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Baseball Needs To Accept Who They Are

Manfred announced his new idea for the MLB postseason a couple days ago. It’s preposterous. Everybody automatically hates it, minus a couple guys here and there like Brandon Walker and Big Cat. Half the league makes the playoffs and then you pick a team out of a hat and then J Lo and Shakira will shake their asses during the 7th inning stretch! Trevor Bauer spoke for all of us when he told Rob Manfred to to take his own dick and shove it up his ass. Then doubled down and explained exactly everything thats actually wrong with baseball on this latest video going viral. Personally, I’m already salty about how Manfred allowed this Mets/Cohen deal to fall apart and I don’t like the universal DH and now this, so I am all aboard the Fuck Manfred train, and I feel like most everybody else is hopping on too. At least, all the true baseball fans seem like they are. And that’s the problem with baseball right now. They are ignoring their core fan base in exchange for the hope that they can “get younger” and acquire new fans who, probably truthfully speaking, are never gonna be diehard baseball fans.

MLB is about to embark on a journey that I think a lot of companies, organizations, and individuals go on which results in them learning a very tough and important lesson. The most important lesson anybody can learn. A discovery hopefully everyone makes at some point in their life. That journey and lesson is one of Self Awareness. The most important trait anybody can exhibit. And when (or, if) Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball makes that discovery, they’ll realize exactly what their sport is, exactly what their sport isn’t, and they’ll stop chasing the NFL for popularity and the NBA for global dominance and they’ll focus on their core competency. And if they don’t, it will probably might result in the downfall of America’s first and greatest past time! Ho hum! No big deal!

Baseball has spent the last few years tweaking and changing and fucking around with all these ancillary rules and aspects of the game in an effort to get more popular. They convinced themselves and the dummies of the world that "pace of play" is the problem. That games are too long and too slow. That you need scoring and home runs and thats what the kids want and thats going to solve any perceived problems with the game. From the “boring” label down to the latest cheating scandal, baseball seems to be spiraling with new rules and changes as a distraction from their negative reputation right now.

Which is a shame. Baseball is, I dunno, like 350 years old. It’s a sport rooted in tradition and history. It’s America’s OG pastime. I know football and basketball are tangibly more “popular,” but the importance of baseball and the reverence with which we talk about the game is something that no other sport has. I’ve written about why baseball will always be the most influential and meaningful sport in the world, and THATS what baseball needs to lean into. The iconic, historical aura that permeates the entire sport. The reason why you know the relevance of numbers like 56, or 61 and 73, or 714 and 756, or 2,632...or the reason we fight over Hall of Fame percentages and ballots...all of that is because baseball is an iconic product with iconic stars and rich history. The hallowed records and the heroes who achieved them. THAT is what separates baseball from the other sports. And yes, history and records is obviously a little bit backwards facing and emphasizing the past, but abandoning where you came from and only worrying about where you're going (and where you want to go) is a dangerous game. The scramble to get younger and be cooler and try to keep up with the Joneses isn’t going to work. At least, not in the current way they are going about it. Baseball is so desperate to attract young fans and diverse ethnicities (that, truthfully, they’ll probably never attain) that they’re going to end up alienating the passionate fan base that DOES appreciate the game for what it is 

Baseball reminds me of the nerdy kid in the coming of age high school John Hughes movie who sells out on his group of loser friends to try to hang with the popular kids. They change their whole look and style and abandon who they are just to try to sit at the cool table at lunch. And in the end they realize they aren’t meant to be there. They go back to the friends who always stayed loyal, and they realize that they're happy with who they are. Maybe they’re not the prom king or captain of the football team, but they realize that playing an instrument is kinda cool and being smart is impressive. And maybe they don’t fuck the prom queen but they fall in love with the girl next door who plays the same video games you do.

That’s baseball. Baseball is never gonna fuck the prom queen. Baseball won’t ever be the most popular kid in school. Football is a once-a-week party. It’s Sunday Funday with wings and beer and gambling and fantasy and Red Zone and violence all designed to jam all your fun and all your fandom into one afternoon. Its like a Fast and the Furious Movie in sport form. Basketball is a fast paced, high flying, highlight reel, global phenomenon. It’s the Circus of the four major sports. It’s like watching a competitive Cirque De Soleil.

And then there’s baseball. If football is an IMAX movie and basketball is the circus, baseball is like the theater. It’s like an opera or a musical or a broadway show. It’s not as popular, it’s perceived by many as “boring,” but it still has a HUGE fanbase and it has a fuck ton of clout. It will never match the overall, every day, common man popularity of the Fast and the Furious NFL, but when the Mike Trouts of the world come along, it’s like Hamilton or Wicked blowing up. You know the name, you understand it’s importance, and it’s extremely culturally relevant and profitable. 

So baseball just needs to be Broadway. Don’t change all the rules and try to be the movies or the circus. Continue to do what you’re great at. That being drama and greatness and memories and moments that will be remembered for literally decades to come. Precision and skill. The most formidable regular season war of attrition with a postseason that is exclusively reserved for the best teams with a champion that results from the perfect balance of talent, timing, and luck. Baseball, and all it’s scientific measurements, complex rules, and quirky lifestyles, is a masterpiece. It’s a work of art. It’s the Mona Lisa. And Rob Manfred wants to turn it into the poster of Carmen Electra bent over the patio furniture

Which, I understand. I mean look at it. It’s a sexual, white trash pièce de résistance. Every red blooded, average American man had that poster. I can imagine the appeal of trying to turn into that and make its way into the heart of every 18-22 year old boy’s heart. But that’s not what baseball is. Right now baseball is, as I said, the Mona Lisa. It’s an ugly, homely woman with a weird face.

