Baseball is becoming unwatchable.
Not because the Washington Nationals traded away all their stars (we miss you Max!) to get prospects and begin to rebuild. This has become the new way of doing business, and has been done, by the way, without any mention of a rebate to season ticket holders who paid prices based on having a real major league team to watch. The Nats games now include recreations of plays one sees in Little League. It wasn’t until the new-look Nationals allowed a Brewers runner to score on a “sacrifice fly” hit all the way to the on-deck circle that I had seen such a play at the major league level. Priceless, in its own way.
Yes, baseball is becoming harder to stomach because there is too big a gulf between the good and bad teams, which MLB doesn’t seem interested in fixing. But baseball has always had that problem.
And one can make the case that contests consisting only of home runs and strikeouts are boring, but that’s not at the heart of my problem with the game.
No, the real reason I’m increasingly choosing other viewing options rather than baseball is those awful gambling ads that now dominate any sports broadcast.
Yes, Major League Baseball and virtually every other professional and major college sports league has decided to go all-in on betting. Before the games, during the games, during the at-bats, after the games. Bet $1 on anything and get $100 free. Seriously. How naïve can one be to spend your hard-earned money with that come-on? If you know they will give you $100 to bet for free, you can put your money down on the fact that you will lose more than you win if you play for any length of time.
Casinos are practically a license for their owners to print money. I only know of one person dumb enough to bankrupt a casino, which should tell you all you need to know about that individual’s so-called business acumen.
Chelsea Janes wrote about this issue for the Washington Post in MLB re-created “Field of Dreams” for a night, but it can’t escape the sports tough realities.
“Like questions about blackouts, the cornfield buffer couldn’t keep all the awkwardness out. Aaron Boone was asked for his perspective on Shoeless Joe Jackson, a central character in “Field of Dreams,” who was banned from baseball for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
Boone dodged deftly, something MLB will not be able to do forever, having recently made a push to introduce betting into stadiums and the general baseball consciousness. Just this week in Chicago, a proposal to add betting space at Wrigley Field, one of the game’s most sacred landmarks, was a source of controversy.“
Why is baseball doing this? Follow the money. And the gobs of money — and the people it brings out — will affect the game in ways known and unknown. I suspect it won’t be good and will drive away long-time fans of the game who know the history. But the powers-that-be in baseball seem intent on changing the game in ways that hurt fans and potentially hurt players.
Anyone who wanted to bet on games could always find a way to do so. But there was a bright line between gambling interests and the game itself. It should have stayed that way. Go to any horse-racing track other than for a Triple Crown race or the very short summer season at Saratoga and look at the “crowd.” Those few that are in attendance aren’t watching the race in front of them. They are down in the betting parlors, taking chances on races around the world. Baseball seems intent on pushing betting into stadiums, and driving away long-time fans who, like me, attend multiple games during home stands and watch the team on television.* All for the lure of “easy” money.
A. Bartlett Giammati is rolling over in his grave. Pete Rose is wondering why he couldn’t have played in 2021.
America today is a country where baseball and other sports have sold out to the gambling interests and the thrill of securing undeserved riches. My bet is that it will not end well.
More to come…
*I attended two games in person this week at Nats stadium, so my perspective is fresh.