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Baseball Needs a Home Run

A lot of baseball gets watched in my house. A ton. As in, one kid thinks the noise a duck makes is “Aflac,” and we’re just waiting for the other’s preschool teacher to ask why he walks around saying, “frost-brewed Coors Light.”

Truthfully, there is probably not a night during the season when a TV in my house is not tuned to a Minnesota Twins game on Fox Sports North.

And while it has been a fantastic season for my Hometown Nine, the sport itself hasn’t done anything to stop football’s continuing headlock on the title of “national pastime.” So, as a fan of not just the Twins, but of baseball, I am holding out hope for one of those magical post-seasons that remind us all how great baseball can be. And after this season, we need some reminding.

The sport still hasn’t escaped the steroid cloud. A-Rod just passed Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list, which is kind of like when Bernie Madoff passed Enron on the all-time revenue list. And when I put something on Twitter about how great (and clean) Sports Illustrated cover boy Jim Thome is, I got clobbered by responses assuming he was on the juice at some point.

And the umpiring this year has largely been embarrassing. While the worst offender, of course, remains a blown call that robbed a kid of a perfect game, the call for some sort of help overall for these umpires has risen with every game they have changed.

The game could also use some new megastars. We had one for a while in rookie fireballer Stephen Strasburg. But MLB’s decision not to put him in the All-Star Game, followed by his terrible arm injury, robbed the sports world of a new phenom. Joey Votto, step up to the plate. And don’t get me started on the Tampa Bay Rays deciding to give away tickets for free last week.

Baseball is by no means in trouble. TV ratings this year were largely in line with expectations: national ratings were basically flat year-over-year and local ratings were strong, depending largely on how the local team fared. But I am hoping for one of those post-seasons that end up being less about share and more about the shared experience of how exciting and winning the game is.

We know certain things about the playoffs, which begin this week on TBS. Like the big name to get the most airtime will not be Derek Jeter or Ryan Howard, but by far it will be Conan O’Brien. You think you saw a lot of Frank Caliendo promos during the playoffs a few years back? Just wait.

And we also know it’s the time of year when network execs (who only lie when their lips are moving) say things like, “I don’t care who makes the World Series, as long as it goes seven games.” Then they turn around and pray to any Lord available that the Yankees make it.

We don’t know what that magic moment will be, or who will be that breakout star player, or which team will capture America’s hearts and attention. I don’t care who it is, but for the good of our beloved game, I just hope it is someone or some team that helps catapult baseball back into national lore.

OK, enough of that BS. Let’s go Twins!

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