Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Charlie Manuel and the Integrity of the Game

Eyes are on Phillies manager Charlie Manuel this upcoming weekend as they play the Braves to close out the season.  The Phils have already clinched the division, but the Braves are fighting for a wild card berth with whoever doesn't win the NL West, the Padres or Giants.  There is concern on behalf of the west team that Manuel will juggle his rotation and rest his stars to get ready for the playoffs.  This would give the Braves an unfair advantage in the wild card race.  The same situation arose several years ago with the Braves' Bobby Cox.

A long standing ethical baseball tradition holds that if you're playing against a team at the end of the season, and that team is in the pennant race, you push your experimentation with your September call-ups aside, and go at the game with your best.  This guarantees the other team in the pennant race that things will be fair.  This upholds the integrity of the game.  And I completely agree with this tradition.

Except in the Phillies' case.  Why?  Well, traditionally, baseball didn't have divisions.  Each league consisted of all teams racing for the same pennant.  This meant that only the teams that were no longer in any pennant race at all were facing teams that were.  The season no longer mattered to them because they had no shot at the pennant, or a yet to be created division title.  When division play came along, however, each division had an even number of teams, and the schedule guaranteed that the last several weeks were played amongst teams in their own divisions.  So the tradition of not rolling over against a playoff contender stood.

But then several new developments came on the scene.  With AL expansion in '77, and NL expansion in '93, there were no longer an even number of teams in a division.  This meant that during the pennant race, there was always at least one series playing between teams of opposite divisions.  Then with realignment in '94, a wild card was introduced along with three divisions.  Most divisions didn't (and still don't) have an even number of teams.  Now, it's guaranteed that teams playing out of their divisions, and against wild card contenders, happens more often.  So, we're bound to see this situation occur where a team that has already clinched a playoff spot will play against teams that haven't yet.

But it's also another baseball tradition, albeit one of strategy, to do whatever necessary to get your team ready for the playoffs.  Rest stars, juggle rotations, use your call-ups.  And traditionally, since that team had already clinched, it meant that no other team they faced was still in a pennant race.  They could afford to lose games after clinching, since those games had no importance, whereas the post-season games did.

So, what the addition of a wild card and interdivision play caused by odd numbers of teams within divisions has done is to pit two baseball traditions against each other in a head-to-head fashion.  And if you're the team that has already won a spot in the playoffs, your self-interest trumps all others.  Period.  In essence, what people are calling on Charlie Manuel to do is to jeopardize his team's ability to win the World Series just to satisfy the desires of a team that obviously hasn't played well enough to have already clinched.  And that is a ridiculous thing to ask.

The real question about the integrity of the game that should be asked is whether interdivision play at the end of the season and a wild card format are the ideas that compromise the integrity of the game.  Even though my Giants could be affected by Manuel's managing decisions this weekend, I realize that it's in his best interest to try to win the World Series in any way possible.  I would expect nothing less than for Manuel to tell his critics to shove it, even if those critics were Giants fans and management.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back In First Place - Again

Yesterday, the Giants won and the Padres lost, allowing the Giants to take first place.  Yet again.  It seems this has happened a hundred times over the last week.  The Giants took two out of three from the Rockies and two out of three from the Cubs before that.  But they've lost first place several times, too.  The Giants need to figure out that this is a time of season when winning two out of three simply isn't enough.  There are four teams striving for two playoff spots.  The Giants, Padres and Rockies are all in the division race, and also in the wild card race along with the Braves.  Somebody is going to win, and somebody is going to go home.  Going home isn't an option.

Over the last three weeks, the Giants pitching staff has been on just about the hottest streak in baseball history.  They set a modern record by going 18 consecutive games allowing three runs or less.  Yet in the first 16 of those games, they went a meager 10-6.  The hitting has been a season-long problem.  All these 1-0 games are killing some fingernails out there.  It seems that the showdown will be the last weekend of the season between the Giants and Padres.  Can this be the year?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Night Quote

If the World Series goes seven games, it will be NBC's longest running show this fall.  - Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, NBC, 1978

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blog Bat-round: If I Were Commissioner

[Update: since this blog bat-around was started among the baseball card blogger circles, I'm cross-posting it to my 1974 Topps baseball card blog.]

David at Indians Baseball Cards & Random Wax poses the following question for a blog bat-around:

The topic: With Bud Selig supposedly retiring in 2012 (and assuming the end of the world doesn't follow soon afterward), if YOU were asked to become the next Baseball Commissioner, what would you do?  What changes would you like to make, what things would you leave as-is, what would you like to see as your legacy when your retirement time came?

