Category Archives: Cajones

The WBC, a Popularity Contest

Bud Selig is not impressed.

Let me preface this by saying that baseball is the king of my brain .  Batman may be my noggin’s silent protector but Baseball reigns supreme.  It should surprise no one, then, that I really dig the World Baseball Classic.  That said, I’m no dummy.  Despite Bud “Sisterkissin'” Selig’s best efforts, using everything from Greg Maddux to Aviici’s ‘Levels’ to increase buzz, the WBC is not nearly as popular as the higher-ups had hoped (both Maddux and that song are probably past the point of ‘sexy’ relevance to most fans now, but beside the point.  Also an intriguing band name – Sexy Relevance & the Semicolons coming to a blues house near you).  The move from ESPN to the not-as-established MLB Network certainly accounts some for the average viewership dropping from 1.6 million to 252,000 per game,  but not all (thank you SB Nation).  By the same token, however, the WBC is certainly a bigger success than “This <retch> Time <urp> it Counts <vomit>.”  That’s what it sounds like when I say that phrase out loud.

The WBC situation seems perfect. As much as I love baseball, I have to be honest – unless I am there, in a stadium, I don’t last much past 2 or 3 innings of random Spring Training baseball games. If, say, there is a particular young pitcher I’ve never seen in real time, sure, I might tune in… But those games become well organized scrimmages in a hurry. And mean little to the players who are often QUITE LITERALLY going through the motions in spring. Pitchers work on repeating their deliveries or a new pitch. Batters are seeing uncharacteristic pitches and are themselves working out the kinks. Not competitive baseball.

The lack of intensity is fine. Truly, I get it. But I must say, these WBC games are a treat at the other end of the spectrum. Say what you will about who is on the teams, by golly do they play hard. Did you see Andruw Jones react after the Netherlands beat Cuba AGAIN?! He was pumped and trash talking like a champ.

Got the old man FIRED up!

There is a gleeful mix on many of these teams between grizzled vets (see Mr. Jones) and young players excited to be playing on this competitive stage – some who will no doubt be in an interesting position not knowing whether they have a spot with the Big Club, knowing their performance matters not only for their country, but immediate career as well.

I had this thought and the tone of this post was initially going to be a get-more-scrappy-scrubs tilt. But after looking at the US roster, I no longer think that is the issue.  Sure, some folks complain about the lack of superstars on the WBC roster but I’m not so sure that isn’t a strength  of the competition.  Many of the players worked their way through the USA Baseball Program, which is kind of cool if you think about it – it’s own little farm system. Furthermore, the team actually has a nice mix of recognizable stars (a tainted Braun, Wright who’s becoming a legend, Joe ‘Great Hair’ Mauer) and major leaguers you want to root for, folks only the more passionate baseball fans appreciate (I’m looking at you, Willie Bloomquist).

Currently on sale for $600,000.

I’m calling out those out there who say there are’t enough stars on the team or whatever crap like that and this lack of pull leads to the lack of popularity in the U-S-of-A.  Pitchers are creatures of habit, I understand why someone like Justin Verlander might prefer his routine.  That’s the only area I will acknowledge the US could attempt to bring in a few more names – their starters.  But seeing as the pitches are limited, why bother?  Lack of recognizable pitching names is not what is holding the WBC from really gaining traction.

So why isn’t the World Baseball Classic a National sensation?  It is our national pastime, right?  Well that last bit is wrong.  Baseball is more like soccer now, I would argue, in that there are seriously devoted pockets all around the globe.  Baseball has succeeded in their attempts to take the game global.  Back to the initial question, then: why don’t we like this tournament more, as Americans?   I mean this answer in the least cynical way possible: we need to win.

not helping.

This notion could be bastardized in a number of exaggerated anti-American ways.  I do not mean it in any of them.  I mean it very practically.  As a nation, we assume that since we have the MLB, that we should win the damn thing!  Losing is disheartening!  Despite the percieved lack of stars, we have more stars, right?  Where Italy has Lorenzo Avagnina (giggle), we have Adam Jones, heck we have Shane Victorino.  These guys are All-Stars!  How can Amurrrica lose to a bunch of Jabronies!?  Here is where those two initial questions tie together.  Baseball is played worldwide.  And guess what?  Unlike basketball, there are a BUNCH of countries that are really good at this sport!

So how can the World Baseball Classic truly catch on in America?  Simple.  As a famous American Philosopher once said, “Just win, baby.”

AL DAVIS

-V

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, Spring Training, World Baseball Classic

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, ROBINSON CANO, CURTIS GRANDERSON, RYAN BRAUN TO BE SUSPENDED FOR FAILING PED TEST THIS SEASON

STORY HERE.

Terrible day for baseball if this proves true.  He did call Melky last year.  And Melky was very close to Cano in NY.  Granderson is the only one that truly shocks me.

(Vin’s Note: We shall see if Dave’s sources pan out….)

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by | March 4, 2013 · 6:23 PM

MLB Realignment – More is More

This post was originally published on the Emerson College Sports Business Society Website – but it’s genius must be shared

come at me, bro

In many ways, I think of myself as a baseball purist.  I have serious reservations about designated hitters.  I have a firm belief that Nolan Ryan is the only one who understands that regardless of what anyone says, there is nothing magical about that 100th pitch. Just get out there and throw, divas! The most exciting play in the game, for me, is watching a team react to a double-steal bunt.  So with the recent announcement that MLB will be expanding its playoffs, I found myself debating along with millions of other fans whether or not this was a good decision for the sport.

