SABR held its analytics conference in the Valley recently and offered a panel discussion with young fans talking about consuming baseball in the digital age.
Lewie Pollis, a student at Brown University, said:
“There’s this narrative of how great the past was in baseball, and how current baseball doesn’t measure up to that. … There’s a very strong narrative of ‘things used to be better.’ I don’t know if that’s directly affecting the way younger fans see the game, but it certainly won’t help bring new fans in if you’re telling them so blatantly the game isn’t as good as it used to be. Even if it’s right, which I don’t think it is, that’s a harmful message to be sharing with people whom you are trying to engage.”
Well, Lewie, baseball goes in cycles. Some eras the pitchers dominate, some the hitters. Some seasons are more exciting than others. Same with postseasons. But one thing you can count on: The game always used to be better.
I’ve been following the sport for 50 years and what an exciting decline it has been. I will start with the pennant races in 1964, the first I remember. It seemed like half of each league was in it until the last week. But I’m sure they paled compared to the races in 1908.
And I’m sure Cobb was a piker compared to King Kelly.
And the ballparks? They were all cathedrals back in the day. Oh and all the games were played in the day.
And the parks were probably at their best when they were made of all wood and could collapse or burn down. Steel and concrete ruined the game.
I could go on and on. Just know this young Lewie: Professional baseball is the only human endeavor I can think of that gets progressively worse year after year. In 1869, Harry Wright‘s ballclub was pretty decent.
It’s been downhill from there.