Apr 29

David Price-Tom Hallion Solution: Put A Mike On The Umpires

Call it a hunch, but I believe David Price on this one with his beef with umpire Tom Hallion, which again leads us to the issue of the “umpire problem,’’ in Major League Baseball.

As he walked off the mound to end the seventh inning yesterday, Price and Hallion exchanged words, and the pitcher said the umpire told him “to throw the ball over the f—– plate.’’

HALLION: Has to walk away.

HALLION: Has to walk away.

Hallion denied it and called Price a liar.

Later, as all athletes do these days, Price took to Twitter: “1. I am not a liar 2. I would not make that stuff up 3. My own dad doesn’t speak to me that way 4. Again I am not a liar. #accountability.’’

The quality of umpiring has long been an issue, and along with it the umpire’s sensitivity to criticism. The rub is they are too confrontational and have rabbit years, meaning they don’t let things slide and seek out an argument. It is as if they are looking for a fight.

The umpire is supposed to be the one who is objective and calm, so why was it necessary for Hallion to yell at Price from a distance? Walk up to him calmly and say your piece. Or, better yet, ignore it and realize that with players there’s going to be emotional displays of frustration, with not all of it directed at the umpires.

Major League Baseball is enjoying unmatched financial revenues so it can afford to make improvements in his area that should reduce the tensions between the players and umpires, and more importantly, get it right. There’s ways to make this a less adversarial relationship, at least on the surface.

Let’s start with instant replay. I concede they’ll never have replay on balls-and-strikes, but there’s no reason not to use it for more than just home run calls. Unlike football, the baseball action is primarily focused on fixed locations like the foul lines, outfield wall and bases.

It is absurd not to take advantage of the high-definition technology. Have a representative from MLB in the pressbox, or have the video examined in a central location like the NHL does for its replays or the networks have for their “instant replay’’ expert on the NFL telecasts.

Finally, all umpires should be have microphones they can’t control so exchanges like the one Price and Hallion had can be properly evaluated and eliminate the “he said, he said,’’ issue.

A miked-up Hallion would tell us instantly who is telling the truth, and perhaps more importantly, prove a deterrent to umpires compelled to interject themselves into the emotions of the game.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: Harvey goes for Mets in Miami.

 

Apr 12

Mets Need To Weather The Storm In Minny

target-field-snowOf all the tweets in all the world of Twitter, the one with Target Field blanketed in snow is the most telling.

There is five inches of snow with more forecast in Minneapolis where the Mets play tonight. The high for the series is forecast at a blustery 43 degrees. It will be colder with the wind.

I would love to see Twins owner Jim Pohlad sit with Commissioner Bud Selig in short sleeves tonight in a vain attempt to convince us the weather is fine. But, it isn’t and probably won’t be much better next week in Denver, where it also snows any time.

It is true scheduling isn’t about one team but all 30 and you can’t predict the weather. However, it is also true MLB created this issue, and first did so with the increase to 30 teams from 20 when the Mets were born in 1962.

The insistence of a 162-game schedule stretched the season from the first week of April into October. Factor increased playoff rounds with the last two – including World Series – lasting up to seven games and we’re brushing against November.

There’s too much money to be made over 162 games and the playoffs – the vehicle for the networks to shill for their programming – so they won’t think to cut there.

Nonetheless, Major League Baseball made things more difficult for itself with interleague play, and now, interleague play every day of the season.

With interleague play comes the unbalanced schedule, which means not every team runs the same race in a season. By definition, that means the schedule has no integrity to it, thereby making it unfair.

Unfortunately, Selig loves interleague play, so that won’t change, either. Interleague play has become part of Selig’s legacy, and I don’t think in a good way.

I don’t believe MLB’s economic growth is directly attributable to interleague play as it is to the steroid era which brought on the great power numbers; the construction of new stadiums in both leagues; almost 15 years of the Yankees and Red Sox on top which increases everybody’s attendance and TV ratings; better television deals because of cable; and to Selig’s credit, the international marketing of the sport and continued labor peace.

The great influx of money made MLB, its teams and the Players Association willing to accept the playing in horrible conditions, where injuries and pitcher’s arms are at risk. Instead of improved conditions, the players union settled for more money. Seriously, don’t worry about ending a career because you’ve got enough money to retire for life at age 32.

Things happen and weather is unpredictable, but MLB can still do things to put the odds in its favor while keeping most everything it has going for it now, things that came with the cost of tradition.