 

On one hand, part of what has made baseball’s playoffs impressive is the level of difficulty it takes to get there.  Unlike football or basketball (hockey doesn’t count because I’m pretty sure they let pee-wee teams into their playoffs until recently), where half of the teams routinely win their division and go to the playoffs, baseball has always been ruthless about who gets in.  They play by far the most games, grinding out victories for months, yet every year there is a team with ninety wins who is left watching from home.

As maddening as it could be for a fan, it’s also pretty cool.  However, this system has always been a double-edged sword, especially in more recent decades, as ballooning payrolls have created a more distinct “class system” among MLB teams.  While we all have every right to moan when a 7-9 team makes the NFL playoffs, the level of parity in football is unmatched in other sports.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, in all likelihood, will not make the playoffs in 2012.  They’re simply not very good.  In most sports, it’s pretty easy to tell which teams will probably be good. In baseball, more so than the other sports, it’s easy to tell, with some certainty, which teams are going to be bad.

Baseball’s playoff structure, while doing a good job of getting the best teams in, has gotten stale.  Nationally, ratings have been in steady decline and there is a general resentment/frustration with the same teams getting in every year (with the occasional oddball like those pesky Rays).  But as I lamented in my MLB Reboot pieces, baseball as an entity is very, very, very painfully stubborn.  And I am too.  I liked the old system and my initial reaction was trepidation.  If they’re not going to go with the widespread change I call for, I’m not one for tinkering.

this was never a good idea.

But that’s why we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  The more I read about and think over this change, the more I like it.  Even as I write this piece, I realize that no, the current Wild Card system is not fair.  The Wild Card is a ‘bonus’ spot.  They did not win a division.  Therefore, common-sensically (a lethal combination of hyphenating and making up words), making the Wild Card teams win an additional game to ‘deserve’ their advancement seems not only reasonable, but also logical.  Of course, the MLB will play up the drama of adding a built-in one-game playoff and there is truth in that notion.  But this decision ripples through baseball on a much broader scale for us as fans.  Maybe the Nationals will make a huge jump this year and sneak into a one-game playoff for the Wild Card.  Perhaps the new rule will jumpstart the Chicago Cubs (laughable).  As a Red Sox fan, though, this new system means only one thing: now we have to worry about those darn Blue Jays too.

 

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, Random Thoughts

Calm Before the Storm

couldn't find a screencap of Larkin in the game...

Barry Larkin, Hall of Famer.  And good for him, honestly.  It’s easy to forget just how good he was (though he was always a superstar in Backyard Baseball, obviously).  Did you know he has a higher WAR (70.4) than HOF-er Luis Aparicio (63.6)?  Than Pee Wee Reese (69.7)?  How about higher than Roberto Alomar (68.0) and Ryne Sandberg (62.6)?  My point being, Mr. Larkin (who is a pretty darn good analyst, too, in my opinion) certainly deserves his spot among these peers.  He is a member of the 30-30 club (1996, a ridiculous year), had a career OPS of .815 (and that’s low due to his waning years), and trailed only Cal Ripken Jr. (883) and Jay Bell (735) at shortstop between 1990 and 2000 with 680 RBI.  In that time he also led in SB (280), was 4th in HR (148), and second behind Jeter with an OBP of .388.  Did I mention he was a leader of those teams and from Cincinnati?  How cool is that?  Barry Larkin was a precursor to the ‘new wave’ of shortstops, hitting for power, stealing bases, and playing great defense.  I remember being surprised, but impressed when I would read his baseball cards.  I remember playing with him in Backyard Baseball.  I remember him looking incredibly, impossibly smooth when he played.  He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

So why was I so troubled when I found out he was the only one going in this year?

I couldn’t immediately put my finger on the sense of unease as I read about the vote and the Hall of Fame in general.  Then it hit me as I began thinking back to my card-collecting days, sorting out all the ‘superstars’ and putting them in 3×3 protective sheets in protective binders (still in my closet).  So I pulled out the binders and leafed through the pages.  The source of my skepticism became immediately clear – there they were page after page, in all the binders, tainted superstars.  Barry Bonds.  Mark McGwire.  Sammy Sosa.  Even my favorite players like Jeff Bagwell and Nomar Garciaparra.  They all now exist under the cloud of steroid scrutiny.  Some deserve it, some do not, and all are subject to the widespread judgments.  But Larkin in no way falls under that same blanket, let me make myself clear.  No, my concern grew out of the realization that all these players I grew up rooting for (and against), collecting, respecting, idolizing were under an entirely different microscope than any other era.

I have more of this specific card than I can count. I lied. It's 8. I have 8.

On the surface, most baseball fans would have no problem with this.  Despite the fury dying down, people are still very frustrated by the whole ‘steroid era’ and feel the players have gotten a relative free pass.  Understood.  But the longer I thought about Larkin and the others in my Binders, the more complicated my thoughts on the Hall of Fame became.  I arrived at a simple, direct and likely controversial conclusion: since when did these bozos with the votes get the right to invoke some ‘morality clause?’

It’s total B.S.

Did you know the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series?  Of course you did.  Did you know their owner, Charles Comiskey, was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1939?  Though I have not seen a report (Mitchell or otherwise) linking Comiskey to the actually fixing of games, historians agree he was ruthless and a bit of a jerk, which may have contributed to the players’ desire to make an extra buck.  Speculation and even history aside, isn’t the mere implication he knew anything enough to hold him back from election?  Don’t we dismiss others for far less than such a supposed connection?

