Results tagged ‘ MLB ’

Exiting with a Whimper or a Roar

I have to admit something.  I watched more coverage of Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast than I did of the World Series.  Part of this was superstition as it seemed that every time I turned on the Tigers, they proceeded to screw up.  But part of it was also the sense of inevitable dread that emanated from the World Series starting during the third inning of the first game.

But it wasn’t just the putridness of the World Series.  It was also the simple fact that it’s not every day that you get to watch a hurricane.  More than that, how often do you get to see Anderson Cooper look like a bedraggled Chihuahua wearing a Karl Lagerfeld wig?

Maybe it would have been different if the Tigers had been at least somewhat competitive.  Although it also begs the question, what would MLB have done if the Series would have overlapped with Sandy?  Obviously the two cities competing weren’t directly affected by the storm but with the country’s largest media market, NYC, shut down by the storm, would it have even been worthwhile to play the games and lose the advertising dollars?

Ultimately it doesn’t really make a difference because the Series ended quickly and in a whimper.  Sandy ended pretty quickly, too, but at least she let out a roar before fading away.

-A

Foreign Policy in Disguise

Tonight’s foreign policy debate promises a healthy dose of the Middle East and what each candidate thinks the other one should do or should have done with respect to places like Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Romney will hammer Obama on Benghazi, completely ignoring the reality of the situation and the fact that a President should not be micromanaging things like security at a small consulate.  Obama will talk about energy independence while choosing to continue ignoring our infatuation with the Saudis and their oil despite that country’s status as serial human rights abusers and traffickers in persons.

It’s too bad we can’t focus on some of the good things.  Like the baseball diplomacy program that uses MLB players as ambassadors to baseball crazy countries in Latin America and attempted to use the game to thaw relations between the US and Cuba.  Or how about the exchange programs where female American athletes travel all over the world to teach basketball and soccer clinics to young women in other countries?

We aren’t going to hear about any of that tonight.  But we should.

-A

Tangible Intangibles

Although both political candidates and baseball teams have spent hundreds and thousands of hours working on strategy and trying to put together the perfect roster to bring home a win in November, there’s just no way they can prepare for the intangibles, what Donald Rumsfeld would call the “unknown unknowns.”  For the sports teams, there’s always the specter of injury as well as the impossible to predict quality of “getting hot at the right time.”  In politics, the things that keep campaign managers up at night include supposedly off-the-record comments and the fickleness of the “undecided voter.”

Guess that means it’s time to spend another couple hundred hours on strategy.

-A

Baseball Needs a Drinkhall

Although I probably should be watching baseball, I find myself oddly enthralled by the Olympics.  Ichiro’s chops as a Yankee?  Nah, I think I’ll watch some women’s badminton instead.  Fister putting a brief stop to the Tiger’s road woes?  Hm, I guess I’m going to go for some ping-pong (table tennis, if you want to be stuffy about it).  Rivalry weekend in America?  Nope, women’s skeet shooting.

I’m not saying I’d want to watch these games all the time.  I love women’s gymnastics as much as the next guy but I can only take so much of it.  But at the same time, there’s something special about the Olympics.  For instance, yesterday I was watching a British dude named Paul Drinkhall advance to the third round in men’s table tennis.

First of all, his name is “Drinkhall.”  How awesome is that?  That’s like a German guy named “Biergarten.”  Or an American named “Applebees.”  Second, this dude has little or no muscle tone, pasty white skin, horrible shorts and an equally terrible haircut but he’s an Olympic athlete.  That, my friends, is badass.  Badass in the same way as David Wells and his Churchillian physique somehow destroying opposing batters.

I freely admit that a lot of it is the novelty.  It’s hard for the 162-game slog of baseball to compete with the instant gratification of a Moroccan/Uzbek flyweight boxing match.  And once the new “Dream Team” really get’s going, baseball is going to find it tough going.  I guess it’s kind of like the guy who has always sworn that he’d never leave his frumpy but faithful wife but somehow finds himself behind the wheel of a convertible with his 24-year old secretary.  Sure, it’s cheating but really, what were you supposed to do?  Odds like those don’t come up everyday.

So, I’d like to say that this was just a weekend thing and tomorrow I’ll be back to MLB.  But we all know I’m lying.  Can you blame me though?  I mean, seriously, synchronized diving!!!

