Apr 06

Why Doesn’t Baseball Make Opening Day Special Again?

It is Opening Day damn it, it should be one of the best days – if not the very best – of every sports year. Then how come it isn’t? It’s because the people running the sport have no concept of the treasure they possess.

None.

Inside the grocery store in my town, there’s a little bank that posts a trivia question every week. The current question is: When is Opening Day for baseball? And, it listed five choices.

Now, if that doesn’t tell you about the state of the game, then what does?

Opening Day used to mean something. For years it opened in Cincinnati, home of the Reds, baseball’s oldest team, and in Washington, the nation’s capital. You never know when it is from year to year.

There’s always Internet chatter at making the Monday after the Super Bowl a holiday. Why? So people can sleep off their hangovers?

Tell me, what are the best days in sports? The Super Bowl is one, a monster for sure. How about the NFL championship game Sunday? Or the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?

The NFL has its Opening Weekend down pat with the Super Bowl champ starting on the Thursday before the first Sunday. Baseball’s start used to be in the nation’s spotlight, but it foolishly gave away that day, which is also part of Bud Selig’s legacy.

We’ve had the first game of the baseball season start several times in Japan, with those teams returning to the United States for more spring training games. Yeah, they had the think tank working overtime for that one.

Baseball 2015 started Easter Sunday night in frigid Chicago at the construction site known as Wrigley Field, where there were only two restrooms on the main concourse. Nobody thought to order portable restrooms, of course. Did anybody notice those photos of cups of urine lined up?

It would have been great to get a comment from new commissioner Rob Manfred. Maybe he’ll have something to say on the time of the game, which was over three hours.

The game, by the way, was broadcast on MLB Network, which much of the country doesn’t have. Today’s games include an interleague match-up with the Red Sox in Philadelphia. Interleague play is tough to stomach already, but under no circumstances should there be interleague games on Opening Day.

There are also three games that start at, or after, 7 p.m., EDT, that would be in conflict with the NCAA Championship. Two are to be telecast on ESPN. Who is the marketing genius behind that one?

Sports will conflict with each other, but can’t anybody look at a calendar to see what they are up against? Why not give the NCAA the first Monday, and let baseball have Tuesday? Go wall-to-wall games starting at noon and running to midnight. Now, that should be a national holiday.

Baseball talks about the need to market itself better, especially for the next generation, but it doesn’t get it. This little tweak can spark the imaginations of kids across the country.

My late father understood it on April 7, 1970, when he took my brother and I out of school for the day to watch the Indians on Opening Day against Baltimore. Dave McNally against Sam McDowell.

Despite his note, the school did not approve, but he took us out anyway. He reasoned we would take more from being at that game than anything we would have learned that day in class.

He was right. Baseball was very big in our home, and it still is in our family. That’s how you cultivate the fans of tomorrow.

Looking back, he was right, and it is one of my fondest memories of him.

My dad got it 45 years ago. I wonder how many fathers around the country got it today, and will get it next Monday and take their kids to Citi Field.

What I do know, is the people running Major League Baseball don’t get it.

ON DECK: What is with the Opening Day lineup?

Feb 18

Today In Mets History: Mets, Jets Sign Contract

Gone are the days when baseball and football teams shared the same venue. Once the Athletics get their own stadium, or the Raiders bolt Oakland again, an era in American sports will be over.

For a long time the Mets and Jets shared Shea Stadium, and who can forget 1969-1970 when the Mets won the World Series and Jets won the Super Bowl. And, the Knicks won the NBA title in the spring of 1970.

On this date in 1977, the Jets signed on to stay at Shea Stadium. However, it wouldn’t be long before they would bolt for the Meadowlands.

 

Feb 01

Looking At The Super Bowl

I don’t have a dog in this Super Bowl fight, and seemingly that’s the way it is for most of the country.

Unless you’re from Boston or Seattle, there’s little about either team that draws you to them. There’s little endearing about these teams; there’s nothing that gives you the warm and fuzzies.

Oh, there might be a player or two who is interesting, but its not as if either of these teams are Green Bay, Denver or Dallas.

Neither team qualifies as an underdog, so that angle is gone.

There’s no denying the talent of the Seahawks and Patriots, but what’s the human interest hook that compels one to pull for either team?

As talented as the Seahawks are, there’s edginess, an in-your-face persona with many of their players. There’s Marshawn Lynch’s crotch grabbing and interview defying. And, there’s the decibel challenging noise emanating from Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin that makes you wonder, where did class go with today’s athletes?

As for New England, there are the cheating accusations, past and present, and the smugness of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Patriots make you think whatever happened to character?

So, for me the storyline of this Super Bowl is the battle of Seattle’s “class’’ against New England’s “character.’’

Like I said, I don’t have a dog in this Super Bowl. Since they both can’t lose, I think I will pull for the team that doesn’t cheat.

Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Oct 26

World Series Return To St. Louis Reminder Of MLB Gimmicks

Can you imagine in the NBA finals with the team holding the home court advantage being allowed to shoot a three-point shot while the other is not? Can you imagine one team in the Super Bowl allowed to go for a two-point conversion while the other is not?

However, Major League Baseball continues on with its inane designated-hitter rule, which is a blatant advantage to the National League. It defines unfairness, and with it also reminds us of some of the issues that takes away from the sport.

Whether you are for the Red Sox or not, you must admit the unfairness of them being denied an aspect of their game that they played with all season.

That’s just one more aspect of how MLB devalues its most valuable entity, which is the World Series. Another is the decision to award home field to the league that wins the totally unrelated exhibition otherwise known as the World Series.

For nearly a century home field was determined on a rotating basis. To go away from tradition to boost the sagging interest of the All-Star Game, brought on by the gimmick of interleague play is part of the legacy of Bud Selig’s tenure as commissioner.

This is one of the rare seasons when the teams with the best record in each league reached the World Series. Now that they are here, it doesn’t seem right a gimmick, a fad, could dictate the winner.

Why leave it to chance?  Either both leagues play with the designated hitter or they do not. Stop with the fads and let the best part of your game – the World Series – shine.

And, do it at a time of night that enables tomorrow’s fans, and ticket buyers, to stay up to watch. It’s a great game and everything should be done to take care of it and show it in its proper light, with none of these detracting issues.