Thursday, June 13, 2013

8 comments The Irony of Jerry Green Saying Someone is Past Their Prime Has Overwhelmed Me

This is going to come as a shock to all of you, but Jerry Green doesn't like interleague play. I know. It took me by surprise as well that a guy who is so adverse to change or any new line of baseball-related though wouldn't like interleague play. He also doesn't like Bud Selig because Bud Selig likes interleague play. I don't like to see senior citizen-on-senior citizen violence, but that's what this has come to. Jerry wants us to know Bud Selig is past his prime (I wonder if that is a question Jerry has asked himself?) because MLB is forfeiting the dignity and integrity it once had when the sport refused to allow blacks to participate and amphetamines were popped like candies in the clubhouse. Those were the dignified days of the sport. Bud Selig is ruining everything great about baseball by not allowing the sport to be stuck in the 1970's (or even more prior to the AL's use of the designated hitter).

It all started 17 seasons ago as one of Major League Baseball's precious gimmicks. It was another talking point for baseball addicts — the Tigers vs. the Cubs or the Yankees competing against the Dodgers.

Of course, a gimmick. Preventing 50% of MLB teams from playing each other so they could meet up in the World Series isn't a gimmick of course. Allowing baseball a World Series where each team potentially could have already played each other that season, you know like every other major sport allows to happen, THAT is the gimmick? Wouldn't the gimmick be preventing these teams from playing and using this as a differentiation from other major sports? 

I know, I know, I'm speaking logic. Logic isn't allowed here. 

It was fodder for the curious — Sammy Sosa batting against Mike Mussina, or Greg Maddux trying to get Derek Jeter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

Sort of like how Michael Jordan would match up against Clyde Drexler or Brett Favre and John Elway would square off, no? 

Well, the curiosity of interleague baseball has faded away.

If the curiosity of interleague play has faded away then it isn't a gimmick anymore, right? Interleague play has just become a part of baseball, so MLB isn't relying on it as a gimmick anymore because interleague play has become a part of each team's schedule.

Interleague baseball is a grand experiment that went awry. It has become another failure.

This past week was Bud Selig's version of rivalry week.

The Yankees vs. the Mets, a Subway Series. The Dodgers vs. the Angels, the Freeway Series. The Cubs vs. the White Sox, Chicago's North Side vs. the South Side.

Those teams really are rivals though. Part of the fun of interleague is fostering and creating local rivalries. I admit there are some rivalries that are questionable (Atlanta and Toronto?), but it's still fun to see these games.

Home and home, four-game series! Two games in Detroit, another two in Pittsburgh.

What sort of rivalry is that?

Admittedly, I am not completely on-board for the "two games in each city" idea, but at least give Bud Selig credit for trying to make changes. The worst thing Bud Selig could do is not try to innovate and continue gaining the fans' interest in the sport of baseball. Some experiments work, others don't. MLB shouldn't be afraid to try different things.

Well, the two rivals (hah) played against each other in a World Series. Once. Back in 1909. Ty Cobb went against Honus Wagner.

The Pirates won that World Series in seven games. Babe Adams beat Wild Bill Donovan in Game 7, by an 8-0 score. Adams defeated the Tigers three times in that World Series.

Jerry Green attended and reported on three of these World Series games in fact. He was just a young pup of 35 years back then.

I'm doomed for a life of hell when I get old. I make too many jokes about the elderly, so it is going to suck when I get to be a senior citizen. I will still be making old jokes at that point, but they will somehow be less funny and take me a lot longer to type.

Actually, the Tigers got their revenge last year. They won two of three games against the Pirates in Detroit.

Does anybody remember?

The allure of interleague games has gone kaput — vanished.

The fact no one remembers these games doesn't mean the allure of interleague games has vanished. Does anyone off the top of their head remember the Tigers record against the White Sox last year? Does the fact few people remember mean the allure of interdivisional games has gone kaput? Of course not. 

The Rays vs. the Marlins; the Mariners vs. the Padres; the Blue Jays vs. the Braves!

The Mariners-Padres and Blue Jays-Braves series are a bit of a stretch. Still, I enjoyed watching the Braves play the Blue Jays because it was new. It interested me. 

In 2013, there is interleague baseball every game day throughout the season. From the Angels opening against the Reds on April Fool's Day to the final weekend of September with the Tigers playing three games against the Marlins. In Miami's new, seldom-filled Marlins Park, with its double fish tanks. By then, the Tigers should have won the AL Central in a romp. But stuff happens. That interleague series could turn significant for the Tigers.

