When I was a tow-headed kid growing up in Upstate New York, March was an exciting month because I knew that in just another few weeks the bell would ring to begin the major league baseball season.
Although the snow was still waist deep on most of the baseball fields around town, I knew it would soon be gone and we could start playing pitch-and-catch and fielding grounders and fly balls.
Once the season began, I knew the starting lineups of at least five major league teams that I followed—the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
I followed the Phillies because our city’s minor league team was an affiliate of the major league team. Several players that we watched eventually showed up on the Phillies’ big league roster.
I spent many a spring and summer night listening to a baseball game on my portable radio sitting on the front or back porch.
I would spend hours reading the newspaper and scrutinizing the games played the day before and checking the major league leaders in the various statistical categories.
Today’s youngsters, who have their noses buried in their smart phones, barely know anything about major league baseball or could care less.
And the diminished popularity is being noticed by the front office of Major League Baseball. The old-timers now running the show realize the interest in their billion dollar product is not nearly what it used to be.
An article on this subject that appeared in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle asked, “So what should be done to aid America’s (former) national pastime and prevent the game’s slow decay into old age?
“And while the NFL is obviously king and the NBA is gleaming in a golden era, Major League Baseball is raking in the multibillions and coming off one of the greatest World Series in history. Baseball doesn’t need fixing. But it clearly can use a little tweaking.”
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred added, “I’ve tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, but I believe it’s a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change.”
The two reasons I don’t care to watch major league baseball anymore is that the game moves much too slowly and the inability of Time Warner (or Spectrum or whatever their name is this week) and Root to strike a deal so people in Southeast Texas and Southwestern Louisiana can watch the Houston Astros during the regular season.
There are some suggestions floating around about how to remedy the slow play like installing a 20-second pitch clock; starting an extra inning game with a runner on second base; limiting the amount of times a batter can step out of the box; awarding an intentional walk without throwing a pitch; restricting the amount of pitching changes in an inning.
Some of these ideas are going to be tried during the minor league spring training like putting a runner on second in an extra-inning game.
But most of these suggestions are being viewed by the media and people in baseball as ludicrous. Another said the use of a 20-second pitch clock is childish—it isn’t Little League.
Back in the good old days (1940-70) many games barely lasted two hours. The starting pitcher usually got a complete game. If he didn’t finish it was because a relief specialist like Elroy Face or Hoyt Wilhelm came in for the save.
Today a complete game for a starting pitcher is rare. In fact, a complete game generally means the starter pitched five or perhaps six “quality” innings before yielding to the bull pen.
Major League Baseball needs to come up with an idea that really will speed up play, without altering the game they way we now know it.
Then maybe, just maybe, they’ll get me back as a fan who watches baseball on television.
KWICKIES…One of my favorite young pro golfers, Rickie Fowler, gave away a big lead and then regained it and went on to win the Honda Classic Sunday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. by four shots. Fowler finished at 12-under par 268 and broke a victory drought than spanned 25 starts and 13 months.
The Lamar Cardinals baseball team split a four-game series with Fairfield last weekend, losing the opener 6-2 on Friday, sweeping a doubleheader Saturday 19-9 and 5-1 before losing Sunday 6-2. Lamar goes into this week’s action with a 6-2 record.
I wonder if Gonzaga’s 79-71 loss to Brigham Young Saturday night will affect their seeding for the upcoming NCAA College Basketball Tournament? The pollsters have been dying to knock the once-beaten Zags off their pedestal, and now they have their chance.
JUST BETWEEN US…Saturday night the Baylor women’s basketball team defeated Texas Tech 86-48, which was the 500th coaching victory at the university for Kim Mulkey and the Bears’ seventh consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
As the fans celebrated her achievement, Coach Mulkey spoke to the crowd. She said, “If you ever hear someone around you say they wouldn’t send their daughter to Baylor, you knock them right in the face.”
“Even if her words were not intended to be taken literally, they were incredibly insensitive, considering the number of victims who have come forward to bravely share their horrific experiences of being assaulted by Baylor football players,” Monday’s Houston Chronicle stated.
“A Title IX lawsuit filed last month alleged that there were as many as 53 rapes in a four-year span during the time former coach Art Briles was in charge of the football program,” the article continued.
“Mulkey, 54, finished her passionate speech by calling Baylor ‘the best damn school in America’,” the article concluded.
The sports talk shows buzzed with critical comments Mulkey made Saturday night. At this writing, the heat had not subsided.