Ten Things I Hate About Baseball
A list of pet peeves we could currently do without in an otherwise wonderful sport.
By Eric Gouldsberry, This Great Game—Posted May 8, 2018
Before I get angry, I just want it to be clear: I love baseball. It’s a great game. That’s why we call our site “This Great Game.”
But not everything is perfect about the National Pastime these days. (Chances are, there never has been such a moment.) It’s not because of the rulebook. It’s peripheral things. It’s off-the-field stuff. It’s the disturbance of the game’s optimal nature by trends and fads that leave me thinking, “Why?”
What follows is my airing of the grievances, late-2010s edition. Maybe I’ll come back in five years and wring out a whole new set of dislikes—and hope that the ones listed below have either ebbed or just flat-out ceased.
The Baby-bumpering of Pitchers. Since when did major league pitchers get so damn fragile? Guys used to throw 250 innings, often more, with no problem. Nowadays, 200 officially qualifies as workhorse territory; at this rate, it won’t be long before we reach a point that nobody will be eligible to win an ERA title because they won’t have enough innings to qualify. And don’t get me started on all those pitchers throwing no-hitters and perfect games who suddenly get pulled after six or seven innings. Blame the blasted pitch counts, which has become the gospel in the dugout. It doesn’t matter how locked in you are—you reach 100, you get the hook. Or 80 or 90 if you’re a rook. It used to be thought that arm strength was built up by throwing more innings. Perhaps coaches and GMs need to turn a blind eye to the money and heed that advice once more. Until then, we’ve got porcelain for pitchers.
In-game Interviews. Who thinks that anyone is going to be entertained by a manager or player taking questions in the middle of the game? Fact is, nobody likes it. Not the people in the dugout, not the announcers, not the people watching at home. Why? Because they got nothing to say that will thrill us, unless Derek Holland is doing his Harry Caray impersonation. It’s just mundane talk that distracts us from the live action. Just. Stop. It.
In-market Blackouts. Okay, I get that the regional sports networks are trying to protect their territories and suck in as many viewers to enhance the ratings and attract advertising dollars to pay off the massive long-term deals they’ve overpaid to get the rights. But how can Ely, Nevada—nearly 1,000 miles east of San Francisco—be possibly considered in-market for the Giants? I got news for NBC Sports Bay Area: Nobody in Eastern Nevada is going to pay to put your channel on the cable menu.
Long Replay Reviews. We’ve barked about this one before, and we’ll bark about it again. Somebody wants to challenge a call? Look at it and make a decision within a minute. If it takes longer, then it’s probably too close to call—so leave it as is and play ball.
“Noise!” Hey, scoreboard operator: Don’t treat your fans as morons—or worse, cattle. We’ll be prodded into making noise when the team earns the right to do it, by exciting us with a rally. Otherwise, you’re just insulting our intelligence.
Not Bunting Against the Shift. Look, hitter—you’ve got one whole side of the infield open. They’re giving you first base if you want it. Take it. If bunting bruises your ego, that’s on you. Start a rally, stir up the you-know-what. Do it a few times and maybe they’ll stop crowding the other side of the infield so you can go back to beating them on your terms, not theirs.
Rob Manfred’s Wish List. I can’t believe some of the things this guy actually has considered, per a list that recently got aired out in public. Putting a runner on second to start every half-inning after the ninth. Placing quotas on defensive shifts and pickoff throws. My god, the commish even threw out the idea of a mercy rule. Yes, a grown man in a suit helping to make billions for his sport is suggesting something out of the Little Leagues. Gee, while we’re at it, let’s give all the players trophies and pizza at season’s end. Rob, listen to us and listen to us good: Take your list, crumple it up, burn it, shred it—do anything to get it out of yours and everybody else’s sight.
Stopping Halfway Through a Pitching Motion When a Batter Calls Time. Why do pitchers screech to a halt and risk injury whenever the batter has just called time? Roger Clemens never used to do that. What did he do instead? He went ahead and threw the pitch—usually right at the batter’s head. That will make the hitter think twice next time. Plus it will make Rob Manfred happy, because this will mean less time outs and a faster pace of play.
Strikeouts. Swinging for the fences has become so prevalent, there is now a 1-in-4 chance that every at-bat will result in a home run or strikeout. And in those one out of four at-bats, there is an 8-in-9 chance that the guy will go down on strikes. There seems to be only one strategy in batting these days: Go deep or die trying. And it’s starting to get monotonous. Sure, it was fun when Babe Ruth started the whole thing back in the 1920s—but he was awfully good at crushing the ball. In today’s game, there’s too many wannabes, too few successes, and not enough bunting, stealing and hit-and-running. Maybe we need to break out the deadball again.
Walk-off Celebrations. Since when has it become okay to celebrate a game-winning hit by literally assaulting the player who hit it? I mean, look at what happens; the player gets everything not anchored down in the dugout thrown at him—water, Gatorade, sunflower seeds, maybe even batting helmets and spare balls. They get chased all over the field trying to keep from having their jersey ripped off, like the Beatles evading all those girls at the airport. Is this a celebration or a fraternal hazing ritual? Even the assaulters aren’t safe; Aaron Judge chipped a tooth last year celebrating a teammate’s walk-off homer. It’s going to get to the point where someone has a chance to win the game and decides it’s safer to strike out than to avoid getting pummeled by his teammates.