Saturday, 10 August 2013

Why I don't watch baseball

When I say that I do not watch baseball, I am only talking about "Major League" baseball.  I love watching the Pacific League from Japan, or even the Korean Baseball League.  They play at a very high level but without steroids.

 And when I say that I do not watch baseball, it is not steroids that put me off.  Yes, steroids are ruining the game and the owners of MLB teams are encouraging players to take them, but that is beside the point.  (If you disagree, ask yourself why there is such a  focus on "macho" crap like strikeouts and home runs.  Just like the olympics, records are what sell tickets, not the event itself.)

The MLB owners could easily fix the game and get rid of steroids at the same time.  It would not require drug testing, nor would it require any changes to the rules.

What is would require is for baseball to enforce rules that are already on the books.

The rulebook says that the strike zone should be from the armpits to the knees of the player, and the width of the plate.  But in the last twenty years, the MLB strike zone has barely been more than a foot high, the size of a batter's groin area, and it's usually about six inches to one side of the plate.  The strike zone should be the size of a window but is instead the size of a shoe box.

Call a proper strike zone.  It doesn't need to be the full height, but make it a standard size, say three feet tall and starting from twenty inches above the ground.  Why would this make a difference?

First, with a shoe box sized strike zone, batters need only swing within a small area which the pitcher is forced to throw.  Since 1991, batters have become larger and more muscular, putting the focus on power instead of being contact hitters.  Steroids became a necessity for any player that wanted to play in the Majors.  It wouldn't surprise me if 80% of the current players use steroids, HGH or some other illegal substance.

Second, the tiny strike zone forces pitchers to throw into a small area.  Pitchers can no longer throw around batters as they once did.  They have to throw it past the hitters, which means the pitchers need power and strength, hence they take drugs as well.  Again, it wouldn't surprise me if 80% use drugs.

So how would a large strike zone change things?

First, pitchers could throw around hitters.  If a hitter can't move his bat up six inches to hit a high fastball, his batting average will drop and so will his RBIs and home run totals.  Smaller players who can hit for high averages will be prized by teams.  Speed is cheap, power is expensive, so owners with small team budgets would benefit from turning baseball back into a game of sacrifice flies and manufactured runs instead of depending on a "big inning" to win games.  Smaller players also tend to be less injury prone, and collisions cause fewer injuries.  Players would stop using steroids because they are detrimental to their game.

Second, if pitchers can throw around batters, pitches like knuckleballs, sliders and sinkers would return to the game.  A large strike zone means pitchers do not need to throw fire to get an out, they can throw a change up that falls away from the batter.  Power pitchers are overpriced, while junk ball pitchers are cheap.  Again, owners with smaller budgets could build competitive teams and stop paying injury-prone juiced-up freaks.


Until that happens, I'm going to continue watching Japanese and Korean baseball.  I'm going to continue watching baseball be played the way it should be  - singles, steals, sacrifices, and team play.  Some people derisively call it "little ball".  It is properly called run and hit baseball, exciting baseball that is fun to watch.

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