It's time for MLB broadcasters to embrace the style and flair of today's players, not lament it
People talk about MLB having a marketing problem, a good start would be to celebrate the players
In today's sports world, there's some fetish with a narrative that some sport is "dying." It's actually been around baseball for decades upon decades. I don't know why it exists, but it's there.
Further, baseball constantly hears about how it needs to be better at marketing itself.
At the intersection of these two areas, I'd like to discuss broadcasters. Specifically, the segment of announcers -- mostly color commentators, but there are some play-by-play guys who do this -- who constantly lament the game and how it's played today.
I say this at a time with baseball fan demographics skewing older and a need to reach as many young fans as possible. The absolute last thing in the world that will get younger fans interested in a game is hearing from a former player about how much the game today is worse than it was "back in my day."
Your day is gone, dude. I'm sorry to tell you, but the game is constantly changing. And it's not just baseball. Things evolve over time. The biggest problem we actually have is those who refuse to accept it.
Blass, the 75-year-old former big-league pitcher now broadcasting games for the Pirates, took a shot at Baez a few days ago, singling him out when the subject of the Cubs came up, calling him "a difficult player for me to root for."
Because of his "flashiness?"
Blass: "That's a nice way to put it … flashiness."
Look, team broadcasts are always going to feature some kind of "homer" element, but this is garbage. Baez is one of the most exciting players in baseball. He doesn't show up opponents, he doesn't get in fights, he doesn't get in shouting matches with umpires and he doesn't get in trouble off the field. He just plays hard everyday and has fun doing so, as evidenced by how he smiles much of the time. So what's the problem? That he has fun?
How in the world is that so objectionable? Get a grip. Baseball should be embracing these types of players, the kind that make lifelong fans out of younger people.
Recently, Braves color man Joe Simpson went on a rather embarrassing tirade about some of the Dodgers taking batting practice in t-shirts instead of BP uniforms. He said it was "unprofessional" and an "embarrassment." Enrique Hernandez was among the players wearing a Strike Out Cancer t-shirt instead of a jersey.
Getting "triggered" by batting practice attire? Quit taking things that don't matter so seriously. It was such a dumb thing to be so worried about, especially when the players are promoting a good cause (Hernandez's father is a cancer survivor) and having fun.
Top MLB analyst in the playoffs and World Series John Smoltz -- who is excellent when actually discussing what's going on in the game -- seems to have a laundry list of things he hates during each broadcast.
This was all just off the top of my head. These guys aren't the only ones. They are far from alone. Any given night, you can flip around from game to game and stumble upon a rant from a guy -- usually a former player -- about:
- Too many strikeouts. There probably are, but whining about how players these days approach at-bats isn't solving anything.
- The shift. Oh man, the shift brings on the whining from both sides. Either it shouldn't be allowed or teams are stupid to do it the times that a ball is hit where a traditional, say, third baseman would normally be. Speaking of which ...
- Analytics are ruining the game. How is that even possible? Some people like and use different stats than you and that somehow ruins the sport for you? Just ignore them if you have a problem.
- Pitchers in this day and age are coddled and don't pitch deep enough into games. That's not what it is at all. Pitchers throw harder than ever and arms are more stressed than ever, so more injuries happen. Further, the third time through the order is a big advantage for an offense, most bullpens are full of guys who throw high-90s with good breaking stuff. It's just better baseball to not let a run-of-the-mill starter throw 125 pitches in order to get through eight innings.
- Bat flips. Man, the old school people really hate a player flipping his bat when he hits a no-doubt home run. Leading to ...
- "Disrespecting the game." This one is variable, because the beauty of it is that you can say anything in the world is disrespect. A player smiles. Disrespect! A player gets mad at himself for making an out. Disrespect! It's basically gotten to the point that an old former player can just decide he doesn't like something a player did and he can file it under "disrespect" and come off like the good guy just trying to teach all these immature and stupid young'uns how things are supposed to be.
Man, if you hate the game so much, just find another line of work, guys.
For me, the game is incredibly exciting. It's a great product. The number of very exciting players to watch is off the charts, especially the young talent. If you want to name an All-Star team of the most fun players to watch, you'd have about 25 guys who looked like egregious omissions once the dust had settled.
Personally, I love the flair and believe it needs to be embraced. If MLB wants its demographics to start skewing younger, embracing players with great personality like Baez, Francisco Lindor, Bryce Harper and dozens of others is going to go a lot further than listening to people like Blass and Simpson yearn for the 1960s.
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