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.

 

Mar 14

Dillon Gee Wild In Mets 9-1 Loss To Tigers

dillon gee

The Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Mets this afternoon by the score of 9-1 at Tradition Field. Most of the damage came against starting pitcher Dillon Gee who was absolutely awful and completely out of sync.

Gee had no control as evidenced by his four walks, two hit batters and three wild pitches in just two innings of work. The right-hander will need to get things sorted out very quickly if the Mets are to improve their MLB betting odds for this season. Gee was charged with six earned runs and didn’t beat around the bush after the game when he was asked if any particular pitch was giving him trouble. “All of them [gave me trouble], terrible.”

The  finally tally on balls and strikes told the story; 53 pitches and only 24 strikes.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN, Gee said he did not care to throw additional pitches in the bullpen after the outing. He instead just wanted to turn the page on a lousy day.

I agree, turn the page…

Feb 20

Pete Rose Not In The Cards

There is nitpicking, there is pettiness, and there is Major League Baseball policy, which is in a category by itself. There’s no other way to explain my reaction to what I just read.

TOPPS baseball cards, of which I have tens of thousands, banned Pete Rose from its 2013 set. TOPPS not only won’t have Rose’s picture on any cards, but also won’t put his name on the back in a feature called “Career Chase,’’ where a current player is listed to how close he is to the all-time record. Since Rose has the record with 4,256 hits – his name won’t be found.

urlRose was banned from baseball for gambling on the sport, including on his own team, and because TOPPS has the exclusive right to produce MLB-licensed cards, Rose is ineligible to be listed. According to the letter of the contract, TOPPS is within its right to omit Rose, but this comes off as petty and vindictive by both the card maker and MLB.

The object of the game is to hit the ball, and nobody did it more than Rose. It’s like when Stalin had his opponents’ names and pictures stricken from the Russian history books. Stalin had them killed and names erased, but it doesn’t alter the fact they existed. MLB and TOPPS can’t issue an edict on Rose otherwise.

Rose exists and excelled at his game. In the process, he generated millions of dollars in ticket sales, memorabilia and souvenirs for MLB. If MLB wants to ban Rose from holding a baseball job I have no problems with that. However, banning Rose from all things baseball is petty and cruel spirited.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum, and despite its strong ties with MLB, it is still a museum. History is not neat and clean, it is messy and tumultuous, and its characters not always emblematic of the best human stock. The Hall of Fame is loaded with those who drank, cheated on their spouses, were racists who never wanted Jackie Robinson in the game, and even murdered.

Continue reading

Feb 10

What I Make Of Piazza Admission

I concede disappointment in Mike Piazza’s admission in his autobiography he took androstenedione, but only because it further lends to speculation he might have used PEDs.

From andro to steroids is the logical, but unsubstantiated conclusion. Once again, Piazza denied using steroids, but this certainly won’t enhance his Hall of Fame chances. Piazza received over 50 percent of the vote, but still was far short of induction. Part of that percentage was from my vote, and for that I still have no regrets.

My criteria was there was no admission of steroid use; he never failed a drug test; was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report; and nobody accused him on the record. There was only the subject of columns pointing out his back acne. To me, Piazza had the statistical career to warrant induction and the acne is only innuendo. As a journalist, I don’t operate on speculation.

Andro was not a banned substance by MLB when Piazza claims to have used it, nor was it illegal. Steroids, however, are different in that before they were banned by MLB, they were illegal in society without a prescription.

Regarding PEDs, Piazza wrote:  “Apparently, my career was a story that nobody cared to believe. Apparently, my success was the work of steroids. Had to be. Those were the rumors. … It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids. I didn’t.’’

Of course, Piazza could by lying. Lance Armstrong lied. Pete Rose lied. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa lied. It wouldn’t be a shock, but for now I believe him and do not regret giving him my Hall of Fame vote.

 

Feb 10

What To Make Of Schilling, Braun And A-Rod

There are several things I want to bring to the blog on a regular basis, something you can depend on. Beginning with a Sunday column centering on the main story of the week.

It is a shame, but the week leading up to the start of spring training was dominated by stories of PEDs. It will never end. There will always be somebody wanting to gain an edge. There will always be cheating. Is it human nature? Yeah, I think so, sadly.

First, Alex Rodriguez. Is anybody really surprised to hear he’s in trouble again? It’s bad enough to be linked again to PEDs, but to come out and say MLB and the Yankees are out to get him? Why not leave well enough alone?

He already hired a big-time lawyer, so he should let his mouthpiece do the talking for him. Sure, the Yankees will try to void his contract, but the MLB Players Association will make it a costly fight. It’s not my money, but if I ran the Yankees I’d go for it, just to send a message.

Rodriguez was not suspended after his admission, so if he’s suspended this time it will be for only 50 games. Bud Selig needs to take that step.

The decision the Yankees must make is whether they believe Rodriguez will ever be healthy enough to be a viable player again. If they decide no, then they might has well try to buy him out or release him outright rather than have him be a distraction for the next five years.

Either way, it could cost them $114 million. And, no way will Rodriguez retire and walk away from that money.

Ryan Braun is proving to be a disappointment and somebody not to be trusted. Yes, he got off on a technicality, but I’m not buying his reasoning his named popped up in the Florida case because he was getting information for his defense. If you’re Braun, you have access to the best lawyers and medical advise available. Why wouldn’t you seek help from a professional instead of going to a shady clinic in a strip mall, one with a checkered history with MLB? If nothing else, wouldn’t the Players Association give him that advice.

Finally, there’s Curt Schilling, who can be a blowhard at times. Including this one. To come out and accuse a member of the Red Sox staff of suggesting he use PEDs while standing in the middle of a crowded clubhouse is absurd.

Although Schilling didn’t mention any names – only that they were no longer with the organization – didn’t mean it couldn’t be figured out who he was talking about. It is highly unlikely, that in a crowded clubhouse, with media access that this would happen. If such a suggestion were made, it would be in private.