DAN BICKLEY

MLB’s obsession with analytics is killing what’s great about baseball

Feb 18, 2021, 6:40 PM
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)...
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

A true confession you’ll never hear from Major League Baseball:

The Steroid Era was less damaging than Big Data, the information superhighway that spawned the analytics movement currently sucking the joy out of baseball.

The proof is in the aesthetics.

The proof is in how much you care.

Or don’t.

The Steroid Era was obviously reprehensible. It was also fun while it lasted. Our ignorance was bliss.

The home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa resuscitated a sport bleeding out on the gurney.

At his drug-fueled worst, Barry Bonds was impossible to ignore, a can’t-miss spectacle. He became an all-time villain, a breathtaking mass of muscle and malice.

A nation was captivated. The television ratings were tremendous. Like a piece of cheesecake, the guilt came later.

The Steroid Era was also a big reveal, an honest look inside the soulless universe of Major League Baseball, a warped dystopia full of jockstraps, adolescence, unwritten rules, clubhouse codes and rampant cheating.

The game’s lack of moral backbone and utter disregard for fair play was laid bare for the world to examine.

It wasn’t pretty.

But the righteous indignation surrounding the Steroid Era was also disingenuous. As our country gets older, we have begun to recognize our true nature, and how our self-aggrandizing is nothing but wild propaganda.

Same is true in baseball, and someday, we may even reconcile our blatant hypocrisies.

We are not always the shining light on the hill. Cheating to win is not always considered a sin.

It’s often considered shrewd and ruthless strategy. You get yours. I’ll get mine. That’s the American way.

If we’re being real.

We are also a nation committed to performance-enhancing drugs, from the drive-through line at Starbucks; to the little blue pills that are much cheaper in Mexico; to the prescriptions that’ll help you focus or put you to sleep at night; to the recreational marijuana shops that were once reserved for those with a special card and medical needs.

Yeah, right.

In retrospect, the Steroid Era certainly taxed Major League Baseball.

Commissioner Bud Selig had to pay $20 million for the Mitchell Report, a prop to show just how much he cared.

The record book was desecrated, but a record book is nothing but paper and numbers.

Meanwhile, Hall of Fame voters inherited an ethical conundrum with candidates like Bonds and McGwire, but the Hall of Fame is but a museum, a building to house our most beloved entertainers.

The real damage from the Steroid Era occurred among young athletes who went searching for PED’s as a means to emulate Bonds, McGwire and Sosa; frantically searching for ways to compete with unseen opponents who were breaking rules to shorten their path.

But in the long run, Major League Baseball hardly suffered from the scandal.

Otherwise, they would never have employed McGwire and Bonds after they retired.

Analytics are different.

This movement is about math, not PED’s.

And it’s boring us to tears.

It’s killing the poetry, romance and action in baseball. Everything is now distilled, quantified and commodified.

Blue-blood Ivy Leaguers have taken over the sport, yielding a game full of shifts, strikeouts and long stretches where ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS, where the content value of baseball is less than zero.

It’s so bad that MLB must erect protective netting in stadiums across America to safeguard bored customers who are burying themselves in their cellphones.

Analytics seem like evolution.

It helps teams make better decisions on and off the field. It also makes the game look dramatically worse on television.

It’s a bigger problem than the Steroid Era ever presented, and now MLB must deal with this existential threat to its very existence.

Namely, how “The Show” is no longer a show. Anything but.

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Dan Bickley

Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talks with Chris Paul #3 during the second half of th...
Dan Bickley

Focus should be on Chris Paul after Suns’ unexplained collapse

Monty Williams, according to multiple sources, had something of a fallout with Suns point guard Chris Paul.
3 days ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Play...
Dan Bickley

Suns’ humiliating Game 7 loss is 1 of the greatest collapses in NBA history

The Valley is not devastated. We are disgusted. We are humiliated. We just witnessed one of the greatest collapses in the history of the NBA.
12 days ago
DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 12: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting his hand while takin...
Dan Bickley

Suns facing new crossroads ahead of Game 7 against Mavs

The Suns are at a new crossroads. They are at the dangerous intersection of survival and scorn. Lose Game 7 to the Mavs, what do they become?
14 days ago
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks passes the ball against Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns...
Dan Bickley

Game 7: The greatest 2 words in sports, only if Phoenix Suns win

Game 7. Two of the greatest words in the vernacular of sports. Unless you cheer for the Suns. Buckle up, Valley sports fans.
15 days ago
(Screenshot)...
Dan Bickley

Suns G Devin Booker’s maniacal ambition shaped him for limelight

It’s clear that Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker must be the engine that powers this team to a championship. He must be that dude. The alpha.
16 days ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of Game Five of the Wes...
Dan Bickley

Suns return to court like NBA champions in Game 5 win over Mavs

Order has been restored. Faith has been renewed. For the third time in the past two seasons, the Suns have prevailed in a pivotal Game 5.
17 days ago
MLB’s obsession with analytics is killing what’s great about baseball