Mar 28

Traditions keep slip sliding away

One by one the traditions of the sport fade and disappear. Some, like all day games, travel by train and fielders leaving their gloves in the field after each inning naturally became outdated and obsolete, and no longer create a sense of longing.

Others, such as interleague play, day baseball during the World Series, alignment  and the designated hitter can still strike a chord and to some remain hot-button issues.

I was reminded today of another of baseball’s passing traditions, and that is Opening Day. The first game of the season was always played in Cincinnati, then Washington. That’s the way it was for decades. I’ll always remember the President of the United States throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the season.

For one day each spring, the sporting world belonged to baseball and Opening Day. The NCAA Tournament had passed and the NFL draft was weeks away. The NBA and NHL were playing out there seasons, but for one day in early April it was nothing but baseball.

The sport was center stage with no competition.

However, Major League Baseball, in its marketing greed has given that away. Now, the real opening day belongs to the NFL, with a Thursday night national game and the rest of the schedule on Sunday.

Not so baseball anymore. It gave up its spot on center stage when it opted to open in late March with games in Japan. I don’t care if a team wants to go over there during spring training, or even play a series during the season, but Opening Day?

After your fans have been waiting all winter for the renewal of the new season, the first games are played half-way across the world. Even more ridiculous, is that regular season games are played the same time spring training games are still in session.

Why doesn’t Major League Baseball reclaim center stage by making Opening Day on the Tuesday after the NCAA title game, or perhaps the Sunday after the Final Four. And, play the games in the United States.

Baseball still claims itself our national pasttime, but it makes for a weak argument when it plays Opening Day on the other side of the ocean.

 

Mar 20

Wilpon needs to take Wright stance

Yesterday was a good day for the Mets. Not only did they receive a favorable settlement in the Madoff case, but completed the sale of 12 minority ownership shares at $20 million a shot for a total of $240 million.

WRIGHT: This has been a frustrating time for Wright.

The Mets claim to have lost $70 million last season, and the new money will pay off loans to Major League Baseball ($25 million) and Bank of American ($40 million). They should be able to sustain their operating expenses for this season.

The Mets have a three-year break before they required to pay any of the $162 million from the settlement, so there is some sense of relief in clarity as they attempt to budget until that time.

What then?

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Feb 29

It’s not going to end here

They are still talking about adding an extra wild card , but it won’t end there. The one-game playoff is bound to drag on to three games, then five ….

I realize the old format will never be again, but the more you add to the playoff format the more the sport is diluted. The season drags on long enough as it is and this won’t help matters. What if there’s two teams vying for the final seed? Do you add another game?

The suggested format would allow the three division winners first-round byes, but what if one of the wild cards has a superior record to a division winner.  That’s not entirely fair, either.

As it is, the integrity of the regular season is compromised because of interleague play the unbalanced schedule as not every team runs the same race to October. Unfortunately, I never see them doing away with interleague play although it is not nearly the success Major League Baseball portrays it to be. Interleauge play is compelling in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, but other than that, who really cares?

Yes, they’ll show up in Pittsburgh when the Yankees are in town, but there’s nothing exciting about seeing the Royals or Mariners come in. There’s just not the draw MLB executives believe.

Sadly, as long as Bud Selig is commissioner, interleague play is here to stay.

If they really want to do something about the integrity of the regular season, and by extension, the playoffs, here’s a system that could work.

I’d do away with the division format and simply have the two leagues. If they insist on interleague play, they could structure it where every team plays the same schedule. The same schedule promotes fairness.

From there, I’d take the top four teams and seed them so one plays four and two plays three. That would  be a fairer and more equitable solution.

 

 

 

Jan 05

Torre has to be frontrunner for Dodgers.

There are some impressive, heavyweight syndicates vying to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the latest entry the clear frontrunner in my opinion.

TORRE: From bench to boardroom?

I’m thinking slam dunk for Joe Torre.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, has potentially the most financial clout, but Bud Selig and the owners will likely view him as a loose cannon, much the way NBA commissioner David Stern does.

The Magic Johnson and Steve Garvey groups bring a local flavor, but they don’t have the cache of Torre.

As the sale of the Boston Red Sox proved, Selig leans toward his favorites and has long admired Torre. That Torre worked for Selig last season also gives him an insight into the inner workings of Major League Baseball the other groups lack.

Torre is a leader on so many levels, with respect within the baseball community and the Los Angeles business community. This is a man with integrity and clout. If he’s truly sincere in this endeavor, I can’t see the team being sold to anybody but him.

 

 

May 13

Unanswered questions about pending Mets sale.

There are more than a few things racing through my mind regarding the pending 49 percent of the Mets by the Wilpons. While the Wilpons will receive some financial relief, these questions remain:

Does the $200 million go to the Wilpons, or will it be put back into the team in the form of repaying the $25 million debt to Major League Baseball and to player acquisition?

Should the Madoff scandal go to court as expected and the Mets lose, what then? If the Wilpons are forced to sell, will the minority investor become the majority owner, or will the remaining 51 percent be sold piecemeal or in one unit?

What direction will the team take with the new minority investor? Can we interpret this to mean the Mets will be able to re-sign Jose Reyes, or will the team continue its austerity program?

What will the Mets’ new budget be for 2012 and beyond? We still won’t expect the Mets to be buyers at the trade deadline, regardless of how well the team is playing at the time.