-A

And Upon Further Review…

In football, instant replay makes sense.  Even with a team of seven officials covering each play, sometimes you just can’t be in the right place at the right time to make the right call when 22 guys are flying around at super-human speeds.  What’s more amazing is how often they get the call right despite those circumstances.  When it’s unclear whether or not they get it right, though, instant replay is there to confirm or overturn the call.  The game goes on.

Reviewing close plays in baseball is a little more contentious.  Generally I’m in favor of the evolution of the game, especially in contrast to my friend, Mr. Lung, who would prefer that all baseball players wear wool uniforms and be issued a chaw of chewing tobacco prior to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  But official review is one place where I’m not so sure.

The problem is, baseball is already a slow-paced game.  If you open it up to review, even that flow gets messed up.  Even the limited official review capacity that now exists for home runs seems ridiculous.  Either you make all plays reviewable or none at all.  Honestly, although I’m all for baseball’s future facing development, review is not an area where I think that makes sense.

Review does make sense in the American Democratic system, though.  Last week’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act proved that.  More surprisingly, John Roberts showed himself to be a model Chief Justice in his Constitutional application and limited justification in the majority opinion.  For me, it’s telling that although most Republicans are angry that the law was upheld, they’re not angry at Justice Roberts.  In fact, he basically made it clear in his decision that although he may not agree with the policy aspects of the law, that it met the necessary threshold to be held constitutional.

That’s one of the beautiful things about our sometimes maddening and often baffling system of government.  Laws get checked at three points by three different bodies and only after that process runs it course does the law go into effect.  Granted, the application of the same system to baseball would mean that individual games could continue indefinitely but that’s why the choice of arbiter is so important.  The Supreme Court doesn’t hear every single case that comes up through the courts or face challenges to every single law passed by Congress.  It only deals with the game-changers, events that can redefine precedent or application or laws that are unclear.

Football is similar.  Coaches choose when to throw the challenge flag and generally save it for events that are unclear, that could change the complexion of the game or that seem completely erroneous to them.  They don’t always win but they at least have the option to challenge the initial ruling.

That’s one of the big areas where review in baseball fails.  Yes, it’s not awful to review homeruns to make sure they were fair or be absolutely certain that a fan didn’t interfere.  I’m sure there are quite a few Baltimore Orioles fans who wish that review had been in place in the 90′s.  But what about that phantom final out of Armando Gallaraga’s almost perfect game?  If Leyland had been able to challenge the ruling, Gallaraga would have had the mark and we wouldn’t still be talking about it.  But, if you start making plays like that reviewable, it’s not long before you have to start making called strikes, check-swings and everything else reviewable, too.  The fact of the matter is, it just isn’t feasible and if you can’t do it right, you shouldn’t be doing it all.

Here’s how I’d call it.  Review: good for football, great for government but bad for baseball.

-A

A Pastime Passed Over

Baseball as a sport spends a lot of its time playing catch up.  It used to be the national pastime but arguably it has lost that title to either the NBA, the NFL or NASCAR.  It hasn’t captured the world’s attention in the same way that soccer has and even cricket has more global adherents (although that is admittedly due to its huge popularity in India and Pakistan).

I think a lot of it has to do with the habits of baseball players.  It’s easy to relate to NASCAR because they’re the children of former booze-running outlaws.  Add in it’s rowdy, beer-swilling redneck fanbase and you have a populist’s wet dream.

The NBA has a different kind of allure.  It’s a mix of the hard-scrabble blacktop game along with the finesse and graceful elegance of of today’s elite players.  Is there any other league that has more marijuana violations than the NBA?  I’m guessing no and that reflects an America that has also grown more lenient towards the “devil weed.”

Baseball?  You’ve got PED’s and frat boys drinking overpriced beer.  That’s the America we laugh at, not the America we want to be part of.  We like our sports to have a bit of an edge.  The reason people hate Mark Sanchez isn’t because he’s a sub-par quarterback with a questionable work ethic.  We’d put up with that if he inspired us.  But he spends more time posing for magazines than he does winning football games.  Yes, I know he’s led his team to the AFC Championship game twice but I think we can all agree that it wasn’t so much that he led them as it was him following them there.

Baseball right now is kind of like Mark Sanchez.  It doesn’t have the edge.  It doesn’t make you believe.  That’s why it’s fun to hate the Yankees but its so much more fun to hate the Heat.  My solution?  Bring back Manny and give him lots of weed.

-A

The Filibuster

Did Ken Kendrick cross the line on his Stephen Drew comments?

