Starting World Series Day One on the Wrong Foot

With a hat tip to Baseball Think Factory, I regret to inform you that not even Day One of the World Series will prevent idiocy from polluting the air waves and ink-and-paper of publications. Daniel A. Cirucci wrote an opinion column for the Philadelphia Daily News (which has always been a beacon of sound, logical reasoning) called “Just call it baseBORE.”

At the end of the column where they have a blurb about the author, it reads, “Daniel A. Cirucci is a lecturer in corporate communications at Penn State Abington.” Re-read the title again, this time keeping in mind that this is someone responsible for educating the bright, young minds of this country’s future. “BaseBORE.”

Hilarious!

But enough snark for now, we must objectively criticize Danny’s column.

But no matter how it turns out, one thing will remain true: Baseball is an insufferably boring pastime.

This is an example of why the Opinion section of any newspaper is worth skipping over every day (and this is coming from someone who has also been published in the opinion section). As they say, “opinions are like assholes: everyone has one.”

Claiming that “Baseball is boring,” no matter how well you back it up is antithetical to any critical thinking, really. “Boring” is completely subjective. I think that NFL Live is boring. Millions of viewers disagree with me. I think that the singing of the national anthem is boring. Hundreds of millions of “patriots” disagree with me. There’s no way I can prove that I am right and that they are wrong, no matter how well I back up my opinion.

So, why even write it? And, perhaps to ask a more salient question, why publish it?

Except for the pitcher, catcher and hitter, all the players simply stand around waiting for something to happen. Huge amounts of time drift by aimlessly.

Two things:

  1. Don’t like it, don’t watch it, and certainly don’t waste our time complaining about it.
  2. To the untrained eye, as I will prove yours is Dan, it does look like nothing. But there’s a lot that goes on: the positioning of the fielders, signs being exchanged, the cat-and-mouse game between pitcher and baserunner(s), etc. If a football-hater said this about football — “the only time there’s ever any action is in the two seconds after the QB hikes the ball” — the same thing could be said.

Players have to work hard to stay awake.

No, they don’t.

So they chew gum or tobacco, spit, grab their crotches, shift their feet, adjust their caps, brush themselves off and gaze about hoping they’ll actually have something to do.

Idiosyncrasies != Boredom.

And we haven’t even touched on the time taken up with consultations among umpires or between the pitcher and the manager and the seemingly inevitable saga of calling someone from the bullpen to replace the pitcher.

We hear this criticism a lot in baseball, but how is it any different than football? In both sports, the average game time is around three hours. Football pauses for more commercial breaks, however, including an intentional 10-20 minute break at halftime. The replay challenges, which occur at least twice a game on average (I pulled that out of my ass, so feel free to fact-check that) take a couple minutes.

In baseball, you have a stoppage after every half-inning that lasts between 1 and 2 minutes (so, between 17 and 34 minutes), a 30-second mound conference that occurs maybe twice a game, and pitching changes, which occur on average three times a game (again, I pulled that average out of thin air). The delays in baseball are no different — and arguably less — than football.

EDIT: Fellow BBTF poster SoSH U made a good point that I’d like to add to this:

The half-inning stoppages and pitching changes in MLB are natural. They’re basically the same length at every level of baseball, and during that time there is at least something going on (pitchers warming up, players throwing it around the infield).

Contrast that with the TV timeouts that go on in pro and college football, where players and coaches stand around doing nothing but waiting for the TV light to come on and indicate that it’s safe to play again. You don’t see that at high school games (well, until they started putting the damn things on ESPN. I suppose those fans have to endure that crap too).

For the fans, all of this leaves lots of time for diversions. That’s how baseball statistics got started. The endless stream of statistics gives diehard fans something to focus on instead of the game.

List of sports in which statistics are kept:

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Soccer
  • Lacrosse
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis
  • Table-tennis
  • Badminton
  • Bocceball
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing

In other words, every sport keeps statistics. Statistics got started in baseball because it is a contest between two opposing sides in which a winner must be declared. To nullify the frequency of disputes, statistics were kept as proof of the results of the event.

But the stats themselves are deadening: often obscure, seemingly irrelevant, terminally nerdy.

The obscurity of a statistic does nothing to add or subtract from its usability.

If a statistic is “seemingly irrelevant,” that is probably your fault and not the statistic’s. An example of an irrelevant statistic would be, “Shane Victorino scored two goals in one game once when he was in high school.” Or even staying within the context of baseball, an irrelevant statistic would be the note that Jeff Cirillo (who logged nearly 5,400 at-bats as a position player) threw a scoreless inning as a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.

And the phrase “terminally nerdy” coming from someone who lectures at colleges is a great example of the pot calling the kettle black.

And you know what they say

If he brings up the “Statistics are like bikinis” phrase, I’m going to blow a gasket.

Statistics are like bikinis.

Damn it.

What they reveal may seem enticing but what they conceal is vital.

I hate this quote because it misses the point. The anti-stat crowd always says that stats don’t cover everything (like Derek Jeter’s ability to grit his way to a win for his team), but no one has ever claimed that they do or ever will. Statistics are logged observations in numerical form.

The other criticism from the anti-stat crowd is that statistics are misleading, or can be used in biased ways. This, unfortunately for them, is not the fault of the statistics, but of the people who use them. Look at any political campaign and how they stretch the truth; this is true of any human being. If I believe in global warming, for instance, I’m only going to cite statistics that reinforce my belief that global warming is a problem.

Statistics are a creation of human beings and are used by human beings, so of course there are going to be instances where they are used dishonestly. That doesn’t mean we should throw out the baby with the bathwater, as they say.

