By Sam Bush
So, USA Today did a survey piece recently about the state of baseball, with an emphasis on why home runs and strikeouts are making the game too boring to watch.
And some pretty important hitting names were quoted, among them Phils legend Pete Rose and manager Charlie Manuel, currently the team’s hitting coach.
Said Rose, who produced 4,256 hits and struck out 100 times only once in 24 seasons:
“It’s home run derby every night, and if that’s what they want, that’s what they’re going to get. But they have to understand something … Home runs are up. Strikeouts are up. But attendance is down. I didn’t go to Harvard or one of those Ivy League schools, but that’s not a good thing.’’
League-wide attendance is down about 800,000 compared with the same point last year. The final 2018 attendance – 69.7 million – was MLB’s lowest figure since 2003.
It’s not just the bad teams, either. The first-place New York Yankees are on pace to see about 160,000 fewer fans walk through the gates compared to last year.
And you can’t blame the players; it’s the philosophies being taught all the way down to Little League these days.
For the 12th consecutive season, hitters are on pace to break the strikeout record with 42,607 – 1,400 more than last year.
This year, 36% of all plate appearances have resulted in a strikeout, homer, walk or hit-by-pitch.
“We’re seeing all kind of guys who can hit home runs,’’ Rose said, “but they can’t hit.’’
Of course, that dovetails with the record home run rate this season. Entering Sunday, the league was on pace for 6,823 homers, more than 700 above the record set in 2017.
“Most of the guys that go up to the plate just try to hit home runs.’’’ said Manuel, 75, hired last week. The old school coach led the Phillies to a World Series as the manager in 2008 and was brought back in a desperate effort to shake things up and save the team’s season.