Friday, August 15, 2014

What I Hate About Baseball

Here's the thing I hate about baseball.

No, it's not the pace of the game. I happen to like a game that's not viciously enthralled to the need to hit commercial timeouts at precise moments. I like a game where you can't run out the clock and thus reduce a sporting event to the grinding misery of the endgame of a poorly designed German board game. Indeed, baseball games may be the only instance on the planet where customers complain about getting more of what they bought for the same money. [Insert mandatory note about how the average football game is longer and has less actual action than a baseball game. But I digress.]

No, the thing I hate about baseball is the goddamn concern troll baseball media, which takes every opportunity possible to cut down the thing they owe their livelihoods to and that they claim to love. For its own good, of course, or at least that's what they'll say, but there are so few baseball writers who write with joy about their subject matter, who actually seem to enjoy watching a baseball game, and so many who seem to be simply waiting for an opportunity to pounce. PEDs, the length of games, instant replay, umpiring, the blocking-the-plate rule, Michael Pineda's unfortunate pine tar habit, oblique strains - there's always something that brings out the tut-tutting and cheap moralizing and predictions that baseball is doomed. It's like these guys - and it's almost exclusively guys - have adopted Norman Bates' mother as their spirit animal; nothing the sport does is ever good enough for them. 
Compare that to NFL writers, who in many cases operate like nerds desperate to befriend the schoolyard bully; subservient when the big boy is around and obnoxious about how their friend is going to beat you up when the NFL isn't. (See: the Ravens/Orioles parking lot kerfuffle of 2013)

The latest thing to bring the concern trolls out was the election on Thursday of Rob Manfred as the next commissioner of the sport, as His Imperial Majesty Bud I will actually be retiring shortly. (I know. I didn't believe it either.) Manfred was current commissioner Bud Selig's hand-picked successor, and despite a last-minute attempt by a couple of deranged labor hawks led by Jerry Reinsdorf to hijack the process in order to attempt to install a commissioner who'd try to roll back the Andy Messersmith decision, he was elected with a minimum of fuss. That marks, in case you were wondering, 20 consecutive years of labor peace and stable management in the sport, which is doing something like $8B a year in revenue, has excellent attendance, is seeing local broadcast ratings do extremely well and local broadcast revenues skyrocket. In other words: Everyone's making stupid money, the game is awash in watchable talent, and there's no sign the money train is going to derail anytime soon. 

So naturally, this cues up the "well, baseball is doing great now, but it's in trouble down the road" types, and the "what will the new commissioner do about Pete Rose" types, and the rest of the nattering nabobs of negativity who simply cannot shut the hell up and enjoy a good thing when it's happening.

Look. Will baseball face challenges going forward? Undoubtedly. Every business does, and ones that survive over a century and achieve multiple billions in revenue - like, say, baseball - tend to find a way to overcome them. But the relentless insistence on finding only the negative, even if they have to bring in heavy construction equipment to dig it up, doesn't do anybody any good. It turns off borderline fans, it turns writers into miserable cranks, and it irritates the living crap out of fans like me, who occasionally want to read something that doesn't come across like it was written by medieval monks who were flagellating themselves with fungo bats after each line. I'm not saying that the baseball media should turn into an NFL-style courtier press, but the laser-like focus on the negative is wearying, and ultimately self-defeating.

So for the love of God, knock it the hell off. Go watch a game without pen in hand. Have a beer. Have a hot dog. Have two hot dogs, if you feel like it. But try to remember that there are still a few of us out here whom you haven't beaten the joy out of yet, and maybe for nine innings, you could join us.
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