Still, it often happens that the box score winds up being way more interesting than the game itself.

How does this make any logical sense. A box score is a log of what happened during the game. Unless you have a fetish for newspapers or black ink… this sentence is completely useless.

Yet, for the ordinary fan who’s not absorbed by all those numbers, other diversions have to suffice. That’s why new ballparks come equipped with huge Fan-o-Vision screens, ever-changing scoreboards, fountains, fireworks, tacky giveaways, faux shrines, playgrounds, picnic areas and lots and lots of restaurants, snack bars and shops.

How is this unique to baseball? Have you taken a look at what Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has in mind for his new stadium?

It’s a sugar high for kids and cholesterol gulch for adults.

Again, not unique to baseball, or to sports for that matter.

I went to the Phils’ new ballpark right after it opened. It’s very nice. But the more you hang around the place, the more expensive it gets.

Not. Unique. To. Baseball.

And in the course of a typical game (we’re not talking the playoffs or the World Series) you get to do a lot of hangin’ around.

If you’re completely ignorant of baseball, then yeah, you’re going to be bored.

If you don’t like baseball and find it boring, great, you’re entitled to your opinion. What if we published every subjective opinion article in the editorials?

  • New Kids on the Block are the best band ever
  • Pepsi tastes better than Coke
  • Megan Fox is hotter than Angelina Jolie
  • Michael Jordan’s cologne smells worse than Paris Hilton’s
  • The Kong coaster at Six Flags is better than the Medusa

It’s so pointless. No one opinion is better than another, regardless of how well you back it up. There is no amount of factual evidence available where you can definitively state that the Kong coaster > Medusa, or Megan Fox > Angelina Jolie.

The Baseball Almanac says the longest professional baseball game ever played was a 25-inning game between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984.

This is A) a cherry-pick and B) making the exception the rule. The standard baseball game is nine innings long. There were 369 extra-inning games this season out of about [EDIT: Fixed my math] 2,430 total games. 15.2% of games this season went extra-innings. In other words, 84.8% of games will last the standard 8.5 or 9 innings.

And it’s enough to make you want to never come back – or at least to long for the days of Joe DiMaggio.

So, extra innings didn’t exist in DiMaggio’s day? Certainly, baseball games weren’t as long, but in reality, we’re talking about a difference of maybe 20 minutes (again, I made that up). Maybe Cirucci is a busy man, and those 20 minutes are vital.

The great Yankee Clipper was one of the last players who actually played for baseball’s one dynamic moment: the crack of the ball against the bat. Joe certainly did not do it for the money ($100,000 annually for his last three years, 1949-’51). He never got to reap the astronomical salaries of today’s sports pros.

The argument has somehow shifted from “baseball is boring” to “players are greedy”?

Not. Unique. To. Baseball. (In case you were wondering)

I’m amazed when people wail about the salaries of CEOs but think nothing of the fact that Alex Rodriguez will make $28 million this year.

I don’t know anyone — who follows both politics/economics and baseball — who has complained about CEO salaries, but not athletes’ salaries.

And again, citing A-Rod’s salary is a cherry-pick, and it’s not unique to baseball. Michael Vick was given a 10-year, $167 million contract from the Atlanta Falcons. The Los Angeles Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a 7-year, $136.4 million contract. Alexander Ovechkin was awarded a 13-year, $124 million contract.

Not. (Say it with me now) Unique. To. Baseball.

Whew – all that and Madonna, too!

Celebrity gossip. Not unique to baseball.

Fin.

You’d think someone who has spent and still spends a considerable amount of time in academia would be able to make an argument much better than this. I would expect a column like this out of an eighth-grader, not someone in charge of informing college students.

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4 comments

  1. Ernie

    October 22, 2008 10:37 AM

    “Joe certainly did not do it for the money ($100,000 annually for his last three years.”

    Now, I dont know about you, but 100K today seems like a lot of money to me now. I’m sure that was a pretty astronomical number back in the late 40’s-early 50’s. I’m sure Joe loved the game, but its not like he was playing for peanuts. Plus, didnt he get into contract disputes about how he deserved more money? I thought there was a story about that somewhere (maybe it was mantle?)

  2. King Kaufman

    October 22, 2008 12:46 PM

    “’m amazed when people wail about the salaries of CEOs but think nothing of the fact that Alex Rodriguez will make $28 million this year.”

    Why is this amazing? The CEOs that people are talking about when they’re complaining about CEO compensation make two or three times that. And it can be shown that A-Rod actually earns his salary a lot easier than it can be shown that, say, the CEO of Merrill Lynch earned his $83 million last year.

  3. Matt

    October 23, 2008 06:13 AM

    “The Baseball Almanac says the longest professional baseball game ever played was a 25-inning game between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984.”

    Not just cherry-picking, but misleading. That’s the longest game in terms of time, but he denotes the length of the game using innings as his unit. The longest professional baseball game by innings was between two AAA teams, the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, in 1981. Pawsox won 3-2 in 33 innings.

  4. Tom

    October 25, 2008 10:16 AM

    “The great Yankee Clipper was one of the last players who actually played for baseball’s one dynamic moment: the crack of the ball against the bat.”

    Not to mention a crack at Marilyn Monroe! So DiMaggio was the Yankees’ highest-paid player and dated a famous female entertainer… how exactly was he different than A-Rod?

    Really, though, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. After all, this guy teaches “corporate communications”, which is the job of putting a positive spin on business losses, product liability lawsuits, etc. No doubt the same rhetorical techniques displayed here are taught in his course.

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