On Monday night, Fernando Tatis Jr. put on another show with the style and energy that is symbolic of the new age of baseball, and hopefully, the new age of fans that the sport so desperately needs. Unfortunately, that growth continues to be stunted by “baseball purists”, and even the league itself. Viewership has been down since the steroid era, and according to a recent study conducted in 2017, the average age of baseball fans (57 years old) is above those of its contemporaries in the NFL (50 years old), NHL (49 years old), and NBA (42 years old) (Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Magna Global). Baseball has seen a rather dramatic jump in average age of viewership in the past decade as well, meaning that they are having trouble garnering the interest of younger sports fans. Baseball’s propensity to shoot itself in the foot, was on display again on Monday night.
To set the stage, the San Diego Padres had a late 10-3 over the Texas Rangers in the 8th inning, and Tatis Jr. was up to bat with the bases loaded and a 3-0 count. According to baseball purists, conventional wisdom would be that he should take the next pitch, no matter how lousy it is, just because they have a late 7-run lead. Instead, Tatis Jr. loaded up, and deposited the 3-0 pitch from Rangers reliever Juan Nicasio into the bleachers for a Grand Slam. Rangers manager Chris Woodward took exception to this and when asked about it after the game said, “I didn’t like it, personally, but, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis. So just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right. I don’t think we liked it as a group.”
Tatis Jr. didn’t get the support of his own manager Jayce Tingler, but there was an outcry of support from players across the league including Trevor Bauer, Amir Garrett, Anthony Rizzo, Tim Anderson, and even Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. If baseball ever wants to grow and reach a younger fanbase it needs to market its best and most exciting players like Fernando Tatis Jr., not devalue and minimize them. If the Rangers thought he shouldn’t have swung at that 3-0 pitch, then I simply suggest making a better pitch next time. Or maybe, not fall behind 3-0 in the first place down 7 runs. How silly is it that the grand slam would have been widely accepted on a 3-1 count but since it was 3-0 it was condemned? Not the mention that 12 times in the past two weeks, teams have scored 6 or more runs in an inning. With that knowledge it seems that assuming the game was over with a 7-run lead is a little far-fetched. The game needs to move past this way of thinking if it’s ever going to evolve, and players like Tatis Jr. are the ones that we need to embrace to lead the charge. The only thing he did wrong Monday night, was apologize for doing his job, and never taking an at bat off. With nonsensical unwritten rules like this one, you realize why nobody has ever taken the time to write it down.
Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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