Tag Archives: MLB

Why I Won’t Watch the Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game

The All-Star game and Home Run Derby used to be worthwhile.  My favorite memory of the “Mid-Summer Classic” was Ken Griffey Jr. rocking home runs in 1998 and 1999 and winning back-to-back home run derby titles.  By far my favorite player with the prettiest swing ever, Griffey gave hope to a steroid-laden era that there may have been someone who did it naturally.  The whole “who’s on steroids and who isn’t” debate has been so diluted, Jose Bautista, the MLB’s new home run king won’t even get a sniff of credit from me because I can’t trust any players. It was exciting baseball when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were going home run for home run and smashed the long ball and ratings record.  There wasn’t a more personally exciting season in baseball (besides the Phillies winning the 08 World Series of course) when Barry Bonds broke the home run record again. But allegations, confessions, and the “Mitchell Report” exposed the cheaters for who they were and baseball hasn’t recovered since.  It took the most exciting play in sports and made it as exciting as a bloop single.  The Home Run Derby was something that was to be desired (in 1998, Griffey Jr. won with a total of seven home runs).  It was hard to hit home runs, but now with undetectable human-growth hormones and performance-enhancing drugs, how can anyone appreciate David Ortiz or Robinson Cano hitting 18 home runs in the Home Run Derby?

That’s just the home run part of it.  I don’t even want to talk about the “show” of it. I do like the sportsmanship and how each player participating wants to see everyone do their best, but I can’t stand the production of the whole thing.  Do you really need Chris Berman screaming “Backbackbackbackback GONE! WHOOP! ROBINSON ‘IF YOU DON’T KNOW NOW YA’ CANO!” (He’s run his course, I loved the nicknames as a kid, but when he runs out of breath after each sentence and barely chokes out a few more words it’s time for him to retire.)?   Bring someone in with some personality and some energy like Stephen A. Smith; someone who will raise his voice and won’t use catch phrases (think about it, could you imagine Smith as a commentator?  One can dream…) It’s like the Super Bowl halftime show, there’s just too much going on.  It’s supposed to be an event every adult thinks back to their childhood when they would have home run derbies with their friends and children to appreciate the difficulty and purity of it.

Then there’s the likes if the Legend-Celebrity Softball game that was a good idea, but is saturated with too many no names. To have the kid who does the voice of “Go Diego Go” is ridiculous and desperate. And why do Ricky Henderson and Ozzie Smith play every year? There isn’t any other Hall of Famer that would want to play? And what’s the deal with everyone being miked up? I understand that it’s supposed to add a personal and comedic element, but the only problem is, they aren’t funny. Spare me the game, simplify everything a bit and save me as a baseball fan.

As for the All-Star game, it’s the same as every other All-Star game; boring.  It’s an exhibition match that doesn’t have the same energy like All-Star games in the past.  These players are multi-multi-million dollar earners and general managers and owners don’t want them getting hurt during an exhibition match.  What’s frustrating is the vote.  Pundits like Mike Golic can’t stand that every team is represented, but don’t mind when Derek Jeter (whose below-average season has been masked by his 3,000th hit) receives the American League starting shortstop over breakout star Asdrubal Cabrera, who is making the Cleveland Indians relevant again. What’s even more frustrating is the players who are voted into these All-Star games miss it for the sake of not wanting to play.  It is an absolute disrespect to the fans, which are directly responsible for the million-dollar contracts, to have them vote you in as a starter and then just abandon them. 

Back to Golic’s view of “every team being represented,” he needs to understand that there are small and big market teams.  Sure there are snubs, but it’s a necessary evil because if as many teams are losing money as the attendance shows then there has to be some glimpse of hope. For example, how many fans attend a Florida Marlins game, about 1,000? It’s not fair because 5 million fraudulent and front-running Yankees fan can vote in six of their players and the Marlins are left out.  And at the least the small market players actually SHOW up to the All-Star game instead of missing it.

