There has been one durably unifying complaint about baseball in its history: It’s boring. This is not as serious a criticism as, say, banning people with a certain skin color or heritage from the sport until after two World Wars, but it’s one that transcends time and demographics.
Lack of action has long been the Achilles’ bunion of baseball, even before sports like football and basketball emerged from their primordial muck with sprightly feet. Sure, those sports have their own pace-of-play issues — the gridiron is the longtime home of 30-second huddles interrupted by a few moments of fury — but baseball boasts the most obvious perpetual pregnant pause.
Traditionally, the fault line of baseball ennui has been bridged by fans who dismiss the complaints as a lack of sophistication among the complainers. (Translated: “If you’re too dumb to appreciate the greatness, I can’t help you.”) But lately, the uprising has come from within. The loudest cries against the state of baseball have come from some of its most diehard fans or reporters, legions of whom have testified to the lack of action, as Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated described the final game of the 2020 World Series.
Over the final 26 minutes of play, viewers saw only two balls put into play. Over the three hours, 28 minutes it took to play the 8 ½-inning game, they saw 32 balls in play, or one every 6 ½ minutes. They saw more pitchers (12) than hits (10). They saw 27 batters strike out, or 42% of all plate appearances. That is, if they saw anything at all.
I can’t argue the numbers, nor would I argue that the baseball we see today is baseball at its all-time best. If your lifelong devotion to the sport is in jeopardy, I don’t know if I can talk you off the ledge.
But hey, let me try.