This whole argument of "late season games will be interleague games and this could affect the playoffs so this is a bad thing" always fails for me. Do NFL writers complain the AFC West title could come down to the result of a game played between a team in the AFC and the NFC? My favorite team played all of their AFC West opponents on the later part of their schedule last year, so conceivably those games could have helped decide playoff seeding and which teams made the playoffs during these later season games. In the NBA, the last game of the season which decides what teams make the playoffs could be between an Eastern Conference and Western Conference team. NBA writers don't think this is stupid. 

Anyway, a loss by the Tigers to an National League team in late September means the same thing as a loss to a National League team in April. They both only count for one loss. Sure, getting swept by the Dodgers in September could mean more in terms of the standings (because it is the end of the season), but if the Tigers get swept by the Dodgers in April it still only counts as 3-4 losses. I don't see the issue with the Tigers having to beat the Marlins in September any more than I see an issue with the Heat having to beat the Jazz on the last game of the season to clinch the #1 overall playoff spot. 

The result is the glut of interleague games. The Tigers are playing six National League opponents this season. A total of 20 games against the Braves, Nationals, Pirates, Phillies, Mets and, finally, the Marlins. All games count for real — in the respective league standings; all statistics are preserved as genuine.

And they should be genuine statistics, just like those precious genuine interleague World Series statistics Jerry cites every January while advocating for Jack Morris to make it into the Hall of Fame. It's still baseball, so the statistics still should count. A total of 20 games out of 162 games really isn't that many interleague matchups.

Even, I presume, WAR.

I'm going to strangle myself if Jerry Green doesn't stop randomly dropping the statistic WAR in his columns. Make it end. 

If Miguel Cabrera wins another American League batting championship — and possibly another Triple Crown — he will have to claim the honors against National League pitching at season's end.

What, would this be a non-pure Triple Crown because some of Cabrera's success came against National League pitching? Is National League pitching comparable to Japanese league or AAA pitching to Jerry Green? 

Major League Baseball consists of two leagues playing games with conflicting rules. Pitchers hit; pitchers don't hit. The designated hitter in the American League; no DH in the National.

Yes, but when interleague teams play an individual game, both teams play by the same rules in that individual game. Therefore the playing field is level. 

Pitchers who don't know how to hit must bat in Pittsburgh, the Mets' Citi Field in New York, the Marlins' fishtank in Miami. And National League teams are forced to appoint designated hitter in Detroit and Baltimore and Anaheim.
All of which makes baseball a game of quirks. A sport of inconsistency in strength of schedules among competitors.

The World Series also uses conflicting rules like this. Should we not have a World Series and simply name an American League and National League champion? Let's just leave it at that. Each league plays by different rules, let's just give up having a World Series.

And the interleague games have become too commonplace — and too contrived.

The World Series is contrived in some of the same ways as interleague play, especially since the same rules for the DH governs the World Series and interleague play. 

Once baseball was all-consuming with true pennant races from the Opening Days until the final Sundays. And occasionally beyond, after deadlocked races.

Two years ago the NL and AL Wild Card races came down to the last day of the regular season. There are still pennant races and races are still deadlocked. This hasn't changed at all. 

Baseball's purity had started to dissolve. There would be playoffs to decide the World Series opponents.

Yes, Jerry Green is now complaining about the impurity of the National League and American League Championship Series. He is complaining more than one team from each league gets to be in the playoffs. This despite the fact Wild Card teams have shown themselves to be capable of winning the World Series. 

Later Bud had to cancel a World Series because of a prolonged labor impasse. The divisions were further fragmented into mini-divisions. Then Bud gave second-place teams — also known as wild cards — admission to the playoffs. Now there are two wild-card teams per league. Teams that were not good enough to win in their own divisions are eligible to qualify for the World Series.

Just like teams who have better records than division winners are left out of the playoffs entirely. I'm thinking specifically of the Anaheim Angels not making the playoffs last year with more wins than the Detroit Tigers, who made the playoffs because they won their division. Is it in some way fair for a team in a weak division to make the playoffs because they won their division, but a team in a strong division that doesn't win the division shouldn't be able to make the playoffs?

And some wild-card teams have won it — non-champions in their own small divisions becoming so-called world champions.

The idea of a team not being a champion because that team didn't win a division consisting of arbitrarily chosen teams is ridiculous. MLB chooses divisions based on geography, which is an arbitrary way of choosing the divisions. The act of calling a team that didn't win their division as not being a "champion" is absurd, especially when that team has shown they are capable of winning a playoff series against a division winning team. 

Where have you gone Babe Ruth?

He's dead and he died a long time ago. Welcome to baseball post-Jackie Robinson. You are 70 years too late.

