Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MLB in decline

Detroit Tigers selling free tickets to 13 and under. 

I am sour on baseball. It’s not the game itself that has me bothered but rather the way it is being played on the Major League (MLB) level. It is now World Series time and I am not even that excited. It’s not because my team is not in it but rather my heart is not in it. This MLB lifer is not in the game.
There are a number of contributing factors to this but I will isolate this down to three manifestations of one big problem. The problem is pride. Maybe I should say “greed” instead so that people don’t think in sports terms that have baptized “pride” as virtue. I am bugged by the greed.
1) The Steroids: I was glued to the TV when McGuire and Sosa were battling for the Home Run titles at the end of the 90′s. Then we found out that steroid usage was rampant in the game. It wasn’t just a few guys, no, there was a widespread epidemic afoot. It seemed like many guys were cheating. Suddenly the reality gap between video games and real games got smaller. It wasn’t just because graphics got better; no, MLB became more fake. This became a significant rock in my baseball watching shoe.
2) The Free-Agency: As a Red Sox fan I have personally benefitted from a team that opens up its purses to pay people a lot of money to play for them (and by consequence not for other teams). However, somewhere in the midst of the massive open-market that is Major League Baseball we have begun to root not for people but for the uniforms. My rooting interest in a team becomes strangely disassociated from the players wearing the uniforms. Rich teams pilfer poor teams and superstars leave cities to go and play for other markets. Nobody gets too attached to anybody or any team. It looks and feels a lot different than the game I loved to watch at Fenway Park growing up.
3) The Lack of Hustle: This really is my big issue. I watch these guys play and it is obvious that many of them are not giving 100%. If you flip on a game in May you will see people that look like they have the intensity of a company softball game. Guys not running out ground balls, making careless plays, and failing to think strategically. As a case in point if you turn on the World Series you will see a different game than you see in June. There is so much more intensity. Last night we saw Cardinal pitcher Chris Carpenter give up his body and dive into first base to get the out. Sadly, this type of hustle and sacrifice is not the norm throughout the year. The post-season guys are playing the game like it matters.
Well, there is something else that matters for me, time and money. I don’t have a lot of either. If I am going to plunk down the time and money to go to a game or sit and watch it then I expect the players to hustle. When I don’t I look elsewhere. And if you haven’t noticed, football players hustle. If they don’t they will lose their jobs. It is no accident that the NFL is expanding it’s dominance over the MLB.
I think all of us have grown to expect and even tolerate greed in this world (the analysis of this is worth the brain power). However, when it comes to MLB it has become clear that I can’t take it. It’s over the top. That’s why I’m calling the bullpen for something better to do with my time.

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