Earlier this year, Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper wore a hat that read “Make Baseball Fun Again” and proceeded to explain that his mission this season was to do just that: bring fun back to Major League Baseball. And, as laudable as that is, the real question was never asked: who took the fun OUT of baseball to begin with?
In the wake of Harper’s announcement, sports pundits seemed to agree that professional baseball did need an injection of fun, but failed to ask where the fun had gone or whose fault it was that it left. The fans? The players? Maybe the owners? Or do you want to blame websites that allow gambling on sports, such as 10Bet.com? I have my own theories.
Blame the League
How long have fans been complaining about the slow pace of the game? Yes, baseball has always had a more leisurely pace than say football or basketball, but it has turned into one giant time-out. Batter steps up to the plate and before the first pitch is even thrown he steps back out to adjust his . . . something. He steps back in. The pitcher now has to take his time to re-adjust and eventually throws a pitch. Now someone complains about the ball and we have a 10 minute conference at the mound about the stitching on the ball. Enough already! No other professional sport allows this much non-action and expects fans to wait through it. Stop with the posturing, primping and posing and get on with the game already!
Get Rid of the Unwritten Rules
When there’s a bench-clearing brawl in baseball it’s usually because someone violated one of baseball’s many unwritten rules. As voluminous as the official rule book is, the unwritten version seems to be twice as long. For example: a player on the on-deck circle can’t practice his swing timing to the pitcher’s throws. (A college player was beaned in the head with the fastball by an angry pitcher for violating that one a few years ago.) If the pitcher has a no-hitter going late in the game you can’t try and bunt to get a man on base to potentially score a run. And it goes on and on and on. I thought the point of sports was to WIN the game not honor unwritten rules that, when violated, result in players rushing out of the dugout to punch each other. If you want a rule in the rule book, put it in there. Otherwise, play the game to win and shut up already.
Institute a Salary Cap
Of all the professional sports leagues, Major League Baseball is the only one without a salary cap which essentially evens out the playing field for all the teams in the league regardless of market size or the size of the owner’s pockets. Yes, they have a “luxury tax” that is supposed to level the field, but mostly it’s paid by the Yankees who keep offering broken down players 10 year contracts for over $100 million and jacking up the price for the rest of the league. Basically baseball teams waste a lot of money (money from the fans) to chase after a few players in the hopes of winning a pennant, rather than trying to build a team to put a good product on the field on a daily basis. The final result is that everyone thinks they’re worth, or should be worth, hundreds of millions of dollars so they play the game like it’s a business transaction rather than a sport that is supposed to be fun.
So who do you think stole the fun from baseball?