Does anyone else think baseball has lost its charm?
So I'm watching a high school baseball game the other day doing one of my favorite things: participating in idle chitchat between pitches. About this and that. Nothing particularly substantive, just good banter. A great time to be alive.
"I'm going to take a nap later so I can stay up to watch the Red Sox face (Shohei) Ohtani tonight," a friend said, alluding to the pitcher for the Angels whose apparent collision course with Cooperstown (after two starts) was momentarily derailed Tuesday night.
I said, "You'd stay up that late to watch a baseball game in April?"
And I caught myself.
I was once interested in doing such things.
But I'm afraid I'm just not as much of a baseball fan anymore. Who knew you could watch something for more than 40 years and realize you've nonetheless become a simpleton?
Part of baseball's charm is watching the game and managing along with the manager. To bunt or not to bunt? Change the pitcher? Whom to bat cleanup? And maybe because we've all watched enough or played enough baseball, we know (or think we know) just enough to be dangerous.
Watching baseball now — at least for me — has become a burgeoning exercise in exasperation. Every pitch is accompanied by some metric that purports to provide context to what we're watching. Except what I see is a morass of confusing acronyms.
Few, if any, of the metrics are explained by the people who cover and broadcast games now, leaving us to interpret exit velocity, launch angle, spin rate, BAPIP, WAR, FIP and FRAA.
I have no idea what any of that means.
I suppose I could google it. But I watch baseball to lose myself for a few hours, not to revisit math class.
So do you think someone in the know could explain this stuff? And more importantly: why it's relevant?
I don't cover pro baseball much for many reasons, not the least of which is that we're not a big enough paper to do so. But when I do get to the ballpark, I'm always amused by the self-importance of baseball writers and baseball media in general. It's like they mistake the privilege of covering a baseball team with the responsibility of reporting international espionage.
I mean, they cover a baseball team. They didn't discover the polio vaccine.
But while they're at the ballpark, could they, you know, help out us cattle with some frames of reference to all the analytics? I realize that BABIP stands for "batting average on balls in play." Not to be snarky, but you can't have a batting average if you don't put balls in play. So the relevance is what, exactly?
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote a piece about two weeks ago quoting a book Ted Williams wrote in 1971 about hitting. Williams talked about the value of an uppercut in your swing. Is that, as Shaughnessy asked, the genesis of "launch angle?" And why can't it just be an uppercut?
I'm getting suspicious that the esoteric lexicon of analytics is a smokescreen for nothing more than pseudo-intellectual fraudulence. It must bear some relevance if it looks complicated and makes you sound smart. But what if it's all style and no substance?
And is baseball truly better off being run by 28-year-old Dartmouth grads who can do calculus with one derivative tied behind their back but don't know that a golden sombrero isn't really headwear?
Worse, I'm hearing that some of our local instructional havens are actually teaching our kids now about launch angle. Make it stop. No, really. Make it stop. How about we start with "here is how to pick up a ground ball," "here is how to throw strike one" and maybe "here is how to run the bases." And then we get to the kid's spin rate a little later?
I'm not sure anything else aggravates me more than intellectual phoniness. And that's the direction of baseball at the moment.
It used to be fun watching it. Now? It's driving me away with alarming exit velocity.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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Technology has a burgeoning place in sports. Instant replays and stat casts are all the rage now. They're supposed to be more informative and improve accuracy, but I'm not sure if it's what is best for our games.