The State of Baseball (Trade Deadline Edition)
OK, after Tuesday night — when 7 bajillion runs were scored — and with the Aug. 1 trade deadline less than two weeks away, it seems a good time to take a sort-of-big-picture view of the state of baseball. Let’s do it!
Pace of Play
When Harry Truman looked over his time as President of the United States, he saw a vast collection of triumphs and mistakes, bucks he stopped and miscalculations that led to trouble, but when he got to the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe after World War II, he beamed with pride and called it “a ten-strike.”
I suspect that’s how Rob Manfred will look back on the pitch clock. It is his ten-strike. Last year (and for many years before that) baseball felt long. This year, it doesn’t. One solution fixed it … one solution eradicated a half-hour of dead time. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen in sports … or in life. Change works slowly and temporarily. Unintended consequences emerge.
But here we are in late July, and games are still a half hour shorter than they were just two years ago, with absolutely no action being cut out. Sure, you will hear the odd complaint here and there about the game feeling a tad rushed or the difficulty of breaking away for a hot dog and a beer. And people will continue to come up with doomsday scenarios of a World Series game being decided by a pitch-clock violation.
But in a divided time when we don’t seem to agree on anything, the near-unanimity behind the new pace of baseball — and the return of the two-and-a-half-hour game — is awe-inspiring. I came into the year as one of the pitch timer’s big advocates, and it has been way more successful than even I expected. I predict that as the years go on, we’ll look back at the way baseball was played in the late 2010s and go, “How did they let the game get that way?”
Average attendance is up almost 2,500 per game over 2022. Other than an attendance collapse on the South side of Chicago and slight drops in a handful of other cities, attendance is up pretty much everywhere — crazily attendance is even up in Oakland. There have been pretty huge attendance spikes in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Texas, Toronto, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, it’s really great.
The pitch timer certainly has played a massive role in the increase. Don’t misunderstand