This year I have been watching a lot of baseball, and I mean a lot of baseball. As I am writing this it is 4:15ish in the morning and it is 85 degrees outside. This will be the coolest it will get today so going outside is not an option. Instead I watch as much baseball as I can and luckily I live in an area that allows me plenty of options.
I get all the Dodgers, Angels, and Padres games so I get to see them everyday. The MLB network is usually good for one to three games a day as another option. ESPN has games on Wednesday and Sunday at least, TBS has a game every Tuesday, and FOX has a game or two on Saturday. Throw in an occasional FS1 broadcast and as you can see I can watch plenty of games.
What this has allowed me to do is see first hand how much baseball has lost its basic fundamental skill level. Today's players are much more highly skilled than ever before, that is not the issue. The problem is that they don't have the basic skills needed to do their job.
One of the things that baseball champions today is the athleticism of its players, and rightly so. You can be a good athlete and still not know what the hell you are doing on the diamond. You can be the greatest car driver of all time but if you don't know how to make a left hand turn you will not survive driving Indy cars around a track for very long.
Joe Maddon ruined the game years ago when he decided that Ben Zobrist could play all nine positions at a high level. He was wrong. Zobrist was average to above average but he wasn't elite at any position. It kept him in baseball for more years than he would have played if he just played second base but it didn't make him a great player.
The point here is that I see so many errors, both physical and mental, every game because players are being used out of position by all clubs now. Just because a guy is a high quality infielder doesn't mean he can play the outfield, and vice versa. I played center field, mostly, my whole career. When I eventually moved to third base I could knock the ball down but I didn't know where to go to back up, catch relays, etc.
Today I see teams moving shortstops to centerfield and are OK with the occasional misplay leading to two runs when they have a perfectly capable guy sitting on the bench, or worse playing second base, that has played centerfield his whole life.
Playing a certain position at a very high level happens because you are a gifted athlete to be sure, but also because you learn things that become instinct over the years. It is not just the things you pick up once you get into professional ball it is the things you learn playing sunrise to sunset every day your whole young life.
It is not just the errors, or running into each other because they don't know who should be taking charge, it is still doing headfirst slides which gets a player a day hurt. Last night I watched a Phillies player slide head first into second base and his ring finger got jammed into the base and turned it sideways. He will now be out for some time during the middle of a pennant race. If I own a team and anyone slides headfirst he is suspended for two weeks with no pay.
In the past month there have been at least two cases of players trying to bunt and instead getting their fingers crushed when the ball hit them. Nobody knows how to bunt anymore in baseball and it is hurting the game, and themselves. With this new stupid rule of starting a guy on second base in extra innings it makes sense to bunt him to third and a sac fly brings him in and you go home with a win. No team does this because nobody knows how to bunt.
There are some really good stories this year in baseball but the errors, bad judgement, and lack of basic skills, makes it frustrating to watch. Don't even get me started on position players pitching. That is a disgrace to the game and needs to be stopped immediately. I would rather have a team give up when they are getting killed than see some outfielder throwing 62 MPH heaters and guys hurting themselves trying to kill the ball.
Instead of baseball trying to find the next Ben Zobrist, how about baseball trying to find the next Willie Mays. Oh yeah, they have him already. His name is Mike Trout. Watch him for a week and he will bring you to tears with his quality of baseball skills and instincts. He can run, hit, catch, throw, bunt, steal bases, and always throws the ball to the correct base when it is hit to him. You never see a runner take an extra base on him because he threw to the wrong base.
I would love to see all these great athletes actually re-learn some skills that they have long stopped using. Learn how to bunt, play one position, use your speed to steal a base, hit and run occasionally, slide feet first, know where to throw the ball when it comes to you, and for goodness sakes stop putting position players out to pitch in lost cause games.
Baseball is a beautiful game when it is played well. We would like to see it played well more often.