Baseball has been screwed up under Bud Selig far beyond the average fan's knowledge.  I'll expose a number of those dark secrets below and as commissioner, I would make the following changes, unilaterally, on my first day in office:

On the field changes:

  1. Expansion to 32 teams w/ realignment.  Either 8 divisions of 4 teams with no wild card, or 4 divisions of 8 teams w/ top two in each.  There needs to be the same number of teams in each division.  Right now, statistically, the AL West teams have a 50% greater chance of winning the World Series than NL Central teams, just by being in the AL West.
  2. Use an unbalanced, but symmetrical schedule.  Baseball needs each team playing each other team the exact same number of times in division, and same number of games with all teams out of the division, both home and road, from division to division, league to league, and those numbers have to be even numbers.  Teams in the same division need to have the same common scheduled teams.  Having divisions logically means an unbalanced schedule.  Each division needs an even number of teams so that only division play occurs the last weeks of the season.
  3. Eliminate interleague play.  The players hate it.  Attendance figures from largely weekend games when school's out and the weather is nice is not evidence that the fans support it either.  And the argument that fans never get to see players from the other league is bogus.  A majority of baseball fans live either in a metro area that already has one team in each league (the five largest markets - ten teams worth!, NY, LA, Chi, SF, and DC/Balt), or in a metro area that is a short drive from another team in the other league. (Philly, San Diego, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, etc.)  Interleague play also skews the division race, as schedules are not identical.  For too long, the Marlins have skated with playing six games against the hapless Rays while their division rival Mets have played six games against the World Champs.  Enough.
  4. The All-Star game will no longer decide Home Field Advantage in the World Series, and will revert back to alternating HFA between leagues each year.  All-Star managers aren't able to focus on winning the game anyway, because two other expectations are more important: a) keeping other managers' pitchers from being injured, and b) making sure every player on an ever enlarging roster makes it into the game.  A pinch runner for the batter who pinch hit for the defensive replacement from last inning?  Hey, I just put three players into the game in four pitches!  That's what the last three innings of the ASG have become.
  5. Reduce the All-Star rosters to 24 max. and eliminate the "each team has one player" rule.  Only one thing is less logical that requiring one player from each team, and that's the argument for it:  "It's a fan's game."  Uhm, the fans of the other 29 teams don't want to see your least worst player in the ASG when he's batting .279/11/36 at the break.  He gets to play just because every other player on your team sucks even worse?  And you want him to play in the ASG?  Heck, you don't even want to see him play in your own ballpark.  If you did, your attendance wouldn't suck so bad.  I've lived through plenty of bad A's and Giants seasons where I was actually embarrassed for our representative to be seen in the introductions, not to mention the game.
  6. Eliminate all the NFL rules that have been adopted into baseball, like the one that made George Steinbrenner an air traffic controller.  Get rid of all the NFL tie-breaking, home field advantage and playoff matchup rules.  All they do is complicate things and screw playoff ticket holders out of being able to use their tickets effectively.  Football has these stupid rules precisely because they have no way to decide things on the field.  Using head-to-head as a tie-breaker necessarily means that the winner has a worse record against inferior teams.  Hasn't anybody at MLB corporate ever taken logic 101 at their local community college?  Home field advantage and matchup rules mean that ticket holders don't even know when the game is and who it's against for the ticket they're holding in their hand.  Last year's fiasco that allowed the Yanks (HFA) to choose which ALDS series to play in was a great example.  They didn't have to choose until a few hours after the regular season was over.  But there was a rain-out makeup on Monday that forced another one-game playoff on Tuesday, still part of the regular season.  They got to decide whether to screw the Red Sox in choosing which day they played - hours before their game - or to make the other team play on a couple of hours sleep on the plane while in the air at 35,000 feet.
  7. Eliminate TV ratings based playoff start times.  The Yankees are guaranteed the prime time slot for every game ever, while the rest of the teams play bizarre day games in weird time zones.  Every time a series is decided, the remaining series have their time slots revised according to a pecking order of prime time ratings.  Several times since this has started, fans of one team with tickets in hand for tomorrow's game have gone to bed not knowing whether the next day's game would be at 1pm or 7pm because an extra inning game in the other league on the opposite coast that was playing past midnight may end that series and effect start times of all other games the next day because the ratings pecking order had to be rearranged.  When you're a ticket holder for these games, you may be screwed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars because you can't sell or give away a day game ticket at the last minute.  It's happened several times to me personally.  Enough.
  8. Allow each home team to set the time for its own division series playoff games.  Not being able to go to or even watch your own team because you're at work and you fell into a day game slot at the last minute just because some dude on the east coast wants to watch it on TV is freaking lame.  Let them stay up until 2am.  That way, everybody will be able to see it.
  9. All post season game dates with pre-figured division vs. division arrangement will be made prior to the season.
  10. Even though I personally don't like the DH, I would keep it for one league.  It's good for baseball because it is good at starting and keeping arguments going.  But the current DH rule gives the AL team an advantage in the World Series.  It gets to keep using its full-time, season long hitting specialist, while the NL team must scrape a utility player off the bench for its DH.  If you don't agree, please tell me you'd rather see Lee Lacy hit than Reggie Jackson.  After the last game of the regular season, I would give all the NL teams the option to draft one free agent AL DH player to use as their DH in the World Series, just to even things up.

