A purist’s perspective
Major League Baseball doesn’t care about me.
It took me a long time to really believe it, even though deep down I knew it to be true.
It’s not personal. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig doesn’t know me. He’s never heard of me.
But he knows my kind. And he doesn’t care.
Maybe he doesn’t care about you, either.
Are you a huge baseball fan? Do you love and respect the history of the game? Do you get the baseball package on cable to see every game, even the teams you don’t cheer for?
Yeah, he doesn’t care about you, either.
Selig and the leaders of baseball don’t care about us because they know they have us hooked no matter what they do.
Dilute the regular season with round after round of playoffs. Add interleague play, erasing one thing that made baseball different than every other sport. Take forever to act as cherished records were destroyed by performance-enhancing drugs. Allow one player on the richest team to have a contract about as expensive than the poorest team’s payroll. Create unbalanced scheduling so Progressive Field hosts the Royals 32 times but the Red Sox three.
The hardcore baseball fans return no matter what, so the MLB ignores them.
What baseball wants to have is the casual fan.
If you attend maybe a game a year, and you’re not sure what league the Marlins play in, well, take heart. Selig wants to keep you interested.
It’s not personal, it’s business.
Fine, but I can no longer sit back and watch the sport deteriorate and keep my mouth shut.
As we sit on the eve of another season (or the day of, I guess, since the Astros and Rangers open tonight), someone needs to tell baseball that while they try to drive the sport into a new era, they are really approaching a cliff.
Have you looked at the schedule this season? With the move of the Astros from the National to American League, there are now an odd number of teams on each side. That necessitates interleague play every day of the season.
It’s also why the Reds, champions of the National League Central, open Monday with the Angels.
Full disclosure: I hate interleague play. My first column here in 2005 was about how baseball should get rid of it. But despite that, I could see the business sense of it.
Playing a few games a year between American and National League teams a year, fans having an opportunity to see regional teams, has some value.
But the key was not to over-do it. If interleague play only happens a few times a year, it’s special. Have it every day, and it has all the all the intrigue of a 76ers-Suns NBA game.
Those teams are in different conferences, after all.
When I was growing up, baseball could be very special.
Only two teams from each league made the playoffs. They met in a best-of-seven league championship series. It usually made for tight pennant races, and the best teams in baseball, who had proven that over a 162-game season, were a step from the World Series. Teams in the Series never played, unless certain guys matched up in the All-Star Game, which also had intrigue.
As I write this, intrigue has been destroyed. The All-Star Game became so pointless the leaders of baseball decided to place homefield advantage in the Series up for grabs in it.
Why the token All-Star of a last-place team would care about that, no one knows.
Ten teams now make the postseason. Some clubs are able to assure themselves of postseason spots by August, while the real pull of baseball at that time is to see which decent team can get hot and reach the postseason.
The postseason itself has become more like March Madness. Win 107 games, but don’t have your rotation designed for a best of five series, and you can be bounced by an 85-win team in less than a week.
It makes one wonder exactly what the point is of the regular season.
Baseball may not care about me, but I care about it.
That’s why the last decade and a half have been so frustrating.
But I’ll be in front of my TV Monday, watching every pitch of the Indians opener in Toronto. Then I’ll switch over and cheer for the Reds against the Angels.
I’m hooked, no matter what.
Bill Terry, the Hall of Fame first baseman in the 1920s and ’30s, once had a quote about the sport.
“Baseball must be a great game,” he said, “to survive the fools that run it.”