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DIAMOND MINDING

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For major league baseball, this has been A SLUGGING, SEARCHING, STRIKEOUT-STUFFED SUMMER. But that's old news. Where does the game really stand, and where is it headed? We went from the Big Apple to the Mile High City in search of answers

MANY BASEBALL fans will tell you today's game—awash in home runs, strikeouts, juiced balls and analytics-driven defensive shifts, and played by an increasingly unidentifiable group of robotic early-twentysomethings—is in crisis. Indeed, this is certainly not your father's national pastime; for instance, the Orioles' pitching staff is on pace to allow 312 dingers, which would be the worst mark for any team in history by 20%. And yet as much as these trends may characterize the game in 2019, they do not define it, exactly. For all the ways MLB's traditions may seem broken or overthrown, there is plenty afoot that honors the past.

There are bright young stars who toil to emulate their forebears, and ideas incubating that could help restore what's great about the game (and pick up the tempo). And a laid-back group of Yankees are bidding for World Series number 28. With the season heading toward its dog days—the dreary weeks before the playoff races intensify—SI set out across the country in hopes of shedding a warmer light on the beleaguered sport. We'll take you to Denver, for a day with one of the game's most understated stars; to Waldorf, Md., for a peek into the Atlantic League's experiments with robo umps and stolen first bases; and to an undisclosed location in New Jersey, where a family harvests a substance that's been indispensable to MLB for decades. But we start, naturally, in the Bronx....