Major League Baseball and the Problem of Personality
Baseball Is Boring
What’s wrong with the game of baseball? People complain that games take too long, the season is too long, and the pace of play is too slow. We can go on and on about the little intricacies that bug the average fan, but what it comes down to is an imaginary time issue that will never go away. In the first part of the 20th century, when baseball was truly the national pastime, the average game clocked in at around two hours. These days, the average ballgame takes about three hours of your time. So, why the big jump? Major League Baseball games are still nine innings, right?
The difference is advertising between innings. It pays the bills. That’s it. So, if you don’t want a three hour baseball game, then head down to your local park and catch some little league. Hit up the snack shack and enjoy watching half crazed parents yell at twelve-year-olds. You should be back at home sitting on the couch in an hour and a half with plenty of time to take out the trash and have dinner with the family. But, if you want to watch a better played game, then deal you must, because the three hour game is here to stay. Clubs need the money from advertising, and those advertising need your hard-earned dollar. It’s the circle of life: give and take.
Do You Like Baseball
So, do you like the game of baseball or not? Baseball is not football. It’s not basketball. It’s not extreme ironing (yes, this is a real thing). Baseball is baseball, so we should stop trying to make it violent like football or in constant motion like basketball. When one is playing Clue and they decide they’d rather play Monopoly they don’t start passing out money and telling Professor Plum that they want to buy Park Place. They put Clue back in the closet and set Monopoly up on the dining room table. If one wants to watch football they should. Basketball? Yes, please do. Baseball? Thought you’d never ask. Watch away.
What Major League Baseball Needs
While baseball is baseball, let’s be honest: no sport is perfect (although baseball does come close) hence all the constant rule tweaking. This consistent fine-tuning is an attempt to make the game as entertaining as possible while also making play as fair as possible. The small, almost unnoticeable changes are necessary because they keep the integrity of the game intact while, hopefully, improving it. This is all that baseball needs. It doesn’t need any drastic changes, save for one: LET THE PLAYERS BE THEMSELVES.
The Problem of Personality
Why is the 21st century baseball player forced to act like their 20th century counterpart? While football and basketball have changed with the times and done a great job of building up the human side of their players, baseball has continued to hide the personalities of its brightest stars behind unwritten rules and tired traditions. If baseball is to save itself from obscurity it needs to take off the shackles of the past and allow a new generation to make the game fun and exciting. Enter San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis checks all of the boxes. He hits for contact and power and his glove is a graveyard for ground balls. He can throw a runner out from deep in the hole and can steal a bag when everybody knows he’s going to. Tatis has the personality, the look, and the dynamic style of play to make a lasting impact on the game. And he is already breaking some of the unwritten rules that have held baseball back from evolving with the times.
A perfect example of this “rule breaking” came during the 2020 season. The Padres were up 10-3 over the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning. Tatis was at the plate with the bases loaded and he hit a 3-0 pitch over the fence for his 11th home run of the season.
Great job, right?
Why not, you ask.
Because a player, in this case Tatis, isn’t supposed to swing on a 3-0 count late in the game when their team is leading by a significant amount. For hitting a grand slam at the wrong time, Tatis was denounced by his own manager and the Rangers manager. Although, while the guards of the arcane rules complained, Fernando was showered with support from his peers for making the game more exciting and pushing desperately needed growth in the national pastime.
Tatis Is Not the Only One
The overwhelming support for Tatis signals a sea change on the horizon, which can only be good for the future of baseball. And while Tatis might be the face of that change, there needs to be more players willing to show who they are and bring their own flair to the game. Luckily there is a young crop of superstars flipping bats, stealing bases whenever they want, and bringing infectious joy to the diamond. This young crop includes the offensively dominant Juan Soto, the five-tooled Ronald Acuna Jr., the gingergaard Dustin May, and second-generation big leaguer Bo Bichette. These are just a select few of the young talent changing the face of baseball.
Instead of trying to fit these exciting players into the traditional baseball box, why not embrace what they bring to the game? It is time to trash the old unwritten rules and get to know the next generation of ballplayers. Instead of saying “That’s not how it was in my day,” why not just embrace the winds of change and build windmills instead of walls.
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