Baseball, the American pastime, is still the sport of the people. Yes, football has supplanted baseball as the most popular sport in America, but for the first time in a long time, it seems to be making some inroads. Even with the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, baseball seems to be thriving. Baseball has survived the steroid cheating, the strike of 94, when there was no World Series, the cocaine use of the 80’s, and various other scandals, over it’s long history. Baseball is still the sport of America, with it’s own language that no other sport transgresses. When you say Spring Training, DH, OPS+ and Opening Day, everyone knows you are talking baseball. There is even a movement to make Opening Day a holiday. What is it about this game, that seems to grab the sports fan to love it, like no other sport even with all it’s warts and problems. It is the American Pastime, which describes it perfectly.
The first thing about baseball, it is by far the hardest sport to play. I am not saying that baseball has the greatest athletes, or the strongest. From a skill set, baseball requires more from its players than any other sport. Except for the DH, players have to play both offense and defense. What position do think Tom Brady would play on defense, free safety about 50 yards deep. In baseball, you need to be able to hit, run smartly, catch the ball, throw the ball, and in the National League pitch and hit at the plate. What other sport is there, where you are 30% successful at something, and you are considered excellent. Can you imagine if a goal keeper had a 30% save rate, a quarterback a 30% completion rate, and a basketball player a 30% free throw shooter. Even the 3 point shooting percentage in the NBA, is between 35 and 45%. In baseball the .300 hitter is considered one of the best hitters in the game. There were only 19 players in the major leagues last year, that hit .300 or better. In baseball, you simply have to do it all. Baseball has the most strategy of any of the other sports. Even if you do not agree with that, the fact of the matter is, baseball has enough time in the game to execute that strategy. Do you really think that most “plays” in hockey and basketball, go according to how they are drawn up. I think not. In baseball, decision making is more critical than in any other game. Having no clock, however, is what makes baseball totally unique. You can not sit on the ball in baseball. There is no need for a 24 second clock. In order to win a baseball game, you have to perform a function, getting the third out. There are many teams out there, still looking for the third out that never happened. Yes, I agree today’s game is too slow, for numerous reasons, and because baseball is on the rise, the powers to be don’t really want to do anything about it. Most of their ideas are bad anyway. Baseball has never been, and never will be about clocks. Thank God, for the infamous inning. It is the heart of the game.
The way football is going, with a weekly arrest of their athletes, concussions, and greedy owners, who are just making their sport a television show, with no consideration of the fans, I feel baseball, someday will be back where it belongs, as the number one sport in America. Baseball will have to speed up the action, if it is going to maintain this momentum. The game is the best team game there is, and a beautiful thing to watch. The game is over 150 years old, and it is heading into it’s next renaissance. Opening day is coming soon.