Friday, May 13, 2022

From DickAllen: The Dying of THE Baseball

From our commenter DickAllen...

I’m going mad. I live in an alternate universe where nothing makes sense; where Subaru makes a “partial zero emissions vehicle” and coke makes a “diet soda,” and the Yankees are in first place with a lineup that has six position players batting at or under .250.

But that is not why I feel like a brother from another planet today. My real problem is baseball. Not baseball itself, but THE baseball and the new math surrounding that lily-white orb. Since MLB made the grave error of buying the company that makes THE baseball, all hell has broken loose. What makes matter even worse is that the game has been overtaken by men in suits who have never played the game dictating the terms of the game itself. Add to that great evolving mystery the fact that the players themselves (never to be confused with thinking, rational human beings) have fallen into the hole of the blindly faithful.

A few years ago something happened to THE baseball. It got tight, just like I did with regularity on weekends (and then some) and suddenly THE baseballs were flying out of the most spacious ballparks in the country and even in foreign countries as well, all accompanied by hysterical pundits shouting hosannas like Baptist preachers on Easter Sunday morning. Then came the suits with their slide rules and equations preaching the gospel of launch angle and exit velocity. As we faithful looked on in horror, the strikeouts piled up as muscular batters marched back to the dugout staring blankly at the now routinely accepted heresy of the three true outcomes. We were assured of the everlasting value of home runs made possible by these tightly wound orbs (and their recessed stitching that made it all but impossible to grip properly). Strikeouts by the score became mere collateral damage.

Then another strange occurrence occurred. THE baseball suddenly  and mysteriously came undone and those towering highlight reels that led to enormous pay raises suddenly relegated many of those same muscled men to what they had always been described as having: “warning track power.”

To make matter worse and much to the dismay of those men swatting long leisurely flyballs (except in the minor league luxury mall know as Yankee Stadium) they began lamenting their lost fortunes. Having once worshipped at the altar of batting average and on-base percentage, they stared into the same void they had once reserved for the walk of shame back to the dugout but now they were wailing about launch angles, exit velocity, and what should have been. The only thing missing in the three true outcomes slide rule was distance. THE baseball suddenly decided not to cooperate. It was falling short of expectations.  Players who once circled the bases with the utmost humility praising Jesus or Allah, or whomever they worshipped as they crossed the plate, were now publicly complaining that: “…with that launch angle and exit velocity, it should have been a home run.” They said all this with a straight face, a sad, straight face. They wondered aloud what had happened. It came to pass that THE baseball was now mysteriously losing steam as it approached outfield walls and began settling nonchalantly into gloves that had once waved goodbye as they passed out of their reach.

Which brings me to my confusion: the powers that own major league baseball created a three-headed monster by winding up THE baseball, then preaching the gospel of the home run, convinced the players of the need to swing up at the ball (which you cannot do with any degree of success if the fastball is coming at your eyeballs) thereby creating exciting moments punctuated by the long tedium of games that had been drained of all the pleasures of such arcane and sentimental episodes like the hit and run (which is actually run and hit), bunting, stealing bases, advancing runners and sacrifice flies (none of which pay very well). The owners and MBAs preached with the deliberate patience of a Sunday School Teacher the home-run propaganda to the point where they simultaneously alienated old school fans and hypnotized players into believing in the sanctity and glory of those home run above all else.

Then they deadened the baseball to the confusion of all. Incredulous players privately railed about the potential loss of coin and fans stood agape at the prospect of their favorite players having to resort to ACTUALLY PLAYING BASEBALL. It was as if we were finally waking up from a long nightmare.

Today we stand at the confluence of a series of seemingly unrelated events: pitchers who needed sticky substances to grip THE baseball that had become impossible to throw with any accuracy, then having that outlawed. The endless praise about the importance of launch angles and exit velocity. Players buying into that fallacy and the desire for more offense being sacrificed by the suddenly demure baseball itself, and you have to wonder if anyone is capable of telling the truth about the game and where they’re taking it because at this point it certainly appears that no one is minding the store and the inmates have taken over the asylum. I am reminded of a teenaged Harry Potter standing in Professor Dumbledore’s office, bewildered, frightened, and wailing: “What is happening to me?!?”

What is happening indeed. The rudder is off the ship.

And at the last, don’t let anyone tell you that a team boasting six position players batting at or below .250 is a championship-caliber team. It’s a long season and many a collective have had glorious springs undone by the sobering length of the season. So sit back and have a “diet” coke while you drive down the highway in a “partial zero emissions vehicle.” It is all a lie, all a delusion, and no one has any idea what they’re doing.


Doug K. said...

"It is all a lie, all a delusion, and no one has any idea what they’re doing."

There's your banner right there. Sadly these days it could be the banner for pretty much everything.

Really good post. Particularly reminding us that this crap began when the league got control over THE ball. As we all know from downloading constant updates, not all iterations are improvements, and changing and tinkering with THE ball is just flat out stupid.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Very true, DickAllen, and well-written!

Alphonso said...

The Yankees struck out 11 times in the first 4 innings last night.

That is: in a sequence of 12 possible outs ( 4 innings ) we struck out 11 times.

Hard to imagine.

Carl J. Weitz said...

I'm sending Dick A. one of my new inventions. It's bound to make me as wealthy as my other, older inventions. It's a red cap (baseball, of course) with the letters MBGA. Make Baseball Great Again. Wear it with pride!

Kevin said...

Dick Allen well reasoned and well-written.

May I add that you brought out something that has been tugging at me for awhile. How many times do you hear the phrase, "he's a bad ball hitter"? For me, at least it's been forever. I have a hunch that hitters have been trained to have such a " grooved" swing because of the "Golden Launch Angle" that they've become less athletic in their swings. The same thing can be seen when weight lifters only pound a few movements. And this very lack of "swing athleticism" makes it so easy for the better pitchers to carve lineups in big games. Cashman tries to collect the best hitters as defined by the analytics. That strategy generally works during the season. But good pitches no read no stinking analytics. They don't need no stinking analytics. What do you think?