Here’s my latest for the Magazine:

Baseball is supposed to be fun, you know? Yes, it’s a billion dollar industry, but that doesn’t mean that baseball isn’t—at its heart—entertainment, a diversion that gives us something to think about other than work and life and responsibilities and whatever the Kardashians are doing these days. It’s a wonderful, exciting drama wrapped up in nine innings of men playing a kid’s game.

If it’s not fun for you, why bother? (Seriously, so many people just seem angry about their favorite team all the time. Why? It’s baseball!)

Too often, MLB’s fun police seem like they want to drain all the excitement out of the best game on earth*. Whether it’s Oakland’s Mark Canha or Cubs rookie David Bote feeling like they had to apologize for flipping their bats after particularly memorable home runs, or pitchers throwing at hitters for whatever reason—I’m looking at you, Jose Urena and Ryan Madson—big league baseball seemingly has an unlimited number of unwritten rules that appear to be designed to take the fun out of the game.

*Other than Fortnite, of course.

Read the entire thing, in which I take a light-hearted look at things that are fun about baseball, including the Reds nicknames from this year’s “Player’s Weekend.”

31 Responses

  1. Scott C

    Great article, Chad. We need something to cheer us because as you said, “baseball is supposed to be fun. Personally I would have added Dilson’s nickname to the interesting, just because it is fun to say. “Dilly. Dilly.”
    Joey Votto is the “most interesting man in baseball. He doesn’t drink beer often, but when he does he drinks Canadian beer.

  2. Bill

    Baseball has to eliminate all the “unwritten rules” if it wants to stay relevant. Can you imagine in the NBA if Lebron James and Steph Curry were injurred in retaliation because they celebrated a three point shot too much for the openents liking?

    The game already has the image of being a game for a bunch of old white guys. If a guy wants to admire is 460 ft HR, and add in a bat flip, let him. They are so focused on cutting a few minutes off the game, but can’t allow players to have any personallity at all. Look at all the hate Votto gets for messing with opposing fans who are heckling him or the Dodgers getting crticized for wearing tshirts in batting practice. Football, basketball, and now soccer are going to overtake baseball in popularity

    • David

      Pitchers used to throw at batters all the time. A lot worse than now.
      Go watch Euro-kick ball if that suits you.

      • Bill

        I could throw a ball at you if you think that is a good solution or I can use your method of childish insults while hiding behind the keyboard. I’ll let you decide how you should be punished for breaking the unwritten rules of RLN

    • Colorado Red

      Tell this to the great Bob Gibson

      • lwblogger2

        Throwing at guys, with the purpose of hitting them is garbage. I’d happily tell anyone. I’ve not met Mr. Gibson, nor Don Drysdale, nor Nolan Ryan so haven’t had the opportunity.

  3. big5ed

    To the casual fan, the biggest problem by a mile is the very slow pace of play. (Me, too, for that matter.) The average guy believes that there is far, far, far, far, far too much dead time.

    There are roughly 225 pitches/game that are not a 0-0 count. If MLB could just trim the time between pitches by 4 seconds/pitch, then the game would be 900 seconds, or 15 minutes, faster. Some of the hitters (Odubel Herrera, for example) take about 29 seconds between pitches. A 6-pitch at-bat with these guys takes 3 minutes, plus the walk-up time for the next hitter. It just isn’t very interesting.

    I would be in favor of stopping the human rain delays. Without allowing a quick pitch, if the umpire doesn’t call time, then the pitcher should be allowed to pitch, even if the hitter is still preening through his routine outside the batter’s box.

    The only actual rule change to speed it up that I would favor is requiring that a reliever face a minimum of two hitters, not just one. That rule change would not really affect the character of the game, the way rules like pitch clocks would.

    • greenmtred

      I agree about the perceived slow pace being a culprit (though people are easily distracted from anything not instantaneous by electronic devices), but I also recall reading in Sports Illustrated a few years ago that baseball has as many or more minutes of actual action per game than football does. If that’s true, it points to perception more than reality Baseball and the contemplative life seem endangered by their lack of bells, whistles and noise.

  4. Bill j

    Fun again like Al Hrabosky with his routine between pitches. I remember Sparky say he might have George Foster, right before Hrabosky was ready to pitch, call time and tell the umpire his jockstrap broke and he had to go get a new one.

  5. cfd3000

    Players weekend is such a gimmick and a money grab with yet another set of unis to sell to the fans that part of me is having a hard time getting behind it all. But there are three reasons why, in the end, I do approve.

