Why MLB is Better than the NFL and NBA

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IApril 9, 2008

I love the NBA and the NFL.

From September to December (and in good years, January) you can find me in my blue-and-gold Rams jacket almost 24/7. Anytime the Warriors are on TV, I watch every minute, glued to the screen. Basketball and football are great sports to watch and to play, and to follow.

But nothing compares to following baseball.

I often tell people about my aspirations to work in baseball, and a lot of the time, the conversation goes like this:

"Well, I'm really into baseball, so I'm going to try to work in baseball."

"Really? Baseball, huh?" (shudders) 


"How'd you get into baseball?"

"It's just amazing. What do you mean?"

"Well, it's just so...you know...boring."

Ahh, the old "baseball is boring" cliché. And I'll give you this: watching Steve Trachsel pitch is enough to put anyone to sleep.  Yes, the game is long, there is plenty of standing around, and there isn't all that much action. If you have no emotional investment in the game, fair enough. Football is gripping; basketball has a fast pace.

But baseball isn't boring. In fact, it's way more interesting. Maybe not if you're a casual fan. Maybe not necessarily to watch on TV sometimes.

Baseball is by far the most exciting sport to follow.

Why? Well, let's look at how you measure football players. It's all yards. Pass for yards and you're a good quarterback. Run for them and you're a good running back. Catch for them and you're a good receiver. If you make tackles, you can tackle. If you can complete passes, you can pass. There's no mystery.

In basketball, it's the same way. If you score points, you're a good scorer. If you rebound, you're a good rebounder. Get assists and that means you can pass well.

It's all laid out in front of you nicely. Not so much in baseball.

Baseball is a game of luck. You can throw a pitch right down the middle and the batter can miss it; you can throw it two feet outside and they can crush it. There are 400-foot outs and two-foot singles.

Look at any baseball statistic you want, no matter how advanced it is. There's a ton of luck that goes into it.

Batting average? Nope. OBP? Driven by batting average? Slugging percentage? Driven by batting average? Wins? Uhh...right. ERA? All luck. WHIP? Slightly closer, but mostly luck still. Get all the way to crazy stuff—VORP, MLVR, SNLVAR, WARP, whatever you want, and the fact is it's all driven by where a ball happens to land on a field.

That brings me to my second point. Every player, almost to a man (I know there are exceptions), in the NBA and NFL has a standard career path.

Barring catastrophic injuries, players get better until their late 20s or so, and then get worse from there.  Look at a list of NBA and NFL rookies of the year. They either went on to be very good, or got derailed by off-the-field issues (injuries or whatever else).

Then look at the MLB rookies of the year. Ben Grieve? Eric Hinske? Scott Williamson? Todd Hollandsworth? Some guys have their best year at age 35; some at 22. Some players are consistently great their entire career except for one year at age 27.

The careers in baseball are fascinating to watch. Every year, people appear, people disappear, and players that you never thought you'd see again (Travis Driskill was in the bigs last year???????) resurface.

Yeah, the NBA has Jamario Moon. Yeah, the NFL has Kurt Warner. But MLB has Joe Dillon, Rick Short, Josh Hamilton, Scott McClain (yeah, that's right, I worked McClain in AGAIN!), Jack Cust, Edwar Ramirez, Rick VandenHurk, Colter Bean, Jeremy Brown...the list of players with incredible storylines goes on and on and on in baseball, and every year more stories surface.

Sure, watching Trachsel spit, check the runner, look at the catcher, walk off the mound, grab the rosin bag, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, get back on the mound, check the runner, check the runner, look at the catcher, look at the batter, get the sign, set, and...fake a throw to first...well, that's pretty boring.

But the game of baseball is so incredibly random that it allows anything to happen at any time. It's just so much fun to try to make sense of all of it, and try to cheat luck in a way. And that sure isn't boring.