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Different is Good

We’re in the middle of week three of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. As a longtime fan of the league, it has been wonderful to see so many new fans hop on board. I genuinely love the league and want as many people as possible to be exposed to what makes baseball in Taiwan so much fun. For the most part this has been taking place, but there have been some people approaching the league in a way that I find rather upsetting.

I’ll preface the rest of this article by stating a simple fact: it’s okay if you don’t like the CPBL. At no point in this article am I arguing that people need to love everything about the league. If you are watching a game on Eleven Taiwan and decide, “You know what, this just isn’t interesting to me” I can understand. I’m not about to agree with you, but I can understand someone watching the brand of baseball that is the CPBL and deciding to turn away. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to come into a foreign league and start trying to impose your view of baseball on the league.

The CPBL is not Major League Baseball. It’s baseball and that means there is a level of commonality present with the sport of baseball. The commonality doesn’t mean that the baseball delivered in Taiwan will be the same as the baseball that takes place in an MLB stadium. Quality isn’t the issue, no one is arguing that the CPBL is as high quality of a league as a major league. They are still baseball though, fun and engaging in a way that is all it’s own.

This isn’t a CPBL only issue. Every league is different, every brand of baseball is nuanced in its own way. That’s why it bugs me when fans come into a new league and start judging it based on the same rules and norms they use to judge MLB. The goals of the CPBL are not the same as those of MLB. Wang Yi-Cheng isn’t taking the mound with the same goals as Kyle Hendricks, not entirely at least. Yi-Cheng comes from a different culture with different norms and collective goals. A lot of the time these little cultural touchstones are easy to see, other times they aren’t.

The pace or length of the game is one area where the CPBL is vastly different from MLB. CPBL games are long, often longer than their MLB counterparts. They aren’t boring though, no matter how long they may be. That’s due to pace, which is different than length. An average CPBL game may last 3+ hours, but those 3+ hours move along rather quickly because the commercial breaks are shorter, pitchers deliver the ball more quickly, and the natural rhythm of the game is faster. Coming into a league and arguing that the length of games are an issue is more of a you problem and not a league problem.

The reason I’m able to say the above is because inherently the CPBL isn’t being contested for you, me, or any new convert online. Rather, the action is for fans in Taiwan. The games are engineered to appeal to what Taiwanese baseball fans want in a game. Perhaps some of this is lost on new fans due to the lack of fans in the stands. That is understandable, but I’m here to tell you that Taiwanese baseball fans love the pace of CPBL games and the interaction that is a constant part of the natural rhythm of the games. 

There have been other issues people have lobbed against the CPBL that come from a “This is how I judge MLB so this is how I’m going to judge this league” frame of mind. The pace/length of play argument is the easiest one to pick apart and the one that seems to be made the most often. It’s not your league, you are an outsider enjoying something made for an entirely different culture than yours. Enjoy away, have a heck of a time, but please, stop trying to make the CPBL fit into a neat and tidy box of what you think baseball should be based on your experiences with MLB. Other leagues are allowed to be different. They should be different. Embrace those differences, and you know what, you may just find that you like elements of CPBL all on their own.

Lead photo courtesy of Gene Wang – Getty Images

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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