The Slow, But Progressing, Re-Evolution of Baseball

I remember being obsessed with baseball. It was my favorite sport when I was younger; the thrill of the game and the camaraderie with my teammates on my Cal Ripken little league squad consumed me, and they were some of the best years of my life. Not to mention that I idolized Derek Jeter and to do everything that he did was my way of paying homage to him.

I also never missed a Yankee game on TV from 2005-07 seasons. If I did miss one, I was furious with myself. I got to watch all of my favorites including Jeter (A-Rod, Matsui, Posada, Bernie, Giambi, Mussina, Mariano, and Randy Johnson [remember that two-year tenure he had with the Yankees?]).

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Nowadays, it’s very difficult for me to catch a baseball game on TV, slightly because of the three hours I don’t want to dedicate to watching it. However, it’s weird for me to think about how I’ll dedicate three hours to watch a football game or maybe even a basketball game, but not a baseball game.

It’s understandable why; there’s a lot more action happening during a football or basketball game than there is for baseball (minus all the huddles and stoppages of play for penalties and technical fouls).

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The truth is that baseball became a little boring to me. It really hurts me to say that because I look back on my life and see how much baseball helped me grow as a person and how it affected my life in the positive way that it did. I guess I just needed something more fast and intriguing to watch. Something that if you look away for just a second, you could miss a big piece of the action.

It’s also because of the stigma that baseball has been receiving over the past couple years. When I was in middle and high school, I kept getting picked on and teased by some kids who had once played baseball in the spring, but then switched over to lacrosse. I guess that’s the transition some kids go through when they can’t hit a baseball and then think the entire sport sucks. Secondly, the media gives America’s pastime a stigma too, thus leading to the consumer persuasion. It’s hard to see baseball marketed right in today’s era of sports when everything is about LeBron James.

(Just a friendly reminder that ESPN used a half-hour timeslot to broadcast this piece-of-garbage special)

Looking back on how I was when I was younger and how baseball became an dull sport to me, I wish I could go back and slap myself in the face for being stupid.

Baseball finally became exciting again; there’s fights with Bryce Harper’s aerodynamic hair, there’s a 6-foot-7 rookie power forward playing right field and leading the league in home runs for the Yankees, and there’s a Dodgers pitcher who is making his claim for the Hall of Fame in just one season. Not to mention that a 108-year World Series drought was just ended in November last year.

These are only a few things that have been happening in the game recently, but I, and other fans, could give you a list of all the excitement that baseball has offered us for the past couple of years.

Baseball is on the up and coming… again. And if you still think that it’s boring, you need to read this article in the Huffington Post that helped me see the light, so to speak:

Baseball Isn’t Boring, YOU’RE Boring

The title speaks for itself.

The game of baseball hasn’t gotten longer or shorter, disregarding extra innings. It’s still nine inning and roughly two-and-a-half hours long.

Stimulating action doesn’t mean that there needs to be people running around the field every second.

And oh, you have a short attention span? Then sorry, guess baseball isn’t exactly the sport for you.

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It’s kind of hard to hit a baseball that can reach over 90 miles per hour, almost so that it should be humanly impossible.

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Imagine the training and repetitions needed to outmatch that margin of error.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion about sports. Like baseball, people think soccer is boring as well. Maybe I’m a little bias since I’m trying to become a sports broadcasting journalist and I need to see every sport as professionally equal. But the fact of the matter is that baseball is an incredible sport that has the same level difficulty as every other sport: insane difficulty.

What baseball needs now is a face that will represent the game well. It arguably used to be Jeter, but who could it possibly be now that he’s retired? It could be Mike Trout or Jose Bautista, or even Bryce Harper and his very unique personality.

They just need to find the proper face; one that shares the same massive popularity as LeBron. And that’s the most difficult part.

Welcome to the new re-evolution of baseball. The return and rise of the game is overshadowing all of us, and it’s beautiful.

The Red Sox and Orioles Brew Up Controversy

Already a month into the 2017 season, Major League Baseball has made some standout headlines: “Judgement Day in the Bronx”, “Nats Showing Early Dominance”, and “Cubs’ Bats Failing to Follow Historic Season”.

