I often wonder why people spend so much time and emotional energy hating something. It would appear a much more productive and enjoyable use of someone’s time and effort to be positive about something you love instead. Baseball, and certainly Major League Baseball, has its haters.
I have had the same conversations with The Haters many times over the years. Rarely do I get any new insight into their cynical view of the game. The clichés abound:
- “It’s too slow.”
- “It’s not a contact sport.”
- “The Yankees always win.”
- “They need instant replay.”
- “Kids aren’t into baseball anymore, they like football and basketball.”
- “MLB needs a salary cap.”
On and on they go. While I sometimes debate the subject with them, I usually just shrug it off and say “If you’re not a fan, you’re not a fan.” But I’d like to take this opportunity, since it is my blog and all, to make my views known on the subject. MLB doesn’t need me to defend it, but I’ll take on The Haters’ issues one at a time.
I once tried to teach my son about football, figuring there’s a time in every boys life when they need to learn the rules of the game. We sat on the couch together and turned on the 1:00 game. The kickoff was launched into the arms of a Dolphins player and as I explained what was happening flags were thrown. There was a penalty on the play, 5 yards were assessed and we went to commercial. Once the game started again, I explained that in the huddle, the players talked about the play they were about to run. There’s a play clock that they have to abide by, or they’ll be penalized. The Dolphins used almost every second of the play clock and then ran a running play for 1 yard. They went back to the huddle and we watched 14 replays of the running play. The next play was an incomplete pass, then another one, then a punt with a fair catch, and back to commercials. My son was really getting bored at this point. We’d committed half an hour to this game and nothing at all had happened. Football is a slow game.
I once had someone tell me they didn’t know how baseball players got hurt since it wasn’t a contact sport. Besides the fact that this person is an obvious buffoon, it struck me that many people don’t realize how physically challenging baseball is. Every aspect of throwing a baseball puts incredible stress and strain on the upper back, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. Swinging a bat puts a huge amount of torque on the entire upper body and a check swing is an injury waiting to happen. Sprinting from a dead stop, especially if you’ve been on the bench or standing in left field, is a sure way to tear a hamstring. Anyone who doesn’t understand how baseball players get hurt has probably never done anything particularly athletic or physical.
The Yankees are the most storied team in sports. With 27 World Championships, they will probably be the most successful sports franchise in history forever. But they weren’t always great. Just looking at the very recent past, the Yankees won the World Series in 2000 and did not win again for a decade. Yes they’re always in contention, but they don’t always win.
Yogi Berra still insists he tagged out Jackie Robinson at home plate in the 1955 World Series. The umpire called Jackie safe, the play has been reviewed countless times and is still a subject of fascination. Instant replay would destroy what is one of the most beautiful aspects of the game; the human element. MLB instituted Instant Replay only for Home Runs in 2009. It wasn’t used much, but when it was, it was helpful. I’ve got no beef with using replay in that fashion, but I would refrain from expanding it. Hell, arguing balls and strikes from the stands is one of the simple pleasures of life.
Kids play sports. Lots of sports. Baseball thrives not only throughout the US, but throughout the world. The Haters can have their misguided belief that the game is dying because kids are moving away from it. The facts don’t bear that out.
Baseball is one of the only things in my life I’ve never been cynical about. I’m only human and the business side of the game can cause true pain and anguish for real fans, but I try like hell not to let that detract me from the intrinsic beauty of the game. The players strike of 1994, along with the subsequent cancellation of the rest of the season was a painful thing. It hurt MLB very badly. While I was hurt like every other fan, I look at it this way: Labor disputes are as American as Apple Pie, Hot Dogs, Chevrolet and yes, Baseball. So while player contracts are mind boggling in their financial size, small market teams struggle to keep pace, and the specter of labor trouble all exist, they pale in comparison to the beauty of the 4-6-3 Double Play, the majesty of a 95 MPH fastball, the jaw dropping acrobatics of an outfielder climbing the wall to steal a home run, and the exhilaration of a walk off win.
The Haters can keep their hate. Baseball is immune to it.