that with the fact that the series games come on late in the east coast and I just don’t feel compelled to watch them.
I don’t want baseball to go away completely because I am still a fan (although some probably would say I’m not). But I think there are things they have to do to survive. I hope they don’t go the route of expanding the playoffs because that doesn’t fix it – the playoffs aren’t a ratings draw. They need to shorten the season. Ideally, they’d be done by the end of September before football takes over. And, there has to be something done to speed up the game. Maybe a clock between pitches or lower from 4 balls to 3 for a walk and from 3 to 2 for a strikeout. I’d even be open to some kind of rule on x number of fouls being an out. Maybe they should experiment with some changes during later spring training just to see what the impact is. Baseball is never going to be like basketball with non stop action but reducing the amount of dead space would seem to help. Games certainly didn’t used to take 3+ hours. And, with the addition of replay, that will just make things longer. Oh well, I’ll just read about the Series after each game and keep working on my fantasy team for next year.