I had a disturbing realization a couple of days ago.
For many years, I’ve marked the changing of the seasons by wearing some team’s cap. The day of the first Spring Training games, Opening Day, the start of the playoffs, and the end of the World Series.
That usually requires a haircut. Not all four times, of course, but at least for the first and third. Not that I couldn’t get a cap on, but without a shearing, it wasn’t very comfortable. So I got into the habit of getting a semi-annual haircut–the official joke being I’d get them whether I needed them or not.
Friday, I wore a cap to celebrate the arrival of Spring. It wasn’t until Sunday that I belatedly realized I hadn’t been cropped.
Yes, my hairline has been receding steadily, and I’m aware that it hasn’t been growing as fast as it used to*. I’m not in imminent danger of baldness.
* People complain about bum knees, hearing loss, and plenty of other hazards of advancing age–including thinning hair. And yet, I’ve never heard anyone grumble “I just don’t seem to need to visit the barber as often.”
Still, I find it disconcerting to think that I might have to shift to an annual haircut. Whether I need it or not.
Speaking of shifting, it occurs to me that I haven’t checked in with my thoughts about this year’s MLB rule changes.
I’m already on record as not being against the pitch clock. Doesn’t mean I’d have put it in place if I were the commissioner, but I don’t hate it. I’d like to see some flexibility there, though. Turn it off for any day game played in an outdoor stadium when there’s no rain in the forecast. A lazy, sunny, summer afternoon of baseball shouldn’t be squashed down to a measly couple of hours just so people can make their dinner dates. But for games indoors, when there’s a chance of adverse weather, or at night? Sure, whatever, commish.
Bigger bases? Again, not a fan, but won’t raise a ruckus. Fundamentally, it’s no different than adjusting the balance between offense and defense by raising or lowering the mound. Doesn’t change the game. There might be a few less bang-bang double plays, maybe a few more stolen bases, but it’s still baseball.
Which is why I hate the new shift rules.
They take away significant strategic options* in favor of more hits and fielder’s choices. Wasn’t the goal to speed up the game? Annoyingly, the rules are inconsistent: infielders can’t stray into the outfield before the pitch, but outfielders can be added to the infield. I’ll admit, I kind of like the idea of occasionally bringing the right fielder in between first and second, but I’m not sure the world is quite ready for the 9-6-3 double play on a regular basis.
* Offensively, too: do you pinch hit for the guy who’s a dead pull hitter with someone who can Wee Willie Keeler the opposition?
The absolute worst change, though, is making the frickin’ Manfred Man permanent. I hate that unearned runner. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
And really, if we’re shortening games with the pitch clock, can’t we afford the occasional fifteen or sixteen inning game? After all, with the clock, it’s not going to run any longer than last year’s typical nine inning game.
Lots of feels about these changes, none of them good. I can rationalize a few, but what they all boil down to is capitulation to a generation that does not understand, or even particularly like, the game of Baseball. These spectators (don’t call them “fans”), it is believed, will be more likely to pay the ever-increasing cost of attending a game if they are presented with more non-stop “action” on the field. These are spectators who will only look up from their phones when someone hits a home run- because that’s the only event they understand or care about.
In other words, we have a race to the bottom: how many concessions can we make, to bring in people who don’t care about the game in the first place?
This can’t end well, as people (like me) who care, deeply, about the game’s history and traditions become increasingly alienated by intrusive, wrong-headed innovations. For myself, I have a sort of “line in the sand”: when robotic umpires come to the Big Leagues, I will stop caring about the game. “Bad calls” are (and always have been) a feature, not a bug. Games are won or lost because of umpire’s, and player’s, mistakes. Human fallibility is an essential part of the game. Eliminate that, and we might as well just put robots on the field- an idea that I’m sure is being considered. Think of the savings!
End of rant. Thank you.