If you attend a Major League baseball game, you’ll notice a new category on the centerfield scoreboard.
After R for runs, H for hits and E for errors, there is MVR. What is MVR? Mound Visits Remaining. Each team now is limited to six gatherings per game. The rule has some loopholes, but the intent is to limit those infield-coach-manager discussions to speed up the game.
It is, in one sense, working. The average time of a nine-inning game has dropped from three hours, five minutes to three hours.
But our so-called national pastime is in trouble. The economy is on the rise but baseball attendance is down 6 percent.
There are reasons for this. The gap between baseball “haves” and “have-nots” is widening. We haven’t reached the Fourth of July and 12 teams are far behind in the standings and their seasons essentially are over. Attendance is down more than a quarter of a million or more in each of the following cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh and Toronto.
Then again, the game has changed. April marked the first month in baseball history when the number of strikeouts exceeded the number of hits. Now, there was a time when striking out was a disgrace. Now it generally is accepted.
Once the baseball shift (bunching defenders in one part of the field) was used only against the great players such as Ted Williams. Now it is used against most anyone who comes to bat.
Modern strategy has shortened the number of pitches thrown by starters. Teams now tend to use three different pitchers in the final three innings, and fresher arms mean fewer hits.
Will the modern product — more homers, more strikeouts — keep the fans? There are numerous indications to the contrary.