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A Plea For A Departure From The Dumbification Of Baseball

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MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers
“Not the outcome I was going for.”
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the Rob Manfred era, baseball has become a “three true outcome” sport featuring record numbers of homeruns and strikeouts. If you believe Justin Verlander, slicker baseballs leading to “slippery sliders” are a culprit. If you ask the increasing number of pitchers succumbing to blisters, you might conclude that the ball’s seams are different. Whatever it is, baseball is getting less interesting even as its games are sometimes epically compelling (see games 3 and 5 of the World Series).

“Three true outcome” players — hitters who so often either HR, K, or BB — are ok. An entire game of it, however, misses out on so much of what makes baseball great. When such an ordinate percentage of a game’s run come on HR after HR, lost are the art of the key stolen base in front of a ball expertly guided through the hole the other way, the mad dash from 1B to 3B, the leather flashed by gold gloves on balls put in play.

In fairness, all these elements still do exist in today’s game, with post-season games turning web gems by Alex Bregman, a daring dash all the way home from 1B by Altuve (is that a “slide off” win?), a clutch two-out, two-strike 9th inning shot up the middle by Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger shortening his swing to serve a key hit to the wall in left-center. Yet more and more often, innings are going the way of “HR or bust” (but enough about almost every single one of Bellinger’s other at bats) , and even chicks can only dig the long ball so much.

“Three true outcome” baseball (and yes, walks are still fashionable these days because they produce runs when followed by 2 or 3 run HRs) is a throwback to Little League, where pitchers are wild and issue lots of walks, batters are terrible and strike out a lot, and fielders are so bad that if you do put a ball in play you often circle the bases while two of the fielders collide, a third one cries, and a fourth one doesn’t notice because he is busy imagining that he is a cowboy in the circus.

TTO baseball is dominant in the lowest levels where pitching, hitting, and fielding skills sets are the poorest, and now they are becoming dominant at the highest level. Yawn. As an A’s fan, sure I look forward to watching Matts Chapman and Olson hit, but I also want to see Franklin Barreto hit behind the runner to advance a leadoff double to 3B, watch Jorge Mateo electrify the crowd with a one-out triple, see Max Schrock spray 3 singles, one to LF, one up the middle, and one to RF, watch Jed Lowrie wait for a pitch above the belt that he can lift to the outfield for a key sacrifice fly. That’s baseball, where each base matters because they aren’t all secured at once or else not at all.

I guess I want to see a game where the runs, not just tighter wound baseballs, are manufactured. That involves more skill sets, more variety, more drama as an inning unfolds and evolves. I can’t be the only one who finds the trend of “more walks, more strikeouts, more HRs” to be a troubling development in the game. Can I?

Poll

Which best describes your feelings about the current state of offense in baseball?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    It’s great - keep the dingers coming!
    (102 votes)
  • 15%
    Needs moar "small ball"
    (74 votes)
  • 19%
    Needs moar "situational hitting"
    (94 votes)
  • 33%
    Needs moar contact/balls put in play
    (166 votes)
  • 11%
    Needs a ball wound to suppress, not encourage, HRs
    (55 votes)
491 votes total Vote Now