So how did the MLB try to curtail (but failed) this?  They made the All-Star game worth something and now the winning league gets home-field advantage for the World Series.  Basically, regardless of how well a team performs throughout the season, if their team loses the All-Star game then they have to start the series with two games as the Away team. If the leagues had the same rules it wouldn’t be so bad, but the American League has a designated hitter compared to the National League where the pitchers hit.  So if the Phillies play the Red Sox in the World Series and American League wins the All-Star game, the Phillies will start the series in Boston, regardless if they have the better record.  Shame on you Bud Selig.

It’s not the worst of all the All-Star events (the NFL has that locked) and it gets by off of tradition.  But it won’t last forever and they need to adjust as soon as possible.

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Interleague Play is Good for Baseball

As the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox close their three game series I read my friend Steve’s Facebook and this is what he had to say.

“Why would anyone want to get rid of inter-league play? It’s only a few weeks a year and everyone gets excited about a series like this. So much better than [the Phillies] playing the Nationals and Marlins 40 times”

It’s a good point.  With a 162-game season and only five teams in each division it equates to a team playing everyone in their division 18 times a year. For example, in the National League East, the Phillies play the Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves 18 times each.  It’s a pro because fans can gauge how their team stacks up against the division or how strong division itself is. It creates rivalries that attract fans to the stadiums and creates a disdain for the opposing teams that causes excitement and passion.  But, the con is that they play each team 18 times usually in three or four game sets.  Think about it, do you really want the Phillies playing the Marlins or the Red Sox playing the Toronto Blue Jays 18 times a year? Interleague play breaks that up the mold that baseball has held onto for 150 years and refuses to budge on (but that’s a whole other story). 

Major League Baseball started interleague play in 1997 meaning before then, the only times the American and National Leagues met were during spring training, the All-Star game, exhibitions, and the World Series.  It was enjoyable as a National League and baseball fan to see the headlines on a newspaper of a guy named “Ted Williams” hitting .400 or Joe DiMaggio hitting for his 56th consecutive game.  There was purity and a beauty to finally catching a glimpse of these players and fans truly flocked to games they played in.   But, in the age of the Internet and absolute exposure to all things there are no surprises anymore.  You know what Josh Hamilton or Albert Pujols did AS they did it. You know what their swings are like, where they hit the ball, and what they look like.  You know how nasty Cliff Lee’s curveball and the streak that he is on  and you can watch the Phillies pitching staff without just reading about them. (Think about it, how much less exciting would Stephen Strasburg’s debut have been if it wasn’t during the age of the internet.  You would’ve had to read it in the newspaper the next day, completely missing out on the energy and electricity.) Until things like Williams hitting .400 or Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs in a season (granted on steroids) happen and bring a lot of attention, the MLB needs to adapt and save itself.  Interleague play is the first step to that.

Every year the NFL schedules a division from the National Football Conference to play a division against American Football Conference.  So over a span of four years, the Philadelphia Eagles will play the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and Baltimore Ravens.  What’s that mean?  The best teams from the NFC will eventually play the best teams from the AFC and when the best play then what happens? The best games, the best advertisements, the best ratings, and the best players.  If the NFL didn’t have their own version of interleague play then that would mean another division game and three is too many. So is 18.  If the Red Sox and Yankees played nine times or even eight, it would be a better rivalry (Is there any more overrated rivalry in sports? It’s a rivalry deep rooted in tradition, but only for those who are either baseball purists or those from Boston or New York. They play 18 times a year, how many times can ESPN say “The Best Rivalry in Sports” before we all say, “Wait this will be the 12th,13th,and 14th time they’ll be playing? It’s only July!” Spare me the forced drama.).  Interleague play allows for an increase in potential rivalry games and more important divisional games. For example, the New Yankee Stadium is about forty miles from Citi Field, but the Mets and Yankees would have only played in the 2000 World Series if it wasn’t for Interleague play.  That just doesn’t make sense.

