Compared to the NFL, NBA, and Major League Soccer, contemporary baseball is a politically conservative sport. If sports were colors, the other leagues would be urban coastal blue, while baseball would be flyover country red.
With a mature-in-years fan base, to players who stand for the anthem, and support the Second Amendment with offseason hobbies like hunting, baseball is to the right of the other national sports. But conservative or not, with flat attendance and sagging ratings, baseball has issues to resolve.
One of the fundamental values of conservativism is to conserve great American institutions, and baseball is a great American institution. In that vein, why not look at solutions that match the sport’s politically conservative personality? Perhaps this could, to borrow a phrase, make baseball great again.
Proposal I - Let Men be Men
Manhood and masculinity have been under attack in America for years, and this has taken its toll on our men and our sports. Part of what used to make men of yesteryear great was that they weren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, get dirty and physical if that is what the job required. In 2014, the MLB banned home plate collisions and then takeout slides in 2016.
Now instead of exciting plays like Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star game, which remarkably has a million YouTube views despite it taking place almost a half century ago, you have modern players tiptoeing into the bases like they’re Tiny Tim romping through the tulips. What a yawn running the bases has become. Baseball deserves to be exciting. Let men be men and allow them to run the bases like they will do whatever it takes to win.
Proposal II - Bring Back Individualism
Conservatives have always supported individual rights over a slippery slope mindset where people accept what you can and can’t do based on the greater good. Baseball’s greater good philosophy has been churning out players with vanilla personalities for years now, and it is having a negative effect with the fans, especially young fans.
Baseball used to be the king of the over-the-top personalities, from The Babe, Yogi, The Mick, Charlie Hustle, and Mr. October, just to name a few. These players’ personalities were bigger than life and could sell tickets. What most of the big personality players of the past had in common is they weren’t exactly P.C. Yesteryear’s players were bigger than life both on and off the field and made no pretense of being saints.
Now baseball has cleaned up its image in order to be nice, family-friendly entertainment. Their reward has been having their headlines stolen away by the NFL and the NBA. It turns out being politically correct is a real killjoy in the entertainment industry. Mike Trout is a super athlete, nice guy, and one of the best players ever to play the game, but could walk down Main Street and no one would notice.
This will sound sacrilegious, but it’s time for Major League Baseball to embrace larger than life personalities and also resist the impulse to suppress them, even if what the players are doing and saying is controversial. Let’s face it, a little controversy helps to move the merchandise.
Proposal III - Don’t Believe Fake News
For the last several decades, so-called baseball experts have suggested that baseball is too slow-paced and boring, and the way to solve this is to have higher scoring games. This mindset has inspired two different modern eras of hyper offense: the first era during the steroid years and the current one during the recent juice ball era. Hitting a homerun has never been easier than today.
The panacea of more offense improving attendance has been nothing more than fake news. What data ever supported this hypothesis in the first place? If the conventional wisdom had been correct, we should have had large bumps in attendance and ratings long ago. Instead, attendance is flat and ratings are down.
Worse, this fake news had hurt the game greatly. Higher scoring games are longer games which has been a problem with the fans. Since 1972 the length of an average baseball game has gone from a crisp 2 hours and 27 minutes to a watching paint dry time of 3:10.
Not only has the length of the game been negatively impacted by the experts’ push for more home runs, so has the quality of the game. Today we have a lot of swing and miss as players forgo trying to put the ball in play in order to hit a home run. Not exactly an exciting proposition as players strike out at record rates. Also, higher scoring games generate more blow outs. No use sticking around for the 9th inning when the score is 12-5.
If baseball stops believing the fake news and makes home runs harder to hit, not easier, it would shorten the length of the game, force more action as players would have to put the ball in play, and provide more exciting close games heading into the late stages of the game.
Proposal IV - Let the Market Decide
I’m a traditionalist, and still have not gotten over the designated hitter rule which was established in 1973. However, that being said, baseball has been too slow in adjusting to market realities. Conservatives are the ultimate believers in free market capitalism and should walk the walk.
From advertisements on uniforms, pitch clocks, automated umpires, baseball has been debating all sorts of changes for years, with glacier-like resolution.
Stop fretting about it. Let the market decide. Try it. If it works, do more of it. If it flops, stop doing it and move onto something else. In the end, the market will tell you when you have stumbled upon something good.
Proposal V - Facts over Feelings
Conservatives brag that their political opposition is feelings-based and, ergo, is prone to making irrational decisions, unlike themselves who are less impulsive and look to facts instead of feelings when making important choices.
In this light, the sabermetric "Moneyball" era we’ve been in for the last twenty years has caused unease among fans and baseball officials alike, which has included some to suggest we ban certain aspects of it, like defensive shifts for example.
Nonsense. Today’s strategies have been put in place based on facts proven by science and math. Coaches with gut feelings will always lose out to math and science in the long run. Instead of fighting the truth, we should embrace it.
Stop complaining about things like defensive shifts and spin rates. How about instead letting the truth set you free!?
Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change, instead of sulking, if players learn to hit to the opposite field to take advantage of a defensive shift instead of grounding out to the same shift for the umpteenth time? Don’t change the rules for those who don’t embrace reality. Instead, change actions to increase the odds of a successful outcome.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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