What's the point of baseball?
Before you suggest that perhaps my study wasn’t as ‘in depth’ as I’m making out, and just in case you think my conclusion wasn’t arrived at in any way that could be described as scientific, I should just point out that is entirely besides the point. My statement stands and, as you can see below, the evidence bearing it out is simply overwhelming:
First of all, each game is too long… waaaaay too long. Even an interesting sport like rugby or soccer would struggle to engage the spectator if you strung it out for 4 hours plus. 4 hours! And virtually nothing happens! Well, that’s not strictly true, of course something happens, but nothing happens that couldn’t happen more excitingly in about half the time.
If you insist that you can’t play quicker (although having watched a lot of much faster, far more exciting high school baseball, I won’t believe you), then I would say, change the rules. Oh I don’t know; use your imagination: 2 strikes instead of 3, a ‘walk after 3 balls instead of 4, don’t have pinch hitters and relief pitchers, get rid of the mound so there are more hits, all of these…
What’s the difference? Well, rounders is simpler game that requires all players to play with speed and skill. The focus is not on the pitcher (clearly the main downfall of baseball); the focus is on hitting, running and fielding, that is, on action. It’s a very exciting game to both play and to watch.
The bowler must bowl to the batter’s striking area (similar to the strike zone in baseball, but simply within reach of batter between their knees and the top of their head), and the batter must hit it and run. The batter only gets one chance; if the ball is good, they must try to play it and they must run, whether their swing makes contact or not. They can hit a bad ball if they want to, although they are not obliged to, but if they swing on a bad ball, they must run.
Running between the bases and fielding are very similar to baseball, with the key difference that the players do not wear ridiculous oversized gloves. Instead, they must simply display skill, vision, and technique in catching the ball cleanly and returning it with speed and accuracy.
|I glove you|
Which brings me to my final point; baseball is not a real sport, in much the same way that darts or pool or rifle shooting are not real sports, as it isn’t played by real sports people. It’s a game, a pastime, an activity, a hobby maybe, but it’s definitely not a sport. Of course I’m exaggerating somewhat; some baseball players, especially pitchers and some base-running specialists are incredibly fit, with a high level of both strength and stamina, but equally some other players are clearly not fit: fat yes, fit no. It’s true that in the course of an average game there may well be the odd display of outstanding physical prowess – a stolen base, a spectacular catch at the top of the wall, a phenomenal fast ball, a suicide squeeze at home plate – but these are just blown away by the numerous demonstrations of lack of athleticism that mark each and every game.
“I mean look at that guy over there, the big one.”
“What, the one scratching his balls?”
“No, not him. I mean the really big guy, the one with the stubble and the thinning hair and the massive gut.”
“Oh, he’s the cleanup hitter. He can hit the ball 460 feet easily. Don’t you want to see him hit a home run?”
“Maybe, but what I’d really like to see the fat fucker do, is steal a base.”
What the world of baseball should do, in my opinion, is take a long hard look at itself, recognize its shortcomings, focus on its strengths, and reform: purify itself. It has the potential to be a much better sport than it is. It has one huge advantage over time-bound sports, in that the final outcome of the game is not known until after the very last play. Many other sports would kill for that aspect.
So take that, build around it with the purities of the game (the diamond, the pitch, the hit, the base running and the catch, the throw…), cut loose the baggage (the mound, the over-long, over-complicated pitching sets, the ridiculous gloves, the lard-asses who need a pinch-runner (ffs!), and you might just have yourselves a half-decent sport. Actually, if you did all that, what you might just have, is a game of rounders.