The questions for Theo Epstein the other day were aptly on why he’s leaving the Cubs now and what he’s going to do next. But in the middle of his explanations, he spoke briefly about his concern about where sport is as an entertainment product.
“It’s the best game in the world,” Epstein said, “but there are some threats because of the way the game evolves, and I take some responsibility for that because executives like me who have spent a lot of time using analytics and other measures to optimize individual and team performance has unknowingly had a negative impact on the aesthetic value of the game and the entertainment value of the game. “
He is the most prominent head office official to speak openly about this, but he is not alone. Among teams, there is enormous concern about how micromanaging advantageous matchups has created huge valleys of inaction in most games: the relief parades, the strikeouts, the walks. Privately, people in the industry are deeply concerned about trying to attract the next generation of baseball fans to a sport where most of the time nothing happens beyond changes in strike and ball counts.