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Dan Bickley

Deadening baseballs is not how to improve Major League Baseball

A detail of baseballs during a Grapefruit League spring training game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on March 12, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour have a lot in common.

Both having aging demographics. Both are full of dawdling athletes. Both want to deaden their ball.

The latter is simply baffling.

Major League Baseball doesn’t need to meddle with its baseball. It doesn’t need less home runs. It needs more action. It needs less strikeouts and fewer stalling tactics.

Yet the sport keeps looking in the wrong place for answers.

Reports say intended changes to the baseball will be like adding five feet of distance to every fence in the big leagues.

Additional humidors are coming to MLB parks, climate-controlled storage units designed to aid the pitcher.

What will this accomplish besides a few more loud outs?

Inside the sport, pitchers like David Price are rolling their eyes, treating the news as proof that MLB has been doctoring the ball for years.

In other words, the sport is de-juicing the baseball it had rigged a few years ago, and not artificially deadening the playing object from its natural state.

“Did I see MLB is ‘slightly’ deadening the baseball?” Price tweeted. “I thought MLB said it hadn’t been juiced? Lol pitchers knew all along!! Baseballs had a different feel and a different sound. Happy to see they’re attempting to go back to the regular baseball …”

It’s easy to roll your eyes at baseball.

So much handwringing over cheating inside the sport, over players who bang on garbage cans and players who inject performance-enhance drugs.

But how can the sport stand in judgment of others when they’ve been manipulating the playing object for years?

Golf has a different issue. Technology and strength training have created a new generation of distance hitters who no longer play courses as they were designed.

Bombers circumvent doglegs, taking shortcuts to the green. Hazards become irrelevant. Long irons from the fairway are nearly extinct, as a new generation of professionals are opting for wedges from the rough.

Some say the sport is suffering. Chess has become checkers. A game of strategy has been brutalized with a bludgeoning tool.

Last year, the USGA and the R&A funded the “Distance Insights Project.”

It discovered the average golfer added 30 yards of distance in the past 25 years. As a result, the sport’s lawmakers are proposing changes to equipment that would reel in the longest players, most notably Bryson DeChambeau, who averages 330 yards off the tee and produced a 428-yard drive in 2020.

Rory McIlroy bashed the idea during his appearance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, saying the proposed measures “reek of self-importance.”

He called it a huge waste of time and resources. He said the monetary investment should’ve been poured into the grass roots of golf, making the game more accessible to the masses.

And he’s right.

Because deadening a ball in any competition is philosophically wrong.

We love sports because they are a platform for human competition.

We want supreme tests of strength and athleticism. We want to see bigger, stronger and faster. We love displays of prodigious power. We yearn to be awed by human achievement, to exalt those athletes who push the boundaries of what is possible.

We want 500-foot home runs and 400-yard drives.

Sports was never intended to stunt growth or serve the middle of the pack. It a platform for greatness. And just like human evolution, greatness should never be contained.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier