Little League

Your kids aren’t playing baseball

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In this morning’s invocation I said that people will, come August, start slagging on baseball.  Well, some aren’t waiting. The Wall Street Journal sounds an alarm today about how kids just aren’t playing the game anymore:

As for Little League, which covers kids aged 4 to 18, about two million kids played in the U.S. last year, compared to about 2.5 million in 1996—an overall decline of 25%. The only growth in youth baseball participation since the 1990s, according to the NSGA, has come from kids who play more than 50 times a year—which suggests more children who play baseball have chosen to specialize.

Certainly not an unfair slag — facts is facts — but it is a downer to read it on Opening Day.

But I wonder if there isn’t as much to worry about with this.  Baseball isn’t the National Pastime it used to be, but part of it being so dominant for so long was that there were way more kids playing it who, let’s be honest, were doing so out of social pressure. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that every kid isn’t given a glove on his birthday and is expected to be a ballplayer. How many kids played ball in the past 60 years simply because not playing ball meant being ostracized? For them and for everyone it’s probably better that they’re playing soccer or playing guitar or learning programming languages or whatever.

I get that this could potentially bode ill for the size of the fan base in that, as the article notes, playing baseball is a good indicator of later following it. But attendance is way healthier now than it ever was when everyone played as a kid, so I question whether this effect is as big as it’s made out to be.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, but I don’t think it’s a particularly threatening one. Either for the game or for our nations’ youth.

Angels sign Kole Calhoun to three-year, $26 million extension

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kole Calhoun #56 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs to first base during a game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 26, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun had three more years of arbitration eligibility left, but he and the Angels decided to settle that future business at once on Wednesday, agreeing to a three-year extension worth $26 million, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The contract also includes a $14 million club option for the 2020 season.

Calhoun, 29, has been a dependable right fielder for the Angels over the last three seasons, batting an aggregate .266/.327/.436 with 61 home runs and 216 RBI in 1,895 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, Calhoun has been the ninth-most valuable right fielder in baseball since the start of the 2014 season with 11.4 Wins Above Replacement. He ranks slightly behind Giancarlo Stanton (11.9) and just ahead of J.D. Martinez (10.9).

The Angels only have a handful of players signed beyond the 2017 season — just Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Calhoun. The club has options on Ricky Nolasco and Huston Street, while many others will be eligible for arbitration.

Bryce Harper lobbies for Matt Wieters and Greg Holland

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after hitting a single in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Nothing is happening as the baseball world waits four more hours for the Hall of Fame announcement. Question: why do it at 6pm? For MLB Network ratings? Let’s be real, there are “Golden Girls” reruns on third-tier basic cable that are gonna draw a bigger audience. Why not announce it now so people can get on with their lives? Oh well.

As we wait, let’s take a look in at Twitter, where Jim Bowden of ESPN passes along the rumor that the Washington Nationals are still interested in signing Matt Wieters and Greg Holland:

Great to know that the Nats’ baseball operations budget is dictated by its capital expenditures. Maybe they shoulda been smart like the Braves and suckered — er, I mean negotiated the local government to pay more for it? GO BRAVES!

Anyway, Bryce Harper had a response to that:

I take that to mean that he’d take the money used to construct the team store and give to Wieters and Holland. I haven’t seen the budget breakdown for the new spring training facility, but that would probably mean a major pay cut for Wieters and Holland. And where would we buy our “Make Baseball Great Again” caps? Think ahead, Bryce. Play the long game here.