Mitchell
Wheaton, IL

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There are a lot of really terrible owners out there.  Of course the one that has most directly affected baseball fans in the recent past is Frank McCourt and his incredible mismanagement of the Dodgers’ franchise.  The fact that the man was able to exit with cash in his pocket just illustrates how wrong that situation was.  But he’s not the only one.  The Pirates have also been victims of poor ownership while the NBA’s Clippers were known almost as much for their tight-fisted owner as they were for their years of ineptitude and sub-.500 records.

Ken Kendrick, though, he cares about his team.  See, Kendrick isn’t just an owner, he’s also the managing partner, responsible for the day-to-day decisions that make a baseball team profitable in the global sense of the term.  And let’s face it, there’s a lot that goes in to making a baseball team profitable.  As an owner, you have to manage your assets and liabilities in such a way that you keep more cash flowing in than is flowing out, not always an easy prospect in these days of overinflated salaries.

The best way to ensure that your team remains profitable is to win.  Fans like to come see winning teams and winning teams can also charge more for tickets and merchandise.  There’s a reason why the cost of Yankees’ tickets goes up year after year while teams like the Pirates and Royals stay relatively constant.  There’s also a reason why the Yankees, despite their enormous payroll, are still one of the most profitable teams in the game.  It helps when you can broadcast most of your games on your own television station but when you’re also selling out the stadium for every game, that makes a big difference.

Which brings me back to Kendrick.  Arizona is not a huge baseball market like the coasts or Chicago.  However, Arizona has had a good baseball team and a baseball team that brings people to the stadium.  Hiring pitchers like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling helped but as those days are gone, the D-Backs have to rely on new young talent to put butts in the seats.  Talent like Stephen Drew.  So, when Stephen Drew doesn’t play, the D-Backs don’t do as well and they also don’t put as many butts in the seats.  This in turn makes the franchise less profitable, a fact of which the managing partner is very aware.

Drew’s 2012 salary is $7.75 million.  He’s the highest paid player on the team and accounts for over 10% of the Diamondback’s payroll.  He also hasn’t played a game for the Diamondbacks in nearly a year.  As an owner, and especially as the managing partner, I imagine that would not sit so well.  Sure, Drew had a pretty bad injury but he has the best doctors in the game working on him and if his boss says that he’s way over schedule for his return, well, I’m inclined to agree with him.

So, did Kendrick cross a line in his comments on Drew?  In my opinion, no.  He’s a frustrated manager who doesn’t believe his employee is acting in good faith and those actions are affecting the businesses profitability.  Sounds like he has every right to be honked off.

-A

Have a topic you want to see us Filibuster? Send us your Filibuster questions by emailing RSBSblog@gmail.com or by commenting below.

Ambassador Bryce Harper

When most people hear the word “diplomat,” they experience a faint sensation of cocktail parties and a life on the international jet-setting circuit.  But if you ever wondered exactly what a diplomat does, this recent account of the negotiations surrounding a Chinese dissidents departure for the U.S. is nothing short of fascinating.  However, I still think the best work done by America’s Foreign Service is its sports diplomacy programs.  In China this meant building on the opportunity offered by Yao Ming and bringing over other NBA stars.

In Latin America these programs go under the name “baseball diplomacy.”  It makes sense.  Most MLB teams have at least a scout and sometimes an entire infrastructure in Latin American countries in order to seek out and recruit promising young talent.  Why not build on those ties by using the baseball players as ambassadors of American good-will?  I’m pretty sure there’s no better way to illustrate the American Dream than by sending guys who are actually living it.

The only problem is, the guy who is truly living the dream right at this very moment hails from the U.S. of A., not Latin America.  Seriously, does it get any better than being Bryce Harper?  The guy is nineteen years old, talented beyond belief and finds himself playing on a team that seems to have finally put the pieces together.  Not bad for a guy who still can’t legally drink and who only recently became eligible to vote.  Oh, and I forgot to mention this:

Yep, I’m pretty sure I’d take “being a ballplayer” over “being a diplomat” any day of the week.

-A

The Filibuster

Looks like MLB is going to televise the first part of the draft again.  Will Bud ever learn?

Jack
Bridgeview, IL
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When people want to explain how boring something is, they often resort to the idiom “Like watching paint dry.”  Well, compared to the MLB draft, watching paint dry is edge-of-your-seat, action packed drama.  The sad thing is, that doesn’t mean Bud won’t keep on trying.

