Tom Verducci believes he’s figured out what’s wrong with baseball, and, in the course of what really is an interesting article, says what it is: there is simply not enough contact:
. . . we are missing an essential part of the game’s allure and
romance: the crack of the bat. You hear it less and less in today’s
game. Hitting and pitching have evolved in ways that mean the baseball
is put into play less frequently than ever before.
Today baseball includes fewer hits, less contact and more walks and
strikeouts. Baseball remains a beautiful, fascinating game that becomes
even more interesting the more you know about it. But if you’re the kind
of fan who simply likes to see the ball put into play, there is less to
I’m usually the last person who hops on the “what’s wrong with baseball” wagon, because it often serves as a vehicle for “back when I was a boy, they used to . . .” stuff. Everyone loves the baseball they grew up with. Guys in their teens and 20s have never known anything other than Yankees-style baseball. It’s what they came to love.
I’m younger than Verducci is, but my 80s baseball is pretty close to his 70s baseball, so on some basic level I’m sympathetic to his argument. There were fewer strikeouts and walks when we were kids learning to love the game. And while, yes, I totally appreciate the take-and-rake school of baseball that has evolved over the past 15 years or so, I can’t say that I always enjoy it as much.
All that said, I think Veducci’s concerns are somewhat overstated. While walks and strikeouts are up over where they were thirty and forty years ago, it’s only by a couple a game, max. That has some impacts on flow and game times, but I don’t think they’re dramatic effects. In no event are they as aesthetically-troublesome as guys stepping out of the box all the time.
But overstated or not, Verducci’s prescription for the problem he identifies seems like a good one: umpires should be more generous with the strike zone. That would solve the game time problem I and Major League Baseball seem to be having, and it would likely lead to a lot more contact, which would make Verducci happy.