The Wide Angle: Baseball tripping over itself

Published 6:30 am Saturday, June 19, 2021

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I’ve played and watched baseball for most of my life, even serving a stint as t-ball coach in my teen years, which I can proudly boast that no kid lost a tooth under my watch. Not that I know of anyway.

Baseball is a fascinating sport, filled with scenarios and outcomes that require a professor’s eye, an athlete’s body and a child’s joy.

However, the state of baseball these days has me depressed at the notion of sitting down for a three-hour marathon of watching a game that is becoming less and less of the sport I used to love.

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Let’s start with the length. The time requirement to watch a normal, nine-inning game is often two and a half to three hours.

I just don’t have the time and the Minnesota Twins are doing absolutely nothing to motivate me to change my mind. Expectations of many Minnesota sports teams often need to be tempered somewhat, but I actually thought the Twins would be in the hunt this year.

They had many of the same tools in the toolbox, and after the past two seasons, hopes were rightfully high. Now Twins fans are scared to get past the starting pitcher for fear of another lead being forfeited in the later innings.

But that’s hardly the only thing keeping me from devoting an entire night to a game. Pitchers take forever to throw the ball and hitters take forever to get in the batter’s box, lending to a snail’s pace. That doesn’t even take into account the numerous pitching changes that seem to be the trend now that even after a solid 20 minutes of throwing in the bullpen, pitchers have to take another 10 minutes to throw on the mound before facing a batter.

That’s a minor complaint though, probably made more prominent by the other time spent waiting for the game to proceed.

If you are a fan of baseball and continue to watch the game regularly, then you know that the chances of seeing a Jack Morris-type outing will probably never happen again. It seems like starting pitchers get maybe an average of five innings before they are suddenly taken from the game because of pitch counts.

It’s been a frequent complaint of Rocco Baldelli early in the season that pitchers who have been doing well, are suddenly taken out. How many leads have Twins fans seen diminished?

Baseball is becoming too much of a numbers game and that’s becoming the other issue. Only the diehard fans will care how fast the ball leaves the bat on home runs. When the fans who love the game talk about baseball, they are talking about Morris’ playoff performance in the ‘91 World Series that drove the Twins to their second title.

They talk about game-winning home runs and no-hitters.

Ideas, like robotic umpires and putting runners on second base in extra innings are stripping the game of what makes baseball so loved.

We have extreme shifts in the infield, but the bigger problem for me is that somehow a batter who can only hit one direction is a starter on a MLB team.

If you’re a batter at this level and can’t directionally hit and are so predictable that an entire defense goes to one side of the field, are they really a professional?

And why not bunt? Who is going to field a perfect bunt down the third baseline when the third baseman is playing where the shortstop is? A right-handed pitcher falling off the mound to his left?

And can anybody even bunt anymore? You certainly don’t see a lot of it.

These are questions that point a neon arrow to a game forgetting to be baseball. Don’t even get me started on the cost just to witness this boredom.

Major League Baseball has placed far too much importance on players hitting home runs as a way of getting people in seats and they forgot about the chess game.

Baseball is a beautiful and eloquent sport that is highlighted by moments like Kirk Gibson’s game-winning homerun in the first game of the 1988 World Series when he could barely run the basepaths because of injury, or Kirby Puckett’s game-winning shot in the sixth game of the ‘91 series that set the table for Morris’ heroics.

Fans will not generally talk about pitch counts or bat velocity in those moments. They talk about the game. A simple game played by kids where a song like “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” can actually be experienced.

It’s time to return to baseball.