Bock’s Score: At WAR With Today’s Baseball

Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire

By the time Commissioner Rob Manfred and his band of merry men get done monkeying with baseball, the game will bear only a casual resemblance to the one designed by Doc Adams and his pals a century and half ago.

Adams, of course, authored the “The Laws of Baseball,’’ which laid out much of the game’s design and worked very well for a very long time. Times change but baseball didn’t until the front office invasion of Ivy League types armed with algorithms and analytics, weapons ol’ Doc knew nothing about.

And so we got launch angle for swings and spin rates for pitches. And we got WAR to measure player production where hits, runs and errors previously prevailed.

Ah, progress.

Then Manfred and Company decided it was taking far too long to play a game that required some thinking, an activity that always takes time. And so, in the interest of finishing games faster, they came up with a zany solution. In games tied after nine innings, every extra inning would begin with a man on second base, a gift runner granted with no charge and designed to quickly produce a tie-breaking run. This is similar to hockey shootouts, a series of penalty shots, to test the mental health of goaltenders. They make about the same amount of sense.

At first, the gift runner was to be a single season experiment. Now it’s back for 2021 and probably beyond.
Then there are doubleheaders. The games are too long, the men of Manfred decided. Reduce the games to seven innings, instead of the nine prescribed by Doc Adams. That scrambles strategy but who cares? It matters only to those who care about the sport and its record book and its traditions.

Modern baseball has produced a landslide of home runs on the theory that more home runs are what fans want. They are the result of smaller ballparks and juicier baseballs, a suggestion that annoyed the proprietors of the game. They have insisted forever that the balls are the same as they’ve always been. Then they decided to alter the baseballs for next season, reduce the weight and bounciness to reign in the homers. There are pitchers who will tell you that the feel of the ball is often different from one season to the next. And they would know.

They played last year’s World Series between Los Angeles and Tampa Bay in Texas to reduce COVID-19 related travel. It did not feel like a World Series because that spectacle does not belong in a neutral site but it was understandable, given the pandemic.

Management has shredded minor league baseball, reducing the number of teams to save money. They didn’t even bother conducting any minor league teams or a season last year.

This is New Age Baseball. Get used to it. We mourn for the old version.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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