Or how about the late Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, Ty Cobb, and former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, all falling on the spectrum of notable racists (before you start, Kuhn proposed and constructed a separate wing of the Hall of Fame to put the Negro League players in…).  All are in the Hall.  Yawkey, by all accounts, was a popular owner for a time.  He was, by many of the same accounts, an enormous racist and had to be convinced to integrate the Sox in the 70’s.  Cobb was one of the greatest players of all time.  He was also one of the most despised.  Sharpening his spikes, spitting racial epithets, and being an overall poor human being.

The list could go on and on of players who skirted rules and behaved immorally.  Baseball players are not supposed to be moral beings, they’re supposed to be playing a game.  I realize that morality and rule breaking are different arguments, but when it comes to the Hall of Fame, where is the line?  What is the ‘morality clause’ and where did it come from?  I suppose I understand the argument that if a player cheated and was caught, they deserve to be punished.  But at what cost?  Do we banish Bonds and Clemens at the expense of innocent players?  Let’s not forget, too, that technically, at the turn of the millennium (where most of the questions lie), the steroids in question were NOT banned.  It was undeniably cheating.  I see a distinction between the two.  Clearly I’m in the minority.  If we let scumbags in, drug addicts and womanizers, why are we casting such a shadow on a whole era of players?  I’ll give you Brett Boone.  I won’t argue for him.  But are we really prepared to keep Jeff Bagwell out just because he played in a tainted era?  How about Jim Thome?  This Steroid/Hall-of-Fame issue is not going away and not being addressed properly.  With the first really controversial class (2013) looming, a decision needs to be made.  If you keep out some, you must keep out all.  There can be no picking and choosing, no sliding scale of guilt.  Are we willing to let the Pedro Gomezs, the Joel Shermans, the WOODY PAIGES cast their judgments on players who have not been found guilty of anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Sports is a bunch of man-children gathering together for extended periods of time facing constant scrutiny from amateurs. And yet we expect them all to behave, all the time.

Congratulations, Barry Larkin.  You deserve your election, the historic jump in percentage vote.  You also mark calm before a storm.  The coming years are only going to intensify the steroid issue.  Be happy for Mr. Larkin.  Be wary of the votes ahead, fans.  It’s gonna get ugly.  Like Marge Schott ugly.

-w

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Are You Left-Handed? You Could Be ‘THAT Guy.’

You know when you’re watching a movie and you see ‘that guy?’  The surly beat cop.  The troubled scientist.  The grizzled war general.  The character actor.  They do not land glamorous roles, they’re never stars but they come up again and again in similar roles across mediums (The King? Clint Howard.  He’s my all time favorite. Or this guy.).  These actors and actresses make a living doing small but crucial roles in a larger scheme.  We have lots of character actors in baseball.  For every Albert Pujols, there is an Alex Cora.  We give them monikers like ‘character guys,’ ‘defensive specialists’ and, in some sports ‘glue’ guys.  I would like to take a moment to recognize one of the finest character actors we have in sports today, Mr. Darren Oliver, lefthander extraordinaire.

Oliver is about to sign with the Blue Jays on a 1-year deal.  When he does, it will mark the start of his 19th season in the MLB.  Oliver is such an interesting case to me.  Proof, if you will, that every left-handed child should learn to throw a curveball.  Oliver was a mediocre but effective back-end starter for those Rangers teams in the late 90’s when they time and time again failed to defeat the Yankees despite putting up video game numbers on offense (actually, he threw a really nice start in game 3 of the ALDS against the soon-to-be World Series Champs Yanks, poor Braves).  But his mediocrity caught up to him and by 2005, he was not signed to a major league team.  By then, he had become a 6th starter, a swingman.  Starting games and mopping up messes.  Then he wised up and became a situational lefty.  There are very few careers in the world so beautifully, specifically designed.

very dramatic pose.

And this is when and why I find him so endlessly delightful.  You can see here in some sortable stats and pretty-colored charts that Oliver is rarely touching 90 on the radar gun.  There is something undeniably fun about seeing major league batters pop up on an 80 mph fastball and clearly mouth some truly foul expletives as they head back to the dugout.  It humanizes them.  There’s no solid logic for what makes Oliver so effective as a reliever.  Barely throwing swiftly, let alone hard, Oliver gets the job done time after time out of the pen.  He held lefties to a .225 batting average in 2011 and had the same batting average against with men on base last year.  He is the consummate ‘crafty lefty.’  Straight out of baseball’s central casting.  He’ll never sign a deal for $25 million a year, but Oliver and guys like him win championships and don’t go away easily.  Congratulations, Mr. Oliver.  Your fastball-slider combo gives hope to every high school lefty worrying that, while it might send you back in time, 88 mile per hour won’t get you to the big show.

 

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, pitchers, Random Thoughts

The Mercurial Miami Marlins Moving Money Making Moves: Angels Add Additional Assets to Arsenal, Alliterations Abound

go ahead and do a quick google search for "will smith welcome to miami".... waiting.... now tell me he hasn't had that video taken down or altered at every turn. He has this type of pull. I believe it.

UPDATE: Loria throwing money for his club til the players show him love

 

This is why you wait.  More Alliteration!

