Marlins pitchers and catchers 2/12/2020

Source: Miami Herald / Getty

“It’s just a game that sometimes is unwatchable.”

All due to respect to Yankee legend & Marlins Manager Don Mattingly who uttered those words last week on the state of baseball but kindly shut the hell up.

Nolan Ryan and Reggie Jackson are among other Major League Baseball greats who have espoused similar issues with active players in agreement.

And they are 100% RIGHT.

Batting averages & balls in play numbers have fallen in recent years while strike outs and the three true outcomes (home runs, strike outs and walks) reign supreme.

The defensive shift is a real problem for watchability too.

46,000 balls were put in play against defensive shifts during the 2019 season, nearly 20 times more than at the start of the decade.

MLB rules & practices have stymied offense while the NFL & NBA have relaxed rules leading to faster pace, more watchable orgies of offense.

“Hitters should just be better!!!” is spouted off by every defensive moron who hasn’t faced down a 101 mile-per-hour fast ball before.

The best hitters fail 68% of the time and THEY struggle with the mass of defensive shifts but it’s as simple as “try harder”?? Bet they haven’t thought of that one, Michael from the Bronx.

The pace of play is embarrassing and unaddressed especially when compared to advances in other sports.

Older timers like Mattingly shout “SABERMETRICS” into the ether at every opportunity. Baseball would be great again if it weren’t for the rash of Ivy League educated yuppies in front offices across baseball, according to the old men.

While the rush of these education thoroughbreds into baseball has fueled the surge of sabermetrics, so has the age of data where new streams of information have surged into focus that didn’t exist 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

This isn’t a yuppie problem, it’s a business problem and the issues don’t stop there for baseball.

MLB has archaic TV blackout & restriction rules which makes watching one’s favorite team almost impossible. Small market teams are ignored nationally in favor of see another Yankees-Red Sox or Giants-Dodgers game.

It has no earthy idea how to market its players or premier events either. No one knows who these guys are.

Economics in baseball are untenable. Small market franchises face a skewed competitive landscape while big market owners can hand out 13 year contracts, hoard the few big names, and enjoy extended contention windows.

Cultural issues rage across baseball. Old guard versus Ivy Leaguers, unwritten rules gatekeepers versus bat flippers and players versus owners.

Don Mattingly is clearly right about the state of baseball but he needs to shut up (as does everyone else) because baseball needs action and leadership, not more empty bitching.

Don actually works in baseball. He’s employed by a franchise, he has status as a living legend but he throws his hands up instead of getting them dirty.

It’s not all on Don.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred prefers litigating how many cans of Coca-Cola teams should provide the clubhouse than attack any of the problems facing his league.

Owners need a swift kick in the ass too. They are too busy hoarding money from players and shining their monocles to do anything.

Issues that began as tiny pebbles have turned into giant boulders weighing down baseball due to the indolence and greed of owners.

Players don’t trust Manfred or the owners enough to put down their weapons and shields to work hand-in-hand on issues.

The only dialogue is terse and collectively bargained, done in public for added collateral damage.

Speaking of useless, baseball media as a whole has done nothing to help the situation. Most media members are content to rehash the same unimaginative drivel rather than ask tough questions. They are 80’s movie Dads, coasting along in their own world blissfully unaware or uncaring about the issues of their kids.

NFL, NBA & NHL organizations have digital teams creating insanely engaging, entertaining content with new ways to access players, coaches, and legends, while baseball teams digital strategies consistent of retweeting home runs or strike outs with no additional access to any of the principle parties or personalities.

The game is insanely inaccessible in every imaginable way.

The best (and only) leadership I’ve seen in baseball was the media members who chased the Mickey Callaway sexual harassment story while risking losing sources/access to expose a monster who was protected by multiple Major League teams and the league itself.

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer deserves credit for pushing back on the league too. He’s embraced the fun side of baseball while challenging leadership’s lethargic, hypocritical ways. Trevor is problematic in some regards but his use of his platforms to put pressure on baseball is refreshing.

The topic “what’s wrong with baseball” though, misses the mark.

Baseball knows what’s wrong with baseball. The real questions are: whose job is it to fix the game and who will actually step up to do it?

It would be nice to have a commissioner focused on health & integrity of the game.

Rob Manfred is a shrewd, brilliant negotiator whose litigation-first approach has harmed (potentially irreparably) baseball.

Young Roger Goodell took the same approach and it almost cost him his job. Goodell has softened & embraced a relatable role as face of the NFL. I doubt that’s in Manfred’s wheelhouse.

Whomever the new face of baseball is, he needs to convince owners a major reworking of the financial and digital enterprises in Major League Baseball is needed.

While we’re at it, organizations need to make the game more accessible on EVERY level. Build content teams and give them leeway & access to engage baseball fans all 12 months of the year.

Players need to embrace change too. Want more marketing money? Cool, make yourself known, embrace the digital revolution and show some personality for chrissake.

Baseball’s issues are bigger than one thing or one man but at the heart of everything is a complete lack of leadership and respect for the game.

So shut up Don Mattingly. You too Nolan Ryan and Rob Manfred and the Steinbrenners and Derek Jeter and everyone else who talks but doesn’t put those words into action.

Someone, anyone, please step up and be the leader baseball needs. Baseball can and should be so much better.

 

 

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