The best part of any MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL game is the element of strategy. The word “systems” is used more in the non-MLB sports but it means the same. The simple indisputable fact is that there are more instances of strategy in a game of baseball than any other sport, which is where the damned word “boring” tends to come into play. That is why many baseball fans have had the following conversation at least once in their fandom:
Fan: Hey, do you want to get together tonight to watch the baseball game?
Non-fan: No thanks, watching baseball is like watching paint dry!
First off, why in the blue hell do so many people watch paint dry?! Secondly, why does everything need to have the pace of a checkers game instead of the strategy of a chess game? Strategy typically requires the patience of fans and we have become such an “instant gratification” society that we are subconsciously killing the American pastime.
- Every pitch is a strategic move.
You will not go an inning without hearing the announcer say something along the lines of, “the pitcher threw that pitch high to change the batter’s eye level” or “the pitcher has thrown outside a couple times to set up the inside pitch”. That’s fine and dandy, just part of the game but so are foul balls. Even the purest of baseball fans can become impatient when a batter has fouled off 4,5,6 consecutive pitches. You can try to tell yourself that this is great because the batter in the on-deck circle is seeing everything in the pitchers repertoire but that does not stop you from hoping the next batter is pitched to contact.
There are no apologies coming forth here because you surely you would not want every play from scrimmage during an NFL game to go for a touchdown. That’s why NFL fans appreciate the fact their sport is not only one down. Nobody wants to see an NBA game where a team only shoots threes or only scores on put-backs. Baseball does not become more boring than these sports because there are more pitches than plays from scrimmage or trips up and down the court, baseball is simply more methodical.
- Stolen bases
Exciting but the constant throws to first base to check on the runner, well, not so much excitement in that. Keeping that runner close to first increases your chance of him not going to third on a ball hit outside the infield. It is a necessary evil though, much like the hack on a fast break in basketball sending the shooter to the free throw line instead of racing to the hoop. Everyone would rather watch the dunk than the free throws, but you have to respect the decision made to limit the opponent’s offense. Remember at the end of the day, regardless of sport, the team with the most “points” wins.
While stolen bases are unique to baseball, the exciting element of transition scoring is mute. Transition scoring is most evident in the sport of Lacrosse but it is rare to see NLL highlights on your nightly Top 10. Aside from home runs, baseball relies on scoring being manufactured and that does not make the game boring.
- The Shift
The defensive shift has notably taken away from the some of the offense in the game. The dramatic increase of this tactic is akin to the “trap” in the NHL made exponentially more famous by the 3-time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils. New York Yankees Chase Headley’s good start to the 2017 season is in part due to his ability to “beat” the shift. Now, not everybody is going to learn into hit the ball the other way in the big hole being given you by the defense, but hitting the ball the out of the park or working a walk is just as effective.
Maybe you think baseball is boring because while the defense can save runs, it cannot produce offense like in the other sports. Ad nauseam you hear NBA and NHL commentators mention how the better teams use defense to start their offense. Not caring for baseball because of this reason would be similar to not liking hockey because it is played on ice.
Of course, it is an apples to oranges comparison putting the ability to hit a homer next to the ability to dunk a basketball. It’s even less logical to compare the ability to catch and frame a 100 mph fastball to catching a football being flung at you in between two defenders. So let’s stop the bravado!
It is easy to appreciate the athleticism of the stars the NBA so expertly promotes. Simple enough to appreciate the delicate balance of beauty and grace, combined with raw toughness in the NHL. Any sport that requires the physicality of football and the ability to keep such large and diverse locker rooms functional is worth a tip of the cap. Is it too much to ask that you show that respect and appreciation to the game of baseball?
The Commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred is not helping matters by keeping the chatter around the game about “pace of play” rules. With any other sport that uses replay, if time spent on video reviews was actually contained to under two minutes, the game would keep a better flow.
Baseball is not boring! Let’s play ball!