I planned on writing about the flurry of activity for the Miami Marlins.  They have gone out and obtained an outstanding manager, an excellent closer, a dynamo shortstop and one of the most reliable lefties in the game.  They’ve committed almost 200 million dollars to these folks in the hopes of creating considerable interest as they move into a new ballpark.  This was going to be the story, and an interesting one at that.  You can say one thing for the Marlins in 2012 – things are going to be exciting.  The new-look Miami Marlins are looking to make a splash.  I’m hating myself a bit for that pun, but alas, it had to be done.  It’s great the Marlins are moving into a new house and have lots of shiny new toys (personally, I dig the new logo and hats), perhaps they will be a better team, perhaps not.  If we’ve learned anything the past couple of years in sports, buying a bunch of singularly talented players does not equate in a championship (see the Eagles and Heat of Philly and Miami, respectively).  That excitement I’m anticipating stems not from their success but rather their turmoil, their trials.  Already, Hanley Ramirez has expressed his distaste for being asked to move positions- and Ozzie Guillen backed him up, kind of.  Though he is expected to move to third, Hanley is a crybaby (as I’ve said before, a few times) and Ozzie Guillen is no fan of bullshitters- sounds like a recipe for some fun and soundbites to me… oh, did I mention they’re making Reyes cut his dreadlocks?  Hilarity forthcoming.

But I digress.  Yes, I initially thought I would be writing an article (with an AMAZINGLY CLEVER alliteration for a title).  I was going to go on and on about the Marlins, what they were trying to do, and what they mean for baseball.  I still will, later on in the article, but the Winter Meetings, and baseball in general, have taken a drastic turn.  In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California just signed Albert Pujols for 10 years.  For over a quarter of a billion dollars (if my math is correct).  Clearly, new Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was not going to waste time making an impact.  Despite evidence of budgetary constraints (specific article here) or that the Halos were going to obtain one ‘ big’ name impact player, likely a pitcher, Dipoto has locked up Albert and seems to be close to signing C.J. Wilson to an almost $78 million, 5 year deal.  Once again, some simple math tells us the Angels are locked into over $325 MILLION for two players going forward, and all on the last day of the meetings, no less (oh, they traded for Chris Ianetta, too.  He is a damn good catcher in my opinion.).

This is a very wealthy man. Dare I say a Mexican Jack Donaghy? Look at that mustache. I have invented a new name for him. I hereby dub thee, Arte "F#@% it, let's boogie" Moreno. Now look back at this pic and tell me that name doesn't fit....

There are a handful of issues with the Angels offseason so far.  To clarify, these are ‘issues’ in the sense that they need to be addressed in some way, not issues like the issues Dave has with the ladies.  BAA-ZING.  Nailed it.

For one, the Angels now have three desirable first basemen.  It would be foolish to think in baseball that you could have too much of a good thing.  Life, that’s a different story (too many Skittles?  Bad news.).  Obviously, Pujols will start at first.  I’d bet a quarter of a billion dollars on that one.  Kendry Morales was great before his injury and figures to be good again after rehab.  Though Mark Trumbo lost the AL Rookie of the Year to the very deserving Jeremy Hellickson, Trumbo had a stellar rookie campaign, slugging 29 homers and 87 RBI and was named team MVP.  I understand he would never unseat Lord Albert, however this is an interesting predicament the Angels have, as Trumbo is under team control for several more years and is therefore an additionally useful player.  Normally, the Angels could shift him to a corner outfield spot but the Angels find themselves in a logjam in the outfield as well.  This is a good situation for the team, but it creates an odd dynamic when they look to make more moves.  Other teams know the Halo’s have to trade someone.  There is simply not enough room for all those players on the Angels.  Just sayin’.  How the Angels deal with their seeming surplus is an intriguing storyline to follow up until the season.  The team will also have a good two-headed monster at catcher with promising Hank Conger and Chris Ianetta dueling for at bats and have a slew of young talent, headed by Mike Trout, looking to put a stamp on the big leagues both offensively and in the bullpen in 2012.

I hate disappointing just one person. And I really hate disappointing everyone. But I love Burlington Coat Factory. You go in there with 645 dollars, you are literally a king.

I will argue til I am blue that signing C.J. Wilson to a five year deal was financially imprudent.  Only two years removed from being a set-up man, I think it is unrealistic that he will be the same pitcher 5 years down the road.  This is less a reflection of Wilson’s talent (he is an excellent pitcher, undeniably) and more a statement on the fragility of pitching in general.  Poo-Pooing aside, it took me a moment after reading Wilson had signed with the Angels to fully comprehend the video game-worthy pitching staff the team has assembled.  Not that the order particularly matters, these pitchers are all likely to get hot at any given point in a season, but here’s the basic 1-5 for the Halos: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Ryan Seacrest.  I think I’m kidding.  But my point is this: their fifth starter could be anyone, really.  Jerome Williams showed flashes in 2011.  Brad Mills was recently acquired for Jeff “Mendoza Line” Mathis and shows promise.  They could bring someone else in or a prospect could emerge.  Who knows?  But take a look at that starting 4 again.  Every team not located in Philadelphia would KILL to have Ervin Santana as their number 4 starter!  Hmm… let me think… as a Red Sox fan, would I rather have John Lackey or Ervin Santana?  The Yankees, Freddy Garcia or Ervin Santana?  Lackey is a bad example because I would rather have Pee-Wee Herman start for me than that fat goof at this point, but still.

