Today’s Baseball Has New Rules

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Baseball has been one of my favorite things for a long time. There’s something about the way it combines athletic skills, a degree of strategic thinking and even a bit of risk taking.

But, naïve person that I am, I completely missed just how much the basics of the game have changed over the past few years. Late last month, I happened upon a story by ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney. He observed that parts of baseball are “disappearing before our eyes.”

Olney went on to recount statistics showing significant declines (in the major leagues, at least) in what used to be routine plays. Almost gone from the game are the hit-and-run play, pitch outs, stolen bases and even the sacrifice bunt. The thinking today is that these tactics carry high risk and low reward.

For example, there’s now supposedly sound rationale for avoiding a pitch out. Data show that a pitcher has the odds much more in his favor in a 2-strike, 1-ball count than he would in a 1-strike, 2-ball count. So why give up that advantage?

What does any of this have to do with eyecare and optical retailing? For me, it’s the realization that even for an old-school baseball fan, who doesn’t embrace the new analytics-driven game, change has become inevitable. Whether it’s baseball or business, nothing stays the same as it was when we first discovered it.

Yes, there always will be young radicals with a new way of thinking coming in to shake up our favorite pastime or business model. The thing to do is find other aspects of the game to appreciate, new skills you can develop or even ways to build on these new-age ways of thinking and strategies.

The old days of baseball—and doing business—are gone. It’s time to play smarter and better understand this new model of the game.

mtosh@jobson.com