Are you all geared up for baseball’s playoffs? Many people have chosen to not watch baseball this season due to the endless amounts of doping (or at least the reveal of endless doping), but many of us are still loyal fans. The Tigers just won the AL Division Championships for the third year in a row, something the team hasn’t done since 1907-09. Unlike that era, the Tigers faced some scandal this year because of Jhonny Peralta’s suspension. It brings us back to the start of it all.
Still, it really doesn’t matter,
After all, who wins the flag.
Good clean sport is what we’re after,
And we aim to make our brag
To each near or distant nation
Whereon shines the sporting sun
That of all our games gymnastic
Base ball is the cleanest one!
This ironic poem on Game 2 of the 1919 World Series would classify a game that would be forever tarnished, starting with the infamous Black Sox Scandal. That is, after all, the reason a Commissioner of Baseball was appointed in 1920. Eight players including Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte were banned for life from the sport because they supposedly fixed the game and lost the World Series, despite being acquitted of all charges. Many fans didn’t think the sport could be tainted again, that is, until the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).
Banning in Baseball
Baseball has been losing fans over the last two decades, mostly because watching people dishonestly play is no fun and especially because honest players are at a huge disadvantage. And despite a growing population, the number of kids playing baseball is at an all-time low while football and soccer gain momentum. That’s no surprise because baseball has been wrought with doping scandals.
We probably all remember in 1998 when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa tried to break the single-season record for the most home runs in a season: 61. It was a race to be the best hitter and hero for fans everywhere, which McGuire conquered first.
Except McGuire admitted to taking illegal PEDs banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency which he took throughout his career and even the year he broke the record. Like McGuire, many players have come out saying they used steroids. Like Alex Rodriguez. And Jose Canseco. And Ryan Braun. And countless other players.
In 2004, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that they had a new drug testing policy that would hopefully curtail and punish players that doped in any form. In 2008, the policy was strengthened to include stricter penalties for players that used steroids to better their game. Did that stop the dopers?
Scandals Running a Base
Earlier this season of baseball, 13 players were suspended from 50 or more games, leaving many men out for the rest of the season. Thirteen players! Alex Rodriguez was the only player to fight his ban of 211 games (the most of any player), saying he is a victim and totally innocent. This sounds like Barry Bonds.
New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi recently said “I worry about baseball being affected as a game, the whole thing, and what it’s been through in the last 15 years.” No kidding.
Baseball is practically the king of entertainment in Detroit (right along our beloved Red Wings), especially right now (GO TIGERS!), but that isn’t the case in all other cities. Currently, there are 33 states without an MLB team causing a decline in reliable fan-bases to support a home team. That means only a third of the U.S. states have a team to support! On top of that, baseball has been ridden with dishonest sports conduct for states that do have teams.
With baseball legends becoming increasingly indicted, fans start to disappear. Fans may pay more attention to the NFL with its famous Superbowl Sunday, headlining halftime show and lack of doping scandals. Or they may flock to soccer as attendance peaks are far higher than MLB games. A recent poll stated that 64% of people ages 18-29 believed football has replaced baseball as the quintessential American sport.
But that is changing.
A New Generation of Viewership
There are more sports channels than ever before showcasing the 2,400 games each season. The Atlantic posts that over 7,200 hours of sports might be broadcasted, translating to 300 nonstop, full days of baseball. They also report that this has caused a decline in viewership because an audience has many different avenues to watch baseball, calling this information inflation.
Despite a decline in TV viewership, the stadiums are still full. The last two years have posted record numbers for baseball parks. The MLB even states that last year posted the second straight season of increases, but this was also the fifth best season – ever!
If you watched the All-Star game this year, you knew that the highlight of the game was watching seasoned pitcher Mariano Rivera play a perfect inning. It was his last All-Star game and he went out collecting the coveted All-Star MVP award with amazing associated prizes.
While everyone will miss his appearance in future All-Star games, there were 39 first-timers featured in the same game, which leads me to conclude that new talent is energizing the sport – and the fans prefer it. This could also explain the increase of attendance among the millennials.
As news of the doping scandals begin to fade away, these new players bring strength and honor to a sport that was losing steam.
Looking Beyond the Field
Watching baseball improves our lives, especially if it’s at a ballpark. There’s something about an old-fashioned ball game where eating hot dogs or popcorn paired with ridiculously expensive beer can calm us down. No longer do we feel the disappointments at work and chores at home because we’re taking these few hours to enjoy baseball’s lively energy. Baseball attendees support local economy anywhere from buying tickets and dining out to buying memorabilia. These simple things leave lasting impressions on us while creating jobs locally.
It’s the little things that count during practice that enable us to hit it big when it counts. Baseball is a classic metaphor for life: team playing, nonstop practice, curveballs, and the eventual home runs. Tommy Lasorda once said, “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” Players don’t always make a hit and certainly they all don’t cheat. It’s the new players that can bring energy and new life to America’s favorite pastime.
Whether you have been a fan for the whole season or are just tuning in to see the World Series, the game has been a whirlwind with countless allegations against players. Hopefully in seasons to come, doping will be a thing of the past. As we head into the World Series, there are a lot of players to look out for and teams to beat. There’s always a silver lining when it comes to baseball – for now.
Do you support a local baseball team? Have you been a loyal fan or tuned out? Let us know!