There are certain variables we cannot know.  We don’t know what the chemistry of either the Marlins or Angels will be like.  Both have strong managers so one would think that is not going to be an issue, but as I said, history tells us that throwing money around at excellent players does not necessarily mean the team will succeed.  We don’t know how positional movement and changes will affect the teams mentally and roster-wise.  What we do know is this: both the Marlins and Angels just became serious, serious players in their respective leagues.  My father and I debated all through the 2011 playoffs about the value of a singularly talented player in the playoffs.  He argued that someone, like Pujols, can completely alter the DNA of a series simply by being that good.  I firmly stuck to my notion of baseball being a team sport and pitching winning championships.  I was wrong.  Pitching determines winning and players like Pujols and Reyes alter pitching.  It’s an equation worthy of the transitive property.  Both teams have good if not great closers.  Both have good managers.  Both have lineups with power and superstars.  Given the new playoff system, I would be extremely wary of meeting either team come September.  Money in both life and baseball does not mean success.  But it undeniably alters landscapes.  The baseball landscape has just changed, folks.  Here’s to hoping Ozzie has lots to talk about.

-w

No Will Smith, but the best I could do:

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Filed under Baseball, BOOMSHAKALAKKA, Cajones, first base, MLB, offseason, Pickups, Posted, shortstop

B.S. New CBA Between the MLB and MLBPA: The Good, The Bad, and the Acronyms

B.S. – Bud Selig’s – what did you think that stood for?

look. at. these. goombahs.

The MLB and MLBPA have reached an agreement and a new CBA is in place.  As seems to be the case with everything Bud Selig does, even the good is flecked with not-so-shiny ‘bad’.  The new CBA takes some legitimate steps forward, that cannot be denied.  And while I admit a certain degree of ignorance of the logistics of the deal’s finances, I’m no dummy.  Some parts of the agreement simply leave me shaking my head, wondering why if they comfortably put their whole foot in the water, why didn’t they jump in?  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go to the scoreboard…

and the survey says.....

THE GOOD

Section X (that’s Roman Numeral ten, ijjits, not a division of mutants) is classified as “other.”  The section is a mishmash of topics, many of which, quite frankly, are not only pretty boring but wishy-washy as well (this is where several ‘parties agree upon’ and purposeful vagueness.  Very clever in terms of the reach of their control, very frustrating for us fans).

There are, however, two clauses that made me as happy as a schoolboy.

“Clause X(a) – Participation in the All-Star Game will be required unless the Player is unable to play due to injury or is otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner. Players Trust will receive an increased contribution and players will receive additional benefits.”

“Clause X(f) – Instant Replay will be expanded to include fair/foul and “trapped” ball plays, subject to the Office of the Commissioner’s discussions with the World Umpires Association.”

Baby steps, folks, baby steps.  While neither of these clauses goes quite as in-depth as I (and millions of others) would like, they are both steps in the very much right direction.  The mere phrasing “All-Star Game required” should be a good thing.  Not necessarily under this Bud Selig administration, mind you, but he’s not going to be around forever (barring some deal-with-the-devil soul selling that is eerily not out of the question).  One of the great frustrations if you truly love baseball and understand its history is the sometimes-crap All-Star experience.  Let’s put it another way- baseball’s All-Star extravaganza ranks second to Basketball (you know, the sport that just had the stupid-beyond-stupid lockout?) only because most players in other major sports didn’t even know there was an All-Star game for their sports (or in Tom Brady’s case, the weighing of going to Honolulu for one more game versus a private nude beach with his supermodel wife and family… well what would YOU pick?).  Point being, the baseball All-Star game used to be one of the best events in sports.  Time, technology and money have tarnished that.  So if the players won’t respect the history for history’s sake, make them.  When a commissioner with some cajones steps in, he’ll have this in his back pocket to build off of getting guys to play (and care, one would hope).

I spoke in my MLB Reboot posts about baseball’s reluctance to embrace technology and how it has held the game back.  While the clause in section X (I apologize, that really does sound like a totally badass secret agency) falls far short of robot umpires, virtual advertising (wait, we have that already) and digital foul lines, the vocalization of the need to incorporate replay specifically should signify that baseball wants to move forward.  Or at least avoid another blown perfect game… which they didn’t address… do they need a bigger catastrophe to implement replay for safe/out calls!?!?!  Is there a bigger blunder than an umpire ruining a PERFECT GAME?  Wow, I almost talked myself out of this being in the ‘good.’  I’m trying to remain positive and addressing this should be seen as a baby step forward.  Like I said, baby steps are still steps.  Most of us don’t make fun of babies when they make them.  We’re usually really happy.  So let’s just think of baseball and Bud as big ol’ babies…

s

KEEP YOUR PANTS ON, BABY BUD!

Sections VIII and IX are both Health and Safety related.  Mandatory HGH testing?  Check.  Elimination of low-density maple bats?  Check.  No visible tobacco products?  Well… whatever.  Just talk to your kids, folks.  Don’t blame the athletes for your brats’ bad habits.  Honestly, these sections are simple and effective.  Did I mention everyone will be using new helmets designed by Rawlings to protect against higher-speed pitches?  This section was a definite victory for baseball in all senses as it looks great PR-wise but also makes logical sense for preserving the games integrity and safety.

Section II outlines the new playoff routine and the move of the Houston Astros.  I like the new playoff idea.  Listen to any player, current or former, and they will say that at the end of a 162 game season, a grueling patience-testing ordeal, the last thing you want to do is have a one game play-in for your postseason lives.  The new layout, with two wild card teams playing one game to decide who moves on is awesome.  It will make the final scramble all the more dramatic as teams desperately try to win out so as to set up their rotations and rest.  It also sets up all kinds of kooky scenarios where a team with a hot pitcher finds itself in the division series and surprises everyone.  I’m glad I waited to respond to this new set up, as the idea has really grown on me.  The old wild card system diminished the importance of actually winning your division (just go back and look at Wild Card World Series winners if you don’t believe me).  This new one reclaims that importance and then jumps over it.  Trust me, after all that hard work, no player wants to hinge his playoff hope on a single pitcher who’s had a stellar second half (I’m looking at YOU Josh Johnson) not continuing his hot streak.  Give this layout time.  I think it will surprise people.

