FanShot

MLB is finally back. Did you notice what was different about baseball on opening day?

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One way of discussing MLB’s 21st-century aesthetic evolution goes like this: Say a baseball-loving Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in the 1990s emerged from their slumber and started watching games again. How long would it take them to identify what’s changed? What would they spot first? Would it be the strikeouts? The homers? The lack of stolen bases and complete games? Would they instantly lament the waning number of balls in play? Or would they exult in the superior athleticism and the triple-digit velocity? Invariably, this scenario is invoked to stoke the "Baseball is Dying" panic — a compelling but misguided buzz that hovers over this sport like that rain cloud hovers over poor Charlie Brown. For the first time in a long time, the baseball world’s tiresome self-consciousness got flipped on its head Thursday.