I may have mentioned before that, as Robert DeNiro once said, baseball is one of my “enthusiasms.” So, of course, the last several weeks have been wonderfully entertaining for me, as our …
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I may have mentioned before that, as Robert DeNiro once said, baseball is one of my “enthusiasms.” So, of course, the last several weeks have been wonderfully entertaining for me, as our Colorado Rockies have climbed to the top of their division.
Still, even with that, this has been a difficult season for me to watch. The game that I learned to play, that was still America’s Favorite Pastime in the era of Davey Lopes, Joe Morgan, and Ricky Henderson, is a very different game than the game that you will see if you make your way to Coors Field any time soon. This year’s brand of baseball is, well, boring. And a little bit fascist.
The 2018 baseball season featured the first April EVER in which there were more strikeouts than base hits. Now, to the non-baseball fan, that may not sound like such a big deal, but consider that “ever” in baseball encompasses about 118 years, and secondly, that means that the average baseball game these days looks a lot more like a game of catch than it does an actual contest. Well, catch, interrupted occasionally by really long hits that the fielders don’t even bother to chase.
And why has the game evolved this way, you may ask? Because somewhere, in a closet in the basement of the Oakland A’s clubhouse, some genius mathematician-nerd with a computer has a formula and a power point that says this approach to the game will produce more wins.
It is called analytics; it is drilling statistics to the point that we can stare at the minutest minutia and draw enormous conclusions from next to nothing, and my friend, the baseball guru, says that it has ruined the position player because everybody is trying to be Sammy Sosa.
Now, think about that for a second: studying minute information to simplify a process so we no longer need to have well-rounded skills and still win. Does that sound at all like another arena?
Do the words “silly season” mean anything to you?
About 20 years ago Governor Bill Owens became a national sensation because of the incredible success of the get out the vote campaign that he designed. And one of the main features of this successful campaign was — wait for it — voter analytics. Minute data. His game was, predictably, stolen by Democrats and then modified, then re-stolen by Republicans, and so on and so on, to the point now that both sides already know who will vote for them, who will never vote for them, and the one or two issues that people on the fence may use to make their decision.
If you were, like I was, a bit disgusted by the spectacle of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings last week, consider it in terms of advanced data. Were the Republicans trying to make a case for Judge Kavanaugh? No, they already have the votes in the Senate, and they know their voters already approve of him. Were the Democrats trying to derail his nomination? No, they know they don’t have the votes to stop him, and they know the only way to keep their base happy was by turning it into a circus. Did either side do anything to convince anybody in the middle?
No. Because people in the middle are so sick of the circus, and so busy having their own lives, that they weren’t paying attention.
160 years ago, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas travelled around Illinois together for weeks trying to convince voters of the wisdom of their policy positions. Over the next two months, I’d be shocked if you ever heard opposing candidates ever address the substance of each others’ positions, much less do so in a dignified and amicable way. It is the politics of swing big and miss big. With we, the people, almost guaranteed to strike out.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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