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Dan Bickley

MLB has too many no-hitters and not enough good hitters

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber celebrates his no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Major League Baseball is 118 years old. It gets a little confused. The sport is ancient, occasionally asinine and gasping for one good breath without coughing.

There are too many no-hitters and not enough good hitters. Defense is dangerously in control of the competition, at a time when the NFL and NBA tweak rules to emphasize offense.

Pitchers are throwing with unprecedented velocity and knowledge. They understand the calculus and spin rate of every pitch. To a decimal point, they know what works and what doesn’t work. And the elite arms can hit their spot almost every time.

In other words, baseball has become math. Or online chess. Even worse, it has become unwatchable.

As of Thursday, the Mariners were hitting .199 as a team, below the Mendoza line as a group. Three different clubs have been no-hit twice. Madison Bumgarner created much confusion on how to recognize seven-inning no-hitters that are officially recognized as shutouts and complete games.

The sport is leaking credibility because the sport has no idea what it is, how to evolve and how to deal with an ever-growing mountain of absurdities and analytics ruining the game. And then there’s Tony La Russa.

How can a man so right about the disastrous impact of Big Data and Ivy League baseball be so wrong about the toxicity of unwritten rules? About the value of fun?

Put it all together, and MLB is in big trouble. New rules are desperately being tested in various minor league outposts. Innovation is good, but this is laughable:

MLB issued a memo to its clubs in February, illuminating plans to deaden baseballs for the 2021 season. The intent was to de-incentivize those swinging for the fences. To encourage more groundballs and line drives. To cultivate more baserunners and base stealers. To generate more action.

Not sure what steps were eventually taken, but MLB may have unwittingly destroyed the sanctity of the no-hitter. And wouldn’t that befit the monkey fingers of commissioner Rob Manfred, who is always pushing the wrong buttons?

A no-hitter in progress once stopped sports fans in their tracks. It prompted live look-ins from national networks. Nobody dared speak of a no-hitter in progress, such as team broadcasters and teammates on the bench. And these ridiculous superstitions were spawned because no-hitters were once considered a rare event. Like spotting a snow leopard.

Less than two months into a new season, and there is nothing special about no-hitters. Even worse, they seem to condemn the entire sport. In the span of one week, we have seen two different pitchers break the record for most strikeouts without a walk.

In the end, we are all having the same awful, channel-changing epiphany.

Major League Baseball is too easy for the pitchers and too boring for the rest of us. In the offseason, the entire sport needs a major overhaul from top to bottom, from seven-inning games to robot umpires. In the short term, I’d bet Manfred is ordering a new shipment of baseballs for the long, hot summer ahead. The kind that travel a long way.

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