We all know the problem.  Succeeding in baseball requires development and in all but the rarest of cases, it’s pretty much impossible for a player to jump directly to the big leagues and make an immediate impact.  There are a lot of adjustments that even the best ballplayers have to make before they’re ready to succeed in the majors.  Bud has been in the game a long time and he obviously knows this but something keeps him from accepting it.

I’m not sure what it is.  Maybe it’s an inferiority complex because of the craziness and drama inherent to the NFL and NBA drafts.  Maybe it’s an inability to accept that baseball is different.  Maybe it’s just that Bud is completely out of touch and has made a lot of bad decisions that should have long ago cost him his job.  Whatever it is, it means that once again the MLB draft will be televised and once again no one but the absolute junkies will tune in.  Don’t tell him I said this but I bet you that not even Jeff will watch.  Yeah, it’s that boring.

Don’t get me wrong here.  The draft is important and when you look at the recent success of this year’s National’s ballclub, it’s obvious how important a good draft strategy can be.  But just because the future success of a team depends on the players a team chooses, that doesn’t mean the process is all that exciting to watch.  We know the basketball players from following them through the NCAAs.  We know the football players from the bowl games and college football saturdays.  Baseball players?  These are guys coming out of random colleges, even more random Latin American development leagues and god knows where else.  There’s no story attached to them until they make it to the big leagues.

Let me put it another way.  We all know about Len Bias and his cocaine overdose death.  Bias never played a day in the NBA but is still spoken of with reverence.  Meanwhile, until he made it to the major leagues, Josh Hamilton was just another talented athlete with substance abuse problems.  If Hamilton hadn’t have made the bigs, he’d simply be in rehab somewhere or out on the streets.

I know what Bud’s doing here.  He thinks that he can drive revenue growth by trying to create drama around the sorting process.  But you have to be invested in a person’s story in order for there to be drama.  We don’t know anything about these young baseball players so there’s no drama in watching them get drafted.  Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say there’s about as much drama as watching paint dry.

-A

Have a topic you want to see us Filibuster? Send us your Filibuster questions by emailing RSBSblog@gmail.com or by commenting below.

The Filibuster

If you were in the A’s bleacher section, and you could only choose one, would it be bacon or beer?

Mark
New Albany, IN

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Jeff continuously tells me how engaging the NBA has become.  According to him, it’s not just the quality of the professional game, it’s also the personalities and all the drama surrounding them.  To use a direct quote, “It’s a goddamn soap opera.”

Baseball, on the other hand, is rather tame.  Sure, there are historic villains like Ty Cobb and uplifting stories like Jackie Robinson and Josh Hamilton.  But it’s all kind of “Touched by an Angel” while the NBA is more “The Wire.”

The perfect example of this is Jeff Francoeur and his love affair with the Oakland fans.  Sure, it’s great that Francoeur has made a personal connection with the fans of another team.  But is that really good for baseball?  Wouldn’t it be better if Francoeur had left Oakland after coming up with the team and was greeted by a beer shower while trotting along the warning track?

That kind of rancor just doesn’t exist in baseball today.  Albert Pujols left behind a city that adored him and although St. Louis fans are heart-broken, most of them still respect Albert and remember him fondly.  Johnny Damon not only left the Red Sox, he went to play for their arch-enemy and shaved his beard.  Boston fans were upset but they didn’t hate him with the cold intense hatred that Cleveland has for LeBron James.

Maybe it’s because baseball is played in summer and draws families out to watch games together.  Maybe it’s the stir-craziness of winter and the 60 minute intensity of a basketball game that creates an aura around the game as a whole.  Or maybe baseball just doesn’t have the same type of personalities you find in basketball.  Let’s be honest, how often do you hear about a baseball player choking his coach or punching out a fan?

I don’t see that changing.  Sure, I’d love to say that if I was one of those fans in Oakland, I’d keep the money and throw the baseball back.  The fact is, though, I’d be thrilled to death.  And that’s not just because being an A’s fan is even worse than being a Royals fan.

Somebody needs to spice things up a bit, give people a reason to hate.  And no, I’m not talking about Milton Bradley, preschool-esque drama.  I’m talking pure, LeBron James type anger.  I think Francoeur has a golden opportunity to start it off, too, by taking that relationship he has built with the Oakland fans and totally misusing it.  In fact, I even have the perfect recipe:

I bet no one would choose a caramel onion.

-A

Have a topic you want to see us Filibuster? Send us your Filibuster questions by emailing RSBSblog@gmail.com or by commenting below.

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