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Thinking inside the box

In real-life, the ability to operate “outside the box” is considered a compliment. It’s a trait that’s highly sought-after and well-compensated.

In baseball, it’s an illness. And it’s slowly killing the game. In the eyes of the masses, all the time spent outside the batter’s box turns into wasted time. More than ever, that’s time that people feel can (and will be) better spent elsewhere.

Now, have we commissioned some sort of Mitchell Report? No. (Although, if we did, we would eventually read it — unlike Bud Selig.)

Our data is strictly anecdotal. Frequent encounters with sports fans who feel the need to vent (do I look like Dr. Phil or somethin’? Wait, don’t answer that).

Typically, the conversation evolves into the following observation: “I find myself yelling at the game of baseball more than ever.”

We’re not talking about disagreeing with an ump or a manager. Not even yelling at the airing of concession stand infomercials during key moments in the late innings.

Instead, we’re talking about yelling at batters like you’re a Marine Corps drill sergeant: “Get back in the box already!” “Don’t make me come down there!” “Do you really need to readjust your batting gloves – again?!” “And you definitely don’t need to tighten ‘em up after a pitch you didn’t even swing at!?!”

The delays are constant. And, for most folks, so is the agony. Yet, here’s the thing — it’s all so unnecessary. That’s the good news/bad news: baseball can be fixed. But, by failing to force batters to stay in the box, America’s Past Its Prime…err, Pastime is cannibalizing itself.

Forget that I’m trying to sell a 6-year-old on the game of baseball. No doubt, it’s a challenge to direct his attention towards the TV when the screen inevitably shows batters (and some pitchers) channeling their inner Mike Hargrove (nicknamed “Human Rain Delay” for good reason).

What’s really alarming is how many people I speak with (many old enough to remember Mike Hargrove), who grew up with the game, who now report that baseball hasn’t grown with them. “I can’t take it. I don’t watch any more…” is a common refrain that I hear over and over from (former) baseball fans.

Pick up the pace. Step on the gas. And don’t change the rule book or the game itself. Simply force the big leaguers to play it.

Believe us Major League Baseball, it’s in your best interest. Right now, life is passing you on the right. And you’re doing ten miles under the speed limit with your hazards on…