When I was 6 years old, I watched as my hometown Anaheim Angels took down the almighty Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. This was my first real exposure to baseball. It was a joyous moment of my childhood.
I followed baseball for a few years, and especially the Angels, but somehow it just didn’t stick with me. Maybe it was because I didn’t really play the sport, or maybe it was because the Angels never reached that pinnacle again. Regardless, the sport that had given me so much joy in that fall of 2002 never felt the same again.
In the past week, I’ve been told to watch the Angels because of their new rookie sensation, Shohei Ohtani. He’s brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but even after seeing him play his first few games, I still come to the same conclusion I reached as a kid: This sport is just plain boring, at least in the regular season.
Baseball fans will argue that the smallest details are what makes it exciting. They pay attention to whether the park is for hitters or pitchers, how efficient a pitcher is with a certain pitch or how a hitter should approach an at-bat, among countless other things.
As an avid sports fan, I admit that all those intricacies are interesting, but quite frankly, baseball is a game made for the experience of being at the park. Attending a game can be fun, but there is a plethora of things I’d rather do before watching a full, televised MLB game for 3 hours and 5 minutes ─ the average nine-inning game length for the 2017 season, a record high.
If length isn’t bad enough, the insignificance of any one game out of a grueling 162-game season doesn’t motivate me to watch this sport. And if I don’t pay attention to the narrative of the regular season, the exhilarating playoffs turn into nothing more than a mildly better version of baseball.
The main reason I, along with many others, don’t watch baseball is because the action on the offensive side of the ball is lacking. As pitchers have gotten better over the years, batters have become more aggressive at swinging for the fences rather than making contact. With this trend, the rate of the the “three true outcomes” ─ a strikeout, walk or home run ─ has risen to its highest in MLB history.
So now more than ever, the game comes down to the play between two men — pitcher and batter — and, at most, a few minutes of excitement in total.
So what can the MLB do about it? The idea of a pitch clock has been thrown around for years now but never implemented for some reason. I think that would do wonders for the game.
But the pitch clock is just one of numerous proposed ideas to make it more interesting. Only allow three attempted pickoffs before the runner gets a free base. Get rid of pinch hitters and runners so that every player has to have a well-rounded, athletic game. Or even start extra innings with a runner at second base ─ although this idea has been vehemently opposed.
Unfortunately, I think the biggest problem the MLB has is that baseball is valued as a pastime, where tradition trumps all. To me and many others, however, the idea of emphasizing tradition and not changing the game is exactly what is making America’s favorite pastime a thing of the past.
So yes, Ohtani might be the new exciting thing to watch in the MLB, but as far as I’m concerned, somewhere around game 40, even his hype may begin to fade. And sadly, if the Angels are back in contention for a World Series, I doubt I’ll care enough to see it unfold.