The Fallen Mystique of Baseball

mickey-mantle-roger-maris-signed-photo-bb32eI was recently watching a baseball related movie called “61” about the home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961.  They both had a chance to break Babe Ruth’s all time home run record of 60. When Roger Maris hit his 61st homerun on the last day of the season only a small crowd was present in his home stadium and there was little fanfare, including leading up the game. The movie then reverted to when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd homerun in 1998 to break Maris’ record.  There was much hype leading up to the event and the game was delayed for a long time for congratulation and ceremony.

I could not help reflecting that despite the extensive hype leading up to the McQwire home run and the lack of hype related to the Maris home run, the Maris home run has much more mystique around it today (and true even in 1998) than McQwire’s homerun.  The excessive hype and manufactured excitement actually seemed to make McQwire’s home run less meaningful rather than more  meaningful.

The same holds true for the World Series.  When the there were only two leagues, American and National, and only one playoff series, the World Series, with only two teams making the postseason, there was so much more mystique about the Series than there is today.  This is despite many times more hype today and excessive promotion of not only the World Series but the whole multiple playoff series and related pennant races generated by fully 10 of the 30 teams making the playoffs.  The addition of mediocre teams to the playoffs and the artificial excitement of these teams battling for a playoff spot at season end actually makes both the baseball season and playoffs less interesting to me.  The World Series is much less interesting being just another playoff series with sometimes a team with as many losses as wins during the regular season making the World Series. Rarely do the two best teams during the year make the World Series, which is a shame.

I believe one of the reasons (along with the excessive hype) for diminishment of the World Series and Major League Baseball in general is the desire to try to award multiple teams with a prize who do not deserve it based on their performance simply to generate artificial excitement and interest.  A just system would only reward a team a place in the World Series that had earned it based on performance similar to how God will render to each Christian rewards based on their deeds (Romans 2:6 and II Corinthians 5:10).  I Corinthians 9:24 reminds us that although many run a race only one deserves the prize, the best runner.   To allow a team to reach the playoffs when in some cases, during the regular season, it cannot even win its own division or have more than an average record is not a just system, does not reward the best teams and accordingly Baseball suffers.

This baseball fan wishes that Major League Baseball could recapture its old mystique it had when I was a boy and again only reward the two best teams that truly deserve to make the World Series as well as tone down the artificial hype of the playoffs and manufactured pennant races and simply “Play Ball”.

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