Who doesn’t love the new year?
It’s a time to reflect on what’s happened and set goals for what’s next. At least some MLB teams appear to be setting some promising goals for 2023, having spent almost $2.9 billion on free agents, substantially more than they’ve been willing to pay at this point in the last five years. For most fans, this suggests reasons for hope, especially with the expanded playoff system.
But it’s not really New Year’s without a few resolutions, so here are mine.
Embrace Speeding up Games
I should say at the outset that I’ve been a fan of the pitch clock for a long time, and I was delighted to learn MLB would be adopting one in 2023. You can read the specifics here, but essentially, MLB will allow only 30 seconds to elapse between batters; when an at-bat is in progress, MLB will use a 15-second timer with bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base. In addition, the number of throws to first will be limited. (For an interesting discussion of enforcement challenges, I recommend this podcast with reliever Pierce Johnson.)
My enthusiasm for the pitch timer and shortened games was cemented on Friday, April 13, 2019. around 1 a.m. MT, and I remember the moment clearly. I was covering a Colorado Rockies-San Francisco Giants game that went 18 innings and ended at 1:50 a.m. with the Giants winning 3-2 on the game’s 503rd pitch. (Did I mention that a day game would start a few hours later?) Both teams were exhausted, the bullpens were depleted, the seagulls were scavenging for garlic fries (and so were the hungry broadcast crews), European baseball fans were logging on to Twitter to check the scores and things just got weird. As I watched pitcher Germán Márquez put on his batting gloves because the Rockies were out of hitters, I knew there had to be a better way. (If I didn’t include this 2017 Grant Brisbee classic on the increasing length of games, I wouldn’t be doing my job.)
The average time for an MLB game in 2022 was 3:03 hours — they have become increasingly longer since the 2015 season. Games take up too much time, and they would benefit from more action. Minor League Baseball’s use of a pitch clock has seen game times reduced by an average of 26 minutes. I am here for the pitch clock.
Just so you know, I am also a staunch defender of the ghost runner after the 11th inning and during the regular season. Don’t @ me.
I resolve not to mention that I was right when all the holdouts come to agree with me that speeding up baseball games is a good thing.
Cheer for the Mets
I haven’t stopped thinking about this line from an Evan Drellich piece published last week. One of Steve Cohen’s former employees told Drellich: “The way he looks at this business is so different than his hedge fund,” the employee said Wednesday. “It’s more like how he buys art. And he just spends whatever it takes on art. The guy’s got a billion dollars worth of art in his house. He gets it because he can.”
Baseball ownership as art, as doing it for pleasure and because he can (though surely making money is also much on his mind). He’s not worried about getting along with his fellow extraordinarily wealthy MLB owner friends. Nope, Steve Cohen does not care about salary caps: He just wants to win. And he wants to win so much that he’s spent (so far) $380 million before luxury-tax penalties. There are no parsimonious pleas of “limited financial flexibility” or wink-wink “Pardon our mess. We’re rebuilding!” It’s just all-in, glorious baseball spending designed to field the best possible team. In 2023, the Mets will pay around $111 million just in luxury taxes. For some perspective, that’s more than 10 teams will spend on their 26-man rosters based on their current payrolls.
I resolve to expunge “lol Mets” from my vocabulary this year, and when the Mets visit Coors Field, I may sit with the 7 Line Army and cheer along with them because Uncle Steve wants to win.
Kill the Wave
The Wave as a part of professional sports is not a new idea.
As “Krazy George” Henderson remembers, “I invented The Wave on Oct. 15, 1981 at the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees playoff game. That’s where it started.” That would make Game 3 of the 1981 ALCS, the first time The Wave appeared on national television. (Henderson workshopped the idea at a San Jose State football game.) There is some debate as to whether Henderson or the University of Washington actually started the wave, but today, we find ourselves awash in its chaos.
Baseball is a game of order, of rules, of details. The wave is counter to all of that. Is it exciting? Perhaps. Does it look cool? Maybe. But it’s a terrible fit for a baseball game.
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) August 31, 2016
Given Dodgers fans’ affinity for the wave, perhaps Syndergaard will rethink his stance. (Then again, he’s Thor, so he can probably do anything.)
Not all players hate the wave. For example, back when he was with the Rockies, Nolan Arenado said, “I honestly don’t mind it at all, I think it’s kind of cool. … If it’s a packed house, it’s really pretty cool. But then, if there is hardly anybody in the stands and a few fans are trying to do it, it’s pretty brutal.”
Arenado may be the greatest third baseman of all time, but on this one, respectfully, he could not be more wrong.
I resolve to continue not doing the wave in 2023 and to discourage others from participating. (I’m also not capitalizing “the wave,” either.)
Continue to Focus on Diversity
In the 2022 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros, for the first time since 195o — just after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier — neither team listed a U.S.-born Black player on its roster.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports detailed in their Major League Baseball Racial & Gender Report Card that racial hiring practices in 2022 decreased slightly, while gender hiring was up, resulting in the Institute giving MLB a grade of 79.1, a minimal increase from 2021’s 78.8. The overall grade was a B-.
Sorry, MLB, but above average just doesn’t cut it.
Read the entire report — there’s much to grapple with. While it’s great that MLB made some progress, it’s not enough. MLB needs to continue diversifying the game: from players on the field to coaching staff and front offices to broadcast booths to team nights and activities that welcome and celebrate marginalized communities.
I resolve — and I hope you will, too — in 2023 to keep pushing for baseball to be a truly inclusive game that welcomes everyone.
Support Baseball at All Levels
As someone who lives in the baseball desert that is northern Wyoming, I have to travel at least 500 miles to see an MLB game. After MLB contracted the minor leagues, I lost easy access to that as well. (Montana had a terrific MiLB system that leaves me less than 100 miles from the Billings Mustangs, formerly part of the Reds system).
But baseball is wonderful, and it’s everywhere. This year, get out and support local baseball in whatever form it takes. I’ve got fairly easy access to the Expedition and Pioneer Leagues, and I’ve set a resolution of making it up to Butte to see the Mining City Tommyknockers. My favorite Pioneer League team, the Casper Horseheads, had to close up shop this year because it just couldn’t pay the bills, so the Casper Spuds (previously of Canyon County, Idaho) have moved in. Wyoming isn’t exactly known for potatoes, but I’m eager to see how the Spuds hold up.
Locally, we’ve got Elks Legion baseball and lots of opportunities for beginning baseball players that I haven’t really taken advantage of since my niece turned her attention to volleyball.
In 2023, I resolve to watch more local baseball (not just MLB and MiLB), and I hope you will, too, if you aren’t already.
One More Thing
I have one more resolution, but Nicole Cahill covered it nicely in her article last week on what she should do if she owned an MLB team: MLB needs better apparel designed by women for women. In 2023, I resolve to keep complaining about this (and to continue my Don Quixote-like quest for a women’s Germán Márquez jersey.)
By the way, I know we all agree on our resolution for MLB to end TV blackouts and for teams to offer more affordable options for fans, especially families, so I won’t rehash that here.
So, those are my resolutions for 2023, and I hope you’ll leave yours in the comments.
Happy New Year, everyone! Pitchers and catchers will be reporting soon.
Featured image by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUwasemiller on Twitter).