Sorry, I’m not one of the fans that keeps begging David Ortiz to come out of retirement. He says his feet and his knees hurt all last season, but he kept on playing. I don’t think we want him crippled by continuing to play. Besides, I just saw the Red Sox come from 5 down to win a spring training game against the Twins; I don’t think we have a lot of worries if they keep not giving up. Yes, it is only spring training, and I kept not knowing who was playing for either team, but everyone was out there playing hard. And there were some lovely plays. So happy it is time for baseball again. But can I ask whose idea it was to have 38 – that is 38 – spring training games on top of a long season? Blame World Baseball, I guess.
But I really want to talk about the game itself. I have to say that I despise Rob Manfred, the Commissioner. I don’t think he understands the game and the beauty of it. He wants time clocks and other things to speed up the game. I would speed up the game by doing away with that stupid instant replay. It generally shows the umpires to be pretty damn good and it takes a lot longer than an instant.
This is why I loved Nick Cafardo’s column in the Boston Globe the other day. He begins
Oh, I hear the moaning about this and that and the slowness of the game. But I love baseball just the way it is. I hate that it is using artificial means to “improve” things.
I already hate instant replay because I think it adds to the interruption and extension of play more than anything. Oh yeah — we have the technology, so why not use it? Well, why don’t we just ignore the technology?
I long for the days of umpire/manager disputes. That made the game exciting, whether the call was right or wrong. I’d rather see that than taking 2½ minutes for a replay decision to come down from New York. How boring.
I guess I can live with the pitcher throwing the ball for an intentional walk as there weren’t very many instances of a misfire, but we can stop right there with the changes.
The game goes better for everyone when the pitcher gets the ball back and then pitches. None of this walking around between every pitch business. (I’m talking about you, David Price.) But this is something pitchers should be taught; they don’t need a time clock.
And I love what Tony Clark, the current head of the Player’s Association had to say to Cafardo. Clark is a former player himself, not a lawyer like previous heads.
While Clark indicated that the players were “OK” with instant replay — not a ringing endorsement — and the collision rules that protect fielders at second base and home plate, he also made a good point: Many players would like the game preserved. They were taught to slide hard into second. They were taught to try to dislodge the ball from the catcher.
“You grew up playing the game a particular way,” Clark said. “You fall in love with the game a particular way. You appreciate and respect that history.
“You also are willing to have conversations on ways to improve, and that will continue with understanding and appreciating that you never want to get so far away from the game itself that those who love the game no longer recognize it.”
I understand that people have short attention spans these days and that a baseball game that runs close to 3 hours seems like an eternity to many. But we all need to take a deep breath and learn to relax. Didn’t someone once write a book on the Zen of baseball?
What about this seeming obsession to speed up the game?
“There’s checkers and then there’s chess,” Clark said. “But again, I am a bit of romantic there. There’s so much going on in our game that when it doesn’t look like it, there’s things going on.
I love watching live. Any game at any level. But baseball on TV can be difficult. The answer may lie in better announcers who notice things and tell us about them. Can the irrelevant chatter about what they had for dinner and tell us about where the third baseman is positioning himself. Stop talking about neckties and tell us about the outfield. I noticed that Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley were doing more of that last year: Do even more. I admit that I sometimes watch without sound and like the radio because they are forced to tell you exactly what is happening.
I’ll let Cafardo have the last word
Baseball is one of the few games where you can sit down and watch and let things unfold in a natural way. If it takes a while, who cares? You watch because you love the game. So love the game.
Enjoy the season, baseball fans.
Photograph: Jeff Fannell