THE NODDING-BUT-IT’S-WAY-ABOVE-MY-PAYGRADE

All the jibberjabber about free agency, arbitration, draft slotting, and international players.

People smarter than I all over the interwebs and other media sources have broken down the more monetary aspects of the CBA (I know, that’s a dumb statement, the CBA was all about finances, really.  Hush.).  It’s hard for me to grasp how these changes will affect the league.  On the one hand, the new arbitration rules won’t allow geniuses (that is sincere, he punished this loophole) like Alex Anthopoulos to do things like trade for a low-level but high-ranked catcher, not offer him arbitration, then get a nifty sandwich pick.  This was a fun loophole, but I understand why it needed to go.  The CBA also allots a cap and taxes on investing in foreign players.  I’m okay with this (for now) but like I said, not being privy to the functions of baseball financially (say that 5 times fast), I find it hard to project this positive or negative going forward.

THE BAD

I’ve read some places that this CBA is a net loss.  I would argue with that contention.  However, no one can deny that there is a problem in baseball that this CBA did not fix.  Try as they might, the powers that be of the diamond still can’t figure out this parity thing.  Sure, every couple of years a feel-good story comes along, but the reality is in baseball there are the haves and the have-nots.  This is an odd concept to digest as we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, but relatively, more money=more quality players = more wins.  Hem and haw all you want about drafting smart, building from within yadda yadda yadda, but there is something flawed in baseball financially.  At least to me, an ignoramus, it seems.  Comparing the NFL to the MLB is like comparing dogs and Cadillacs, but look at the numbers.  We laughed about Ryan Fitzpatrick signing a 6-year $59 Million contract.  Now look at J.D. Drew.  Sigh.  All I’m saying is, the NFL’s system of paying, capping, and distributing lends itself to more teams at least feeling like they have a chance.  Baseball’s money problem is still a mess.

Another issue, and really my only other BIG issue, with this CBA is the capping on spending for draft picks.  I know what you’re thinking – “Wait, Will, you are completely contradicting what you just said about the MLB needing to fix how it spends and allocates money!” – well, sort of.  Given the nature of the MLB, simply instituting a salary cap would throw the league into chaos.  It’s a broken system, but it’s the system we have.  That being said, the only way to combat the flaws was with the draft.  A wise, smaller-market team could overpay young players and keep them in more affordable contracts as they became legitimate MLB-ers.  Or they could flame out, as was more often the case.  But the point remains, paying above recommendation helped more teams, in theory, than it hurt.

But that’s not the larger, more concerning point.  The real issue isn’t the players who will be coming through the MLB Draft and MLB system but rather the players who will eschew the league, dropping baseball overall.  In a slow game, sometimes you need a little flash, you need an athlete.  Many of the top players, or even just the very good ones, are athletes in other sports.  Guys like Carl Crawford, who could have played college football OR basketball, may back away from the less-appealing paychecks the MLB may immediately bring.  Being good at a major college program in another sport could prove to be a much more lucrative decision for some of these guys (like Bubba Starling this past year).

Mark my words – baseball is going to see a decline in the overall athleticism in the draft picks coming through.  It may not be this year.  It may not be the next.  Taken at net value, the MLB will hurt from the fact that they can’t attract the same athletes as they used to.

THE VERDICT

Sadly, I’d say it’s a tie (so Buddy Boy should be thrilled).

The restructuring of the luxury tax and other monetary considerations repeatedly cites “modifying” the 2006 version of the CBA, which basically amounts to putting lipstick on a very, very ugly pig.  It worries me that, for the decidedly good aspects of the deal we should all get behind (safer bats, better Wild-Card system, All-Star game participation), the stinky odor of competitive inbalance still lingers in the game.

It is great to see baseball taking steps to make the game safer and eliminate things like HGH and skipping out on All-Star games.  It makes me both glad and worried to see that while the CBA addresses the issue of replay- but doesn’t take it far enough.  The CBA, looked into properly, is a great point-counterpoint debate sparker.  Bud Selig is undoubtedly beginning to grow more concerned with his legacy in the game.  Things like ties, steroids, and Scooter the talking baseball will always leave their scars.  Time will tell if this new CBA’s good eventually outweighs the bad.

Enjoy that Arrested Development clip – classic.

-w

P.S. – This has nothing to do with the CBA but good lord, if you haven’t read the article yet over at Deadspin about Dan Lozano, Albert Pujols’ agent and the subsequent threat by his lawyers, you MUST READ.  I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger story yet, but it is stupendously awful, dirty, and weird.  Enjoy.  Then be sad that he’s probably looking at an unprecedented payday when Pujols signs.

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Texas Two-Step

As in, step one: buy a sports team.   step two: PROFIT!

Not Jim Crane. Sadly.

Baseball is shaking things up.  Let me rephrase that.  As much as they can allow themselves to become more exciting, baseball is making some changes.  As I outlined brilliantly in my 3-part “Gritty MLB Reboot” series (or rant, depending on how you take it), baseball is in dire need of some different spices in the pot (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  Perhaps this purchase and movement of the Astros, and the dominoes their scenario knocks around, is a step in the right direction.

