What's the point of baseball?

Yawn
Well, I’ve just finished compiling and processing all the data from my in depth 3-year study of the professional game in Japan, and I can now exclusively reveal that there isn’t one. That’s right baseball has no point; it is in fact absolutely pointless.

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.

I’m not saying it’s boring, that would be crass, it’s just really long. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the number 9; 9 players, 9 innings, 3 batters 3 strikes each… yeah the number 9 has got a nice feel about it, but play quicker, for fuck's sake. Yes, I understand that baseball is a game of strategy, with an almost chess-like variation of permutations and possibilities; a war of wits and mettle between the coaches with the added intrigue of all the little internal battles of strategy, skill and nerve taking place between the pitchers and the batters. I get that, I like that, but seriously does it have to be so slow. Yes it’s a game of strategy, but so is every other sport, and every other sport is quicker. Play quicker, and if increasing the speed of the sport puts your strategy under pressure, then think quicker too.

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…
 

Rounders

Secondly, it’s not a real sport… it’s more of a glorified children’s game really. This would seem to be born out by the indisputable fact that the game is way more fun to play than it is to watch. Further to this, it is way more fun to play as a child than it is to play as an adult. And in addition it’s way more fun to play in it’s pure form (the children’s game, rounders), than it will ever be in it’s bastardized current form.

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

Thirdly, yes, the glove… come on, for Christ’s sake, learn to catch. You might as well hold up a great big bucket and let the baseball plop into that; where’s the skill in that? Catch it! With your hands! A baseball is similar in size, weight and hardness to a cricket ball, do cricketers wear massive gloves? The wicketkeeper (catcher) does – it makes sense, like the catcher he is catching all day – but the regular infielders and outfielders do not. Instead they learn to catch the ball with their hands, absorbing the shock of its speed by cushioning it as much as they can with their body. They usually try to catch the ball with two hands, it’s easier and safer, but all are also very skilled at catching the ball with one hand while diving spectacularly if they need to. This is exactly the same as in rounders. Good fielders are incredible athletes; vision, skill and speed are their bywords, and athleticism is a prerequisite.

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.


You Doughnut

There is a general lack of fitness on display in any baseball team, this coupled with a general lack of movement during the game for most players, means that some players can still get into a top-level team despite being, incredibly old and/or grossly overweight. This simply doesn’t happen in real sports, but in baseball it happens all the time.

“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.

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