Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Warning: Boring game coming

I'm not sure it's such a bad thing, be decide for yourself:

As Bill James wrote in his Historical Baseball Abstract: “Fans like hitting. Fans have always liked hitting, and they always will like hitting. Throughout the history of the game, almost every significant increase in offense has been accompanied by an increase in attendance, and almost every decrease in offense has been accompanied by a decrease in attendance.” So you can sort of see why the players might be wondering what they did wrong. Sure, they violated a rule, but it was a rule that had never been seriously enforced. And unlike gambling or cocaine use, which detract from the quality of the game, steroids turned baseball into a hitters’ paradise. Steroid-enhanced baseball gave fans what they wanted. If we go back to a juice-free game, we might wind up with a situation like we had in the early ’90s, when 30 home runs was a good season and .280 was a high batting average. With steroids out of the game, it might get a bit boring.
I believe that even before we saw the HR rate tick north, there were plenty of players hitting with high batting averages. I don't think BA and PED use has a strong correlation, but if you know otherwise, please let me know. I seem to remember George Brett hitting .390 in the 80's (I had a Brett .390 model glove for some time) and Tony Gwynn hitting over .325 seemingly every year of the 90's.

Does fewer HR's make the game boring? Maybe moreso for the casual fan. HR's are exciting, no question, but so are steals and extra base hits. I'm quite OK with fewer HR's to see a nice game at a quick pace. Perhaps the other side effect of a power outage is that the games will proceed more briskly with fewer pitching changes and mound visits. If the biggest three or four HR guys are "only" hitting 40 or so, we can still have a great game. I will still love the game.

As for the attendance issue, we're going to have a double-barrelled impact: less offense and less disposable income. I, for one, won't be going to many games at the new Yankee Stadium due to the sheer cost of the tickets. We hung a great big flatscreen at home last year and that was a better investment than three games in-person for the family of four at the Stadium (and not in the "good" seats). I'm also postulating that I am not alone. Many of you will either buy an MLB TV package or watch games on your computer rather than peeling off bills to see your team in person.

Bottom line, I will still watch and still love the game. I will still root for my hometown nine, just as you will. I will respect your right to boo my guys as I boo yours. Afterwards, I'm happy to debate it over a beer. And I won't fret if HR's are down a bit.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I've always found HR's to be not that exciting(aside from walk offs and game tying HR's).
Like you said good defense, stolen bases and extra base hits are more exciting and are in the realm of possibility than every other AB getting one to clear the porch.
As for drawing regular sports fans or non sports fans, it will be harder I think, to draw them in because baseball unlike the other big 3 sports has lulls that tend to drive away the average fan.