    1. Baseball was so much fun to play. From t-shirt league (the first self pitch level for 8 year olds where I grew up) to Little League, Babe Ruth, high school and college I had a blast. And now I love watching it played at the very highest levels. It’s an amazing game of perfect proportions. 55′ or 65′ from the mound to home and the game is impossible, or way to easy 60′-6″ is perfect. Almost every stolen base is a close play and ground outs are so often bang-bang plays. At 85′ or 95′ that would totally change. And these guys are SO good. Have you seen Billy Hamilton in center field, or Nolan Arenado at third, or Joey Votto or Mike Trout or Mookie Betts with a bat? It’s astonishing. So anything that brings a few more fans to appreciate baseball is good.

    2. I’m not happy about Players weekend, but I could get pretty pumped about Players week, or Players month.

    3. Joey Votto (In Flanders Field) is on a level by himself and this is one more chance to see inside his strange and wonderful mind. The donkey, SuperBubs, his interaction with fans, and of course Gym Day with Jim Day. Magic. I’ve said for years he needs to be Captain with that C from Barry Larkin. And from now on I think of Joey as Big Poppy. He’s too weird to be real and I’m so glad he’s a Cincinnati Red.

  6. BigRedMachine

    This is only tangentially related but analytics have also helped to suck the fun out of baseball. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be used–a modern, analytic approach is clearly the superior path to winning baseball. But you know the old baseball adage of hope springs eternal? It doesn’t anymore. If I say, “Did you see what Player X did in AAA last year? I think he is going to make the team and then light the majors on fire!” The answer? “Nope. His WXYz metric is below 1.13 and his ABcDEf metric is above 5.4. We’ve looked at the last 3000 hitters in the minors and no one with those metrics has ever been able to handle major league pitching. There’s nothing to hope for. Player X ain’t going to ever make it in the big leagues.”

    Or a variation. “I think Votto is going to win the triple crown!” It just takes a simple analysis to show the inevitable decline in power with age. The statistics are telling the truth–as an aging human being it is impossible for Votto to ever win the triple crown. But having unrealistic dreams of your homegrown hero were part of the baseball fabric. Not anymore.

    • Bill

      Unrealistic dreams aren’t changed by analytics. How many years did everyone think “this is the year” for Hamilton?

  7. Bill

    The other fix needs to be leveling the field. An actual salary cap and stop rewarding teams for losing would help. I don’t know exactly how to do that. When the dodgers are spending $300 million and the Marlins spend $50 there is no real chance for parity. With the rebuilding teams, the Reds included, selling off everyone and going for the best draft picks does not bring in the fans. Now it seems like you have four or five teams winning 100 games and 10 trying to lose that many. At the same time you can’t blame the owners for using the rules to their advantage.

    • greenmtred

      You have a point about the levelling of the field, but it often wasn’t level in past. When I was a kid, you could pencil the Yankees into the World Series almost every year, it seemed.

      • Bill

        Maybe it will never be level, but I just think there has to be someting better than the cycle teams are in now. Lose 90 games for four years, acquire prospects through draft and trades of veterans, develop players, make playoffs for a few years, trade players away because you can’t afford to keep them, star player signs with Yankees or Dodgers, repeat process.

        This to me causes casual fans to lose interest or get angry that player x was traded away for some guy they have never heard of. For the hardcore fans we accept this as a fact and spend the entire season arguing about if we should trade Scooter for prospects or not.

  8. Michael Brownfield

    You know what has made the game no fun? Analytics, period. So boring.

    • Bill

      How does analytics make the game boring?

      • BigRedMachine

        See my comment, like two above this one.

  9. Jreis

    Because of analytics you don’t have as many exciting plays anymore because of the risk/ reward ratio is too great. Not as many stolen bases. When was the last time y’all have seen a double steal?
    Fewer triples, fewer close plays at home because it is too risky to send runners home.
    Used to be that a player would almost always try to score from second on a single. Now it seems like it is less then half the time.

    I also think the transition from the African American player dominating the 70s- 80s to today’s game which is dominated by Hispanics has also changed the game to a certain extent

    • Bill

      Do you think the third base coach is running analytic analysis when determining if he should send a guy home. I think you are confusing analytics with not making outs with slow guys.

