Craig Calcaterra

baseball grass

Baseball is dying, you guys

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There’s the October “baseball is dying” rush when football ratings dwarf baseball’s and then there’s the Opening Day rush when, “heck, let’s just throw shade at baseball” seems like a great idea. Anyway, here’s the latest.

Key angle: youth participation is the key to a vital sport and youth participation in baseball is down. That’s what it leads with, noting that youth participation is absolutely essential to loving it later in life. Then it gives stats on that which serve to undercut the premise:

Participation in all sports has dropped by more than 9 percent nationwide over the past five years, according to an annual study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Only lacrosse has shown double-digit growth over that period. Baseball participation dropped 3 percent, basketball fell by 2 percent, and football lost 5 percent of its tackle players and 7 percent of touch players. About half of American children do not participate in any team sport.

But cut the author some slack. This is one of those “throw every available statistic at the reader and hope a few blows are landed” kind of article, so he’s allowed some misses once in a while. And did you note the picture of the old base on the muddy,  disused baseball field? That’s some Serious Symbolic Stuff right there, you guys.

Overall, this is the same story we’ve seen over and over and over again: there are more things for kids to do now and they’re doing different things. There are more entertainment and sports options for people now and they’re watching different things. Baseball was once the only thing anyone cared about but that is not the case anymore. It’s spiced up with some pithy quotes about how baseball is going to go the way of Tower Records and Blockbuster video, but it says nothing new of substance.

As we’ve noted many, many, many times here, baseball has some challenges. As all products and all entertainments do. It is only a Big Important Issue worthy of a Big Important Article like this, however, if you approach baseball differently than you approach any of those other businesses and entertainments. If you have it in your head that baseball had some God-given place of primacy in the sports universe that it should maintain despite the entire world changing around it. If you buy in to the idea that it is The National Pastime and that it’s important and essential for it to be The National Pastime for it to be healthy.

Judge baseball on what it is, not on what it was. Only then are your conclusions and your rhetoric going to be reasonable.

Opening night at Wrigley Field: half hour bathroom lines and dudes peeing in corners

Wrigley Field
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source: AP

Bill and I both linked to stories about this earlier, but the more I’ve read about it, the more it sounds like an actual big deal as opposed to a mere Opening Night hiccup. I’m talking about the Wrigley Field bathroom disaster.

My first thought when I heard about this was “welcome to what women face at ballparks, dudes” because women’s bathroom lines are always bad, but this does not seem to be a mere issue of men finally being inconvenienced like women always are. This was something a bit more extreme:

Deadspin’s take here. Jeff Passan, who was at the game, reports on the problems here. UPDATE: Deadspin now has more pics and emails from people who were at the game, making the problems seem even worse than first reported.

UPDATE: The Cubs have given a full statement in response to this mess. The earlier statement we reproduced in this post came from a news source which, for whatever reason, only ran part of the team statement and excised the apology. Here’s the full statement:

Opening Day at Wrigley Field has always brought challenges with wait times and tonight was particularly extreme.  Two bathrooms in the upper deck went down temporarily forcing fans downstairs where we already were experiencing issues with long wait times.  With 35,000 fans showing up in the ballpark tonight, we were simply not prepared to handle guests during peak periods.  We have high standards for service and we missed the mark tonight.

We want to apologize to our fans for the inconvenience tonight.  Moving forward we plan to supplement the existing restrooms with additional portable units and will continue to monitor wait times.

Good on them for apologizing, but it’s hard to see how a couple of malfunctions could lead to such a large problem. Maybe excessive daytime pregaming on the part of baseball fans led to, um, a greater overall urge. But ballparks have a finite capacity — Wrigley Field’s being even smaller than usual due to the lack of bleachers during the renovation — and the Cubs knew they’d have a full house. Even the most rowdy, drunk and amateur hour of dude-bro baseball fans would prefer to pee in a bathroom, not a beer cup out on the concourse, and the fact that they couldn’t suggests an issue with the facilities.

