I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately.
I know, weird, right? It’s still the beginning of a lively new NHL season, well underway but still in that awkward place where the Calgary Flames are in a playoff seed and the Boston Bruins are not. I love this time of year for its oddities in sports. Which brings me back to baseball.
Baseball is almost the anti-hockey. It’s slow. It has the potential to literally go on forever. Half of the game, nearly half of the players are just sitting on a bench, while the other half are standing in a field. Its action is so intermittent, I observed that watching the game tracker on MLB.com, which shows a graphic of a batter in a stadium, both dressed properly and architecturally accurate for the location, and tracks the pitches thrown at him in more-or-less real-time, to be just as exciting as watching the game on television.
So, why was I watching baseball? Simple: one of my local Major League teams, the San Francisco Giants, were tearing it up in the playoffs. In fact, they just won their third World Series in five years last night. Now that I spend most of my days deep in the Bay Area, rather than exiled to the outskirts, it’s hard not to get rapt up in the fervor surrounding a team like this. My office is full of die-hards, and it’s fun to follow a winning team on their way to destiny. (Because really, Championships in 2010, 2012 and now 2014? Might as well pencil them in for 2016 at this point.)
There’s a lot to like about baseball. It actually can be exciting. Those three innings in Game 4 where the Giants scored 9 runs to tie up Kansas City and ultimately blow them out? Fantastic. The rest of the game? To be honest, it’s incredibly interesting in the same way that chess is, but it doesn’t really make for good watching. There’s so much going on, more than I can even understand having only really watched a little of the post-season. There are about a thousand rules, events, notable goings-on in every game. For instance, all of these. And then there’s the stats. So many stats.
I’m a fan of advanced stats in ice hockey and the never-ending quest to quantify the game for the sake of predicting future results more accurately. NHL analytics have a long way to go before they come close to having what MLB has. I think we’re still waiting for that Moneyball team to come along under the salary cap, though this year’s Nashville Predators might be a solid candidate if things keep going their way.
I’ve only ever been to two Major League Baseball games that I can remember, and both in the last 15 months: an Oakland Athletics game last year, and a San Francisco Giants game this past August. And herein lies the rub. I remember exactly nothing about the games themselves, other than the final score. What I do remember was having a blast with friends and colleagues in the stands, either during a beautiful summer afternoon, or a foggy San Francisco night.
Which leads me to a conclusion of sorts. Baseball is boring as hell. I can’t even imagine forcing myself to sit through 162 regular season games, every single day from April to September, for the slim chance that my team would be one of the lucky 10 to make the big dance. I’m lucky my new hometown team is pushing dynasty status; it makes it fun. But the real fun of baseball is the social aspect. Where hockey is a game where I can get engrossed in the actual on-ice product, sitting around having drinks outdoors with great people is infinitely more fun than what goes on on the field. But, it is the baseball that brings us together here, and for that reason, I actually kind of like it.