Let us address the sale of the Astros and subsequent move to the AL West.  Effective 2013, the Houston Astros will join their Texas brethren in the AL West.  This instantly creates a legitimate in-state rivalry, unlike the ones MLB and Fox try to force upon us when interleague play arrives (my distaste for interleague is a different story for a different day).  The battle for Texas will provide an interesting tweak on both the division it is entering and the one it is leaving.  Competitively, the NL Central loses  a punching bag, as the Astros have been downright astro-cious the past few years.  Horrible puns aside, the World Champion Cardinals especially benefitted from the Astros, going 10-5 against the 100-loss Houston team.  With the additional wild-card games and an added loser (the Astros, undeniably, will be bad for several years at the very least), the AL West becomes legitimate players.  Do the Athletics take a big step forward?  And does their impending success help persuade the A’s move out of woeful Oakland?  The ramifications of this move could prove to be far reaching competitively, financially, and emotionally – if Nolan Ryan would just say something outlandish to stir the pot (I sincerely hope this happens).  This nugget does not suffice:

“I’ve always thought of the Astros as a National League team,” said Rangers team president Nolan Ryan (who played for Houston from 1980-1988.)  “But when I look at it from our perspective, I like it.”

With a big, big TV deal in place and a mini-dynasty in the making, the Rangers surely like the idea of having a bad team to beat up on.  But the Astros, bad as they might be, will benefit from this too.  Texans are stereotypically a competitive lot, so, somewhat counter-intuitively, two teams in the same state should build up both teams’ TV share and attendance.  Jim Crane paid a pretty penny for a struggling team.  But he may have lucked into the perfect storm of circumstance.  Additional playoffs and a Champion-caliber, in-state rival should put the Astros in a good position financially going forward.  Now if they could only find some players.

Here are some other bits from around the league:

–> Infielder Matt Antonelli will undergo a physical on Monday to finalize his major league deal with the Orioles, tweets Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.  Matt’s a good dude.  And he’s from Peabody.  And he’s read our blog before, so he’s wicked smaht.  Good to see Dan Duquette give him a go.  Glad he’s healthy again.

—> Joe Nathan signs a 2 year (3rd year team option) with the Texas Rangers.  This really makes me mad, actually.  I have been saying for several weeks now – louder since Papelbon left for Philadelphia – that the Red Sox should make Daniel Bard a starter and sign Nathan to be their closer.  It was a concept borrowed from these same Rangers, and a damned good one, so they did it with their more-than-a-closer Neftali Feliz.  The worst part of this going forward is now the Red Sox must either overpay for a guy who’s not that good, have open tryouts a-la “Invincible” or… gulp… make Bobby Jenks their closer.

—> Philadelphia Phillies acquire Ty Wiggington for a bag of trail mix.  I’m confused by the Phillies reluctance to sign players or develop players under 30.  Between Jim Thome and Ty Wiggington, the Phillies’ bench seems better equipped for lumberjacking than winning baseball games.

—> The Red Sox are circling around Bobby Valentine for their managerial position.  More details and lots of swearing to come in the following weeks.

—> The MLB is working on a new CBA and it will allegedly address issues such as HGH testing and draft slotting.  More details will begin to emerge and once they announce the official parameters, I will break them down.

 

 

Adios, muchachos, enjoy this phenomenal new Black Keys song and the awesome dancing.  Don’t know how this guy stole my moves.

-w

 

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A Gritty MLB Reboot (Part 3 of 3): The Epic Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Here it is, the moment you’ve eagerly anticipated… PART THREE!  Calm your bones, kemosabe.  The conclusion to my epic rant can also be seen here [ECBS], at the Emerson College Sports Business Society Blog.  Tell your friends about this blog!  I’d love to see double digit views…. once…. ever…. though, to be fair, if you are reading this blog, you must be AWFULLY bored.  Enjoy.

 

 

She blinded me with science! Ad by 'she,' I mean my laptop....

The growing trend in baseball and all of sports is a focus on the mathematics and science behind it.  From medicine, to recording, to broadcasting the technological advances of our lifetimes are revolutionizing the way we play and consume sports.  Metrics and measurements are quantifying things as mundane as a receiver’s overall reach (Calvin Johnson allegedly has the reach the same cubic measurement  of a 2-car garage.  It is the ironies of ironies that baseball is currently riding the wave of interest caused by Brad Pitt aka Billy Beane, sabermetrics, and Moneyball.  While baseball has readily welcomed the math and science to study the game, the game has stubbornly refused to accept the incredible technological power before them.  Replay has been integrated beautifully into football and basketball.  Hockey has used advanced cameras for years.  Baseball, if they cooperated, funded and guided science, could have solutions to everything from strike zones to out and safe calls.  I am not calling for a erasing of the human element, just an integration of the relevant technologies to make the game more interesting.  The key to successfully remaking, reimagining or re-branding is acknowledging the past while incorporating the future.

Redesigning the league as I described relates to an overarching, re-branding strategy.  Upon closer inspection, some redesigning could go on in the parks themselves too.  Infusing the competitive landscape with a dash of creativity makes sense for the brand of MLB.  Infusing the individual competitive landscapes (i.e. the stadiums) with some of that same creativity is a logical extension.  That technology I spoke of before?  It’s everywhere.  Including architechture.  Baseball teams used to have weird stadiums catered towards the build of their team.  I want more odd dimensions (Polo Grounds), more hills in centerfield (Houston), and more 37 foot walls in odd places.  Stadiums give the teams themselves personality, not to mention advantages if done right.  Some of the new stadiums do a great job of creating an engaging atmosphere (Baltimore’s Camden Yards comes to mind).  Others waste serious potential (The Nationals’ stadium has a slew of design oversights, not the least of which is it misses an obvious opportunity for an amazing view of our capitol city- same stadium, different orientation means same dimensions with a different view.  Not rocket science.).  Where is all the money going into the new ballparks if not into a little creative, competitive advantage?  Astroturf is one of those technological ‘innovations’ making baseball wary of change.  I’m not suggesting odd field surfaces, but the oddities of the teams’ cities and stadiums used to give the teams character.