And at least one HBT reader says that this was not some unusually crazy-drunk crowd:

I’m less interested in the apologies here than a breakdown of what has happened to the bathrooms in the course of the renovation. Specifically if the fan-to-toilet ratio has gotten “particularly extreme” while the work is being done. I’m not even joking when I say that, maybe, this is all the result of a trough deficit. You know, those ugly old communal urinals from days of yore?

source:

Wrigley Field was, I think, the last ballpark to feature them. I wonder if they’ve lost some in the renovation and with them some efficiency. I’d go on about how perhaps this dark cloud could, perhaps, have a golden lining in that it could lead to the glorious return of the men’s room trough, but I feel like doing so would be to oversell the point.

In any event, it wouldn’t shock me if there were porta-potties at Wrigley for Game 2.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

Jason Heyward
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Annnnnnndddd . . . we’re back!

 

source: Getty Images

Cardinals 3, Cubs 0: Jason Heyward went 3 for 5 with a couple of doubles and a stolen base. Nice pickup. As for the Cubs, Jon Lester was shaky, the defense was pretty terrible-looking all night long and they were awful with runners in scoring position. And they’ve yet to use all that money they’re going to save on Kris Bryant’s delayed service time to add a couple of new bathrooms. All of the offseason excitement in the world is only worth so much, I guess.

But seriously, guys: don’t sweat it too much. A single-game “Opening Night” lends itself to single game overanalysis. Frankly, that’s the worst part of not opening with 10-15 games at once. After a whole month of playoffs in which every game is important, three months of football in which every game has outsized importance and then all of the March Madness stuff, we’re all wired to put too much stock in the outcome of a three-hour event. To read and write column-length breakdowns and talk about the “storylines” and “what we’ve learned” and all of that jazz.

Let’s not do that here, OK? Last night was one baseball game which amounts to a little over one half of one percent of the baseball season for these two teams and is less than one half of one one-thousandth of the entire baseball season overall. The beauty of baseball season is that it’s long and no one game really matters all that much. When bad things happen, there’s always tomorrow. Let’s try to remember how to get back on that footing again, shall we?

Ervin Santana suspended 80 games for PEDs

Ervin Santana
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This is one of the bigger names to get a drug suspension in a while:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Minnesota Twins right-handed pitcher Ervin Santana has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Santana will be effective for the first 80 games of the 2015 regular season.

Santana is the Twins’ second highest-paid player — and largest free agent signing of all time — having just signed a four-year, $55 million contract in December. There are incentives in place that could add a fifth year to that. He was slated to be the team’s number two starter behind Phil Hughes. This is no way for him to be starting out his tenure with his new team.

In 2014 Santana was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA and K/BB ratio of 179/63 in 196 innings. Now he’s out for half the season.

UPDATE: Santana has released a statement. Upshot: taking the PEDs was inadvertent:

“Ever since I was a child I always had to work harder than everyone. Not too many people believed I could become a major leaguer. I worked hard to achieve everything I accomplished and I take pride in proving that through hard work dreams can come true.”

“I serve as a role model for many kids in my home country who dream of playing at the highest level. I would never put baseball, my family, or my country in a position where its integrity is jeopardized. I preach hard work, and don’t believe in short cuts. I am very disappointed that I tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body. I would never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance. What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance. That’s just not me, never has ben and never will.”

“Moving forward, I need to be more careful on what I consume in my home country, I will be more vigilant of medications I take so that I don’t commit another mistake. Having said that, I believe it is best to move forward and accept the punishment that has been negotiated by MLB and MLBPA for my positive PED test. This is unexpected news for me and my family. I am issuing this statement so the public knows where I stand. My deepest apologies to my family, fans, colleagues, teammates and my current employer the Minnesota Twins. All I can do now is continue to work hard, and when the suspension is up, come back to doing what I love.”

HBT Extra: A conversation with Madison Bumgarner

HBT Extra Logo
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Our Jenna Corrado is joined by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner to discuss offseason training at his North Carolina ranch, how he feels after a busy 2014 season, a potential rivalry between him and Clayton Kershaw and more.