Around the Horn with Paul Ghiglieri – 10th Edition

Welcome to the tenth edition of Around the Horn, a recurring op-ed with a satirical slant that riffs on whatever’s recently noteworthy in baseball. Think of it as a stripped down Last Week Tonight or Daily Show in a column format with recurring segments about the good, bad, and ugly in the world of America’s pastime. Additionally, as often as possible, we’ll end with an interview as well.

There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get right to our first segment:

 

The Rundown

Our Main Story

 

For the most part, baseball is harmless. The game thrills and exhilarates, devastates and disappoints, and brings fans together as a community, all while serving as arguably the greatest metaphor for life. However, the harsh reality is that hard-hit balls flying off bats at speeds over 100 mph like missiles into stands full of mostly attentive, but many unsuspecting fans… demands our attention.

In truth, it demands action as well.

As hard as it is to watch this, it’s unquestionably harder to feel responsible for it:

 

 

Albert Almora Jr. did what he was supposed to do. He took a healthy rip at a 2-2 breaking ball meant to jam him, turning on it quickly and lining it to his pull side in order to drive in some runs. Unfortunately, he roped that ball into the stands, where it hit the head of a young child.

The look on Almora’s face, coupled with his reaction, spoke volumes. It’s hard not to believe he genuinely thought the damage done to that little girl was the permanent kind. After all, another fan already died last year from the blunt force trauma of being hit in the head by a foul ball.

The fact this little girl was still breathing is likely the only thing that allowed Almora to stop holding his own. After all, no child comes to a baseball game for this:

 

 

Extending the netting from foul pole to foul pole seems like a logical move. Baseball in Japan and Korea mandate this very thing. Many will grumble that it obstructs the view, which is neither true nor the point. The netting has never been less obtrusive, and technology continues to make it even less so. After all, there’s a reason the seats behind home plate are the most expensive. If the view was truly “obstructed,” those seats would be less desirable, not more.

MLB is lucky that little girl will be able to go to a baseball game again someday. Then again, it’s fair to wonder the extent of her trauma and whether or not she will ever want to attend again. Fan safety should be a priority.

Some may argue that if you pay attention to the game and bring a glove, you’ll be fine. Players are throwing and hitting the ball harder than they ever have before. Plus, the chemical composition of today’s “rabbit ball” is designed to reduce drag. The launch angle revolution has resulted in far fewer grounders in play. Seats are closer to the field of play than they’ve ever been, and let’s be honest—in today’s digital media age, good luck keeping everyone off cell phones whenever fans feel there’s a lull in the action.

Lest you think this near tragedy was an isolated incident that rarely happens, note that a Bloomberg study in 2014 concluded that foul balls injure more than 1,700 fans every season. No one should have to fear for the safety of his or her children during a family outing to the ballpark.

MLB has not been indifferent to this issue, extending netting to the far end of each dugout before the 2018 season, and some teams have extended netting even further. MLB has preferred to let teams decide for themselves, but at what cost?

Still, there are those that refuse to be swayed, and their reasons are ridiculous:

 

 

Look, it’s not even easy for the actual players on the field expecting these lasers coming at them.

 


Fortunately, Japan seems to have figured out the solution:

 


If you want to sit near the field sans netting, the option is available to you. And you’ll be wearing a helmet and glove just to be safe while you enjoy the game from your “excite seats.” The trained ushers and constant signs of danger warning fans would go a long way to combat the distraction that sets in with baseball’s pace of play problem.

Admittedly, you know the danger when you purchase a seat to watch a game. And if you didn’t, the “assumption of risk” is printed on your tickets to remind you. Nonetheless, you aren’t thinking of the danger because there are so many moments in a baseball game where literally nothing is happening; additionally, catching a baseball game is considered more of a leisurely activity. It’s not like you’re on edge sitting in the front row, hoping the performer juggling swords didn’t have one too many drinks the night before. Nothing like losing an eye as a souvenir for attending the carnival.

Except, in baseball, it’s not a sword flying at you, but rather a bat.

 

 

Ten teams have done the right thing and run netting down the lines. More plan to do so. Every team in baseball should do the same before it’s too late and a child loses a life.

 

Out of the Park

A Look Beyond the Boxscores for the Best in Baseball This Week

 

Derek Dietrich has officially proven that the bat drop might be a louder statement than the bat flip:

 

 

Backdoor Sliders

Where Baseball Got Caught Looking

 

The Tampa Bay Rays are one of baseball’s better teams. They’ve done a tremendous job scouting and developing young talent, and they’re in a class of their own when it comes to competing with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox on a fraction of the payroll.

That’s why it’s borderline criminal that only 5,786 fans recently attended a home game on a day the big league team was out-drawn by three of its own minor-league affiliates on the same night. This was the lowest announced attendance for a major league game this season and the smallest ever “crowd” at the Trop for a Rays game in 22 years. For reference, the team drew 6,509 to a September 2017 game against the Minnesota Twins as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the region. Apparently, fans felt the only way the Trop would be an exciting place to be is if the threat of natural disaster loomed.

 

Maybe it’s the Montreal rumors, or perhaps it’s the fact that the franchise has a habit of letting core players go, and that makes it hard to market them and draw better crowds. However, the Rays keep finding ways to win with a new cast of characters every few years. College football teams rotate players seemingly every year or two, and their crowds don’t suffer because of it. The Rays deserve to play in front of a fanbase that wants to cheer them on, whether that’s in Tampa, Montreal, or a satellite station on the moon for all I care.

Anything would be better than watching them play in front of a smaller crowd than a charity softball event nobody except your uncle Rich wants to go see.

 

Extra Bags

 

Clint Frazier’s seventh inning was one for the ages.

 

 

There’s only one response I can think of for that…

 

 

And that’s the ballgame for this week!

Paul Ghiglieri

Paul Ghiglieri has written fantasy analysis and hardball columns for PitcherList and FantasyPros. A lifelong Giants fan living in LA, he spends his free time writing screenplays with metaphors for life only half as good as baseball.

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Comments


Dave

I find it odd that Florida is one of the premier states for HS and college baseball (and arguably MiLB) yet it can’t get fans to attend MLB games in Tampa or Miami. I’ve heard it’s because so many residents are not native to Florida and/or there are so many other activities Floridians would rather be doing. But, is that really all there is to it? Any other thoughts on this subject?

Paul Ghiglieri

Great question. I don’t live there, so this is just conjecture, but I’ve read up on the subject. Traffic is a big factor. The Rays want a new stadium because of the location. I’ve heard that the majority of the baseball population lives in Tampa, but the team plays in St. Pete. During the week, crossing the bridge is cumbersome. In some cases, it can take up to an hour to get to Trop, and that’s with good traffic. The Trop is not well regarded by fans as a good ballpark experience, and the fact that it’s a dome doesn’t help. It bears worth mentioning that despite the winning culture lately, they haven’t had a lot of playoff success with the Yankees and Red Sox in that division, as well.

Dave

Thanks Paul. While I’m sure that has a significant impact, I can’t help but think there is much more to it. Miami has won 2 WS (in 1997 and 2003). Yet their attendance has always been poor, even after building the new stadium and before trading away all their talent.

Paul Ghiglieri

I don’t disagree that tourism, age/demographics, and how many residents are transplants also play a role. I imagine the combination of all those things, plus the issues with the stadium, contribute to suppressing attendance. Relocation to Indy, Montreal, or somewhere else has to be a consideration, as does the reality that building a new stadium might be the only way to keep the team in FL.

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