Column: Is the juiced ball era upon us?

Houston Astros' Derek Fisher scores past Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes for the game-winning run during the 10th inning of Game 5 of baseball's World Series Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, in Houston. The Astros won 13-12 to take a 3-2 lead in the series.(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The absurdity of Sunday night’s five hour, 17-minute World Series Game 5 matchup is something that words cannot hold a candle to. Home run after home run, lead change after lead change, the Houston Astros finally walked off in the 10th inning for a final score of 13-12. That’s not a typo. The game started by two of the best pitchers in baseball, Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel, ended with a 13-12 score. The Los Angeles Dodgers, 100-1 when they score four or more runs behind Kershaw, watched as the game’s best pitcher surrendered an early 4-0 lead that would have been more than enough in the regular season.

What on earth is happening to baseball? No, not the sport; I’m talking about the baseballs themselves.

Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, Lance McCullers and other great pitchers have complained that the baseballs used during this postseason are “slicker” than those used in the regular season. Whether you believe that’s the reason for Sunday’s slugfest or not, the game served as something of a preview for what baseball may look like in the years to come.

Game 5 was the second-longest in World Series history behind Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, which lasted 14 innings and 19 minutes short of six hours. If Sunday’s game finished in nine innings, it would have been the longest nine-inning game in World Series history.

At a certain point, Sunday’s game barely even felt like baseball. Yeah, it was poetic when George Springer made a defensive blunder that allowed the Dodgers to take an 8-7 lead in the top of the 7th, only to hit a game-tying homer the moment he stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom frame. But watching home run after hit after walk became tiresome. It was tedious to watch the two best teams in baseball play a glorified little league game in a pivotal Game 5.

Baseball fans have been clamoring for more exciting, hitter-centric games since the recent trend of meticulous bullpen management and lights-out pitchers. Last night’s game was a glimpse at what a league like that could look like, and it’s not pretty. The mark for most home runs in World Series history (21, set in 2002 in a seven-game series) was surpassed on Sunday after seven home runs were hit, bringing the total to 22 with another game to play tonight and potentially another one tomorrow.

And it’s not just the World Series. Home runs already hit a peak in 2017; players hit 6,105 home runs in the regular season, smashing the previous record of 5,693 set in 2000. 17 teams hit 200 or more home runs, compared to 11 teams in 2000.

Baseball cannot ignore the claims of “juiced balls.” They have to either stop messing with them or be transparent on what they’re doing. Not all baseball games will look like Game 5, but we’re already seeing the results of a hitter-dominated game, whatever the reason may be. The ratings for baseball in general remain more or less the same, even though ratings for Sunday’s Game 5 were 36 percent higher than Sunday Night Football.

Once the top of the 9th rolled around and the Astros had a three-run lead, anyone watching knew there was no way it was going to hold. Yasiel Puig hit a lazy fly out that somehow cleared the fence in left for a two-run homer. Chris Taylor tied the game on a two-out, two-strike single.

It was weird when the Astros didn’t score in the bottom frame, and it was weird when the Dodgers didn’t score in the top of the 10th. It shouldn’t feel weird when a team doesn’t score. No matter how unpopular my feeling may be, one thing’s for sure: It might be time to start getting used to it.


Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.