It is officially that time of the year again. Fall. Carved pumpkins adorning the porches of homes, candy sales in every supermarket in America, crisp Autumn air on the morning commute, and the beloved spooky atmosphere. Fellow sports fanatics know that fall has a very much underappreciated phenomenon starting in the sweet month of October, the World Series of Major League Baseball. A staple of North American sports, Baseball is an American tradition right up there with apple pie and muscle cars.
The 2017 MLB season kicked off in April, as custom. Highlights of the year include the dominant play by the Dodgers, a historic winning streak from the Indians, and the continuous battle between Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as the poster child best player in the league. The regular season was packed full of excitement, or agony, depending on which club has your loyalty. More casual fans of the sport skip out on a vast majority of the season until the playoffs roll around in October. Diehard fans know that October baseball is the highest quality baseball anyway. This year’s postseason has been a rollercoaster spectacle, one of the greatest in recent memory.
As beloved and sacred as baseball is, it is not without its fair share of controversies over the years. The infamous Chicago “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919, to the age of performance enhancing drugs, baseball seems to find itself in more trouble than most other North American professional sports organizations. This year was no exception as reports have surfaced of baseballs manufactured by league standards have changed from their usual. Complaints from pitchers and their coaches were first voiced in the summer, their concern was that the baseballs were too slick to throw an effective slider pitch. They theorized this was an impactful factor in 2017 having the most home runs in a single season. Interestingly enough, at around the same time, MLB commissioner Robert Manfred declared his desire to see more excitement in offensive play in the game. More hits and more homers will lead to more viewers and discourage people from leaving games early that didn’t have enough excitement.
This trend of higher hit and the home run percentage has lasted well into the playoffs, culminating in game five of the world series seeing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw allowed six runs in a 13-12 extra-inning loss. While high homerun counts might attract more casual fans to the game it leaves an interesting ultimatum for front offices in the league; instead of pouring mega contracts to one-star pitcher, or do you instead fill your bullpen with an abundance of pitchers and rotate them more often in-game to keep the throws strong and fast? It is possible that rather than slick or juiced up baseballs the increase in offensive play is a result of better hitting by players. For such a trend to happen so quickly and have such a lasting impact well into the world series is foreign to the sport.
If either the Dodgers or Astros lose the series due to a bad slider from a good pitcher, this controversy will be closely monitored in the coming season.