For anyone that has been too busy with high school or college basketball over the last three months, you may have missed that baseball season is fast approaching.
Pitchers and catchers have reported to major league camp while position players have been migrating to Arizona and Florida since Christmas.
The college baseball season is fully underway, as many southern National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) schools have been playing games since mid-January and most NCAA programs from Division 1-3 celebrated their opening day this weekend.
Yet despite all this build up for America’s national pastime, the game of baseball has been in the spotlight for mostly all the wrong reasons since November.
Former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers broke a story to the Athletic, telling the world that the Astros had used a sophisticated system to steal signs using technology in order to gain an unfair advantage during the 2017 season, the year they won the World Series, and have possibly since then.
Since the story broke, baseball fans and players alike have taken to social media to provide more unsettling info behind the Astros’ scheme.
Essentially, the Astros placed a camera behind the outfield wall to spy on the signs being relayed from the catcher to the pitcher, would input the sequence of signs into an algorithm and decipher what the sign was. They would then relay the information either by banging on trash cans, whistling in a certain pattern or allegedly even buzzing a device attach to the batter.
Because of this, Astro batters had better numbers in home games both during the season and in the playoffs than in away games due to sign stealing.
Everyone agrees; the Astros cheated.
The Astros’ front office fired their general manager and field manager in the wake of the story breaking.
The Red Sox and Mets both fired their managers, who each played a part in the scandal during their time in Houston.
The news of the scandal has done more than just tarnished the name of the Astros and the integrity of the game of baseball.
The game is on the precipice of being destroyed.
Having already been eclipsed by both football and basketball in popularity among Americans, baseball has been seeking for ways to regain its once dominating place among the hearts and minds of the American consumer.
Between the Astros scandal, the league juicing the baseball and fans not being able to watch certain games due to blackout restrictions — when living down near Louisville, Ky., I couldn’t watch the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers or Cleveland Indians on mlb.com, despite having a subscription, due to being in those teams’ regional broadcast area — the game of baseball is in danger of hitting a new low in national interest.
Baseball is in danger of experiencing a fallout of fans that rivals the large exodus of fans following the 1994 Players’ Strike. Some fans left the sport, never to return.
What will keep this from happening?
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seems to think that what brings people to the ballpark and keeps their eyes glued to the TV are faster game times and tricks and gimmicks.
I’m not sure if baseball will return to its former glory but I am sure that I am going to watch Field of Dreams approximately 12 times with my sons this summer, dreaming of what baseball used to be and dreaming of what it could become.
“People will come, Ray” offers hope for a sport that seems destined to compete with soccer and hockey for national prominence for the next 25 years.
Will Adams is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487. He can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.