Off the field changes:

  1. Lifetime bans would extend only to the lifetime of the player.  For example, once he died, Shoeless Joe would be in the HOF.
  2. Change the territorial rights boundary from a distance based boundary (75 miles) to a population based one.  The existing rule guarantees the Yankees an untouchable fan base of 25 million.  Even though San Jose is 40 miles further from San Francisco than Oakland is, the Giants territorial rights can stop an A's move to SJ.  Why?  If small market teams have problems making ends meet, they can move to Brooklyn and/or East Rutherford, Chicago, San Bernardino, San Fernando, or San Jose.
  3. Holding the dubious distinction as the only person to have the steroids scandal occur right under his nose both as an owner and as a commissioner; and holding the dubious distinction as a commissioner who wouldn't even stand up in recognition that the greatest record in sports was just tied, and also in reference to the other 12 reasons listed above, my last act on the first day in office will be to impose a lifetime ban from baseball upon Bud Selig.
Leave as-is:

  1. Most everything else.

Legacy will take care of itself.

Giants Win Projection Through September 15

September 1 through September 15:

W 74-60, 89; L 74-61, 89; W 75-61, 89; W 76-61, 90; W 77-61, 90; W 78-61, 91; L 78-62, 90; W 79-62, 91; W 80-62, 91; L 80-63, 91; W 81-63, 91; L 81-64, 90; W 82-64, 91.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Quote

It ain't braggin' if you can back it up. - Dizzy Dean


Okay, we did it!  The Giants beat the Dodgers while the Padres lost to the Cardinals.  This is the first day the Giants have been in first place in September since 2003.  Terribly sad fact.  But, first place is only good if you're there after the regular season is over.  So, let's Go Giants!

Since 2003, the Giants have obviously been the least effective team in the NL West.  Every single other team in the division has at least one post-season appearance since the Giants last did.  In those last six years, NL West teams have won three wild card positions.  The Dodgers won the division in 2004, '08 & '09, the Padres in 2005, '06, the Diamondbacks in 2007.  The Dodgers took the wild card in 2006, the Rockies and Padres tied for it in 2007 and the Rox won the playoff game, and the Rockies again in 2009. So, in total, the four other teams have combined for nine playoff positions in the last six years, including one tie, and an all-NL West NLCS in 2007.  No Giants.

The Giants, on the other hand, had a total collapse in 2004 in the last weekend of the season, and in 2009 were the only team of 8 teams in baseball in a playoff position at the All-Star break that didn't hold on in the second half.  Their 2005-08 seasons were abysmal.

I hope this leap into first place is the beginning of three consecutive World Championships and seven in the next fifteen years, to bring the winningest team in baseball history up to the law of averages.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Giants Fans Invade San Diego

One of the things I've always hated is to have numerous fans of the visiting team show up and act like they own the place.  You know, Yankee fans, Dodger fans, Red Sox fans, Cubs fans.  They're big market teams with huge followings, transplants, and travelling fans.  Often over the years, the Oakland Coliseum has had many a game where A's fans were outnumbered by Yankee or Red Sox fans, and Giants fans since interleague play started.

Well, the Giants have a national following, too, just not quite as big as the Yankees or Red Sox.  But one place we always show up in massive numbers is San Diego.  Transplants, college students, and cheap Southwest Airlines tickets.  This four game series vs. the Pads was no exception.  Thousands showed up and hijacked the crowd noise this weekend.  And Padres fans hate it.

You simply can't listen to the game and tell who just made the big play.  Today I was fooled by Tim Lincecum's two run single.  The crowd erupted in a roar, and I thought, "Oops, the Padres are coming back."  No, it was the Giants fans.