First, what genius approved an open-air stadium in Minneapolis? There’s inclement weather this time of year in the Northeast and Midwest, but Minnesota is a different animal. It can snow there for another week or so and almost any time in mid-October.

If they weren’t smart enough to build a dome where it snows seven months in the year, then play the Royals or Indians or White Sox in April, teams that are easier to reschedule later.

Yesterday, the Yankees were out of their division and had a rainout in Cleveland for a second straight day. They now will have a doubleheader on an off-day and play 17 games in 16 days. That makes for tired players and poor pitching, but who cares about putting the best product on the field?

“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this.’’

From a business standpoint, the Indians can’t like playing the Yankees in April, when the crowds are down. They’d rather play them later when there’s a chance for a sellout.

It’s pounding a square peg into a round hole to play interleague and non-divisional play in April. The first two weeks of the season should be within the division so make-ups are easier to reschedule.

I’ve suggested this several times, even talked with players and club officials who believe it is a good idea, and that is the scheduling of day-night doubleheaders.

In this case, MLB can make the unbalanced schedule work to its advantage. Because you’re playing 18 games within the division, have several day-nighters each month. Not only does this give the owners the gates they want, but provides more off-days to make rescheduling easier.

Nobody likes to play in horrible weather conditions, and nobody likes to sit in them, either. However, this is an issue because MLB lacks the willingness or foresight to change something within its control.

Apr 02

Mets Have MLB’s Highest Winning Percentage On Opening Day

opening day ceremonies

The attendance for Opening Day at Citi Field was 41,053 and it was a complete sellout. The team later announced that another 1,000 tickets on top of that were given away to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Newsday reports that it was the 15th straight year the Mets sold out their home opener.

You could see plenty of empty seats once the pre-game ceremonies got underway, but by the end of the second inning the place was packed and the throngs of fans were vocal and could be heard throughout the broadcast. The 42,000+ all got to see a great game.

The Mets have always reigned supreme when it came to Opening Days and yesterday’s 11-2 win was no different. In fact, the Mets improved their Opening Day winning percentage to an MLB-best .654 (34-18).

Mar 22

MLB And Selig Off Base In Latest Suit

There’s arrogance and there’s Major League Baseball arrogance, which is on another level.

Major League Baseball, as often has been the case when things don’t go its way, resorted to strong-arm tactics and finally the courts in its futile effort to get confidential documents from Biogenesis and its operator, Anthony Bosch. Major League Baseball filed suit today in South Florida to force Bosch to open his filing cabinet to commissioner Bud Selig and his legal storm troopers to have Biogenesis surrender documents it is not entitled to.

SELIG: Something not right, here.

SELIG: Something not right, here.

Selig wants Biogenesis to do his dirty, investigative work for him. Selig, infuriated that 90 baseball players are named on Bosch’s files, wants those documents so he can go after the players, namely Ryan Braun, whose lawyer outsmarted MLB’s hired gun when the Brewers’ MVP escaped a 50-game drug suspension on a technicality.

There is an appeals process jointly agreed to by MLB and the union and the sport lost. Now, move on.

Still, Selig clearly has it in for Braun and can’t let it go. Could be he’s going through his phone book now for Howie Spira’s number? Just who is advising this man?

Major League Baseball is threatening players and teammates – reportedly even offering immunity in some cases – for information on the 90.  Where is the Major League Baseball Players Association now in defending its constituency? Smacks of McCarthyism.

This should be thrown out on grounds of general principles. Seriously, doesn’t MLB think these things through?

Major League Baseball, as you know, has a dreadful, almost Mets-like record in the courts. It lost every time the union sued them for bargaining in bad faith, it lost in its collusion defense, it lost against Barry Bonds, it lost against Roger Clemens, and it will lose here.

Frankly, MLB couldn’t win if the other side had a signed confession.

Biogenesis was contracted to the players it individually serviced, not to their teams or MLB as an entity. Why do you think the players went there in the first place?

Biogenesis had no contract with MLB, and therefore violated nothing and didn’t wrong the sport other than bad publicity, of which it generates enough of its own in the first place.

Biogenesis has no legal obligation to oblige MLB in its request, and frankly, if it did, it would probably be vulnerable to lawsuits from the players for violating their privacy. Biogenesis might not be the most reputable organization in its field, but patients of it still should have reasonable expectations of privacy and not having their names surrendered in a witch-hunt.

