Kind of a silly question, really. But Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com asks it, and he concludes it would not be popular if someone — say a guy named Ted Prisby — invented it today, because the only reason we like it now is because of the past:
But baseball thrives because of its nostalgia, because of the generations of memories it has produced. It’s romanticized because of its tradition, its old-time heroes and its folksy grace. Without that, baseball as we know it is nothing.
It’s those grainy images of Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays that make us pay homage and keep coming back, season after season.
But I’m telling you, if baseball never existed, I think Ted Prisby’s new game would rank somewhere between beach volleyball and a tractor pull.
And if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass a-hoppin’.
I know the games is passed down in families and that the past is important to the essence of the game. But I refuse to believe that baseball is nothing more than a historical hangover or an exercise in nostalgia. I refuse to believe if, for no other reason, than any kid who is taken to a ballpark is wowed and those kids don’t know doodly squat about baseball history for the most part.
Maybe it’d be different if it were a startup sport in the mold of every other startup sport that happens. Corporate sponsors, small scale, a business model which is aimed at blurring distinctions between franchises. It would probably be a niche thing like every other new thing is a niche thing in our society, at least to some degree.
But even if baseball as it is owes so much to its history, that’s not its entire appeal. Not by a longshot.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.