Baseball is ruined! Again. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, the culprit this time around is Pitch f/x, a “simple technology” that inadvertently wrecked the game by encouraging umpires to call a more accurate strike zone. Who knew adhering to the rule book could prove so detrimental? Well, besides Tom Glavine, who made the same argument over 10 years ago.
Baseball has been ruined so often, an archaeology degree may become a pre-requisite for being a fan. Over the last 150 years, the list of things that have ruined baseball are too numerous to count. It would be easier to identify that which hasn’t killed the game than name every cause of baseball’s death. And yet, despite the frequent reports of the sport’s demise, so many still seem interested in walking through the rubble. It must be hard to look away from the destruction.
It’s difficult to say what first destroyed baseball. Ty Cobb often argued that Babe Ruth was the cause. Not only did the Sultan of Swat promote the evil home run over the beauty of fundamental play, he also had the nerve to habitually holdout for fair pay. Hadn’t Ruth learned from the experience of the Federal League, which ruined the national game by inflating salaries? Despite the restrictions of the reserve clause, and anti-trust exemption of the major leagues, greedy players, with their desire to unionize, continued to pose an imminent threat to the game. Not to be outdone, equally greedy owners, with their monopolistic ways and absurd innovations, like farm systems, were busy doing the same. These two factions competed to be the cause of baseball’s ruination for most of the 20th century, until they finally teamed up to destroy the game with free agency.
Who did the most damage during the free agency era? Was it free spending owners like the Yankees’ George Steinbrenner? Or ungrateful, overpaid, selfish players who only cared about the almighty dollar? What difference did it make? Because of the sport’s collective greed, labor discord abounded, and the bond between fan and team was inexorably broken. Once a populist game, baseball was now refuge for the elite and, as a result, destined for the scrap heap of the American sports landscape. Continue Reading »