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I Hate Today’s Cheap and Easy Home Runs

October 25th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

In 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were “saving” baseball by pursuing the 37-year-old record for home runs in a season, set by Roger Maris, the sports apparel company Nike came up with an ad campaign based on one sentence:

“Chicks dig the long ball.”

(Video of that spot, which actually features pitchers Mike Maddux and Tom Glavine, can be seen here.)

The recollection, two decades later, of serious baseball fans is that home run totals were inflated in the late 1990s and into the following decade in large part because of the performance-enhancing drugs players like McGwire were taking.

Now, I wonder if chicks still dig the long ball, because the home run has become so cheap.

As we saw in Game 2 of the World Series, a contest that featured eight (!!) home runs — a postseason record — in Houston’s 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 11 innings.

This, after a season in which MLB players destroyed the season record for home runs, hitting 6,105, — 512 more than were hit in 2000, when the former record of 5,693 was set.

The former record. It happened to come in the middle of the Steroids Era.

If the 2000 record was a function of players using PEDs … what is the 2017 eruption about?

Well, wait a minute. Before we look for reasons for the surge in home runs, can we stipulate that baseball has entered a brutalist (check definition No. 3) phase?

Where every player tries to uppercut the ball, attaining the perfect “launch angle” — and leading to the demise of much of the rest of what used to go into scoring runs in the grand old game. A bunt, a steal, a single, a run. Small things done well. Blown away by blasts.

(Those 6,105 homers this season? As recently as 2014, a total of 4,186 were hit. Something has gone — badly — wrong.)

Game 2 was a gory tribute to the sledgehammer game of today.

Ten of the 13 runs were a direct result of homers — the eight balls that left the park, and the two runners that were on.

That left exactly three runs that were scored without benefit of a big fly. Two by the Astros.

Game 1 saw three homers, in the 3-1, Dodgers victory, and the fourth run came home on one of the homers — making for 14 of 17 runs scored in two games so far the result of the 11 home runs.

I hate it. It is Neanderthal baseball. It is sitting around and waiting for someone to put a ball in the seats, while batters strike out more than ever (for the 12th consecutive season).

Baseball in 2017 is batting practice masquerading as a live game.

Sports Illustrated, last month, suggested that the home run had become banal.

Well, yes. Absolutely.

But it is worse than that. It is ugly. A blight on what just a few years ago was a sophisticated, complicated game.

The ball needs to be de-juiced. Not looking for Dead Ball Era results, but something more like what we saw in the less-than-ancient days of 2014.

The home runs is well on its way to ruining the game. It already is on its way to wrecking this postseason.


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