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But Seriously Folks: The All-Star Game Friday, July 1, 2011

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
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140 characters simply isn’t enough to contain my animosity for the All-Star game selection, which begins in earnest on Sunday.  Our votes have been cast, and the starting lineup will be announced then.  But at what cost?

Please note that if the All-Star game was truly the popularity contest it once was, I wouldn’t be complaining about any of this.  But in the words of Bud Selig himself, “it matters” now.  And home team advantage in the World Series is nothing to sneeze at.  In the 8 years since it’s “mattered,” the home team (5 of 8 times) has come out on top.

Where’s my beef? It has to do with modern stuffing of the ballot boxes.  This happens to a small degree in the National League, but the clear offenders have to be the persistent Yankees and Red Sox at the top of the ballot every year in the AL.  The winners have yet to be announced of course, but at last count, 7 of 9 starting positions for the American League were Red Sox or Yankees, with a potential of 8 of 9 a clear possiblity thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury knocking on the door for the final outfielder position.

The only non-YankSox player that clearly has a shot is the phenomenal Jose Bautista, but one has to wonder whether a sweep would be possible had he not found a recent penchant for the long ball and Carl Crawford’s supporters had pushed him higher in the voting.

In 1957, The Reds stuffed the ballot box and Commissioner Ford Frick had to step in and name a couple other players so they wouldn’t take over the AL roster.  Nobody big… just Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. And remember that this was back before the All-Star game “mattered.”

The way things have lined up recently, it’s time for Selig to get off his ass and take a stand. Clearly, this is nothing but a popularity contest, but there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s just an exhibition game.  Why we all have to deal with this nonsense because of Selig’s gaffe in 2002 is beyond me.  You want to continue this tradition?  Kill the home field advantage.  Lean on the amazingly popular home run derby, and let it be a straight out popularity contest.  Elect as many Yankees and Red Sox as you want, but don’t pretend that this game “matters.”

World Baseball Classic: The Perfect Plan Friday, March 20, 2009

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Today, ESPN’s Jayson “Why is there an insufferable ‘y’ in my name” Stark published an article where he outlined a few possible plans for future World Baseball Classics.  I’d like to begin by saying that this man is a dolt and that the plan that I will outline here is better by far.

Why a new way?  Because there are some problems, mainly here in the United States.  Normally, I’d say forget the U.S. (especially with millions of international fans clamoring for more WBC), but as it’s an MLB-run event, I’ll give in.  The problem mainly involves Spring Training.  Currently, the WBC is set to coincide with spring events every four years.  

This is a two-fold problem:  First, the wimpy American players aren’t ready yet (Japan and Cuba and others play year-round).  I’m sick and tired of journalists whining that the American and other MLB players aren’t at full potential during this tournament, so it’s not a true battle of the best.  As annoying as those statemens have become, there’s a legitimate piece to it.  If we want this tourney to be a true test, everyone needs to be at full potential.  And despite Bud Selig’s insistence that March is the only time to do this tournament, he’s wrong.

And speaking of wrong, Stark’s idiotic plan is to run a play-in tournament and then a final during the All-Star break in July.  When does he want to run the play-in? “Want to play it in October? November? February? March? Whatever works best for all concerned.”  What???!  That doesn’t even address the primary issue of why this tournament isn’t working!  But getting back on track…

The second reason this isn’t working is because MLB teams (and the players) don’t want the players rushing themselves into competitive play that soon before April.  Thus the reason for bizarre pitch count rules and forcing some of the best arms to wait days at a time before they’re eligible to pitch again.  Does anyone remember the 2001 World Series?  Two pitchers, Johnson and Schilling, carried the Diamondbacks to victory on their own!  Pitching back to back and in surprise relief made it one of the most exciting series of all time.  

We need that for the WBC.  We need pitchers to be able to pull off a Dice-K-like high school championship performance (He threw 148  pitches to shut out one game, threw 250 pitches in 17 innings to win the next, took a day off in the one after that to play left field and still pitch relief to get the win, and pitched a no-hitter in the final!).

So what is my brilliant solution?  How can we make this tournament a truly international success?  Here’s the plan:

It’s quite simple, really.  Move spring training up once every four years.  Arizona and Florida are still sunny and warm in February, right?  Let spring training happen as usual.  We only need to adjust 3 weeks to clear room for this tournament.  Which means starting first thing in February.  Do the catchers and pitchers really need that much time to prep before games start?  Please.  These are professional athletes we’re talking about here.  If they aren’t keeping their million-dollar bodies in shape in the off-season, then screw ’em.

As for holding this in July in some sort of massive week of baseball as Stark suggests… are you serious?  We all know the All-Star game sucks, but c’mon.  This tournament is about more than American baseball.  I don’t really think interrupting multiple international league seasons is really the best way to go.  Instead, if we’re moving up spring training, let’s move up the baseball season, too.  March Madness be damned!  So now, every four years, the season starts in the second week of March.  That’s not such a big deal, is it?  Or maybe it’s even easier to just move up the season every year.

And as for the WBC, when does that fit in?  At the end of the season, of course.  The way it’s scheduled this year, if we play a game 7 in the World Series, it will take place in November, which is already ridiculous.  So for those of you who say that football will interfere with the WBC if we play it in the fall, guess what?  We already do!  There’s no way around it.

As for the actual layout of the now mid-October 2013 WBC tournament, let me suggest one thing:  We expand the number of teams to 32, with the 8 that got into round two in the previous tournament getting an automatic bid.  That means that this year, only Japan, Korea, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, United States, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands get to sit out the first few days of the tournament.  The other 24 teams would have to compete in a play-in style to take place over the course of just a few days.  This might include doubleheaders to continue to fit in the successful double elimination method of this year’s Classic.  Once those 24 teams become 8, they play against the already seeded teams from 2009 in the same way we played 16 teams this year (which only took 17 days), with the winners of round one guaranteeing themselves a spot in the 2017 tourney.  Beautiful, right?  But what’s even better is that we drop all rules as to pitch counts.  If one team happens to have a Yu Darvish/Dice-K combination, they can use them all they want.  With no teams worried about players interfering with the regular MLB season development model, all bets are off.

