By Jim Biery
Finally, summer has arrived after a spring that felt more like fall or winter. Now that I have referenced all the seasons in just one sentence, let’s talk baseball.
America’s pastime has begun it’s rather lengthy 162-game season. That is a 26-week long season, and then the playoffs begin. I feel like that borders on the “too much of a good thing” theory. Major League Baseball (MLB) is the only major sports league that starts and ends in the same calendar year. (FYI: That nugget of knowledge could win a trivia contest question for you.
Standing in the warm sun on top of perfectly manicured grass and a nice breeze carrying the sounds of all the people in the stand – now that is what I call a friendly office environment! But this is far from what most of us recognize as an office setting. This is what the lucky few get to enjoy when they get the call up from the minor leagues to the “big show.”
Like a lot of kids, I grew up playing baseball, starting with tee ball, where a handful of kids on each team were more concerned with building dirt piles in the infield or looking for ladybugs in the outfield, to Little League, where my interest began to drop off. The reason for this is the same reason I struggle with following and watching the MLB on a consistent basis: not enough activity.
If you have watched a MLB game at any point, you should notice one thing. Basically, everyone playing the game is standing around. In between pitches the only thing that happens is grown men either spitting tobacco or “adjusting” things in their uniform. Now, what a grown man does is his own business. However, when these grown men make an average of over $4 million a year, I’d like a better return for my investment to watch the game.
In 2017, Forbes magazine reported that season attendance for MLB dipped below 73 million for the first time since 2002. In my opinion, the reason is partly the game’s fault but also because of the rapidly changing landscape of technology.
Keep in mind that when baseball was in its heyday, there was no other way to see the game than to actually attend it. Now with the ability to stream darn near anything, a lot of people are choosing this easy option instead of fighting traffic, hot and steamy weather and the bad luck of having a seat right next to a crying kid who wants more ice cream even though they have dropped the first two offerings.
Technology aside, the game itself just does not have enough going on to keep people’s attention. Be honest with me. Does watching players basically standing around in between pitches offer what basketball, football or even soccer visually provide? MLB has tried to even put a so-called “pitch clock” in the game to prevent pitchers from taking up to a minute or two between pitches.
Outside of the occasional home run or stolen base, the only real action comes when a pitcher hits a batter with his pitch and both benches clear. What’s funny is that the pitchers in the bullpen located over the fence in the outfield actually run all the way to the location of the scuffle. It is laugh-out-loud funny to me. They have to extend the dance between opposing teams until they get there. Then, they don’t really do a darn thing!
“WOULDN’T YOU LIKE A JOB THAT YOU COULD ONLY SHOW UP ABOUT 32 PERCENT OF THE TIME AND GET FULL COMPENSATION?”
The fight itself is also a bit of a letdown. Most of the scuffles just look like a ball of bait fish being chased into a circle by a tuna. It’s just a bunch of grown men holding each other back but not much else going on. If you actually look close enough, you can see two players that look like they’re grabbing each other, but in reality they are just exchanging their wives’ favorite lasagna recipe. (I may or may not have made that last part up.)
Another aspect that is hard to swallow is the amount of money the players are getting paid, especially the pitchers. Keep something in mind as I continue rant: Pitchers typically only pitch one in every five games. That’s about 32 games out of the scheduled 162. Seriously, wouldn’t you like a job that you could only show up about 32 percent of the time and get full compensation?
The compensation itself is ridiculous. Zach Greinke, a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, is scheduled to make $34 million in 2018 alone. He got an $18 million signing bonus and $206 million of the contract is guaranteed. I understand the phrase “what the market can bear” when it comes too negotiating these contracts, but for crying out loud!
Go to a baseball game. Or don’t. It’s your time and your money to waste (or not). Just know I won’t be joining you…except when I get a hankering for baseball park hot dogs, tire of checking my phone for scores or need something to rant about.