In Defense of Baseball

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In Defense of Baseball
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Montgomery, AL is not the center of the sports universe. One sport dominates this section of the planet: College Football. Auburn is 45 minutes away; the University of Alabama is two hours away.
People live and breathe college football here.

However, I love baseball. I like college football, but I love baseball. At a small group gathering with people from my church the other night, we were watching Opening Night with the Braves v. Phillies. I was pumped.

Every other one of the eight guys around me talked 80 percent College Football (recruiting, spring games, etc.) and what was left of their NCAA basketball bracket. I kept saying: “Guys, this is opening night!” From the conversations that followed, here are the reasons why I love baseball more than any other sport (in no particular order).

1. Baseball is a thinking sport. More than any other popular sport, baseball is a chess match, a game of inches; pick your metaphor. The slower pace allows managers to make their moves like a chess player.

Do you bring in the lefty reliever because you are facing three lefty batters coming up, or do you stay with the hot starter? Do you pinch hit for a pitcher early when you need a run? When do you steal?

Do you throw a first pitch curve ball to knock a guy off his game. The best managers answer all of these questions in intelligent ways, and the worst managers find a way to mess them up.   

 

2. The pace of baseball is relaxing. Other sports travel at such a fast pace, that we ramp up, then breathe, then repeat. They match our microwave society that really lacks the attention span to sit down and watch a sport that is relatively slow for three hours.

This pace does not make baseball boring, as emotion still plays a role, but it allows us to approach the game in a less exhausting way.

 

3. 162 games mean that every game does not make or break a season. The Braves lost Game Three of the opening series with the Phillies in colossal fashion. I was disappointed, but Friday is another game and it is a long season.

Again, I do not need to go into the tank wit every loss, but I can consider things big picture over the course of the season. Again, our society often fails to look at the big picture and focuses so much on the individual movements that this aspect of baseball can be frustrating.

However, it teaches us to consider perspective and to measure progress over time instead of week-to-week.

 

4. Baseball is a game of statistics. Over the course of the regular season, baseball reverts to the average. Good players put up good stats. Bad players put up bad stats. Yes, occasional slumps and spots of brilliance happen, but for the most part, baseball is a sport measured by individual stats. For this reason:

 

5. Fantasy Baseball is the most realistic of any fantasy sport. The statistics allow fantasy players to really act like GM’s. The best fantasy players know who to pick and the worst chase rabbits every year and get worked by the other owners. Considering that this same occurrence happens in the Major Leagues every year (e.g. Theo Epstein continues to work Brian Cashman with a smaller payroll and a better farm system).

 

6. Finally, there are enough variables to make the baseball season exciting and not just an intellectual pursuit. There is no way to tell whether or not a team will battle injuries or if the new talent will perform to expectations. An injury to two starting pitchers can ruin a season faster than Willie Randolph’s clubhouse rules.

Who knows whether or not a rookie can keep pace through the season, or if we will see another Cliff Lee rise from the ashes and win the AL Cy Young. These variables make baseball exciting and work with the measurable statistics to create a wonderful sport.

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