Track vs. Baseball (Old jokes are best)

April 5, 2012

This one’s in honor of Opening Day:

This is America.  In the real world, you go out for track once you’ve proven you can’t hit.

(“Long Distance Log”, February 1956)


Baseball needs fixin’

September 2, 2011

It’s September.  The New York Yankees just took two out of three from the Red Sox to pull within a half-game in the AL East pennant race.  And no one cares.

The second-place Yankees currently have an 8.5 game lead in the AL Wild Card race, so even if they don’t catch the Red Sox, they’ll still probably make the playoffs.  “The Battle for Home Field” or “The Battle to Face the Tigers Instead of the Rangers”  just isn’t enough to keep anyone’s attention.

Ever since baseball added the wild card, this has been a problem.  The baseball season is long, which is a benefit when there’s a race but hurts when everyone is just waiting for the post-season to begin.   The way things are going, baseball will become just like basketball or hockey,  where no one really cares about the regular season.

Baseball could easily fix things.  First, they could add two teams to make 32.  That would make more jobs, so the Player’s Association would be happy.  The owners would get expansion fees, so they’d be happy.  Two new cities would get major league baseball, so they’d be happy.  Some people might complain about diluting the talent, but given the growth in population and the international nature of today’s game, teams actually have a deeper talent pool to draw from now than they did 50 years ago, when there were only 16 teams.

Take the 32 teams, divide them up into two leagues of 16, then divide the leagues up into four divisions of four.  Only the eight division winners make the playoffs.  Just as many teams make it as today, but no losers get in.  All the division races would mean something, and having eight pennant races increases the chance of a decent battle to the finish.

The other necessary fix is to make the schedules fair.  Keep interleague play if you must, but each team in a division should play the same schedule.  Why should the Red Sox play the Braves because of some imaginary rivalry when another AL East team gets the pathetic Nationals?

Baseball knows it has problems.  By random chance, the problems with the playoffs stand out this year.  Baseball is supposedly looking at things like realignment of the existing leagues and adding more wild cards.  That may help sell more tickets in the short term, but won’t fix the underlying problems.

The system isn’t really that hard to fix, but given its history, I’m confident baseball will find a way to screw it up.


Yoooouk! Nooooo! It’s only been 11 games!

April 13, 2011

Youk jumping from the Pru


Money for schools, or for rightfielders?

December 6, 2010

For whatever reason, people seem to have difficulty understanding what it means if we keep the Bush tax cuts for the rich.  I could give you lots of boring numbers, but maybe this will drive the point home for you:

J.D. Drew takes another strike three

If the Bush tax cuts for the rich are retained, J.D. Drew, Boston Red Sox outfielder, will keep an extra $644,000 in 2011.

J.D. Drew hit .255 with 22 home runs and 68 RBI in 2010.  Not bad, but nothing exceptional.  He will make $14,000,000 in 2011, money that comes from the fans’ pockets via ticket sales, TV subscriptions, $8 beers, and the like.  Maybe, just maybe, he can afford to give some of that back.


Relegate the Royals!

September 2, 2009

baseballheadIt’s September, and once again fans of the Royals, Orioles, Pirates, and Nationals twist slowly in the dying summer breeze, while their teams play out the string listlessly, far from the excitement of the pennant (or wild card) races.  Meanwhile, fans in minor league cities and towns see their teams stripped of their best players, whether or not the team is in line for a league championship, just so the major league team can use that player once a week to pinch-run or relieve in a blowout loss.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are four losses away from clinching a record 17th consecutive losing season.  Other teams have also settled into mediocrity. Baltimore is working on twelve consecutive losing seasons. Kansas City is on track for their fifth 100-loss season in eight years and 14th losing season in the last 15 years.  Cincinnati has nine consecutive losing seasons, and Washington is on pace for back-to-back 100 loss seasons, and they haven’t won more than 83 games in the past 11 seasons.

Many sports leagues around the world use a concept called “relegation” that would make life more exciting for fans of teams like these and for fans of countless teams currently denigrated as “minor league.”  With relegation, leagues are stacked according to their level of competition.  At the end of each season, the bottom teams in each league drop to the next lower league, and the top teams from the lower level league replace them.

