Giving up on baseball

It’s important to be clear about this: Coaches and players understand the percentages better than they ever have in the history of the game, and are acting accordingly. All of these changes I have traced are eminently rational. Players are giving themselves the best possible chance of success, in hopes of more money for them and more wins for their team. Even when they don’t try to bunt or slap a single into the vast open space on one side of a shifted infield, they’re being rational, because, as noted earlier, Earl was right: those base-at-a-time one-run strategies are highly inefficient.

So you can’t blame anyone for the way the game has developed. It has become more rational, with a better command of the laws of probability, and stricter, more rigorous canons of efficiency. But for those very reasons it’s not as fun to watch. Every team plays more or less like every other team (though not equally well, of course); there is a great deal of standing around and very little movement, except for swinging-and-missing and swinging-and-homering; no longer do we have interest generated by wildly different approaches to the game. Individual players are as wonderful as they have ever been—it’s been a privilege to watch Mike Trout match the very highest standards of excellence, and I don’t remember more purely fun-to-watch players than Javy Baez and Jose Altuve. But they are working in an overall context that’s less and less appealing to me.

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