America’s pastime shows promise for an exciting rest of the season. But for two franchises, the headlines have grown more controversial throughout their bout.

The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles have developed a rivalry filled with vicious wild pitches and unnecessary racial slurs in only a month. How’s that for a headline? With both teams a couple games out of first place in the AL East, the animosity between the two has skyrocketed to an intense level.

On April 21st, Orioles’ Manny Machado overslid second base attempting to break up a double play and caught Boston’s Dustin Pedroia’s calf with his spike. Had Machado purposefully meant to do this, hand him an Oscar for his acting ability. By all accounts, it looks as though it was an accident and he even tried to help Pedroia after the contact. The Red Sox second baseman would leave the game early and sit out the next three.

Pedroia defended Machado’s slide saying it was legal and that playing at an intense level like that is natural. As captain of the team, he ordered his fellow teammates to show no signs of retaliation towards Machado or the rest of the Orioles organization.

This whole situation could’ve blown over like it was nothing, but instead, hostilities began to escalate.

The following game, Machado was targeted with three straight inside pitches by Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, failing every time. Later in the game, reliever Matt Barnes (an alumni of my high school, believe it or not) chucked a fastball right behind his head, leading to an ejection and Barnes’ four game suspension.

But it doesn’t stop there…

Baltimore’s closer Zach Britton fired a random shot at Pedroia’s leadership ability, saying, “If he can’t control his teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.” Pedroia said addressed his comments saying that he is entitled to his own opinion and that it’s time to move on from the situation.

But guess what? You’re probably right if you hypothesized that all the fuss didn’t find an ending. The Orioles/Red Sox game on May 1st at Fenway Park proved to be a turning point.

Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy plunked Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who both had nothing to do with the overlying situation. In the outfield, however, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was the victim of, what he claimed to be, racial slurs thrown at him, alongside a stray bag of peanuts.

“I got called the n-word a handful times out there,” Jones said to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “It’s unfortunate that people need to resort to those types of epithets to degrade another human being. I’m trying to make a living for myself and for my family.

Boston Police escorted the 34 antagonizing fans out of the ballpark. Both the Red Sox organization and Mayor Marty Walsh apologized to Jones, calling the fans’ behavior “inexcusable.” Walsh chimed in saying, “We are [all] better than this.”

Jones was greeted with a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful during his first plate appearance the next night.

Despite this, the team-wide personal vendetta against Manny Machado continued when Chris Sale fired a ball behind his head. A heated Machado summed up the entire situation in a post-game interview with just two words: “fucking bullshit.”

On May 3rd, Orioles starter Kevin Gausman was ejected from the game after beaming Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts with an off-speed, rogue curveball to open the bottom of the second inning. To top it off, more racist remarks were heard during the performance of the national anthem which was sung by a Kenyan woman.

So, it goes without saying that the Red Sox/Orioles series this season has taken a turn down an unnecessary path. Will all this commotion continue when they face each other again in June, August, and September?

Both league commissioner Rob Manfred and chief baseball officer Joe Torre have had to step in now like a principal disciplining two misbehaving students to put an end to all this madness; enough is enough.

But what about the discipline that’s needed to ensure that racism stays out of the ballpark?

Controlling a player’s on- and off-the-field behavior is one thing; simply giving a suspension could either reduce the chance of it happening again or only fuel a player’s motive to commit the same act. Controlling a random fan’s actions in the stands, though? That’s a whole other ballgame. No pun intended.

The end result of this whole debacle still remains to be seen. Fans need to remember that their role is to support and cheer on their team no matter what. Sure, you can boo and jeer and hiss all you want at the other team; even an occasional “you suck” can be permitted at the discretion of the stadium’s rules and regulations. But when a line is crossed like on Monday night, something has to be said.

Imagine the six year old kid attending his first Red Sox game that day and hearing much more than what they would consider “potty mouth”. Their parents must be livid that they were exposed to that, especially in a friendly atmosphere like the one at Fenway Park.

It seems as though society still has many steps to take in showing any shred of tolerance. Sports is about a display of athleticism; it’s been years since race has played a role in how a player received a reaction from the crowd. We’re past that era and some fans still need to get that relayed to them.

Let’s stick to baseball and move forward.