John Smoltz said he did not want to use the word “flawed” to describe the state of baseball, with its ever-rising home run and strikeout totals and ever-dwindling number of balls in play. Then he added, “But it comes close to using the word ‘flawed.’ ”
The Hall of Fame pitcher and Fox analyst was speaking during a break Monday in preparations for the All-Star Game on Tuesday, lamenting how we got to this point.
“From a fundamental, purist standpoint, they would look at this and go, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Smoltz said. “Because of the way you don’t have to adjust and you’re not making any of the hitters adjust, because we have this underdeveloped, premature pitching phenomenon existing where we use six pitchers a game, because we’re not going to take the time to develop the studs as a starter. And so the more pitchers you pitch per game, the more opportunities you have for someone not being right, and because hitters are stronger and now anticipating high velocity, the game has caught up to it.
“Now pitchers have to adjust and I don’t know how and when that’s going to be, when you’re asking an inexperienced guy to learn to elevate a fastball or to learn to spin a baseball more. Those are the metrics that are coming out of a game that has basically said: ‘We don’t care if you strike out. Hit the ball in the air. We’ll take our chances.’
“The same is said for a pitcher: ‘We don’t care if you go seven innings. Just give me what you’ve got, because I have a bunch of other revved-up machines that are going to come in behind you.’ Long term, that is a flawed way to be successful. But in the meantime, it is the way we are dealing with baseball, and it is becoming successful until you get to the postseason, and that’s a little different animal.”
Smoltz said baseball should adapt and adjust its rules the way other sports do.
“Different sports have made rule changes to adjust,” he said. “It’s happened in every sport. The problem that people in baseball have is they’re going to have to get over it. There are changes coming for the betterment of the game and it will be fine. We’re so reluctant to do it because it’s more established in a way where we’re more old-fashioned, if you will.
“Football has changed rules the last 10 years to create what it’s got, and it’s worked. People were up in arms when they first heard about those rules changes, and in a year you don’t hear about it. Basketball has made rules changes to adapt for the lack of shooting, the lack of fundamentals, the superior talent, and now you’re seeing an evolution of shots that were never asked to be taken — which are terrible shots, by the way — and it’s now OK.
“So the evolution of sports has to happen within the long-term view of the commissioner and those who care about it and say, you know what, we have to adjust this. I think they will, and people are going to have to get over it.”
Regarding the push to increase the pace of play, Smoltz said: “This is more to do with the attention-deficit syndrome of our world, and if we’re not careful, people are going to start tuning into other things, and that’s what you don’t want. You don’t want people saying, ‘I can’t stay three hours and 45 minutes anymore,’ and that’s really what it’s about.
“It’s not about anything other than: Can the game survive at an increased rate at which the game is played every year? It doesn’t mean it’s horrible, it means you have to look at ways to make sure it doesn’t continue to trend in the direction it is where you’re giving people reason to think other options are available. You don’t want that.”