There are arguments against interleague play with one side saying that no one wants to see a team ranked in the bottom of one division of the NL play against the bottom ranked team in one division of the AL.  Well there’s no parity in baseball as it is, the bad teams are always bad so why force the Phillies to play the Nationals 18 times when they can play the Texas Rangers six of those times. It’s a part of the damage control; the MLB should accept the losses that bad teams don’t raise attendance so let the best teams play the best more often. Why do you think the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics play every Christmas? The other part of that argument is that why teams would be interested in playing another that they don’t share any historical or geographical data with?  Again now that the internet is available, does that even matter? It becomes more about what players are in the game, not the city they play for.  In today’s age, would someone be angry that the San Francisco Giants are playing the Tampa Bay Rays because they’re so far apart or would someone be excited that Tim Lincecum is pitching against David Price?

The MLB has to learn how to adjust to a more hungry and growing sports market.  By limiting the times the best teams from both leagues are able to play each other, they are limiting their best product. The NFL has adjusted to the market and is by far the fastest growing and most popular sport in American culture.  The MLB has more purists and traditional fans, but they don’t make ratings, the casual fan does. (I call it the Tiger Woods effect, which I’ll expand on in the coming weeks, but every sport has a set fan base, but it’s those who don’t normally watch that determine if a sport will become popular.)  So having said all that, interleague baseball is meant to be enjoyed.

Jayson Werth Potentially “Got Paid”

  I apologize for not posting anything last week.  I had mid-terms so I had to spend my time studying. I think I failed my Italian mid-term. Molto, molto male.

  However, it’s back to business. 

I currently have a theory (which I believe even Bill Simmons himself would give credit to) that I mentioned during  “Shoutouts” in specific regards to Jayson Werth, the right fielder whom Philadelphia had fallen in and out of love with.  The same player whom fans held up signs saying “Werth it” after the questions of him re-signing with the Phillies started. The same five-tool player  who decided to take a 7 year $126 million contract and left Philly to take his talents to Washington D.C. 

I call it the “Got Paid” theory, excellent.  It states the following: “An athlete who, because of his recent performance, has received a large sum of money from an organization, whether it is from the athlete’s current or another organization, in hopes that he will continue with at least the same production.  However, said athlete’s performance usually declines at a steady rate until he is dubbed, including but not limited to, “overpaid” or a “bust.” 

Now I know there are a lot of overpaid athletes (Joe Johnson anyone?), but there are specific criteria that HAVE to fulfilled before the athletes can be deemed, “Got Paid.”

1. The athlete must have a productive season/s prior to the signing of a big contract.

2. The athlete must be a prized free agent during the off-season

3. The athlete must sign that contract with a team who finished worse than his current team during the prior season/s.

4. The expectations of the athlete must increase. Example: Houshmandzadeh being considered a top receiver when he signed with the Seahawks.

5. The athlete must have a significant drop in production during the years succeeding the signing of that big contract.

Look at some examples of athletes who “Got Paid” over the years.

Barry Zito – 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Oakland Athletics. He finished with a 23-5 record and a 2.75 ERA; Signed a 7 year $128 million deal with the San Francisco Giants and hasn’t had a winning season, nor has he been under a 4.00 ERA since.

TJ Houshmandzadeh – 2008 Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. He had 112 receptions for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns; Signed a 5 year $40 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks and posted 79 and 35 receptions in 2 years since.

Albert Haynesworth – Two time pro bowler for the Tennessee Titans and considered the prize of the 2009 off-season; Signed a 7 year $100 million contract and has been playing like this since.

 This should scare Werth because he did fall into his own slump last year as his contract situation became more and more imminent .   He arguably had his most productive season individually (I know, he couldn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position) in 2010 (step 1, check).  He signed with the Washington Nationals who only finished 22 games behind the Phillies in the division last year (step 2, check).  There is a lot on Werth this season as he is projected to be the National’s clean up hitter, (much different from his batting fifth on the Phillies where his main function was protecting Ryan Howard) and along with Ryan Zimmerman, becomes their biggest run producer.  It sounds like a tall order for a player who has never hit 100 RBI’s in his career.  With MLB contracts being guaranteed there is a comfort zone Werth can fall into because he is going to get the full payment of his contract regardless if he is cut or traded by the Nationals. We’ll see if he helps me get one step closer to turning my theory into a law.