So why doesn’t Selig want to do this tournament that late in the year?  Because he doesn’t want it to seem bigger than the World Series.  Despite how much time he spends touting the merits of the WBC, he doesn’t really want it to be the end-all of baseball competition.  Which basically means, one single man is holding back what could be one of the greatest international sporting events of all-time.  A sporting event that could even eclipse the World Cup!  Give it up, Bud.  This is the future of baseball.  This is the plan that will make the World Baseball Classic a better tournament.

This All Star Game Is Uggly! Tuesday, July 15, 2008

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Yeah, I know it’s cheesy, but I just had to be the first to get that headline in. As I write this, the game has headed into the 14th inning, and I imagine as I finish it (or hope, anyway), the game will fall to conclusion. So what’s the news in this game? What have we learned?

Well, we learned that Dan Uggla hasn’t particularly enjoyed the spotlight. He just finished gaining his third error, on a legitimately difficult hop mind you, but three errors is still three errors…

We learned that Aaron Cook is the National League’s savior. Granted, there were a couple amazing defensive gems (that didn’t include Uggla) that helped keep the NL in it the last couple innings, but Cook’s three stellar frames to help out his coach should definitely make him an MVP candidate… although we’ve just elapsed into the fifteenth…

We learned that Terry Francona doesn’t know what he’s doing. Granted, he’s got some pitching restrictions imposed by whatever the heck this Kazmir restriction thing is, and I have no problem with using George Sherrill to take out a lefty as he was used, but when you’re down to just a couple pitchers, you have to take their ability to take you deep into an extra inning game into consideration, and unlike this sentence, you Mariner fans out there know that Sherrill can’t go the distance. It will be interesting to see what happens as the game drags on and the AL is out of both pitchers and bench players.

We learned that Clint Hurdle, and most NL managers, know how to move their players around. Hurdle STILL has a bench player available in case of an injury (okay, scratch that, he just brought in McCann). He gets it!

And what’s the best part of this game? Unlike 2002, Bud Selig can’t call it a tie! (with a mocking tone) “It matters now.” So as we wind down, and I begin to pack up my laptop and cuddle in for a couple more innings of baseball, we’re left with the possibility of a team forfeiting for lack of players, or an injury, or out of exhaustion, or because they “don’t want to mess up their swing” or whatever host of possible excuses might come out of these big babies mouths.

So, I’m off to bed without conclusion, but I will sleep happily tonight, knowing that Yankee fans are tired and up way past their bedtimes. God it’s good to be on the west coast.

Go NL!! (It’s not like the M’s will need a home field advantage)

All Star Game Woes Monday, July 14, 2008

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So for a change of pace, rather than rant about my annoyances with the Mariners, I’m going to move toward the summer classic. Now, there are many of you out there who, like me, hold fond memories of punching out ballots at a ball game in June, hoping that you could get your favorite local players into the All Star game. I remember voting for guys like Alvin Davis, Jim Presley and Harold Reynolds as many times as I could. The All Star game used to be a place for the most popular players of the day to strut their stuff in front of all of the MLB, but changes after the 2002 debacle (I’m sure you all remember the Bud Selig-called tie) have made this event a bane to every true fan’s enjoyment of the rest of the season.

Here are the problems…

#1: The All Star game actually matters now. Thanks to Mr. Selig, it matters a lot. When you only play 7 games in the World Series, and you generally only post 4 starting pitchers, home field advantage means a lot. It’s huge. It means everything!!! So, rather than finding a fair way to decide who gets home field advantage (and keep in mind that this is coming from an AMERICAN league fan who is used to winning the summer classic), we’re going to arbitrarily decide who wins. Rather than having the BEST players play against each other in the All Star game, we instead…

#2: allow baseball FANS to choose which players get to defend their chance at a home field advantage! Now, as I stated above, I love the old popularity contest. It was always fun to see the players that we wanted to see, not necessarily the players with the best seasons so far (or last year). We wanted the greats! But when the greats generally entail a bunch of overweight has-beens, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get to field the best players from each league. It should be chosen by the players and the managers. After all, they’re the ones who want home field advantage. The average fan is an idiot (and yes, I’m including a couple of my all-Mariner ballots as proof that I’m an average fan).

#3: Even if we abolished the home field advantage, and went back to the good ol’ days of the popularity contest, the all star game is still a lost cause. I can’t peg for sure that it’s the online voting that’s thrown the whole thing off (although you can’t deny that letting only paying baseball fans vote might help), but looking specifically at the fan-voted AL reps, we begin to see a trend emerge. Can you see it? Yes that’s right, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have taken over. Now, I can’t deny that in a popularity contest, the most popular teams will usually have more players, but Red Sox Nation is beginning to piss me off. There are so many legitimate Sox fans out there, and they’ve been forced to join in with a bunch of hayseed, fair-weather fans who don’t give a rip about the game. Now, give those Red Sox that have earned their popularity a free ticket to the Bronx, but come on! This is getting ridiculous! This time next year, we’ll have pitchers and reserves from 13 different teams and only 2 teams in the starting 8!

Now, I could continue this list and rank on the number of relief pitchers chosen, or the fact that Selig’s an idiot, but I’m going to stop here. Here’s hoping the AL wins on the off chance the M’s make it to the series this year, but I can tell you one thing… if the AL wins, it won’t be because they were represented by the best players from the league, or that they beat the best the NL has to offer.