The first professional baseball team was established in 1869. Two weeks later someone probably wrote a column about how baseball was dying, on its way out and utterly utterly doomed.
From then until the present day, scribes have proclaimed baseball to be a dead sport walking. Here’s the latest, from the pages of the Kansas City Star. It’s possible it’s a reader submission — I’m not sure — but it’s given the newspaper’s imprimatur, so I consider it fair game.
As usual, it uses national television ratings as the metric, completely ignoring that baseball is primarily consumed on the local level, not the national level. As usual, it treats baseball different than the NFL and the NBA, noting that each of those leagues has had labor chaos, but then somehow using that as a sword against baseball, warning Bud Selig that he had best be wary in the face of the upcoming collective bargaining sessions with the player’s union. As if baseball’s labor house isn’t leaps and bounds better than that in the other sports.
What is it that gives people such joy in tearing into baseball like this? In proclaiming its death despite the league’s overall financial health and near-historic attendance levels? I don’t expect everyone to come to praise baseball, but I never cease to be amazed at the impulse to bury it.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: