A purist's lament:
Don't you love how sportwriters who long for the old days call themselves "purists"? I'm not sure Jerry Green is understanding that when he refers to the era of Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson as "pure" he also means "there weren't any black players allowed to play the sport and they had their own separate league so this was better." There is definitely a slightly racist tint to this appeal for "purity." When a sportswriter is using the same language that racist organizations use to advocate for the demeaning treatment of those aren't like them, then I would probably reconsider my language if I were a sportswriter. Maybe it's just me. It's racist organizations and baseball writers who long for "purity."
Baseball, once, was the Common Man's game.
Yes, baseball was once a lot of things. It no longer is a lot of things and this isn't a bad thing. Progress doesn't have to be scary.
It was simple: the major-league teams played through the season in what were legitimate pennant races. The eight or 10 teams in the two leagues played games starting in April and finishing in October.
So contract 10 to 14 teams and hold more "legitimate" pennant races? That's the key to making baseball better apparently. Engage fewer fans for a shorter period of time by limiting the number of cities that have baseball teams and making sure fewer teams are in contention. I can't see how this wouldn't work. Brilliant. The common man would love this.
At the end of the schedule, after 154 or 162 games, the team in first place in the American League played the team in first place in the National League. The postseason was confined to an event noted as the World Series. The first team to win four games in the best-of-seven games became what was known widely, as the World Champions.
Things have changed. I don't understand the opposition to change. There should be a separate baseball internet for people who long for the days of purity. That way it helps to keep their internet pure from scary ideas that cause change in sports and those impure fans of sports don't end up reading the disgruntled rantings of those who are afraid of anything new.
This was how Babe Ruth and Hank Greenberg played baseball in a better era.
It still is gripping. The pennant races are still close and the one game wild-card playoff, though contrived and stupid, does provide a sense of theater the sport desperately needs. I wouldn't consider the era in which Ruth and Greenberg played as a better era simply because it was an older era and I hope I never get to the point when I lament the game was better when Trout and Cabrera were hitting the ball all over the field.
Whitey Ford pitching curveballs vs. Duke Snider. Jackie Robinson called safe on a steal of home plate to the wailing of Yogi Berra. Willie Mays running into deep center field to catch Vic Wertz monstrous shot over his shoulder at the Polo Grounds. Ruth calling his shot and then hitting a home run at Wrigley Field. Grover Cleveland Alexander trudging from the bullpen hung-over to strike out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded.
Here's the deal though, Jerry. These days are NEVER coming back. Even if Rob Manfred decided that he wanted to only have an American League and National League with no divisions, and the two teams with the best record in each league meet, Whitey Ford will never be throwing curveballs to Duke Snider. Ruth won't ever call his shot again. Willie Mays won't catch a Vic Wertz shot over his shoulder for a second time. Those days are gone. Clayton Kershaw will pitch to David Ortiz. Mike Trout will catch a fly ball off the bat of Bryce Harper. It won't be the same because the past is the past. So if your beef is with the set up of MLB with the three divisions and two wild cards, then that's fine, but it seems your beef is that all of the old players who dead now aren't playing. So well, that's just something you are going to have to get over. They aren't coming back, so enjoy the players now in the lesser era or move on with your life and don't watch baseball anymore.
The Common Man could relate to the ballgames. We all had played baseball. We carried our fantasies. Until the rude awakening, the day that we discovered that we couldn't play.
But we still loved our baseball.
I don't think it's the wild card and expansion that has caused the common man to lose interest in baseball. I think it's a product of a different society and times have changed to where fans like a faster paced game. Society moves on, even if you aren't ready for it to.
Ticket prices were affordable.
Bud Selig isn't the sole cause of ticket prices becoming unaffordable. Inflation, player salaries and the realization that teams can make a shitload of money by raising ticket prices and maximizing profits caused ticket prices to become less affordable. Even so, a ticket to a minor league game isn't overly expensive and it's a great night out with the family or friends. There are options to watch baseball at an affordable price level. Again, it feels like Jerry Green is lamenting a time gone by, not specific things Bud Selig has done.
When I was a kid, a Common Man could cough up 55 cents to sit in the bleachers, a buck 10 for general admission along the first or third base line. And if you brought a couple of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in a brown bag, you could watch Ted Williams playing against Joe DiMaggio in a doubleheader.
Good for you. Bud Selig didn't kill Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Bud Selig didn't set ticket prices for games, and quite frankly, rightly began to take steps to make the game faster in an era of specialized pitching that has resulted in more pitching changes that slowed the game down.
But best for the purist, the pennant races were real.
They still are real. Just because the pennant races aren't like the pennant races in 1938 doesn't mean the 2015 races aren't real. Remember this night? It sort of felt real, didn't it?
If Major League Baseball still had genuine pennant races, the 2014 standings through the top five finishers — the old-fashioned first division — would have been exactly like this:
This would fix everything if there was an Angels-Nationals World Series. Snider versus Ford! Willie Mays catching fly balls and Babe Ruth calling his shot. All of these things would happen again.
Now we're stuck with the debris that Bud Selig left behind.
"The debris" meaning that more baseball fans are engaged in the sport for a longer period of time. What in the hell could Bud Selig have been thinking to try and engage more fans of more teams in the sport for a longer period of time? If only he had set up two leagues and just let the team with the best record in each league play each other in the World Series, the time of games would decrease, tickets prices would plummet, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would become the national currency for the national pastime again, and fans would come come flocking back to the sport purely for the sake of nostalgia they never actually experienced. It would all happen!
The true pennant races and the genuine standings might have confused the figure manipulators and similar Sabremetric creatures.
Bud Selig is a famed Sabermetrician. And also, calling the pennant races "true" and the standings "genuine" doesn't make it so. I think a real pennant race can involve the wild card as well, and recent history has shown me to be correct.
The traditional World Series — Nationals vs. Angels — might have happened. Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper was a purist's pipe dream.
Oh, so the World Series involving the team with speed that didn't hit home runs isn't a purist's dream? And here I thought it would be.
Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Williams, DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Tris Speaker, Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin — these are names that reek with tradition.
And nothing says "tradition" like the World Series meeting between a 23 year old and 22 year old who haven't ever appeared in a World Series before, who happen to play on two teams that didn't exist in their current form prior to 2005. THAT is tradition.
But MLB trashed tradition during the power-lusting reign of a commissioner.
Yes, he trashed tradition by moving the Expos to Washington and calling them the "Nationals" and by changing the name of the Angels to the "Anaheim Angels" and then the "Los Angeles Angels," except Jerry apparently longs for the tradition that these teams represent. A tradition that wasn't there prior to Bud Selig becoming the commissioner.
One year, early in his administration, Selig ordered the cancellation of the World Series during a bitter labor dispute with the players union. The next spring he decided the game must go on — with replacement players. Bud wanted to serve up sandlot baseball at big-league prices.
Right, he did want to do this. What has resulted from this strike that happened 20 fucking years ago (though to Jerry, that's like yesterday)? Baseball has had labor peace since that time. Baseball is the only major sport to have labor peace over the last 20 years.
That spring 20 years ago was Sparky Anderson's finest moment in his Hall of Fame career as manager with Cincinnati and Detroit. He refused manage the fake major leaguers in a false season.
Sparky maintained the dignity that Selig lacked.
Except Anderson never really had to actually make this call that he was prepared to make because the union and MLB came to a deal.
Bud went out last month following the weakest World Series in the history of the sport.
He staged a World Series pitting two fourth-place teams. There was Fox TV drooling about the Royals playing the Giants. The Giants' best from April through September, in a 162-game season, had been to tie for fourth in the National League with the Pirates.
The 2014 World Series was the third-lowest rated World Series of all-time. The 2013 World Series, which took place between two teams that had the best record in their respective leagues, is the fifth-lowest rated World Series of all-time. So I think it's just that the World Series has lower ratings due to there being other options on television more than fans don't watch because they want to see teams with the best record in their league play.
He went out boasting and preening that Major League Baseball is thriving. He spoke about the prosperity created during his tenure, more than ever in his sport. He proclaimed that the club owners and the players became richer and richer.
MLB teams are setting attendance records under Bud Selig, so obviously fans are attending the games. The stadiums could be bigger than they used to be, but when claiming the idea that the common man is being left out, the fact a lot of common men are choosing to attend baseball games seems to disprove this idea.
Does the Common Man — the shot-and-beer guy, or the average dude on the assembly line — give a hoot about Mike Ilitch's prosperity?
Don't think so!
No one gives a crap about Ilitch's prosperity, but this goes for every sport that has an extremely wealthy owner. I don't care about my favorite NFL team's owner and whether he makes a ton of money, yet this doesn't mean I'm being shut out from attending NFL games. "The average dude on the assembly line" doesn't give a shit if the owner of any of his favorite teams makes money, no matter the sport, and whether that owner is filthy rich or just really, really rich is irrelevant to this fictional dude (should I call him the "replacement dude" just to irritate Jerry Green's anti-Sabermetric tendencies?). Baseball isn't an outlier regarding this attitude of "the average dude on the assembly line."
Selig went out claiming MLB had created the most powerful drug enforcement policy in professional sports. He says, bursting with ego, that this policy is part of his legacy.
But this is true. MLB has a pretty powerful drug enforcement policy.
The truth is that Selig was tardy leading MLB into drug enforcement. The great home-run explosions — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa — went on before Baseball ignored steroids and performance enhancing drugs. Baseball reveled in the attacks on Ruth and Henry Aaron and Roger Maris by Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.
This is also true. It's very hard to force through a powerful drug enforcement policy when there isn't a big problem that needs to be addressed. Often, something has to break before it gets fixed. That is what happened in baseball. The player's union wasn't going to agree that a powerful drug enforcement policy was necessary if they didn't see a real reason to have this powerful policy. The Steroid Era allowed both owners and the player's union to see the issue present and the necessity for a powerful drug enforcement policy. So yes, the Steroid Era is on Bud Selig, but without that era it would have been hard for the player's union to see the need for stricter testing. Such is how life works. Things have to get worse before they get better.
We purists, the cadre of remaining traditionalists, shuddered at the obliteration of Ruth's statistics, of Aaron's and Maris' records.
And this is on Bud Selig, but it's not fair to complain he was responsible for the Steroid Era and then take away credit for creating a powerful drug enforcement policy. It's hard to push through change when there isn't a problem that seems to need solving.
Bud went out with self-praise for the sweeping drug suspensions of 13 abusers two years ago, in a dragnet operation. It was based on the testimony from convicted Biogenesis operator Anthony Bosch.
In essence, Bud went out after dealing with a drug dealer.
Now this is very true, but Jerry Green is again choosing to complain about everything Bud Selig did simply because he longs for days that will never come again. Jerry Green complains that Bud Selig didn't clean up baseball in time for records to be broken by PED users and then criticizes Selig for being aggressive in trying to prevent PED users from breaking more long-held baseball records. Jerry wants to blame Selig for not being tough enough on PED users, but then complains Selig was too tough on PED users.
It can't always work both ways. Jerry Green wants MLB to clean up baseball, but not to be too aggressive in cleaning up baseball. It's a travesty that PED users are breaking baseball records, but he doesn't want MLB to be too aggressive in making sure this doesn't happen again. I think Selig went a bit overboard to nail A-Rod, but I also don't blame Selig for being tardy to put in place a strict drug enforcement policy.
He did not leave Major League Baseball. He opted to linger. MLB retained him as commissioner emeritus at a peon's wage of $6 million per year. He gets a drop in salary.
But Bud is still there, after all, hanging around. Imagine, 6 million bucks to point out to Rob Manfred, the replacement, err, new commissioner where home plate is.
Yep, I'm not a huge fan of Selig being allowed to earn all this money for not really doing a whole lot. Still, Selig didn't ruin baseball by introducing the wild card, he simply tried to open up the pennant races for more teams to get fans more engaged. I shudder to think what would happen if fewer teams were involved with pennant races during the month of August and September.
For sure, the Common Man ought to relate to that.
I still don't know who the common man is and I refuse to capitalize it. Jerry Green is very lost if he thinks the way back to baseball prosperity is to have two leagues with the best teams in each league meeting in the World Series. He longs for lower ticket prices, dead players to suddenly come back alive and play again, and for owners to not make a lot of money on the backs of fans. Changing how the playoffs structured won't fix this, so basically Jerry's problem isn't with Bud Selig, but with the passage of time. Perhaps he should take up his beefs with a clock or calendar.