MLB – RELAX, THE FUTURE OF BASEBALL IS IN GOOD HANDS

As I write this article, I’m on an Amtrak choo-choo heading north towards the big American Northeast cities.

I’m all alone in a business-class car nice and comfy in my bouncy blue chair using my iPad on a bouncy tray table…

In this middle part of the east coast, I’ve passed an array of farm land, row houses, industrial plants, warehouses, and seen lots of concrete.

I’ve also seen plenty of active baseball diamonds.  That makes me happy.

It just goes to show that no matter where you are, baseball is still alive and well.

That is, at least on the grass-roots level.  In the professional world?  It all depends on who you ask.

Earlier this year, two high profile players publicly voiced their opinions on the state of MLB and admitted concern about its future.

One was Goose Gossage, 64-year-old former Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher, and the other was 23-year-old Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals RF on the verge of superstardom.

Interestingly, though, their philosophies couldn’t be further apart.

Harper told ESPN The Magazine in March that he wants to change the game – through endorsements and fashion, for one.

He said: “Baseball is a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself.  You can’t do what people in other sports do.  Guys are coming into the game now who have flair” and are “so much fun”.

Harper also said that he thinks players should not be held back by the “Code” of “unwritten rules” where players are required to respect their peers without expressing themselves fully, i.e: celebrations (and without retaliation) when they win.

He said players like Cam Newton who celebrate his own way with a smile and a dance are “exciting”, have “flair” and are “dramatic”, which are ultimately good for ratings.

Meanwhile, Gossage, a self-professed “old school” guy told Michael Kay on March 10 that baseball is losing its “character” and being “ruined” because some of the dramatic celebrations Harper was talking about are starting to be allowed.

He said that players who celebrate and show others up “act like bunch of fools”, have “not been taught how to act like professionals” and have a “lack of respect for the game and the guys who played before”.

Gossage also said he disagrees with Harper about style and expression.  He thinks worrying about that stuff hurts the sport and provides a distraction.

And, he thinks all the changes MLB is making help “soften” the sport and will end up killing it.  For ex- instant replay and rules that bar home plate collisions and slides.

For a baseball fan like myself who falls in between these generations, I do see some sense in both players’ sentiments, but I side mostly with Harper.

I’ve seen the ratings and know that if baseball wants to get and retain young fans for life, it needs to reach out now and find them.  If not, they may never come.

While today’s kids are different than we were, it’s just a fact that we need to find out what thrills them and let it into the game of baseball.  If that includes letting individual players put their “flair” on display, so be it.

As for rules changes, we can’t be afraid to modify that aspect of the sport if it makes it safer for everyone.  Ultimately, the core game can never really budge much farther.   We need to take stock in that and just relax.

In fact, baseball doesn’t need to be so “professional” in order to succeed as Gossage suggested.  Conformity and tradition may be what is ultimately hurting it, as Harper foresees.

The answer is likely that we need to allow more personal diversity into the game.  It’s only natural, because that is where we are headed as a society.

After all, what will shine through is the pure game of baseball itself.  Just like we will always remember, no matter what generation we’re from.

 

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