For the first time in a long time, I'm not terribly excited for a baseball season. I'm sure this is a shock to those that know me better, but even before Adam Wainwright's devastating, season-ending injury, I just wasn't looking forward to this season. After attending maybe ten or so games last season, and watching far too many 1-0 and 2-1 losses by the hometown nine, I just don't know why I should be invested in the game anymore. I talked things over with my brother, and it seems like we have similar complaints. Here are some of the big ones:
Games are too long. Cards games generally don't start until 7:05. They take at least 3 hours on a good night, usually more like 3.5 when Tony LaRussa is feeling frisky with his pitching changes. By the time I get the car and drive home, it's usually already 11:00. Contrast this with Blues games, where the game starts at the same time, but is over by 9:30, and I can be home by 10:00. It's not necessarily that I want to go to bed earlier, but I do like to finish up other shit when I get home. The solution? Make games 7 innings. This would totally fuck with the TV revenue, player salaries, ticket prices, and pretty much every record on the books, but it might be necessary to keep people sane. Honestly, most people leave by the seventh inning stretch anyway—this would just make it official.
There's too much standing around doing nothing. The pitcher can rub the ball for two minutes in between pitches if he wants. The batter can step out of the box and really give his balls a good scratch. The pitching coach can take his sweet-ass time getting to the mound, then discuss golf with the pitcher just so some moron can get loose in the bullpen. It's all bullshit when you get down to it. Here are a few ideas:
-No stepping out of the batter's box. If the batter gets something in his eye, fuck him. Of course, then we have the problem of a bunch of idiot fans shining laser pointers in batters' eyes, but it's better than watching all of these hitters channel their inner Nomars up there.
-Have a pitch clock. Twelve seconds should do it. If a pitcher can't get a pitch ready to go in 12 seconds, too bad. It's a ball.
-Only 3 throws over to first before you have to pitch. Sure, this might get baserunners running a bit more, but that would be bad why? It would be exciting, damn it!
-One warmup pitch for guys coming out of the bullpen. Can't you get those warm-ups out of the way WHEN YOU'RE, YOU KNOW, "WARMING UP" IN THE BULLPEN?!?
The season's too long. 100 games would be plenty. Nice, round number. Cut out some of the series within the division and interleague play, while you're at it. Again, the statistics would change, and the players and owners would bitch about less revenue, but if it would get rid of those unbearable mid-week series in July against the Pirates when it's 95 degrees at 10:00 pm, then goddamn it, I'm all for it.
Make the game more exciting. I think this is what it comes down to. I hate to say it, but now that the hitters "aren't juicing" anymore (read: whatever shit they're using isn't cutting it), pitchers have a decisive edge. I'm fine with watching a pitcher's duel every once in a while, but when every single game is 2-1 or 1-0, it gets a bit boring. Maybe we need the DH in the NL. Even a modified DH where you could only DH for a non-pitcher would add a little bit of excitement, as some poor sap would be heckled mercilessly by the visiting crowd for DHing. Get runners running again. Get some juiced-out monsters hitting steroid-fueled homers again. I don't care.
All I know is that I'm getting bored with this game, so imagine what the kids think of it. You know kids, with their tweety-birding and phone-messaging each other—they can't pay attention to anything for more than five minutes at a time. That's just how it is. It used to be that the game connected generations—my grandpa and I could always discuss baseball, and we had a common frame of reference to bridge the generational gap in the form of statistics. But with steroids, those numbers became meaningless, and a lot of the intergenerational nature of the sport was lost. "But didn't you just endorse steroids as a solution to the problem?" Yeah, but only because they fucked things up in the first place. Now that nothing is sacred anymore, we might as well just make the game as entertaining as possible, history be damned. Of course, steroids should still be banned at every level up to the majors, because, let's face it, they can do a lot more harm than good if abused, or just if taken unsupervised. But if grown men making at least $400,000 per year knowingly take them, know of the health risks, and are fine with those risks in exchange for some cash, who am I to stop them? Just make the game fun to watch again. If not, I'm more than happy to give my sports dollars to the NFL and NHL.
Questions? Comments? Wondering if I really watch hockey? E-mail me at email@example.com. Follow me on twitter @djgelner.