Quiet Desperation

Looks like America isn’t good enough for America’s pastime

Posted

Play ball.

The 2019 Major League Baseball season is about to get underway.

Did I just hear yawns?

Attendance was down at 17 MLB stadiums last year from the year before.

There are a number of theories about why baseball is no longer America’s game.

Here’s one: Americans think baseball is boring.

It’s not action-packed, like professional basketball.

One local sports writer thinks the game should be shortened to seven innings.

Why not to five? Why not to one?

Americans don’t deserve baseball.

It’s too subtle. Americans prefer constant overstatement and hoopla.

(What would the Super Bowl have been without Maroon 5? Answer at the bottom.)

Professional baseball is a brilliant, deliberate, nine-course meal. Professional basketball is a greasy drive-thru.

Americans are impatient, and they want to know what is going on where they are not.

Security scans everyone at the gate for knives and guns. Security should scan for phones too. Phoning and texting in a stadium, in an art gallery, in a concert, and in line in a grocery store is disrespectful.

But, it’s entirely American.

Yes, sometimes things drag. There are pitchers who ponder and wander and debate and spit between every pitch.

There are batters who pray and pace and redo their batting gloves between every pitch.

There are too many trips to the mound (although fewer than there used to be).

Managers swap pitchers endlessly. No one pitches a complete game anymore.

My favorite baseball player, left-handed pitcher Warren Spahn, started 665 games and completed 382.

Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw has started 318 games and finished 25.

The local sports writer compared the length of the average baseball game to the length of his favorite movie, “The Godfather.”

The average Major League Baseball game in 2018 took 3:04.

“The Godfather” took 2:55.

Major League Baseball teams play a total of 2,430 games. All of them can’t be masterpieces.

And all films can be masterpieces either. There were 871 feature films released in 2018. I would rather watch a baseball game between two last-place teams, than 95 percent of the films that get made every year.

As much as I appreciate baseball and its history and all of the statistics, it’s shooting itself in the foot with absurd salaries.

“Mr. Personality,” Manny Machado, just signed a 10-year contract for $300 million. The Padres also threw in an island.

Machado will get paid whether he bats .320 or .220. Even if he is on the “injured list.”

(Baseball will no longer refer to it as the “disabled list.”)

Idiotic salaries mean owners have to do something about attendance, so they have idiotic promotions and stunts.

They give away bobble-heads, T-shirts, budgies, plug-in air fresheners, and kittens. In Milwaukee, there are racing sausages. (The wiener is always the winner.)

If you’re a purist, every promotion and stunt diminishes the game.

Maybe you’ve heard that some stadiums now have peanut-free sections. Some stadiums no longer sell Cracker Jack.

Things change. Baseball, however, hasn’t changed as much, or fast enough, as many would like it to. A lot of casual fans don’t pay any attention until October.

Stunts, by the way, are nothing new. St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck once had a player standing 3-foot-7 bat. Eddie Gaedel walked on four pitches.

(Answer: Much, much, much, much, much better.)

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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