      Also I would love to hear your explanation on why Hispanics are boring

      • greenmtred

        I don’t think the whole thing can be laid at the feet of analytics, and I don’t think that baseball is significantly more boring than it used to be. One effect of analytics that has been mentioned by some as decreasing excitement is defensive shifts. I don’t know about that, myself, but the genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

      • jreis

        players are bigger and stronger today. but much slower now. no more vince Colemans, Ricky Hendersons, Joe Morgans , eric davis anymore. the best athletes are not playing baseball anymore which sucks.
        billy hatcher can Still out run suarez and votto from third to home so yes , I feel he is using analytics when deciding to send runners. watch highlights from the 1990 series again. todays players look like they are in slow motion compared to that era.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Michael Lorenzen says hello. Billy Hamilton, too.

        You’re defining athleticism as pure speed. And you’re looking at a handful of past players. There were an awful lot of terrible athletes in major league baseball back then. Players used to chain smoke in the dugout. Baseball players today are far better athletes overall than they were even a couple decades ago. The combination of speed, power and conditioning isn’t even close to what is was before. If you watched Mike Trout, Carlos Correa, Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, Jose Ramirez, Lorenzo Cain, etc. every day, you might revise your opinion.

      • jreis

        Don’t you think Steve though that the players are sacrificing speed for size and strength?
        people always want Billy Hamilton to gain weight but he would be an average sized guy in the 1980s. he looks about the same size as Cesar Geronimo to me. lol
        yes you have guys that can hit the ball 450 feet with tremendous exit velocity but we will likely never see another 100 stolen base year or a 15 triple year.

        just saying the game is a lot different today and in my humble opinion a little more boring. although I still get down to about 25 games / year cause I love the reds.

        I don’t watch it on tv anymore though.
        I mean how much walk- k-k- hr- walk -k-k- walk- hr- can a guy take? lol

      • Bill

        Players are bigger and stronger in every sport. I also agree that the best athletes are not playing baseball, but what is the reason for that? My guess is that basketball, football, and soccer are all more fun for them to play. I am not sure that players are significantly slower today than in the past. I think the focus is now more on hitting homeruns, which was exciting back when Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds were all roided up. How much of the change is due players being slower compared to players swinging for the fences? Did the steroid era influence the three outcome, K, BB, HR or was that brought on by analytics? I could see analytics changing the game some by more highly valueing OBP to speed, but simply blaming analytics and Hispanics for making the game boring doesn’t come across as a good argument to me. Batting average and ERA are analytics and you don’t hear people complaining that those ruined the game. Is adavance analytics a problem or do some people just not like change? The DH, the shift, bullpen use, are all changes to baseball that many don’t like and have way more impact on the game than someone who knows how to use math and correlate data

      • Michael E

        Baseball in high school does NOT bring the babes a calling. It’s all about basketball and football where glory is to be had and girls oohing and aaahing as a good player passes by in their letter-jacket.

        Unless your a first round draft pick (1 in 500,000 I guess) you probably would get a lot of “who is that?” and “how did he get a letter jacket, chess?”

        Seriously, half the athletes (just like half the musicians) do what they do as a teenager for hormonal purposes. I would have too if I wasn’t short and guitar-challenged (still can’t make a bar chord not buzz like a smartphone on vibrate).

        I have the SAME argument about soccer. Can you imagine the USMNT if stud athletes, that hide size and speed, were playing for USMNT? What if a Lebron James, Mike Trout, Antonio Brown and others had focused on soccer? There is a reason why the USMNT can’t compete with the powers of Europe and South America. It’s because stud athletes in those countries LOVE soccer and it DOES bring the babes there. It is the number 1 sport in nearly every country that isn’t Canada, U.S. and some frigid nordic countries (skiing and hockey prevail).

        Overall, baseball is A LOT better off than soccer, but mainly because of so many international players filling in the big gaps left by U.S. born athletes playing football and basketball.

  10. Jeff Reed

    I will always love baseball and analytics have nothing to do with my dreams about the Reds. Their just a tool that the decision makers use more today than in the past.

  11. msanmoore

    This site reminds me why I love baseball and (still today) love our Redlegs. The sharp analysis, the “family debate” on the various threads, the insight and education I’m getting on the most basic principles of analytics, and of course the columns by MBE that take us away to a world where anything is possible and Baseball is Life … it’s one of the reasons I can persist through another lousy season in the Queen City.

    I only hope I can make a trip back to GABP and meet up with some of y’all at some point. This is a fan site pure and simple. Thanks for doing what you do even when the ownership goes blind on what our team really needs to succeed.

  12. Indy Red Man

    My last 30 days stats on yahoo:

    Phillip Ervin 23-73 (.315) with 14 runs, 4 hrs, 15 rbis, and 3 steals. That’s a 20/20 man if you push it out over a full season. I like him!

    Someday we might look back on this and decide that (playing Phillip Ervin) saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, $#&#% mess.