Baseball is baseball and that means you never know what you’re going to get on a given day. If you love the sport you go into the stadium with wide-eyed expectation, hoping for a special, memorable game that is crisply played, well-pitched, and features a few rallies.
Of course, if you have allegiance to a certain home team you also are rooting for it to win no matter how it is accomplished.
But these are purists, people who adore the game and always will regardless of its foibles, whether that is steroid cheaters or obscenely paid players. It’s like anything else in life. There are a percentage of fans who will stick through thick and thin, a percentage of people who wouldn’t watch baseball if you paid them off with a lifetime supply of their favorite soft drink, and the big gray area of casual fans.
Those in-betweeners have less patience, less staying power at a game, show up for entertainment instead of perhaps selecting a movie that day, and cheer for the home team when it is winning, but not when it is in last place.
Certain types of games drive those kinds of fans crazy. Usually, they can’t put up with a long game, one that drags. When they are confronted by those circumstances they start complaining about the hitters stepping out of the box all of the time and the pitchers stepping off the mound. They notice when a batter takes extra practice swings, when he fidgets with his batting gloves, all of the while keeping the pitcher waiting and all of the while the clock ticks.
Two games played this past week illustrate the dramatic difference of what can happen once the first pitch is thrown.
Dull Times at Coors Field
The Pittsburgh Pirates visited the Colorado Rockies for a Sunday afternoon game at Coors Field. It was a series wrap-up and the final score was Pirates 7, Rockies 5. Pretty non de-script game in general, but when you play 162 of them not every contest will stand out. The game did not go into extra innings, but the home team batted in the bottom of the ninth.
The game took four hours to play. There were no big rallies. It was just that the game seemed to drag from the first inning on. The big reason was that the teams combined to throw 344 pitches, 199 by the Rockies.
Contrast that to a game played a few days later between the Cleveland Indians and the Seattle Mariners in Cleveland. Felix Hernandez, aka The King, was on the mound for the Mariners. Freshly minted All-Star Corey Kluber threw for the Indians. The final score was 2-0 Cleveland. Kluber pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout. Hernandez went seven innings, surrendered four hits and just two runs. The time of game was 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Is this the same sport?
Well, yes, but one game was much more crowd-pleasing than the other. It is just the way of the sport. Baseball lovers cope fine with the vagaries of the game. But many of those casual fans got bored during the Colorado-Pittsburgh game, many fleeing early for the parking lot. That is a sin.
It is difficult to identify with those who leave a game before it ends. Those same people don’t leave a movie before it is over (though they may skip the credits). It just may be that those fans are really watching a different sport in their heads than the true baseball fan.