I've seen the Giants on the road in LA, San Diego, Oakland, Colorado and Arizona.  It's amazing how many show up, and how many cheer all the louder because they know they're on the road.  The first interleague game in Oakland between the Giants and A's back in '97 was about two-thirds Giants fans, and it was louder and more rowdy than most every game I've ever seen in San Fran.

Thanks to the fans who showed up this weekend and cheered the Orange and Black to three out of four to tie for first place.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Night Quote

For fourteen years I had the best seat in baseball. - Willie McCovey, speaking about his spot in the on-deck circle while Willie Mays was at bat.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fan Ejected By Ump For Heckling

I'm sure this ain't the first time, but a fan was ejected from a game by umpire Bob Davidson for heckling a player.  Sean Ottow, a Brewer fan, was heckling Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina.  Davidson had a mean streak already going in ejecting a number of players and managers that game, so a fan was what was needed to complete the day.  Maybe that counts for "hitting for the cycle" in umpire dialect.  Maybe ejecting a fan is like that final triple needed.

I found two brief accounts of the incident here and here.  One thing the fan claimed is that he never swore at Molina.  But, he was cited for disorderly conduct by the police.

I'm wondering what he said and for how long.  I've also had extended time periods of heckling players - like nine innings a day over a four game series - and I've never been ejected.  But maybe it's like my friend Mike says, we'd be tossed in jail today for some of the things we said back in the 80's.  I'm also wondering if his citation was a direct result of being tossed by the ump.  Would he have been cited if the ump never tossed him?  And since he got a standing ovation from the crowd, one wonders how disorderly he actually was.  They all seemed to enjoy him.  Now for a serious question.  Will he be banned from future Brewers games by management?  Loss of season tickets?  Could any of this happen to a fan simply because an ump had a bad day?  What role can a player have in getting a fan tossed?  One time, I was heckling a rookie and he called time out and jogged in to the third base ump and pointed out at me.  The ump shrugged his shoulders, and then he really caught it from the whole bleacher section for the rest of the game.

It will be interesting to see if this is the last thing to be heard on this incident.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Giants Win Projection Through August 31

August 16 through August 31, 2010:

L 67-53, 90; L 67-54, 90; W 68-54, 90; W 69-54, 91; L 69-55, 90; L 69-56, 89; W 70-56, 90; W 71-56, 91; L 71-57, 90; L 71-58, 89; L 71-59, 88; W 72-59, 89; L 72-60, 88; W 73-60, 89.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Death of Mannywood

Baseball got some news this week as Manny Ramirez joined the Chicago White Sox.  Then it got some more news as the White Sox strolled into Boston to mark a Manny return to Fenway.  But a special extra bit to tack on to the end of that story was found in Chavez Ravine.

You see, the Giants and Dodgers re-engaged their historic rivalry on Friday.  But, contrary to last year and the end of '08, Manny wasn't a factor.  A couple of months ago it was reported that the Mannywood ads were taken off of LA freeway billboards, a sad prelude to the start of this series.  A great Dodger to hate, as we haven't had many of those in recent years, Manny served as a target to silence, but even if he hit some homers, beating the Dodgers could silence those.  But the eerie silence this weekend almost spoke of a sad end to an era, even though there was the big news of the week.  Manny didn't matter enough to the Dodgers to matter in the rivalry with us.  Mannywood is dead.

Beat LA!

Okay, what a game last night.  Yet another classic Giants/Dodgers rivalry game.  Before the game I heard that Dodger pitcher Ted Lilly had one of the lowest run support totals in baseball lately.  And Giant Matt Cain has one of the lowest totals in his career.  So, I assumed that either it would be a scoreless game until the bullpens took over, or the Giants would stay true to their course of a complete lack of run support for Cain while giving it up for Lilly.  It turns out I was 3/4 right (right about no run support for Cain {=1/2 point} and half right about one bullpen giving it up {=1/4 point}).

Down 4-0, the Giants hit four homers, one solo in the 7th, back-to-back solos in the 8th and a 2-run Jack in the 9th by Juan UUUUUU-ribe in the 9th to win.  Of course, Brian Wilson did his usual bungee jump save, where the the cord pulls you back up just before you crash into the rocks below.

As noted by Mrs. Scott: It's difficult to listen to Giants/Dodgers games due to the number of opposing team's fans cheering for the visiting team.  A huge cheer doesn't guarantee it's for the home team.

Rubber game tonight is a must win for the Gyro's, as the Padres keep losing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Night Quote

I don't know how our folks come off callin' this the "Game of the Week."  There's a much better game - Dodgers and Giants - over on NBC.  - Dizzy Dean, broadcasting on CBS Television