Now I'm not a buffoon. I know that in the era of Instagram models and modern day SMOKES, you cant walk around looking as handsome as this woman was. But you also cant just turn into Carmen Electra. You either got it, or you dont. Mona don't got it. So no, I dont expect baseball to be stubborn and pigheaded and never evolve and change. I'm just saying baseball cant take their top off, throw on some booty shorts and some strappy 7 inch heels, bend over a table poolside, and say they are now sexy and hot and popular. But, what baseball CAN become, is the black and white poster of the two girls kissing:

Or the chick showing her butt cheeks:

Not as raunchy as Carmen, but equally as sexy. Equally as iconic. Just a little bit classier with the black and white filter and a little more left to the imagination. 

And the way you go from Mona Lisa to 2 girls in their underwear kissing is not by radically changing the sport itself. You dont need to juice the balls and turn it into home run derby. You dont need to change the postseason and let half the league into the playoffs. Dont you ever, ever, EVER let anybody tell you that the actual sport of baseball is the problem. No no no. Absolutely not. Not in a world where golf is wildly popular. Not in a world where NFL ratings are through the roof for a game where theres only 11 minutes of total action. Not in a world where the most popular sport around the globe is a 1-0 game of Pong. The sport is stop and go. Its built on tension and execution. No clock can save you. Its awesome. 

What sucks and what kills its popularity is the culture around baseball. Its not particularly fun. Its actually non existent. Theres no tailgating. Theres no top 40 music echoing through the arena with halftime shows and old asian women balancing bowls during TV timeouts. Its not the same spectacle as other sports, for better or worse. The actual game play of each sport is relatively similar - meaning every game has a set of weird rules and a manner in which you win and lose. That can vary but there are plenty of sports that are fast and slow. High scoring or low scoring. The formats and the rules arent going to be the problem. I think we should work on fixing baseball's culture before you go changing the actual game every season. We just fucked with the balls. We just changed the playoff format. We've already made changes to the game. If thats not fixing the ratings and the popularity, maybe you should look to make some different tweaks? First off, everything Trevor Bauer said. Let fans freely post and promote the game on any and all social media. Fix all the blackout restrictions. Making changes to the sport itself before you've tried using THE INTERNET is fucking insanity. Literal INSANITY. Like they sit around in meetings and someone says "Hey boss how about we let hundreds of millions of people give us free viral marketing on social media??" and Rob Manfred or some 2,000 year old white man says "The world wide web? No. Lets change the intentional walk rule." Fucking idiotic and beyond ignorant. 

Beyond the internet stuff though? I would lean heavy into gambling. Will never happen, particularly with baseball's feud with Pete Rose. But thats the future. And thats what sports fans like. Adam Silver has always been the most progressive commissioner, and as soon as the writing was on the wall with the legalization of gambling, he began talking about embracing betting. in 2014 (fourteen!) he was talking about ending the hypocrisy around pro sports leagues and gambling. You make baseball more gambling friendly and you're gonna gain some popularity. 

I'd lean into guys like The Rocket and Dallas Braden. Pardon My Take. Blogs and podcasts. There should be proactive relationships between the league and ALL of those type of shows. I'd be granting them unprecedented access. I'd maybe go as far as to incentivize guys like Mike Trout to make appearances on those podcasts and video series. Guys like Jared and Dallas have a large following, they are popular well beyond the stereotypical baseball writer's reach, and they are desperate to grow your game for you.

Lastly, encourage every franchise to have a group like the 7 Line. Or events like Barstool at the Ballpark. Guys like Darren Meenan and the 7 Line Army are the closest thing you're gonna get to the NFL's Bills Mafia or Black Hole or Dawg Pound. More drink specials, more pre-game and post game options, and anything that makes the live experience a memorable vibe of camaraderie. 

Do all that shit first - completely overhaul your approach the internet and social media, be on the cutting edge of implementing legalized gamble into your stadiums and your sport, encourage interaction with more blogs/podcasts/shows that are still (stupidly) considered non-traditional, and help create and facilitate individual rabid fan sections for each franchise - and then we can talk.

You do all that shit first. You make all that happen and the ratings or growth or whatever metric MLB cares about is still down? Then you can change the ball and the mound and the lineup and the number of games and the playoff format and whatever else you want. Then you've exhausted all the options that are right in front of your fucking face. Then you can get desperate. But jumping right to rule changes that undermine the essence of the sport itself seems lazy, stupid, and naive. 

PS - I'm well aware that people probably had these same arguments when the DH arrived, and when the Wild Card arrived and all the other major structural changes MLB has made throughout the years. I realize I'm probably being a bit of a purist hipster asshole, and I definitely understand I'm all talk and I'll always watch baseball no matter what and I'll have no choice but to grin and bear it. But these changes are A) pretty radical, 2) coming on the heels of major changes that were just made and d) not the changes most fans are asking for. Can we let the 2nd Wild Card and juiced balls breathe for a little bit while letting people tweet before thinking more rule changes are necessary? 

PPS - The goal was to get us to stop talking about the Astros and more cheating in baseball, and guess what? At least with this baseball nerd right here...mission accomplished. Damn you, Mandfred! Damn you!

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