This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.
In the year 2025 — if man is still alive, anyway — attending a Major League Baseball game might be very different than what fans experience today. Sound unlikely on the surface? Just look at what’s going on in the news recently. Changes won’t happen overnight, but…
In the year 2025…
• Pitchers, like the great Bartolo Colon, might not hit for themselves anymore in the National League. And not just because Colon would be in his early 50s by then.
• Sluggers like David Ortiz might not dip smokeless tobacco when they stroll the plate. Grab yourself, spit and repeat.
• Fans like you and me might not be allowed to consume ballpark food such as hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack because of ISIS.
Taters, tobacco and terror. What in the name of Aldous Huxley is going on here?
Granted, we’re in the annual baseball no-man’s land right now, in which we’ve got more time and less to write about. Free-agency has stalled, spring training isn’t ready yet. We’re caught between seasons and we’ve got writers digging deep into the minutiae.
In other words, the NL isn’t about to adopt the designated hitter in 2016 or 2017. The sight of tobacco isn’t going to disappear from MLB ballparks overnight, no matter that it will be illegal at three stadiums in 2016. And there’s no chance you won’t be able to try the 9-9-9 challenge (consuming nine hot dogs and nine beers over nine innings) in the coming season.
But in another decade, it might be different. Can you handle it?
Anyone who has grown up with baseball over the past 40 years has done so with the DH in the AL and eight-men lineups in the NL. With the introduction of interleague play in 1997 and the elimination of the league presidents, the differences between leagues are not so distinct anymore. The DH is really the only thing. And its existence represents a competition issue. It’s not fair for either side when it comes to regular season or the World Series. Beyond the quaintness of it all, MLB should have one set of rules.
Although he has since “hit the brakes,” on expanding the DH, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is on the record saying that it’s more likely to come to the NL than it was, say, 20 years ago. This is him, via ESPN:
“Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some sort of heretical comment,” Manfred said Thursday. “But we have a newer group. There’s been turnover. And I think our owners in general have demonstrated a willingness to change the game in ways that we think would be good for the fans, always respecting the history and traditions of the sport.”
While lots of owners, players and fans like the status quo, the quality of hitting among pitchers has really waned. Not that it ever was great. But they can’t all be Madison Bumgarner or Colon, who at least entertains if not produces at the plate.
Smokeless tobacco is in the news because Los Angeles became the third major city Tuesday to ban chaw at ballparks — from municipal Little League fields to Dodger Stadium. Boston, with Fenway Park, and San Francisco, with AT&T, have done likewise. You can’t dip if you sit in the stands or play on the field. Some will complain about government continuing to meddle in individual lives, and they have a point — although worrying about what the NSA does is a little more troubling — but it’s also a public health issue. It’s a disgusting and dangerous habit, and kids don’t need to see ballplayers doing it.
That’s how representatives of the San Francisco Giants look at it — somewhat surprisingly — via MLB.com:
After considering the issue carefully, left-hander Madison Bumgarner issued a statement: “Hopefully it will be a positive thing for us players. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, but I support the city.”
Manager Bruce Bochy approved of the law.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “I think it can be a good thing. It’s going to be hard to enforce. It’s a tough habit to break.”
Smokeless-tobacco use has been banned in the Minor Leagues since June 15, 1993. Major Leaguers cannot be prohibited from chewing or dipping tobacco without an agreement from the Players Association.
Still, Lenny Dykstra, you know? The sight of a ballplayer putting a pinch between his cheek and gum, hocking a loogie and swinging the bat is indelible. Dipping tobacco, while disgusting, is “baseball tradition,” as John Ferrell put it. It’s ubiquitous with the sport. If it disappeared tomorrow, we’d all be better off. But it would be weird.
The last big change would be the weirdest. No concessions, at least as we’ve come to know them, at the ballpark. Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, suggested last week that MLB parks could be made safer by not selling food. Marlins president David Samson said as much via ESPN:
According to Samson, Johnson told the group a stadium could be 100 percent secure if additional steps were taken, such as prohibiting fans from bringing any bags and eliminating food and food-services workers. Checking the trunks and bottoms of cars entering parking lots outside ballparks could be another step discussed at some point.
No pitchers hitting. No tobacco. No hot dogs. What’s next? No beer? Baseball in the future sounds fun! When do we get there?
A member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Dave has worked for CBS Sports, Yahoo, the Northwest Herald, http://MLB.com and the Associated Press. He grew up in Chicago and resides with his family in Kansas City.
This guest-post was part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.