Oh Bandage Up Yours!
Fans like offense. That’s what professional writers such as Buster Olney and Tom Verducci are saying as well: We dwell in a low-offense valley, and they miss the offense.
Olney suggested “perhaps lowering the mound again, or changing the composition of the ball.” Verducci wants to outlaw the shift. The terrible, painful irony here is that they fail to recognize that such remedies for the current lack of offense are no different from the use of drugs to get the same effect. What doesn’t seem to have occurred to those asking for more offense is that they are requesting the manipulation of scoring levels by artificial means, which is exactly what Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez supposedly did.
What they are suggesting is actually worse, because the efficacy of PEDs was never untangled from all the other phenomena at work during that period, particularly stadium design, ball composition and a highly variable but generally shrinking strike zone, whereas if you (say) lowered the mound, or lowered it and moved it back from its traditional 60’6” from home plate, if you moved all the fences in to 250 feet, if you shrunk the foul territory in ballparks like Oakland’s and told the Rockies to deactivate their humidor, we know what would happen. You’d fix offense, in the sense that the 1919 World Series was fixed.
Self-appointed purists have complained that baseball’s sacred record-book was pillaged by drug users, but it was always subject to manipulations like these. Remember 1930, the average hitter in the National League averaged .303 and slugged .448. After that season, the NL deadened the ball by publicized choice, whereas the American League stayed with the rabbit ball for awhile longer. That’s why from 1931 through 1938 the AL had 14 seasons of 40 or more home runs and the NL had none, why Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg had seasons of more than 180 RBI and the NL topped out with Joe Medwick’s 154 (one of only two NL seasons of more than 138 RBI during that period), the NL had seven seasons with batting averages above .350 while the AL had 18, and so on.
We won’t rehash all the other ways that baseball’s record book is bogus except to mention the biggest one: Apartheid major league baseball was a minor league.
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