Football has arguably taken baseball’s place as America’s most popular sport. The NFL has become a well-oiled money making machine. Sunday Night Football surpassed the World Series in television ratings.
But no matter what the statistics say, no matter how popular the NFL gets – baseball will always be America’s Favorite Pastime.
Its history is too rich. The game is too pure. And it will never lose its magic.
Unless of course, the game changes. No, not the salaries or the business or the players, but the actual game of baseball. The game Abner Doubleday created in 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y. remains the same today.* A diamond – 90 feet separating four bases; 60 feet, six inches separating home plate and the pitcher’s mound – and a ball and a bat and two teams trying to score more runs than the other. It was simple then and it remains simple today.
*Many have described Doubleday’s claim as a myth, but others accept him as the inventor of baseball.
But that simplicity isn’t good enough for some people anymore. Baseball is boring. It needs a makeover to compete with football. Instant replay is imperative in this era of technological advances. Taking 30 minutes to review a foul ball is way better than keeping the flow of the game in tact.
And if that’s not convincing enough, football already uses instant replay every Sunday. Rule changes are being discussed because of dangerous hits that can paralyze and even kill players. If football needs to make changes, baseball does too, right?
Mike & Mike used the current state of the NFL to examine how to improve baseball too. So, how do you improve baseball – a game that has seen few changes in over 200 years. More specifically, how do you improve the World Series?
Honestly, I would only make one change. I would like to see the Division Series’ become a seven-game series rather than best of five. I think five games aren’t enough to decide which team is better. Seven games add to the drama, it gives teams the chance to come back, and gives a better indication of the best team. To play 162 games and watch it all go to waste in three games if the team is swept is just brutal. At least the extra game leaves some room for hope. Who knows, maybe the Rays would have come back to beat the Rangers. A 3-2 lead isn’t very comfortable in a seven-gamer, but it’s the end in the Division Series. So, I want more baseball. And I’d be open to shortening the regular season by a few (3 to 5) games if it makes it happen.
I’d also be open to eliminating some of the off days to make it more comparable to the regular season. Force teams to win with four pitchers instead of three like the Yankees did last year. Once again, you go 162 games with five hurlers and then in the postseason all that matters are three. It doesn’t make much sense to me. October should be as close to the regular season as possible in this respect.
Other than that, leave it alone. There is nothing that could improve the World Series or baseball. I was screaming at the TV when Mike Greenberg said he would force players to stay in the batter’s box for the whole at bat and limit catcher visits to the mound. My answer to these ideas along with replay is simple. Why? Stop overanalyzing the game. Baseball is baseball. It takes as long as it takes. That’s part of the beauty. Kids could play all day and lose track of time until the sun went down. There is no clock and there’s no reason to speed up the game. Why shouldn’t players be allowed to step out and take a swing or get a sign from the third base coach? It’s part of the game. When you start taking away the little things that make this game great, what will be left of it? I know, I’m probably overreacting, but the game doesn’t need to change one thing. If someone can’t handle the length of the game, then it’s not for them. They don’t understand. They’re not fans. We shouldn’t change the game to make it more exciting or quicker to attract more fans.
If anything, baseball and the rest of professional sports could stand to lose a few of the casual bandwagon fans that hop on the train when “their” team wins the World Series. But that’s a story for another day.
Today, with the San Francisco Giants World Series victory still fresh, is about remembering and realizing why despite the television ratings, baseball is America’ Pastime. And it always will be as long as we stay out of its way.
Baseball is about the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series with a ragtag group of players who weren’t the most talented. They didn’t wow anyone statistically. But they were the best baseball team this October. As Aaron Boone said, they’re just a bunch of “ballplayers.”
It was about the Giants scouts who were credited with having every detail covered during the World Series matchup. San Fran was seemingly in the right place at the right time, every time in the field. No computer could have prepared them so well. No statistic would move an infielder up the middle to make a play. It’s all about understanding the subtleties of the game and only a human can do that.
The ballplayers and the human element of the game is what draws us all in as youngsters. When we’re six years old, we don’t understand advanced statistics and we’re not worried about instant replay. We just want to watch our favorite player’s every move, so we can go home and imitate his batting stance in the backyard.
Baseball is Ernie Harwell at the Hall of Fame. And it’s Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium. And it’s Kirk Gibson stepping out of the batter’s box and remembering the scouting report on Eckersley. And then it was Vin Scully narrating the historic scene. It was Bobby Cox struggling through his final press conference this October. And finally, it was that wild parade in San Francisco.
So, before we replace umpires with robots and put a three-hour time limit on games to gain some “popularity” again, think about what makes this game so great. What made you fall in love with it. And think about what changing the rules and traditions would do to the game.
Football may be king now, but baseball will be king forever. The volume and depth of history on the diamond far exceeds the roots of the gridiron. The earliest days may be the best reminder.
‘When It Was A Game’ certainly hammers the point home with its brilliant collection of film and poetry.
How do you want this era to be defined? Greed and scandal have taken center stage. But the game has weathered the storm. So rather than getting lost in robots and instant replay and the K Zone, let’s find the beauty in the simplicity again.
Images of Derek Jeter in his final days in the Bronx and Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the playoffs should be what we remember. Simple and powerful moments in this simple and powerful game.
The game will never be the problem.