Baseball could use more characters.  A rogues gallery.  From the front office to the utility men, some oddballs and amusing characters could spice up the MLB landscape.  Baseball needs to let its creative juices flow.  As the media seems to be telling us at every turn, from fashion to film, sometimes old is new, which is cool.  In the interest of making money and reigniting interest, I suggest baseball gets on board with the rebooting trend.

Thank you to any brave soul who read through all my musings.  I appreciate it.  We here at DotP cherish each and every one of our readers, or some BS Lifetime channel crap.  Tell your friends.  Tell your family.  Tell the people trying to do work int he library.

 

As always, FOLLOW ME! FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM!

 

-w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Gritty MLB Reboot (part 2 of 3)

This is the second part or my 3-part rant about the current state of the MLB.  It is also up on the Emerson College Sports Business Society website.  My brilliance cannot be held to one mere blog. Enjoy.

 

you look nervous....

One of the key elements of a remake is to venture into totally new territory, while remaining familiar.  In theory, at least, this is the most likely way to proceed. New origin stories, new ways for characters to meet and interact, new interpretations of old ways drive the consumer. We are always curious about ways to repeat ourselves. Part of what makes baseball special is its fascinating history.

Baseball has become bloated with excessive teams and excessive salaries. An expanded playoffs looms.  I’m resigned to the fact that consolidating teams to a more manageable number, allowing more good players on fewer teams, makes entirely too much sense and is a pipe dream for many reasons. I know that something drastic needs to change in our society before player salaries don’t become so ridiculous.  But small changes to the makeup of the league(s) can yield far-reaching results.

The proposed move of the Houston Astros to the American League is a step in the right direction. Jim Crane is a genius if he can get MLB to pay him his requested 50 million dollars for what he has to know is a good idea. If all the MLB teams are going to be hanging around, let’s use that to rile up some pride.  People complain about the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays playing so often.

But what they don’t realize is that this is a good thing. Any good marketer knows that sometimes it makes more sense to appeal to your strengths. I’m willing to bet viewers will like a big Texas Astros-Rangers showdown.  Play up the states and teams that have history. But, for the love of Honus Wagner, please, please, please don’t think for a second that the rich history of baseball needs to be polluted with any more interleague. The magic is gone, and baseball fans are moving on to see other people. Part of what makes what many consider the most ingenious re-imagining in media recently; The Joker in “The Dark Night,” so interesting within the ethos of the Batman world is his evil presence.  Heath Ledger nailed the role and put everyone on edge by representing a deranged, but realistic “other.”

(quite honestly one of the greatest sports clips you will ever see)

The idea of “the other” is a common phenomenon and is studied across the realms of sociology, psychology, marketing, PR, and many facets of the media in general. The concept of “the other,” the “barbarians at the gates,” an unseen opposition is the driving force of suspense throughout literature both new and old, and is fundamental in any horror movie (yes, even the bad ones). It’s a fascinating notion, how humans instinctively react to outsiders and strangers.

Here’s the contradictory dilemma; technology has outpaced baseball (we’ll get to that in a moment). Anyone can see any game with the right platform and a few clicks of the mouse. Not only is the magic gone, but apparently so is the mystery. Everyone needs an “other.” Everyone needs a villain. Or at least a worthy adversary.  MLB will never be the same as the old days, when the World Series came around and people had “holy cow” moments seeing a great player from an opposing league- fantasy sports and television have erased that notion of surprise. Two fully separate leagues with two newly established identities (a gradual, nuanced part of the process too detailed to truly envision now) can help provide an “us vs. them” feeling for both sides.

This brings me to the All-Star game. Sigh. Oh how the mighty have fallen. I honestly do not see the right answer for the league. On the one hand, taking only the flashiest of All-Star concepts and borrowing from the NBA could be fun. Skill competitions and celebrities drives viewers, drives interest, and in this new era of 25/7 (not a typo) news coverage, steady coverage during a break. Making the MLB All-Star game a summer hangout destination could be a money-making phenomena. Concerts, showcases, and festivals take place even in what we might take for the most boring city.

Done right, an MLB All-Star Weekend similar to the NBA could be a brilliant shift for a commissioner (though it is highly unlikely Bud would allow this to happen in his reign). However, running with the current state of baseball, a strategist may have to shift their goals based on the current mess. If the All-Star game is going to count, it should count. MLB should figure it out whether it be with contractual guarantees, a deal with the players union or a Commissioner descending from his office with a new set of unwritten baseball commandments. Baseball needs to assess a way to make its players care about the game like they used to in the sport’s past, when the players’ pride factored heavily into All-Star games.

Perhaps I am naïve to think something as simple as a re-branding of National vs. American League as us vs. them will spark that much more passion. If Bud Selig continues to remind us that “this time it counts,” there is only so much one can do. But in that mindset, of pitting the leagues more prominently as, pardon the ugly phrase, ‘separate but equal,’ will lead to a slightly altered playoff/All-Star Game relationship: With the additional rounds, the All-Star winning league gets home field advantage in the first 3 rounds. The World Series? A coinflip. It must be. An added air of mystery to the battle of the leagues.

 

 

 

stay tuned, part 3 is coming very soon!

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