Why baseball is a terrible game (and how to fix it)

There is almost no question that baseball is a slow, boring game. There are baseball players themselves that have mentioned it. For, example, Manny Machado of the Orioles said, ““It was a little boring to watch it, I don’t know how people go out there and watch games. Now I know why sometimes people don’t come to games.” (1). If a baseball player himself says it, there might be some truth to it. Having watched baseball for 12 years (and still support the Boston Red Sox), I have some reasons why baseball may be a super-terrible game. Obviously, just one of these reasons is not enough to make it bad, but the combination of all the reasons might incline it that way.

1. It is an uncouth game.

When a pitcher throws a ball that hits a batter, for some reason there is absolutely no hint of an apology while he stands at the mound stupidly, spitting around and rolling the ball. Really? Even in a high-contact sport like mixed martial arts, the contestants are able to hug it out once the game is done and sometimes even between rounds, or, if there is an inadvertent hit, able to apologize. Not so in baseball.

How is it that a “benches-clearing” brawl and “fists flying” between opposing teams in a non-contact sport is even possible (and allowed) in today’s civilized society?

Also, where else will you have this unbelievable amount of spitting? The constant chewing and spitting it makes it anything other than a classy game.

2. It is a dangerous game.

Rather than obviously dangerous games like American football, Rugby and mixed martial arts, how does such a slow, meandering game like baseball become a dangerous game? Because the pitcher is trying to throw the pitch close to you at full toss. That ball can go anywhere including onto the batter or the catcher or the umpire’s face or head or hand or body and cause potentially long-term damage. In this scenario, the fact that an intentional hit-by-pitch (without apology) is even part of the game is absolutely preposterous.

3. It is a speculative game.

In the center point of the game is the Strike Zone. And this zone is highly subjective. This is extremely incredulous to me. How can the focal point of an entire game be so subjective? There are many factors that make the calling of balls and strikes subjective including but not limited to: the height of the catcher, the height, and position of the umpire, the height of the batter, the whim of the umpire etc. 14% of balls-and-strikes calls are wrong in a game and umpires are wrong 21-22 times per game on average. Over the course of a full season, umpires are wrong more than 50,000 times. (2) Wow! almost 1/7 of the calls in a single game are wrong. It is so ironical to bring up statistics and numbers and averages when 1/7th of a game is so subjective that it is wrong.

4. It is a slow, s l o w, s l o w game.

What makes the inherent slowness of the game an even more boring game? The fact that it is possible, after 2 1/2 -3 hours of the game, for the score to read 0-0. Swing and a miss, swing and a miss, swing and a miss, ad nauseaum. Meanwhile, the commentators try their very best to keep the game entertaining with meaningless facts and statistics. It is not their fault that they have to put up with a meaningless game. Games should have continuous exciting action like soccer or basketball or discontinuous super-exciting action like American football or T20 cricket or MMA. Baseball has neither – it has discontinuous, slow action. On top of all this is the possibility of extra innings! How can we make a boring game even more boring? By dragging it along endlessly. Meanwhile, we can fill up the boredom with an endless list of irrelevant statistics! If food and other distractions were not available, I wonder what percentage of the fans would watch the game from start to finish, riveted.

5. Salary Cap

Even though my team is the Boston Red Sox, the fact that there is no salary cap for a team means that the team owner with the most money, wins. And the rest of the teams will continue to be at the bottom of the pile, year after year, until they can by fluke win a championship (like Tampa Bay came close to in 2008) or there is a change in ownership of the team.

This is not to take away from the athleticism of baseball players. Baseball players perform excellently well in spite of the game of baseball. The pinpoint, pick up and throw in the infield, the running, acrobatic attempts and strong arms from the outfield are all brilliant, especially because there is so little room for error.

How to improve the game, if at all possible.

1. Ban the chewing and spitting of tobacco and various seeds. It is unfortunate that a rule has to be passed but if that is what is needed to make a game less uncouth, so be it. Start by using an uncommon word in baseball, “sorry”, when someone gets hit.

2. Change the scoring system, so that the scoreboard is less stagnant than it is now. Maybe, count a single as one run, a double as two runs, a triple as three runs, a home run, say 5 runs or any such combinations. Or, if this will result in too much of scoring change then changes can be made only with those left on base so that some score is assigned to people left on base. Not only is stagnation an issue, the game is boring if there is a one-sided score early in the game. If your team is down 0-8 after the first two innings, the remaining seven innings are super boring because the odds of coming back from that deficit is low. However, if every base counts towards the score, there could be a better chance of catching up from a large deficit and therefore, more interest in the game.

3. Stop extra innings completely so that there is an end point to the game. How can we do this? If the above scoring system or a different scoring system is used, the need for extra innings will be unnecessary. However, if the current scoring system is continued then maybe we can count the left-on-base by a team as a way to see who wins the game. The more people that were left on base wins in a tie score. Straightforward.

4. Have instant feedback for balls and strikes. That way we can eliminate 14% of the mistakes. It can be figured out. A digital feedback to the umpire tells him if it is in the strike zone or not. No guesswork, no screaming, no stomping, no coach arrivals, no ejections, no drama. The technology is available, MLB is shunning it, that’s all. (2) When every other game is trying to use technology to make the game as accurate as possible, MLB turns the other way, towards analog.

In my humble opinion, in baseball (there are of course exceptions but,) the excitement is usually in the anticipation of something happening rather than in the reality of something actually happening. Maybe these suggestions can change that.

Anush

References:
1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2017/07/15/orioles-manny-machado-thinks-baseball-is-a-little-boring-to-watch/?utm_term=.1d28b0429edc. Accessed July 2017.
2. http://www.businessinsider.com/major-league-baseball-umpires-balls-and-strikes-2015-9 Accessed July 2017.

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