March 7, 2006
A Game in Crisis
You're probably one of those complacent baseball fans who thinks the game is in the clear just because there hasn't been a strike in 11 years. Wake up, people! The crises facing the game today are many and varied. Any one of them could end the major leagues as we know them. Taken together, they all but scream doomsday for the national game. Here is just a sampling of the horrors that have befallen the sport:
The designated hitter
A poll conducted in 2000 revealed these topics to be the most divisive and controversial of the 19th and 20th Centuries combined:
The independent league menace
Sure, it was cute when they took up residence in the little towns of the Midwest and the panhandle of Texas. Then they made bold steps into major cities like Newark, New Jersey and revealed their true agenda: the eventual usurpation of professional baseball as we know it.
Over-saturation of advertising in ballparks
First of all, can something be "over-saturated?" You might argue that something is either saturated or it isn't. If this is your take, you haven't been to a major or minor league ballpark lately. They are fairly dripping with signage, making it all but impossible to look in any direction without having your eyeballs bump into some visual pitch or another. Gone are the days when a single Packard ad might adorn a wall. ("Ask the man who oppresses other men to own one.") Soon, the ads will creep onto the uniforms, as has happened in soccer. The inevitable conclusion to all this is that ballplayers won't even play games anymore, they'll just act out commercials for fans. Laugh while you can.
The commercialization of stadium names
Stadiums used to be named after the team or its owner or the street where the place was located. Now? Something far more insidious is afoot. According to a pamphlet handed me by a reputable stranger in a supermarket parking lot, bankers, in league with the Illuminati, started both world wars and have suppressed the cure for cancer. Bankers have also claimed the names of any number of big league ballparks. This is part of Phase VIII of their plan for world domination. The problem is, bankers are always merging and buying each other's banks, leading to numerous name changes in these stadium names.
Increased game length
Game length has been driving fans away in droves. Compare 1958 attendances with those of today on a fan-per-minute basis and you'll see what I mean. Former commissioner William D. Eckert's 1966 decision to pay players on an hourly basis has had disastrous results for baseball. Lolly-gagging ballplayers intent on fattening their paychecks have bloated game times ever upward with no end in sight. By the end of the decade the average game will be longer than a Peter Jackson movie. Who will buy tickets then, good people?
Sign stealing: the silent killer
The psychologists I imagined I spoke to all agree: any man that would steal a sign would steal a baby and hold it for ransom. How much longer is baseball going to tolerate this befoulment of all that is right and true? Nothing bespeaks the moral decay of our society like this insidious practice. No wonder children feel free to steal apples from fruit stands and play hooky from Sunday school--look at the moral tone set by their national pastime.
How will we know baseball is entering its final season? When the first $12.00 hot dog makes its appearance. That will be the sign. No matter how much or how many condiments you pile on your stadium dog, its price cannot be justified. Here's an idea: no single stadium food or drink item should cost more than the current rate for the hourly minimum wage. That seems fair, doesn't it? But then, when did fairness enter into the stadium concession picture?
People have a lot on their minds these days, what with 200 channels worth of cable television to watch and 65 million websites begging for their attention. The last thing they need is to have to keep up with who is playing for their favorite baseball team. What people crave more than anything is stability. In fact, they prefer it to quality. It is well-known that most fans would prefer to have a bandy-legged slap hitter with a cute nickname return to their team's roster year after year than have the club make a trade for a walloping stud to replace him. It's just human nature and the constant roster turnover of big league clubs flies in the very face of that nature.
Speaking of human nature, if there's one thing we know about it, it is this: people don't like to be reminded that other people make more money than they do. Who wants to be surrounded by people who can buy and sell you for the price of a day's pay--and, to add insult to injury, to have to pay for the privilege? That is why attendance is spiraling downward further and further every day.
The fantasy league menace
That guy who works two cubicles down from you--the one who is always talking about "my team" and "my pitcher"--is part of an insidious cabal that wishes to make baseball subservient to their own needs. With their numbers growing every day, it is only a matter of time before fantasy players outnumber non-fantasy players. When they have achieved majority you will see unleashed a chaos the likes of which the world has before not known.
Yes, it's only a matter of time before one or a combination of several of these creeping terrors undermines baseball once and for all. On a positive note, uniforms are more colorful than ever.