The signs are all around us. Major League Baseball (MLB) has had it, and they are fighting back by whatever means necessary. Today something is going on with the product, and yes, it’s affecting the game. It’s either the ball or the players are juiced. I don’t think you can have it both ways.
Major League Baseball is the only professional sports league whose games are played without a clock. Think about it: NBA games just over two hours, NFL just over 3 hours, NHL with three 20-minute periods.
MLB’s 30 teams play 162 games over six months. Their season is a marathon, not a sprint. It starts in late March and ends at the beginning of November. Some games are less than two hours with great pitching, and other games can go on seemingly forever.
The Twins already have had two games last 17 and 18 innings. Yes, six-hour games; has MLB done something to the baseball?
The Twins have hit 166 home runs in 89 games — that’s the best in baseball. No Twins team in their history has hit more through 89 games. Eleven Twins players have at least 10 home runs, and two players, Eddie Rosario with 20 and Max Kepler with 21, are among the American League leaders.
Are some players in this day and age of science masking what they are taking to get an edge again? MLB is the only sports league where players like Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Roger Clemens (seven-time Cy Young Award winner), Sammy Sosa (660 home runs), Mark McGuire (over 570 home runs) and several others have been denied the Hall of Fame by voters because they are believed to have cheated by using steroids.
This game has been played for 100 years. Babe Ruth was the first to hit 60 home runs in a season. He hit 714 in his remarkable career. The ballparks are all just about the same size. Since 1947, with Jackie Robinson and the experiment that allowed the best athletes in the Negro League to play with Whites in MLB, the talent pool has continued to get wider. Greater players from all over the world now play in the Major Leagues.
Several pitchers are now throwing the ball over 100 mph. More fans are being hit by line-drive foul balls. Is that because of cell phones, or are fans not paying attention because the games are too long?
I believe MLB is tired of losing so many great American-born athletes year to year to football, basketball, and golf. Nobody in the NFL or NBA or NHL gets contracts guaranteed for $440 million like Mike Trout or $330 million contracts like San Diego’s Manny Machado or Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper.
But 10 teams are on record paces for the most home runs in their franchises’ histories after 89 games: Twins (166), Seattle (160), Yankees (149) and Oakland (145). Three players in the National League have already hit 30 home runs or more: Los Angeles’ Cody Bellinger (30), New York Mets’ Pete Alonso (30), and NL-MVP Brewers’ star Christian Yelich (31). Only twice previously in history have three players hit 30 or more home runs at the all-star break.
It’s been said before that numbers don’t lie, and the numbers that we’ve seen after 89-90 games indicate that MLB managers and coaches have taken their foot off the gas and turned their heads. Home runs sell the game, and MLB has more units — 162 times 30 — than any of the other sports leagues.
While we salute the accomplished All-Stars in Cleveland at the mid-summer classic, we cannot ignore the evidence that many of the players or the balls are juiced.
This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.