4 bases, 1 ball, 9 defenders, 1 batter. A pitcher throws the ball. A batter attempts to hit the ball and then attempts to circle the bases while the defense tries to stop him.
Baseball’s already not very complex. And to make it even less complex and basic, these days it primarily involves just two plays – the home run and the strikeout. Baseball has become a basic bitch.
I know. It’s sacrilegious to throw shade at our beloved game, but allow me to explain. Compared to football, there is little-to-no strategy involved in a baseball game. Yes, I know what a double shift is, and I understand pitching changes, and I get that managing a bullpen is a thing. But if your most complex strategic decision is a double switch, then I’m sorry, the play by play strategic planning is not very complex. And don’t get me started on lineups. Sure, setting a lineup is a task and we can debate what a “true lead-off hitter” is, but I just don’t think a lineup order has that much of an effect on a team’s season.
The complexity of baseball doesn’t come from the strategies of the individual play. If you put Nick Saban in a baseball dugout, he’d be bored. If you put Brian Snitker on the sidelines of an Alabama football game with the task of managing and calling plays, his brain would implode. The complexity of baseball comes from the players themselves.
To plan and execute a defensive formation in football is a science. Each player works together and relies on each other and if each working part executes the play the way that it was designed to work, it works. The football player does exactly what he’s told and then relies on his athletic ability. (Unless, of course you’re Brett Favre, then you do what you want, but that’s a totally different column. You get the point.) Football is moving, fluid, and very dynamic. While baseball is, well, basic. In baseball, there is no sign coming from the manager to run the old Spider 2 Y Banana.
The baseball player isn’t told anything. Sure, he watches some video and he might read a scouting report and sure he’s sometimes given orders from the dugout. But for the most part, the baseball player is all alone, in the batters box, or on the mound. The mental agony and pressures are all on him, and once he rises to the occasion, adjustments are then made to him by the defense at which point he must adjust to the adjustments made to him. The player is coach, player, and coordinator all at the same time in a matter of a single at bat.
This is why there’s five levels of minor league baseball and there’s no minor league football.
A ballplayer can get drafted from one of the power-house college programs (Vandy for example) and still be three years away from the big leagues. And even when said player makes “The Show” he’s often worked in very slowly. Perhaps he’s brought up in September and asked to pinch hit and/or fill in when the everyday player at his respective position needs a day off. A football player can get drafted and then start on opening day that same year. Baseball is hard. It’s not complex, but it’s hard. Where the game of football is more complex, but easier mentally and emotionally on the individual level, baseball is less complex but more difficult mentally and emotionally on the individual level.
Back to baseball being a basic bitch.
Baseball’s more about the guy on the field than the game. Yeah, I know, this makes me sound like an anti-analytics old geezer, but I’m not blown away by Statcast or wRC+. It’s neat, I’ll grant you, but all you’re doing is quantifying and recording what we’ve been watching since the 1870’s. A guy hits a bomb. Now you can tell me how hard he hit the bomb and the exact angle at which the ball is traveling through the air over the fence. Neat.
Think of it this way, if I told you a woman’s ass was 37 inches wide is that good or bad? Does it make you dream of that ass by simply knowing it’s 37 inches wide? I mean 37 inches could be a great ass, or it could be a not so great ass. (and yes I realize I’m an ass but bear with me). You need to know the entire picture. If you know she’s 34-26-37 you might now have a better picture, but even that isn’t really a picture, it is still just stats. I mean, I can sit here and tell you she’s 34-26-37 and you might think, wow she could be really hot based off those numbers. Or I could just say, “J-Lo.”
For years, the story of baseball has been the player. And because of that, superstars were born from it. Kids grew up idolizing Snider, Mantle, Aaron, Killebrew, Gibson, Koufax, Feller, The Big Red Machine, Stargell, Schmidt. These days J.D. Martinez wouldn’t be recognized by most kids in a mall. Why? Because Major League Baseball is marketing the metrics and not the guy. And to make it even worse, it’s marketing one thing – the home run.
Bryce Harper is hitting .214 and was virtually the face of the All-Star game. Why? Because our beloved game has been watered down to the home run. Am I saying home runs are the spawn of Satan? Of course not. Dingers are fun. But for a long time the home run was special and hitting in other ways, being a more well-rounded player, was something to take pride in. In 2018, if you ONLY hit home runs, you’ve got a guaranteed big pay day.
I’m not here to argue the merits of a player with a similar offensive profile as Bryce Harper’s 2018 campaign. I’m sure you could explain to me that, based on his wRC+, even though he does not hit for average, he is actually very valuable to his team. I don’t care. What I’m telling you is, watching an All-Star Game that involves nothing but home runs and strikeouts is boring.
And yes, I saw the precious Twitter video of Pedro talking about how great the game is and where the game is heading and I saw Brandon McCarthy‘s quote of said Twitter video. That’s precious. Why are ticket sales down? Because baseball is marketing the metrics, not the guy.
Am I saying that we should interfere and fix this? Hell no. That’s the weird thing. Baseball fixes itself and should never be interfered with by mere mortals under any circumstances. If I read another damn “How can we fix baseball” article I’ll break my laptop. This is a phase and guys like me will bitch about baseball being a basic bitch and that’s a beautiful thing.