Dec 29

NFL Gets It When It Comes To Scheduling; MLB Missing Boat

As I watched the NFL yesterday on the Red Zone – sports for those with ADHD – it came to me how much Major League Baseball could learn from football when it comes to scheduling.

All of yesterday’s games were played within the division, which illustrates a major flaw in baseball’s scheduling. There were ten games that had some kind of playoff implications, whether it was winning the division or playoff seeding.

Conversely, the Mets ended their season with an interleague game against Houston. Regular readers of this blog know I am vehemently against interleague play, but in particular on Opening Day and in September.

There was an interleague game nearly every day of the season, including two for home openers and eight series in September. How can you legitimately promote pennant races with that many September interleague series?

MLB would be wise if its September schedule, or at least the last three weeks of it, were played within the division. The Mets’ 2015 September interleague series is against the Yankees. If neither team is in the race then there could be a lot of empty seats at Citi Field.

Another thing the NFL does I like with its schedule is the opening week. Clearly, the NFL wrestled the “magic’’ of an Opening Day from baseball with its Thursday night game featuring the Super Bowl champion.

Baseball’s Opening Day used to highlight Washington – the team in the nation’s capital – and Cincinnati, the oldest franchise, the day before everybody else.

This past season, the first regular season game was played in March, while another team was still in its exhibition schedule. There have been other times, notably when the Yankees and Rays went to Japan, when the season openers were played abroad and those teams returned to complete their exhibition schedule.

Opening Day used to be special, now it’s a hodge-podge. The NFL gets it when it comes to scheduling while MLB is falling short.

Dec 19

Report Has Selig Getting $6 Million Annually

An ESPN report, although not confirmed by Major League Baseball, has departing commissioner Bud Selig receiving an annual $6 million salary.

SELIG: Nice parting gift.

SELIG: Nice parting gift.

While I have no problem with MLB spending as it chooses, I find it hypocritical as the driving force of Selig’s tenure was to cut player salaries. From free agency to arbitration, Selig – always an owner at heart – acted like he had to pay each contract.

Don’t forget, Selig’s legacy includes forcing the 1994 work stoppage that lead to the killing of the World Series that year. Selig’s hardball stance called for a salary cap and revenue sharing.

The stoppage lasted through the following spring, which featured replacement players.

The damage from this labor conflict lead to bleeding losses by MLB, which it tried to fix with fabricated home run races and the steroid era. Yes, friends, that’s courtesy of Selig and the owners.

Unquestionably, MLB is enjoying its most lucrative era in history and Selig merits some praise in this windfall.

Again, its MLB’s money and it can do with it what it chooses. But, let’s not overlook the hypocrisy in Selig’s tenure. That’s also part of his legacy.

Nov 08

Mets Hope Shortening Outfield Walls at Citi Will Prove Succesful

Citi-Field-New-Fences-2014

For the second time since moving into their new home in 2009, the New York Mets will be moving the outfield walls at Citi Field, reportedly bringing the right field wall closer to home plate, in an effort to help boost their overall homerun production, particularly power hitters such as David Wright and Curtis Granderson.

Following the 2011 MLB season, the Mets made significant changes to the ballpark dimensions at Citi Field, bringing in the left field wall by as much as 13 feet and right center field by 17 feet, and lowering the wall height to eight feet throughout the outfield.

In 2012, the first season played in their modified home, the Mets’ homerun production jumped from 108, 26th overall in the majors, to 139, with the biggest beneficiary being lefty first baseman Ike Davis, who hit a career-high 32 dingers to lead the team.

Although the Mets, who are pegged as 40/1 longshots to win the 2015 World Series in MLB Betting at sportsbooks available through www.bettingsports.com, have yet to comment on any planned modifications to the ball park, recently published aerial pics indicate that significant work on the outfield wall is already underway with the primary focus on the right center field area.

The upcoming changes are expected to be formally unveiled by the ball club in late November, and should provide a boost to the Mets’ power production, once again among the lowest in MLB in 2014, 20th overall with just 125 total. But shortening the porch also means changes are likely in store for the Mets’ pitching staff.

Veteran hurler Bartolo Colon and right hander Dillon Gee, who gave up 18 home runs in 22 appearances for the Mets this season will likely be moving on due to their susceptibility to give up long fly balls, many of which would carry as homers in the newly modified park. But with young hurlers Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, both ground ball pitchers, looking ready to take on bigger roles in Queens, the timing could not be better for the Mets.

New York is not the only ball club that has modified its ballpark’s dimensions in recent years in an effort to increase power production.

