When was baseball at it’s most fun?
Was it during the steroid era, when you could watch Barry Bonds hit 500-foot homers with regularity? When you could see Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa race each other to sixty moonshots? When Jose Canseco could barely run around the bases because of how juiced up he was?
Maybe it was during an era of dominant pitching. In 1968, Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with an average of .301, the lowest in MLB history. That same year, Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Cy Young with an ERA of 1.12, the lowest ERA from a Cy Young winner in the live-ball era (Post-1920).
Both of these dramatic ends of the spectrum stand out as “fun” baseball. Baseball buffs could make an argument as to why any specific generation was when the game was at its best, depending on what they like most in the game.
In today’s MLB, there’s a great mix of both pitching and hitting. Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta has a .84 ERA and a perfect 6-0 record through six starts. Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop Trevor Story has 11 homers in his first 29 career games. Mike Trout makes robbing longballs look easy. And don’t worry about a lack of jaw-dropping bombs, Giancarlo Stanton has you covered.
So what does Bryce Harper, the 23-year-old phenom outfielder for the Washington Nationals, mean when he wears this hat:
Bryce Harper wears a "Make Baseball Fun Again" hat after the Nationals' win. pic.twitter.com/MvGeU6MDA5
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 5, 2016
It has everything to do with the unwritten rules of baseball.
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) March 10, 2016
Baseball “purists” will say that a bat flip or stare down has no room in the game, but times are changing. You don’t get a ton moments in baseball to show off your talent, and when you do shine, you’re expected to act routine. Meanwhile, Cam Newton and Steph Curry are dancing all game long:
Today’s generation simply wants to see dominant athletes have fun and be a little cocky. If the MLB wants to keep up with the NFL and NBA, they’ll have to adapt. Since 1984, all five of the least viewed World Series in that period have come in the past eight seasons (2012, 2008, 2014, 2010, 2015).
Kyle Melnick, a sophomore journalism major and UMD baseball beat reporter for The Diamondback, says parents usually make up most of the crowd at Maryland home games. Student attendance depends mostly on the weather, according to Melnick.
“I think they (students) do care about the game, I don’t think they would go at all if they didn’t care. It’s definitely like a social event, but that’s kind of what it’s like in the MLB too,” said Melnick.
It’s not too hard to see why kids are drawn into basketball and football when watching sports highlight shows nowadays. The most athletic plays, like alley-oops and one-handed touchdown catches, will always be shown. Watching baseball highlights all summer may make the game seem repetitive and mundane.
“I love that baseball is there every day,” said junior geographic information systems major Clarence Joe. “But I wouldn’t say that I prefer to watch it over the NBA and NFL. I feel like those leagues have the best athletes out there.”
“There’s not a lot of moments when people will stand up and scream for you in baseball like there is in other sports, unless something absolutely crazy happens,” said Melnick.
Well, one of those absolutely crazy moments happened last night. 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, pitcher for the New York Mets, shocked everybody when hit his first career homer:
— In Mets We Trust (@InMetsWeTrust) May 8, 2016
Standing at 5’11” and weighing 265 pounds, Colon’s BMI is 37. What other sports do you see success from such an unlikely athlete?
Maybe standing ovations and celebrations in baseball should be reserved only for the craziest of the crazy. But at the same time, it could help the MLB if some of it’s unwritten rules slowly died off. Either way, baseball is fun again, if it ever wasn’t beforehand.