Despite drop in fan interest, MLB players still being paid well
Last updated 4/13/2021 at 8pm
Playing a 60-game schedule without any fans appears to have hurt interest in the major leagues due mainly to the excessive length of the contests believed to be caused by home runs, walks and strikeouts, according to an Associated Press article that appeared in Saturday's newspapers.
"As baseball games get longer and less action-packed, the sport has been looking for ways to reverse the fan-unfriendly trend," the article pointed out. "Among the biggest targets-infield shifts and batters who swing for the fences-both tactics encouraged by analytics."
Baseball games lasted around 2 hours and 30 minutes for much of the post-WWII era. The length of games began to gradually increase in 1979 and then hit three hours in 2012.
However, in the first two weeks of this season, a typical game takes three hours and 16 minutes, according to Baseball-Reference.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the length of the game is not the problem-it's the long period of inaction, which is blamed on the analytical mathematicians who have essentially number-crunched exciting plays like stolen bases and the hit-and-run out of the game.
Some rules changes are being experimented with this season in the minor leagues and Manfred has appointed former Red Sox and Cubs executive Theo Epstein as a consultant that would make the game more lively.
MLB has already limited visits to the mound, put pitchers on the clock between batters and reduced pitching changes by requiring relievers to face a minimum of three batters.
Rules being tested in the minor leagues this year limit pickoff attempts or require infielders to be positioned on the dirt-eliminating defensive shifts that position the infielder in the outfield.
It also is experimenting with larger bases which could make it marginally easier to swipe a bag. This one seems far-fetched to me, but it's being tested in the minors.
Another item that has turned off many hard-core old-time baseball fans is the exorbitant salaries today's major league baseball players are being paid.
MLB speaks out of one side of its mouth crying about the millions of dollars each franchise lost last year due to the pandemic.
But many of them-especially the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and even the LA Angels and our Houston Astros-aren't backing off by rebuilding their respective teams. They're spending big bucks to reel-in impact players that can help them win this season.
The Dodgers, with three of baseball's top 10 highest-paid players, couldn't care less about the luxury tax as long as it means becoming the first National League team in 45 years to win back-to-back World Series championships.
They have the largest payroll of $234,205,736 and aren't even concerned about the $210 million luxury tax that comes with the excessive money. According to USA Today Sports annual survey, there is not another team in Major League Baseball eclipsing the luxury tax.
The Dodgers three highest-paid players in 2021-David Price ($32 million, Trevor Bauer ($31.3 million and Clayton Kershaw ($31 million)-with a total salary of $94.3 million, are earning more than the entire payrolls of 11 teams.
The Houston Astros rank sixth on the payroll list with $176,075,917, behind No. 2 NY Mets ($204,093,481), NY Yankees ($196,750,264), LA Angels ($180,609,676) and the Washington Nationals ($179,557,712).
The Astros' highest-paid player is Justin Verlander ($33 million) who unfortunately is recuperating this season from Tommy John elbow surgery, followed by Zack Greinke ($29,921,850) and Jose Altuve ($29 million).
And although designated hitter Yordan Alvarez is only making $609,000 this season, he appears to be healthy and is picking up where he left off in the 2019 season when he was named AL Rookie of the Year. He missed almost the entire 2020 abbreviated season by having surgery on both knees.
Alvarez appears healthy this season is batting around .300 and is among the league leaders in RBI. In fact, during his first 97 career games, Alvarez has driven in 90 runs and ranks only behind Oldtimers Walt Dropo (Boston 103 RBI), Rudy York (Detroit 98), Joe DiMaggio (NY Yankees 96) and Ted Williams (Boston 91) for the same number of beginning career games.
KWICKIES...The Los Angeles Angels versatile Shohei Ohtani became the first pitcher in major league history to bat second in a game since 1903 when he hit a 451-foot home run and went 4 2/3 innings, touching 101 mph with his fastball in his first start of the season April 4 against the Chicago White Sox. Ohtani is expected to take a regular turn in his team's six-man rotation and increase his designated hitter availability, too.
And while on the topic of yeoman's effort by a Japanese athlete, Hidecki Matsuyama became the first Japanese golfer to win a major tournament as he fashioned a one-stroke victory over Texan Will Zalatoris to earn a green jacket for winning the Masters last weekend. Texan Jorden Spieth tied for third, three strokes behind the leader.
Pro angler Jason Christie won the Bassmaster Elite Series championship here in Orange this weekend before a record crowd of more than 40,000. Not only was the event exciting, but it certainly helped this area's economy.
Phil Mickelson, who shot 68 in Saturday's round of the Masters, now has 33 rounds in the 60's. Only Jack Nicklaus has more Masters rounds in the 60's.
The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 8-2 Saturday and 7-1 Sunday. Those 15 runs in two games eclipses the 19 total runs they scored in their first seven games this season. The Cubs have a team batting average of .167 which is the worst in the major leagues.
JUST BETWEEN US...Last weekend was a good one for Orange's Jack Dallas and younger brother Chad Dallas. Chad, who pitches for the Tennessee Vols posted a Southeast Conference 6-4 victory over Florida Friday night to raise his record to 5-0 this season and keep his collegiate pitching record unblemished in his third season. Not to be outdone, Jack recorded his seventh save of the season as Lamar nipped Northwestern Louisiana 3-2 Sunday and lowered his earned run average to a minuscule 1.13. Chad will have his work cut out Friday when he faces the nation's No. 2 team Vanderbilt.