It gets a quizzical look most of the time, almost like the way a dog cocks its head when you look at it and make a weird noise. People don’t quite understand a normal, red-blooded, nostalgic, T-shirts-and-jeans-wearing, sunflower-seed-chewing American man who doesn’t care about Major League Baseball.
Sometimes, people even act offended, as if, by not liking Major League Baseball, I am not liking them. Or America.
So, today, I explain. The top 10 reasons I don’t care about baseball.
10. Too much parity (on a day-to-day basis).
I don’t like that, on a given day, there is about a 30 percent chance that the best team in baseball would lose to the worst team in baseball. One time in three (I don’t know if that’s accurate, but it feels about right to me). It takes all the excitement out of a Royals win over the Yankees (or whoever).
It’s obviously going to be this way because MLB uses a 162-game season (about 100 games too many), which means that mediocre pitchers are tossing most of those games. If they made it an 82-game season and spaced out the games a little, then the best pitchers could work a greater percentage of the games, thereby improving the overall quality of the game, thereby increasing the relevance of each win.
9. Too numbery.
It’s impossible these days to talk about baseball without it feeling like a conversation about math. I hate math. I blame Bill James for all this.
8. The players are too interchangeable, and too often interchanged.
It’s true that NBA players and NFL players both switch teams often, and for all the same reasons. But when Major League Baseball players change teams, it’s less intriguing because baseball is the most individualized major team sport. It’s almost like subbing in a new sprinter on the 4-x-100 team. You say Manny Ramirez is going to Los Angeles, well then just plug in his numbersnumbersnumbersnumbersnumbersnumbersnumbersnumnersnum
7. Baseball players themselves
6. The Kansas City Royals
The truth is, I would probably like Major League Baseball if it weren’t for the Kansas City Royals, specifically the 1994 Kansas City Royals.
Some time in 1993, I became cognizant as a sports fan. I vaguely remember the Final Four that year, and I remember the Chiefs trading for Joe Montana and I remember Joe Montana being a Zeus in my mind. I also remember going to my first Royals game that year, seeing Tom Gordon pitch against the Yankees and believing that I would one day pitch against the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
So I’m excited for the 1994 season to begin*.
*There is little doubt that this is incorrect, but this is how I remember the Royals ad campaign for the 1994 season: A highlight package ran as a sort of B-footage for a music video of a guy singing and playing guitar. I don’t remember if the singer ever appeared on screen or not, but my mind does recall a lyric from that song, sung with the oddly placed passion of a Rod Stewart song: “this year, they are playing games.”
I was not yet 11 years old at the time, so there is a great chance I never did know exactly what the man was singing, but that lyric has stuck with me as one of the most unfortunate and ironic pieces of advertising I’ve ever seen. As you know, a lot happened in baseball in 1994, but the one thing that did not happen was the playing of all the games, which was the only thing the Royals were even advertising.
And the Royals were actually pretty good to start the 1994 season, 64-51, actually, before the strike. I remember a lot of talk about Greg Gagne and Gary Gaetti for some reason. Plus, they had David Cone! I was going to be David Cone! And then they pulled the rug right out from under me, right when I first stepped onto it.
The Royals have stunk ever since. It’s hard to care about a crappy team.
5. It’s hot outside.
About 30 percent of the time you’re at a Major League Baseball game, you will be physically unfomfortable, and about 80 percent of that 30 percent, there will be nothing happening on the field to distract you from that discomfort.
4. Baseball fans
So far as I can tell, this is the only group of fans who treats its sport like its grandmother’s fried chicken recipe.
You don’t like it? Whaddya mean you don’t like it? This is great stuff, man. How could anybody not love this as much as I do? I do not understand any worldview other than my own.
If you’re a baseball fan, don’t take it personally. I understand that you like baseball, and that doesn’t bother me. I just ask that you take a step back, examine the world around you, and see that there is nothing everyone agrees upon, not even Derek Jeter.
Besides, no group of fans in sports collectively gives less effort than fans at a Major League Baseball game, with the possibly exception of Atlanta Hawks fans.
3. It’s hardly any different than the NBA, but nobody wants to acknowledge this.
Possibly because baseball is dominated by whites and latinos, and for whatever reason we like to imagine whites and latinos as generally hard-working, blue-collar types, and the NBA is dominated by blacks, who for whatever reason we like to imagine as naturally gifted but motivationally stunted, the sports-watching culture at large complains loudly about the lack of effort expended during regular-season NBA games (of which there are 82) and never peeps about the same issue in regular-season Major League Baseball games (of which there are 162), unless Manny Ramirez is involved, and even then, his laziness is painted as charming.
People want to believe that these guys are playing balls out for all 1,458 (or so) innings of the regular season. I just don’t believe that, except in the case of David Eckstein, who actually plays four outs per inning.
MLB is exciting in the playoffs, just like the NBA is, and isn’t in the regular season, just like the NBA isn’t.
2. I didn’t have cable as a kid.
Believe me, if we had TBS, I would have devoured every facial tick of a Greg Maddux game. He was the pitcher I wanted to be. He wasn’t overpowering, but he was cunning and accurate and he would throw pitches four feet off the outside corner and the umpires would call them strikes.
Baseball was my favorite sport to play as a kid, and I would have watched it on TV religiously if I had access to it. But all I had access to were the local broadcats of the Kansas City Royals, who we’ve already discussed. Hipolito Pichardo just didn’t have that same effect on me.
I was 16 the first baseball season we had cable, and by then it was too late to feel the mystique of it all. And I had realized that I could play baseball pretty well without imitating Fred McGriff’s follow through.
1. The Kansas City Royals.
At various stages of life, I have tried to care about the Royals. In 2003, I started to care a little when they had that 15-game lead in their division. They blew it, of course, and that was one thing. But not only did they blow it, they traded away their best player because they didn’t want to pay him what he was worth, which was a pretty loud message to me:
“WE’RE JUST HOPING TO GET LUCKY!”
I tried again last year, although my motivation was slightly different. Since I’m a sportswriter, I don’t really watch college football or college basketball the way fans do. It’s too closely related to work. And one year of covering the Kansas City Chiefs was enough to change the way I feel about the NFL. I don’t want to get into it here, because it’s complex and difficult to understand (that may be another blog altogether), but something happens to you when you cover a team that makes the game taste a little worse. Since I’ve never covered the NBA or MLB, I think it might be fun to have a team to follow. I’ll never be the screaming fan with all the gear on, but I can appreciate the slow-moving drama of a team’s season.
So last year I kind of followed the Royals early in the year. They had some young guys who everybody seemed to think were going to be stars. And they stunk, of course. Again.