The Seattle Mariners significantly shortened the left field wall at Safeco Field prior to the 2013 MLB season, from 390 feet to 378 feet, while the right field fence was shortened by 11 feet as part of a major renovation at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park.

The moves produced immediate dividends for both west coast clubs with the Padres jumping from a MLB third-worst 121 dingers in 2012 to 146 in 2013, while the M’s jumped from a middling 149 long balls in 2012 to 188, second best in the majors in 2013.

Oct 29

Who Really Cares About The Ratings?

Word is the ratings for this World Series have been among the lowest ever. Probably because San Francisco and Kansas City aren’t marquee franchises.

Funny, but hasn’t Major League Baseball’s biggest argument for revenue sharing was to give the “small market’’ teams a chance at being competitive?

The Bay Area is a substantial market, but the Giants aren’t the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs or Red Sox, the so called glamour teams.

All along, MLB has been clamoring for competitive balance and when they get it, the gripe is nobody is watching.

Major League Baseball isn’t happy about this pairing, and FOX Sports isn’t happy. And, the fans of tomorrow and the elderly fans aren’t happy because the games are on too late.

Hopefully, somebody is enjoying this Series. Ratings? I don’t care about ratings. All I know is I am watching.

Oct 09

Are The Games Really Too Long?

As one of his last acts as baseball commissioner, Bud Selig wants to add “speeding up the game,’’ to his legacy.

A seven-member committee appointed by Selig to study the issue includes Mets GM Sandy Alderson, but no active players. MLB union director Tony Clark was designated to speak on behalf of the players.

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

After years of collaborative efforts between management and the players, it smacks of the early “bad old days’’ under Selig in which the owners acted unilaterally and strong-armed the players.

That led to bad blood and several work stoppages that included the sacking of the 1994 World Series. That too, in addition to the money MLB is making, is part of Selig’s legacy.

“It’s just important for us to have a say,’’ Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson told ESPN. “It doesn’t need to be all 750 of us. It’s just important to have three or four players who can say, ‘Hey, we’ve noticed this, and we feel this way.’ ’’

It is puzzling, and some might suggest hypocritical, that the sport without a clock is trying to speed up the pace of the game by forcing pitchers to work faster and hitters keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times.

During those lulls is when the players compose their thoughts and re-focus. Forcing the hitter back into the box or rushing the pitcher to throw could lead to mistakes and perhaps the outcome of the game.

At the best, they might shave three or four minutes off a game. Nobody has offered what else could be done in those four minutes.

The bottom line is if a game is played crisply and isn’t sloppy, nobody will complain about the length of the game. Who was complaining after the Giants-Nationals 18-inning playoff game?

Now, don’t go saying, “well, it’s the playoffs, it’s different.’’ It is different in one respect as there was no shortage of commercials between innings.

Unquestionably, the primary reason games might run long are the numerous commercial breaks between innings. However, don’t ask MLB to ask the networks for shorter commercials. If speeding up the game is that important, cut the commercial time. The networks demand the time so they can charge more and consequently pay the large rights fees.

No doubt some pitchers could stand to work faster as it would make them more efficient. I also grumbled at the likes of Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez who were excruciating if not painful to watch.

Part of the problem, management says, is the hitters take too many pitches. Isn’t that what Alderson wants his hitters to do? He’s been quoted numerous times as wanting his hitters to be more selective.

As for Joe Torre, his Yankee teams won four World Series in large part because of their ability to work the count and drive up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count. One of the most memorable moments of the 2000 Subway World Series was Paul O’Neill’s ninth-inning 10-pitch at-bat against Armando Benitez after falling behind 1-and-2 in the count.

That’s what those Yankee teams did. That’s what the Mets should do now. I’d much rather see Juan Lagares work the at-bat to eight pitches and draw a walk then swing at garbage and pop up.

Hey, if Ike Davis had bothered to learn that, he might still be with the Mets instead of wondering what happened to his career.

By its nature, baseball is an ebb-and-flow game, with lulls followed by bursts of action. When the hitter steps out, that’s when fathers and sons talk and bond. In the NBA and NFL, lulls are met with video clips and loud music. People don’t talk at those games.

Those conversations are how the game is passed from generation to generation, along with watching the playoffs on television, which is another topic.

This is another example that the caretakers of the game don’t understand their own product. Yes, there are games that last too long. If that’s the case and you are bored, turn the channel or get up and leave.

However, if the game is interesting, close and compelling, odds are you’ll use that time when the manager goes out to visit the pitcher to catch your breath.