Americans were once enamored with professional sports. We lived for NFL Sundays, NCAA Saturdays, and baseball’s Opening Day. We claimed to bleed the colors of our chosen team.
So what happened?
In recent years, professional sports from every corner of the nation have taken a massive financial hit. For some, like the NFL, it came after political protests and counter protests ran amok like a streaker at the 50 yard line. Colin Kaepernick’s anthem-kneeling, and the free speech argument that it spawned, was enough to send the fans back home – tired and annoyed that their escape from politics was now marred by the aggravating coalescence of sports, entertainment, and social justice.
Sports like baseball had another challenge to overcome: The in-depth, and frankly incredible evolution of the televised game. We know have pitch trackers, radar readings, 360 degree cameras, and superimposed strike zones with which to judge our hometown heroes.
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And then there’s the cost: If you can’t afford to give up an arm and a leg to sit behind home plate, there would be no way for you to judge the game as accurately as you could from the comfort of your own home…where beers are still under $2 and you don’t have to wear sunscreen.
These massive sporting corporations have long been seeking ways to make the game more exciting, in order to attract new viewers or bring back those who have already abandoned the game. Shortened innings, pitch timers, and other speed-of-play options have already been openly discussed, but one MLB pitcher is claiming that the league has already turned to more clandestine adjustments in a quest to put butts in the seats.
Astros pitcher and American League All-Star Justin Verlander is convinced that baseball’s ongoing surge of home runs is not only the result of a more aerodynamic baseball, but is the result of a baseball that has been intentionally juiced during manufacturing in order to produce more offense.
Verlander’s language was unmistakably strong, albeit a bit profane.
“It’s a f—-ing joke. Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f—-ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”
Asked if he believed the balls were intentionally juiced by the league, Verlander said: “Yes. 100 percent. They’ve been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It’s not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced.”
Verlander portends that Major League Baseball’s acquisition of Rawlings was a key component of the change.
The MLB can’t deny that the ball has changed over recent years, but insist that this has nothing to do with the recent uptick in sluggers sending them rocketing into the stands.
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