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Mental Ward: The future history of baseball’s imminent decline

A future history on changes to the game, from shorter outfields, more bases, and ziggurats.

San Diego Padres v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Baseball is dying.

Or, at least, that is the annual sentiment. Baseball is always dying. While it is busy setting records for viewership on midsummer exhibitions, it runs perilously close to the edge of the Reaper’s scythe. Or so the story goes.

But let’s assume that They are right, and baseball in its current iteration is one uninspired World’s Series from total collapse. A region-locked World’s Series with a relative lack of acclaim.

Cleveland versus Cincinnati comes to mind. Aside from the long-suffering title drought storylines, it would be difficult to see the appeal of such a contest outside the Ohio Valley. If there were ever a World’s Series that could threaten the very existence of baseball as a national pastime, it would be Cleveland versus Cincinnati.

Or Tampa V. Miami.

Tampa V. Miami.

The horror...

August 8th, 20XX

Baseball is dead. The Rays and Marlins played each other in four straight Series, followed by Cleveland and Cincinnati duking it out for back-to-back titles. Viewership declined slowly at first, but by year three everyone knew that things would never return. We never saw the cliff, but we saw the ground below, rising up to greet us.

Major League Baseball panicked, and began implementing changes faster than Jarrod Dyson stretches a double into a triple.

First it was the uniforms. The ‘Turn Ahead the Clock’ uniforms became a cruel reality. Nicknames began appearing on jerseys. Then it was the rules. Subtle changes at first. The strike zone expanded, along with the bats. The DH became ubiquitous across both leagues. But that was simply because both leagues ceased to be separated. Baseball’s new pool system, a six-month, 34-team round robin complete with three knockout stages, became the new way of deterministic competitive play.

Outfield minimums were implemented, along with outfield maximums, an attempt for baseball to codify its whimsy. Walls were not allowed to be uniform in height, and mandatory “fun hills” were placed in every outfield at various locations to show how unique and different every baseball stadium is required to be.

Once an obligatory performance-enhancing drug policy was deemed too difficult to enforce, cybernetic implants became the order of the day.

Over time, things changed again. Umpires no longer call balls and strikes. Those are determined by the Mountain Dew™ Interactive Fan Vote© sponsored by Amazon Prime.™ Then again, umpires no longer did anything. Photorealistic three-dimensional mapping technology rendered in real time and determined the outcomes of all plays at a quantum level.

The regularity of the infield became a heated source of contention, with the 90’x90’ box grid becoming an eyesore for a world that growingly existed as an abstraction. Each team was permitted to adjust their infield dimensions, including but not limited to the addition or subtraction of bases. The Mets, preferring a station to station style of play, deployed 37 bases with asymmetrical plotting totaling just 297 feet from home plate and back again. The Mariners, in an attempt to appeal to their international fan base, adopted a cricket-style pitch, with two bases centered just beyond what used to be second in shallow center field.

But perhaps no orientation of feet and bases was as articulate as the Monterrey Rockies who, after moving the franchise as part of the Southern Expansion, began playing games with a single base, perched atop a ziggurat, in a stadium that would more accurately be described as “the side of a mountain” than an actual stadium.

Alas, none of these techniques seemed to work. Baseball slid further and further into the sea, a modern day Atlantis. It would spin through many more iterations: first as an eSport; three years as a television series on Hulu; an iteration of Sid Meier’s Civilization; and even spending a season as a Flash™ game on Newgrounds.

In trying to generate a solution for a problem that didn’t exist, baseball fulfilled its own prophecy. Nothing could bring it back. Baseball was dying. It was dead. The unfortunate keystones of popularity and revenue did nothing to dispel the fact that baseball was all corpse’d up from the jump.

Baseball is dead, long live baseball.