That’s the bold claim advanced last week by Michael Brendan Dougherty, who just took a step away from political writing to found a baseball newsletter (news-email?) called “The Slurve” [http://www.theslurve.com/], and who gives a great interview about the decision here. His case that baseball is peaking acknowledges the sport’s various difficulties (the Hall of Fame’s steroid problems, the pace of games, the Florida Marlins), but then follows with this:
But overall the sport has never been better. The league has achieved a wonderful balance of parity and dynastic success, feeding just enough hope to smaller-market teams and just enough resentment of larger, perennially competitive ones. Most of the league’s ballparks have been updated in the last 20 years, and on the whole they are better than the stadiums that preceded them, less claustrophobic, better staffed, safer, and, yes, more expensive.
And for all the faults of the league office, the sport has effected a revolution in how we find the sport. Online watching allows fans to see every out-of-market game on their computers or on television. The league has opened up the data about itself available to the nerds. You now can quantify the movement of every pitch thrown.
Advanced statistical analysis has given us greater depth of insight into the players and the franchises themselves. But at the same time we don’t have to be intimidated by the spreadsheets.
Some self-designated “old school” writers like Murray Chass complain that the new stat freaks think the game is simply a clash of abstracted probabilities. But the geek view of the game has not penetrated the experience of the ballpark or even the way the game is portrayed on television. During a televised game, we’re not told a player’s VORP—his Value Over Replacement Player—which would add nothing to the narrative drama of a televised game. But we’re still informed of his batting average, giving us a sense of what is about to happen. The fan’s experience of baseball has not become an embodied math problem. It is still a game of leather, ash bats, cleats. It remains an athletic endeavor. We just understand it better.
Posted: April 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM | 6 comment(s)
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