Selig’s legacy is tainted at best. There’s no doubt he brought riches to the owners, in large part by ignoring the use of steroids in the late 1990’s and glorification of the sham that became the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in an effort to spike attendance after the 1994 players strike.

Selig forced the strike by trying to push a salary cap on the union after MLB was stung on collusion charges. The union didn’t trust Selig, who drew pointed criticism from his predecessor, Fay Vincent.

“The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf (Chicago White Sox owner) of that money from the players,’’ Vincent said. “I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it’s the reason (former union leader Donald) Fehr has no trust in Selig.’’

That strike, subsequent killing of the 1994 World Series and resultant steroids scandal will be how he’s remembered. He’s legitimately trying to clean up the sport, but this isn’t the right way. This further damages him.

Why doesn’t he learn?

Mar 19

Changes That Could Improve Baseball

The NFL is contemplating a rule where running backs can’t duck their heads when outside the tackle box. Like the rule or not, unlike baseball, football is proactive when it comes to rule changes and adjustments in the game.

It isn’t as if Major League Baseball has to appeal to the Supreme Court for changes. Some could be negotiated through the Collective Bargaining Agreement, where others are common sense.

So, with the Mets off today, let’s look into the following changes that could be made to improve the quality of play:

INSTANT REPLAY: Expansion is being considered and rightly so. If they have replay, do it right. Nobody expects it on balls and strikes, although the TV pitch tracker box shows a lot of mistakes. Unlike football and basketball, where action occurs all over the field, much of baseball’s action happens at fixed locations, such as the bases, foul lines and outfield wall. Cameras can easily be focused on those key spots. There are out-safe calls on the bases, as well as fair and foul, that could be overturned with a minimum of time. It would take a fifth umpire located in the press box with monitors. Should take no more than a couple of minutes to get it right, and MLB has the money for the extra umpire.

THE UMPIRES: There is an adversarial relationship between players/managers and umpires. Too many umpires have a short fuse and eject at the slightest debate. So, put a microphone on them they can’t control to record arguments. Not only will it show umpires sometimes being in the wrong, but it also can be taped and sold for extra marketing bucks. Who wouldn’t want a DVD of greatest umpire-manager fights?

SCHEDULING: The scheduling is a mess that creates problems. For example, why are the San Diego Padres opening the season at Citi Field? The weather is ugly in April, so the first month should be mostly within the division so games can be made up easier. If the Padres-Mets game is bagged, it will be hard searching for a make-up date. Why put the Padres, or any team, in position of crossing three time zones to make up a game? Just makes no sense.

THE GETAWAY GAME: The last game in any series, if not followed by an off day, should be in the afternoon. As it is, teams don’t get into the next city until 3 or 4 in the morning, and players are exhausted for the next game. Players can be seen in the clubhouse before the first game of a series guzzling coffee and Red Bull. The quality of play suffers when the players are tired, so why not put them in the best position to succeed? Alert players give the fans a better product. Also, it provides teams at least another couple of day games in a month and what’s not to like about day baseball?

THE DAY-NIGHT DOUBLEHEADER: If MLB insists on interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, there will continue to be 19 games a year against teams in the division. Familiarity does breed contempt, so perhaps this contributes to an attendance fall off at the end of a season. If a day-night doubleheader were scheduled once or twice a month (at home and the road), it would clear 12 days, which could be used for extra off-days and make-up games. I’ve spoken to many players who would rather have the doubleheader if it meant another off day. This format could schedule shorten the season by up to a week and start the playoffs earlier. Anything to alleviate November baseball. I know they’ll never go for the traditional doubleheader because of not wanting to give up the gate, but this is feasible.

BODY ARMOR: This padding on the elbow has to go. If you’re protecting an injury, fine, but players are taking advantage of the padding and therefore don’t fear the inside pitch. Not fair. Barry Bonds spend the last four or five years of his career not having to worry about being plunked.

PITCHER SHIELD: Can’t a light helmet with a face shield for pitchers be designed to protect them from line drives to the head and face? They made helmets mandatory for base coaches after a coach was killed after being struck in the head. Does somebody else have to be seriously injured or killed before something is done?

SUSPENSIONS: When a player is suspended for throwing at a hitter or using a corked bat, his penalty should come against the team he was playing against at the time. Just seems a fairer way. And, why does the player usually have to wait until the next time his team plays in New York before an appeal? There’s teleconferencing and conference calls, so what’s the big deal?

There are countless of other possible changes, but these are a few that have been rattling in my mind. I’d like to hear if you have others.