Baseball has changed quite a bit in the past few years. The strikeout is no longer the worst thing in the world, pitcher wins are irrelevant and the home run rules all.
That’s a massive change from the 1970s and ‘80s, when Rich “Goose” Gossage and Pete Rose played. As you might expect, neither of them enjoy where the game has gone, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
“I can’t watch these games anymore,’’ Gossage said. “It’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable. A lot of the strategy of the game, the beauty of the game, it’s all gone.
“It’s like a video game now. It’s home run derby with their (expletive) launch angle every night.’’
Rose wasn’t as frustrated, though he also mentioned the home run derby.
“It’s home run derby every night, and if that’s what they want, that’s what they’re going to get. But they have to understand something ... Home runs are up. Strikeouts are up. But attendance is down. I didn’t go to Harvard or one of those Ivy League schools, but that’s not a good thing.’’
Rose often gets into the old-school mentality, though he’s not wrong in this instance. Home runs are up. Strikeouts are up. Attendance is down.
Rose’s point does illustrate there are some legitimate reasons to be worried about the state of baseball today. Is it healthy for the game if every player can hit 40 home runs and records are threatened constantly? Does that issue get more concerning when the ball is influencing the extreme home-run rate? Knowing that, how should fans contextualize records set in this era?
On top of all that, there’s the issue of attendance. There are a number of factors that feed into low attendance numbers. The rise of tanking teams and excessive prices for games play a big part.
In the past, the home run has helped offset those issues. In 1998, the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire was credited for bringing fans back to baseball after the 1994 strike. If the new surge in home runs isn’t enough to get fans to the ballpark, what happens next?
You aren’t going to get that nuanced discussion from Gossage, whose entire existence has become an old man yells at cloud meme. If you want to write off Gossage’s opinions due to his history, that’s fine.
That doesn’t mean you should completely dismiss the issue. There’s a smart conversation to be had about whether baseball is in a good place right now. It’s just not going to come from someone like Gossage.
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