Baseball has prospered during Bud Selig's regime. No dispute.
But the sport forfeited much of its dignity and integrity. While producing millions, maybe billions, more in revenue, it has cheapened itself as a game — as a pastime.

I'm afraid to know, but how has increasing the number of playoff spots (to an even smaller percentage of playoff spots awarded in the NBA and NHL) forfeit the dignity and integrity of baseball? 

But every night on television there are sections of unoccupied seats in Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium, in PNC Park and Yankee Stadium and Miami's fishtank.

It could be much better.

Everything can be better, but Jerry Green is cherry-picking his data by choosing teams who aren't drawing fans well for a variety of reasons. Here are two articles, one that says the Marlins are responsible for 40% of the 2.9 decrease in MLB attendance and another that states even though attendance is down this year, attendance has increased over the last decade. So there are empty seats in baseball parks, just like there have always been empty seats.

There is a sensible solution.

If the solution is coming from Jerry Green, I'm guessing it isn't really a sensible solution. 

This is my pipe dream: Add two franchises, say in Vancouver and San Juan. That would make 32 clubs — double the teams who competed in the old-fashioned pennant races that our dwindling population senior-citizen purists loved so much as boys.

Let's review the points Jerry Green has made so far: 

1. Baseball relies on gimmicks like interleague play too much. 

2. Too many teams make the playoffs and this isn't pure. 

3. MLB's lust for money and greed has taken the dignity and integrity out of the sport. 

4. Bud Selig doesn't care what happens to the sport of baseball as long as money is being made. 

These are Jerry's complaints. His solution is to expand baseball to two other countries (which would further remove the "purity" from the game), increasing the numbers of teams in MLB, and potentially increasing the revenue stream for the owners.

Then, as this fantasy becomes brighter, divide the 32 teams into eight-team leagues — just as there were for 60 years until 1960.

Yes, Jerry Green wants to change MLB around to the same alignment used in 1900. This shocks me somehow when it really shouldn't shock me at all. 

A four-league alignment now, divide the leagues as best possible among historical lines.

Oh, they will be divided among "historical lines." Can you be more vague or not provide any examples of what you mean? Oh, you can. Great. Thanks for not providing an example of how a division divided by "historical lines" would look. 

Having divisions scheduled by historical lines sounds like a traveling nightmare to me.

Have them play only opponents in their own leagues from April through September — in four, pure pennant races.

So the cure for the current scheduling gimmick is to create a different gimmick, except a gimmick where one MLB team plays only seven other teams. This gives fans fewer options in terms of teams they can see their favorite team play and this is supposed to INCREASE attendance? MLB fans are going to be more excited about playing the same teams 25 times per year and only being able to see seven total teams all season? I have to be honest. If the Braves only played seven teams all year I would probably not watch as much baseball. There are only so many times you can play the same teams in a season. 

Then in October take the Final Four — OK, it's s basketball term — and play them in two semifinal series, best of seven.

Again, despite the fact no other major professional sport organizes their divisions, season, and postseason this way...this is NOT a gimmick. Not at all. 

Survivors advance to the World Series.

And of course the World Series will be extremely popular because the two teams that played each other will not have met all season. Fans of all ages will be lining up to get regular season game tickets and the Miami Marlins will finally start to sell out their ballpark because the fans are so excited to see them play the Tampa Bay Rays/San Juan Don Juans/Vancouver Canucks/Colorado Rockies/Arizona Diamondbacks/Seattle Mariners/Toronto Blue Jays (that would be the Marlins' division based on historical lines) for the 20th-plus time that season.

Bud didn't care much for the idea when I proposed it to him some years ago.

(Jerry Green) "So what do you think of my divisional restructuring idea?" 

(Bud Selig) "I don't care for you." 

(Jerry Green) "You don't care for the idea?"

(Bud Selig) "No, just you. You have no concept of why fans attend baseball games and how limiting the variety of games a fan could attend would affect overall attendance. I don't care for you either." 

(Jerry Green) "What about WAR? What can we do about that?" (Bud Selig walks away)

Rather, he decided to balance the leagues into 15 clubs each this season by switching the Astros from the National League to the American League. His gambit is causing at least one interleague game every day from the beginning to the end of the regular schedules.

Could this be the reason we had such a cold Spring? Does Spring dislike the lack of dignity and purity in the baseball schedule? Is this colder Spring simply a reaction to the scheduling gimmicks baseball forces upon unwilling fans? 

Major League Baseball had existed with this imbalance — 16 clubs in the NL, 14 in the AL — since 1997. The lopsided situation was created when MLB moved the Brewers to the National League. For a reason never satisfactorily outlined.

