Major League Baseball Sucks Up to the Marginal Fan
Today marks the official beginning of the end of baseball as we know it. Tonight’s All-Star Game will be played at Phoenix, Arizona’s Chase Field. Thus, the National League team will be the “home team” and will bat last. Their lineup will also include a designated hitter.
Major League Baseball makes a ton of money off of marginal fans. Those marginal fans aren’t interested in the nuances of late-inning managerial magic tricks. They don’t care if Charlie Manuel pinch-hits for Cliff Lee with a man on second in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game. They don’t care if he guesses what card the other manager has picked from the deck by selecting the right relief pitcher to pull from the pen when the visitor’s pitcher is due up in the seventh or if he neglects a chance to use a double-switch and actually saws an assistant in half. The only time marginal baseball fans are interested in what a manager does during a game is when Dusty Baker throws first base into shallow right field. They like high scores and longballs—and MLB knows it.
It’s why they implemented the DH in 1973. It’s why they dreamt up the Home Run Derby in 1985. It’s why we have the right field porch in the new Yankee Stadium. It’s why there are designated hitters in tonight’s All-Star Game, and it’s the reason that the odds of having a DH in the NL in the next few years are higher than the odds that a Katy Perry song will be on the charts in the next few weeks.
By implementing the DH the American League effectively altered the course of baseball history. If this were Back to the Future II, our reality is the tangent reality when Biff owns everything and motorcycle gangs riot in the streets.
The issue used to be very divisive, but time—as it usually does—slowly turned that fiery debate into a pit of warm embers. But, between tonight’s All-Star Game and the rumors of league realignment, it’s become clear that Major League Baseball is standing by those embers with kindling, a can of gasoline and dollar signs in its eyes.
League-wide implementation of the DH will be a rider on the bill to realign the league’s teams. If MLB does, in fact, realign, they would do so under the umbrella motive of evening out the playing field and putting 15 teams in both the AL and the NL (currently 14 in AL and 16 in the NL). That would then require a scheduling change so that there weren’t two teams off for three consecutive days. That scheduling change would make the difference in league batting philosophies an issue that would significantly skew standings and affect playoff contention—thus allowing Major League Baseball to force the DH on us like we’re a toddler taking a spoonful of Dimetapp.
Diehard baseball fans would be robbed of some of the game’s most intricate and strategic maneuvers. Since adopting the designated hitter, the AL has never had more intentional walks than the National League. They’ve only had more sacrifice hits in two years—’77 and ’78 when the DH was still young—and they’ve only had more steals 10 times in 38 years (They did have Rickey Henderson).
Imagine going to the movies and only being able to see Michael Bay vehicles with exploding robots. There would be no David Fincher psychological thrillers, no Ridley Scott epics and no Tarantino cult-classics—just exploding robots.
Major League Baseball is preparing for the future and, where they’re going, they won’t need roads—they’ll need more game balls, bigger payrolls and a quiet conscience.