With relegation, more teams have meaningful games at the end of the year, without watering down the playoffs by adding extra teams.  For example, here are the current standings for all the teams at .451 and below:

Position Team Wins Losses Pct. Ahead/Behind
20 Arizona

60

73

.451

6

21 Toronto

59

72

.450

6

22 NY Mets

59

73

.447

5.5

23 Cincinnati

59

73

.447

5.5

24 Cleveland

58

73

.443

5

25 Oakland

58

74

.439

4.5

26 San Diego

58

76

.433

3.5

27 Baltimore

54

79

.406

0

28 Pittsburgh

53

78

.405

-1

29 Kansas City

51

81

.386

-2.5

30 Washington

46

87

.346

-8

Only one of these 11 teams (Cleveland) is within 18 games of first place in their division, and none are as close as 13 games to a wild card berth.  But in a situation where the bottom four teams are relegated to Triple A, all of them would still have something to play for.  There’d be excitement, or desperation at least, in Kansas City, instead of apathy.  Pittsburgh wouldn’t be selling off all their semi-competent players, they’d be struggling to stay in the majors.

Meanwhile, fans in Providence or Sacremento or Louisville would be cheering on their teams as they fought for meaningful pennants and for the opportunity to move up to the majors the following season.  And that effect would ripple down throughout the entire chain of organized baseball, into small towns across the country.

You’d lose the story where the perennial doormat jumps to the World Series, like Tampa Bay did last year.  But you’d replace that with the potential for a newly promoted team jumping all the way to the championship.  And you’d also lose the story where a pennant winner like Florida tortures their fans by dumping  all their players, rather than paying them for winning, since they’d be at risk of falling to the minors.

For relegation to happen, major league owners would have to accept the risk that their property could take a sudden drop in value (a risk leagues with relegation mitigate by means of “parachute payments” to relegated teams), and they’d have to give up control over their farm teams.  The minor leagues would have to give up their cozy arrangements with their parent clubs and really compete.  Everyone would have to start purchasing all their talent on the open market.  These are unlikely changes, but if they occurred, the spread of real competition from just the moneyed few in the big cities to every small town in the country would make baseball America’s game again.

Bookmark Y42K?: Relegate the Royals!


Opening Day

April 6, 2009

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;

But there is no joy in Boston, the Red Sox are rained out.

Bookmark Y42K?: Opening Day


In their head – Time to play

March 5, 2009

“I wish I was at Jeremy’s house.  It’s Saturday morning.  I’m supposed to be out of school.  This is my free time.  Everybody else is out playing.  But no, my mom makes me go to music lessons.  And nothing cool, like guitar or drums.  I have to learn violin. 

“It’s been months, and I’ve been trying, but I can barely even rosin my bow correctly.  My shoulder, neck, and hands hurt all the time, and Mr. Ames is always yelling at me about how I hold the violin wrong.  I don’t know any songs.  Every once in awhile, I get lucky and play something that almost sounds like music, but usually, all that comes out are squawks.

“The snow’s melting.  I could be out playing catch with Dad.  He knows I need to get ready for baseball.  I though he’d understand how much this sucks, but he just says I have to do this to make Mom happy.  I’ll never make the team if I waste my time with violin.  And I’ve never heard of any famous violin players. 

“Here’s the bus.  Maybe I can get my violin caught in the door?”

Bookmark Y42K?: In their head - Time to play


It’s not just baseball, Bill

June 27, 2008

“Baseball lives literally in the dark ages; baseball men have not yet reached the revelation of Sir Francis Bacon, which was in essence that since all men live in darkness, who believes something is not a test of whether it is true or false.  I have spent years trying to get people to ask simple questions: What is the evidence, and what does it mean?  This is a condition of the world and no one but a fool gets angry with the world because it is what it is, but there are profound frustrations in living in a world that awaits the Enlightenment.”

-Bill James, in This Time Let’s Not Eat the Bones


Keeping things in perspective

June 26, 2008

Danny Ainge has been a successful basketball player in college and the pros, pro coach, broadcaster, and as Celtics GM, he was the engineer of the biggest turnaround in NBA history (with an assist from old teammate Kevin McHale).  Just in case he’s forgotten that everything he touches doesn’t turn to gold:

Ainge rookie card
Career  G   AB  R  H   2B 3B
3 Years 211 665 57 146 19 4

HR GS RBI BB IBB SO  SH
2  0  37  37 2   128 12

SF HBP GIDP AVG  OBP  SLG
3  4   16   .220 .264 .269


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