I used the Google machine and it gave me this 1997 column. It seemed the Brewers moved to the National League (and it was a nearly-unanimous vote) because the fans wanted the Brewers to be in the National League. It could not be decided who would go to the National League, so the Brewers volunteered. The rest is undignified baseball history. 

It was just a coincidence that the longtime operator of the Milwaukee Brewers had been a baseball man named Bud Selig.

Yes, it was all a masterplan to play in the same division as regional rivals in order to appeal to Milwaukee Brewers fans. You caught Bud Selig. He did what his team's fans wanted. How undignified and impure of him to move the Brewers back to the National League, which is where the Milwaukee Braves were before they moved to Atlanta.

So Jerry wants MLB to pay attention to history when choosing which teams go in which division, except when he doesn't want MLB to pay attention to history when choosing which teams go in which division.


HH said...

Major League Baseball consists of two leagues playing games with conflicting rules. Pitchers hit; pitchers don't hit. The designated hitter in the American League; no DH in the National.

Yes, but when interleague teams play an individual game, both teams play by the same rules in that individual game. Therefore the playing field is level.

I agree with your takedown, but I'll speak up on this point. It's very possible that the different rules consistently disadvantage one league over the other. Studies have been pretty inconclusive, but instinctively I think the DH gives the AL an advantage. It's possible that NL rosters are constructed differently than AL rosters because of the differing rules, and when the two meet, one of them is disadvantaged because the roster isn't well suited for the other rules. I actually think NL teams have a big disadvantage in AL parks (their ninth batter is likely worse than an AL starter), and AL teams have a small disadvantage in NL parks (if the DH plays, he's likely a bad defender). I've drifted off topic now, but my whole point is that it COULD matter that the rules differ.

HH said...

A four-league alignment now, divide the leagues as best possible among historical lines.

This will just tap into the historical hatred between Vancouver and San Juan.

ivn said...

that our dwindling population senior-citizen purists loved so much as boys.

he literally wants to implement an idea that would hurt baseball in the long run.

re: HH, I've also heard the argument that benches are thinner nowadays because teams prefer to carry more pitchers, which might make sense. I can't verify this at all, so forgive me, but I remember a lot of teams having a really good fourth outfielder/pinch hitter who could conceivably DH in a pinch, but it seems like that's less common.

JimA said...

It seemed the Brewers moved to the National League (and it was a nearly-unanimous vote) because the fans wanted the Brewers to be in the National League.

Not really. As I remember, it was a big problem. Selig may have been trying to get more interleague play and there were rumors of realignment by geography with the western teams becoming the AL and the eastern the NL. That didn't go over too well, and they compromised by forcing one team to move to the NL. Kansas City didn't want to do it, so Milwaukee, partly because expansion was Selig's pet project, was pushed into it.

Ice Cream Jonsey said...

I am not going to say that Braves / Blue Jays is some great rivalry (the Jays are clearly the odds team out because their natural rival is playing in D.C.) but at least Chipper Jones was keeping it fresh by saying that Toronto was boring a few years ago. (This is like the worst thing you can say about our city, haha)

That was, of course, lost on Jerry Green because he doesn't know anything about anything.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, I see your point. The good news is in the World Series each team has a potential disadvantage in the other team's park. Obviously the most important thing is who gets homefield attention in that situation, which makes me so happy that an important game like the All Star Game determines which teams gets homefield advantage in the World Series.

Ivn, who cares about the long run? Jerry is here for the short run.

Jim, gotcha. I read something about the Brewers fans wanting to be in the NL Central with teams in their ('s all relative) area like Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincy. I guess there is more than one story as to how it all happened.

Jonsey, Atlanta is a decent city, but I wouldn't go around calling another city boring if I played ball in Atlanta. It's fun, but having never been to Toronto I can't imagine it is that much more exciting than Toronto.

I enjoyed seeing the Jays come to Atlanta. It was a couple fun games to watch.

jacktotherack said...

Actually, the Tigers got their revenge last year. They won two of three games against the Pirates in Detroit.

Does anybody remember?

The allure of interleague games has gone kaput — vanished.

That's one of the dumbest things I've ever read. So the fact that someone can't recall an individual interleague game is the reason to get rid of it? Can any baseball fan name anything particularly memorable about 95% of the games their favorite team plays against their division rival each year? Unless your team is in a penant race, the game ends in particularly exciting fashion, or you attend the game in person, most of the 162 games played in MLB each year are going to be completely forgettable.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, that's true. I don't remember a ton of games during the season except for games that end in an exciting fashion.

I actually remember the interleague games more than I remember other games because they aren't the usual games between the usual opponents.