MLB and the NBA offer different skill sets, different fan bases, and distinct playoff systems. But they also share a common fault – the overreliance on the “Bomb”…
Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) continue to draw record numbers of fans and ever-increasing revenue and profit.
But the roots and the very heart of baseball and basketball are under attack. The assault is not coming from fans or team owners but from the players themselves.
What we see today in both MLB and NBA games is a watered-down version of the skill sets and “action” that is a far cry from how each game is meant to be played, and until recently was played.
All Hail The Bomb
“The Bomb” has taken over MLB and the NBA – in baseball it’s called the home run, and in basketball, it’s the three-point-basket.
In the NBA, forget that the sport was once played with strategies and plays – the “give and go” – drive to the hoop and pass to the open man cutting to the basket. No more. Now it’s run and shoot. Get to the three-point line and fire away.
Hit that home run – even it means striking out more often than not.
NBA Gunners Firing Blanks
From NBA games played this weekend, here’s a sampling of how teams fared in their quest for home runs.
The Brooklyn Nets made 37% (13-35) of their three-point attempts in a loss to Toronto. More than half of their field-goal tries (67) were 3-pointers. The Knicks were a woeful 10-37 (27%) from the 3-point line in their loss to the Suns.
New Orleans went 11-37 (29%) while getting pummeled by the Lakers, and the Miami Heat somehow managed to make only seven of thirty-seven three-point shot (18%) in a loss to the Orlando Magic.
These numbers are commonplace in NBA games. These are the best players (shooters) in the world, and this is the best they can do? How boring.
MLB Hitters Missing The Ball
MLB suffers from the same “go for the Bomb” disease – the almighty home run.
In baseball, home runs have a corollary stat – the strikeout. It’s sort of like getting both a fever and a cough when you have the flu. They go together.
Last season, eighteen teams registered more strikeouts than base hits. In 2018, for the first time, MLB saw total strikeouts supersede base hits as a league.
There is no action in baseball until a hitter puts his bat on the ball.
The trouble, of course, is that in both the NBA and MLB, the “Bomb” pays high dividends. You get an extra point scored for making a bomb as opposed to only two points for a lay-up following a drive to the basket.
And in baseball, a home run delivers a base hit, a run scored, four total bases, and at least one RBI. This, while advancing a runner from second with no one out, might get you a pat on the butt from your manager.
Fans Can’t Appreciate Something They Don’t See
Commonly suggested fixes say to make the Bomb more challenging to achieve. For MLB, move the fences back and do the same with the 3-point line in the NBA.
But that only puts a finger in the dike when you consider these guys are regularly hitting 450 ft. home runs and taking shots from well behind the 3-point line.
Some might suggest this is some oldtimer yearning for the “good ole days” of baseball and basketball. Don’t you get it? “Bombs” are exciting and the main reason why fans come to watch games.
But my argument is built around the idea that fans can’t appreciate something they never see (anymore).
And, if NBA fans could see a screen at the top of the circle and a pass back to the screener on a give-and-go for an easy layup and a foul – they would grow to appreciate the excitement drawn from a well-executed play.
Or, similarly, in MLB, a well-done hit-and-run moving a runner from first to third, a stolen base, and even a weak ground ball to the right side is driving home the runner from third with one out – these plays win games – not strikeouts.
Hit And Run – Give And Go – Let’s Play Ball
I do get it. I understand that a ton of strikeouts trying to hit home runs and misfired 3-point shots are boring. And I also get that MLB and the NBA are well aware of the disease in their sport.
Instead of fixing it, though, MLB feeds it with juiced up baseballs and NBA coaches with a clipboard and a diagram of the play they want their team to run with ten seconds left in the game, are a rarity and a problem of their own making.
Fans are getting cheated by the style of play in both MLB and the NBA. And sooner or later, the Bomb is going to catch up to both leagues.