Blog Entry

MLB Family Feud '13

Posted on: March 29, 2013 1:25 am
Wherever people cluster there are bound to be skirmishes.

At the dinner table, school, the workplace, your barber shop, …any place people come together. It’s human nature: different brain-matter, different opinions and then the verbal wrangling ensues.

Sometimes the tension runs like an undercurrent, out of public view. The conflicts that spring up can be as measured as a bow-shot at sea or as lengthy as the Thirty Years’ War (1618), as acrimonious as the ugliest divorce or low-key as a game of croquet.

And baseball’s no exception.

While MLB’s fiscal state is robust ($5B ‘12) and is set to raise the curtain on 2013 Sunday night (3-31 / ESPN) as the Rangers mosey on down to Houston to take on intra-state rival and new Junior Circuit member, the Astros, things are not all hot dogs & cerveza in America’s national pastime.

There are sore-spots that fester, some with a history, some just starting to take shape. Not likely any of these hot button topics triggers a clubhouse fisticuff but try broaching any of ’em with players & coaches and you’re likely to get an ear full.

WBC (World Baseball Classic)

Classic case of wishful thinking, as in, ‘We (MLB) wish the international format, so successful in the World Cup, can work for baseball too.’ Wish upon all the stars your “heart(s) desire” fellas, but even Jiminy Cricket won’t underwrite that dream.

Baseball’s global popularity explains why the WBC has met with worldwide applause since its debut in 2005. But state-side, the tournament barely makes a ripple in the sea of US sport news as fans are indifferent and players not exactly lining-up to participate.

Maybe if MLB went all in, making the WBC a real world series where each nation’s league champion team (‘12 Giants (MLB), Leones (LIDOM), Giants (NPB), etc.) was a participant, rather than a compilation of native players (WC), it might be better received by the American public. One thing is certain, its intrusion upon our beloved spring training traditions in Florida and Arizona, as minimal as it is, does not help the sell.

Sabermetrics (or Billy Beane baseball)

The dogfight between saber-heads & traditionalists flies under the radar but constitutes baseball’s war of philosophy.

Stats have always been a big deal in rounders, nothing new or contentious there. Just check the backs of older Topps cards: NFL versions are numeral-poor while MLBs are jam-packed with figures. Numbers were big in 1880 and they’re still big today.

But saber-heads kneel at the alter of the Holy Digit, spouting the ‘numbers never lie’ mantra while intolerant of other sporting faiths. They view baseball through the eyes of an accountant, dissing the subtle strategy, the history and humanity of the game, always favoring quantity over quality, numbers over nuance. If that reads a little harsh, go a few rounds with one of ‘em and see if it isn’t a pretty accurate assessment of the type.

Who’s winning the war? The battle of ideologies flares up whenever Cooperstown is the subject. By that measure (vote results), I’d say we’re in trench warfare.

PEDs (performance enhancing drugs)

Confused on MLB’s drug testing policy? If you answered yes, you’re not alone, if no, clue me in because I’m kinda’ lost. Thought I had it down last year when they were supposedly drawing blood from every player in spring. Then this winter they announced a new testing twist, a plan to start taking “random” samples during (?) the 2013 season.

Bottom-line: While baseball’s testing policy seems half-measured and a bit of a shell-game (See; MLBPA), they remain the one major US sport who is taking action and making progress. They’re catching some of the slugs, likely deterring others and may someday arrive at a clear, consistent and complete PED prevention policy.

The antagonists: users, pushers, enablers and faux-sport fans vs. everybody else.

Who’s winning this war? Given the persistence of drug peddlers, a cheater’s mentality that’s in vogue and a public that grows more & more dispassionate about anything that’s not TV, gizmos, food or drink, I’d say the crusaders have a long fight ahead. But they’ve drawn a line in the sand and they’re not giving up this time.

Some crusades will end. Saladin and Richard the Lionheart were warriors but also brave visionaries. They knew when to make peace (1192), even if others failed to heed their wisdom (4th Crusade). But if you really love baseball and care about the health, the well-being of children who will someday fill its ranks, this is one crusade we can’t quit on.

The DH Rule

After a period of dormancy, the designated hitter debate is heating up again. That can only mean one thing: someone’s got dollar signs ($$) in their eyes and has deployed an advance force (media) to help prepare the way.

I dislike the DH but have come to accept, even appreciate, its status as a distinguishing trait (vs DH-free National) and fixture of the American League.

Some believe an NL-DH is “inevitable” (3-5 / Jaffe / “True Grit” / SI). I’d say it’s as “inevitable” as abandonment of day-game World Series (’87), football gear in the batter’s box, dangerous maple bats and the AL-DH (’73). In a sport that used to respect its traditions and League distinctions, we fans asked for none of these changes (inter-league) supposedly needed for good of the game. Hogwash.

What fans and the game need, want, and what they get are all very different animals.

Tradition giving way to common-sense change (bat-helmets) and even some profiteering, if it also profits fans (NCAA field: 32 to 68), is a standard all of us can accept.

Just as I won’t oppose progressiveness solely on basis of tradition, I just as surely won’t ditch a tradition merely for sake of change and making change ($) for the greedy few.

In a sport where the home run derby is its biggest event and bunny-hop celebrations make most viewers cringe, the on-going debate over the designated hitter rule actually pumps life into the game, giving it a visceral edge, in opposite of what agents-of-change would have you believe when mocking what they’d call a behind-the-times National, a League who’s been easily dispatching their DH devoted AL rival in recent Series play.

If proponents get their way and force the rule on the Senior Circuit they can kiss goodbye the ‘national pastime’ moniker for that arrogant act will signify the last nail in the coffin that buries what semblance of League distinction remained, along with a good part of history with it.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn

Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: April 4, 2013 11:04 pm

MLB Family Feud '13

I only wish my hair were staying-put long enough to turn "grey."  Ah, "(Vanity), thy name is (Minoxidil)."

Yes, "Curacao," a former Dutch colony.  How silly am I?  Here I was envisioining WBC Dutch players in the Netherlands practicing in the shadow of windmills and shagging fly balls between the tulips.

I like the "one and done penalty" idea (PEDs).  Nothing motivates like fear.

And regret forgetting "ash-maple bat controversy" here.  You wrote a good piece back in Janurary.  Only today would such non-sense (wicked maple bats) be permitted.  Thanks for reading and the comments, Jim.

Since: Jul 10, 2009
Posted on: April 4, 2013 5:14 pm

MLB Family Feud '13

Old time views, suggest that when you look in the mirror there is some grey hair in the refletion.  Whether it is the WBC, PEDs or the DH, the subject is money driven.  What isn't.  The WBC is being peddled as the seed of the Globalization of Baseball, but many of those participating countries are already "baseball countries".  Puerto Rico, the DR, Mexico, Korea, Japan, and China don't need the WBC to spread the gospel.  The Netherlands have made some noise in the WBC, but the majority of that team were from Curacao in the Carribean.  Baseball is not being globalized but MLB revenues from this years version will approach 1.5 billion from the TV rights, the sale of souvenirs, team jerseys, hats etc. 

The poster boy for PEDs should be Melky Cabrera.  Bonds, Clemens, A-rod and all the other well known cheats made plenty of money sticking a needle in their ass, but took the drugs for self serving interests, ie celebrity, fame and records.  Cabrera did it to save his career and the money.  He parleyed a 1 M contract with the Royals into 6 M with the Giants and turned that and the 50 game suspension into 16 M.  Gotta love this country, where a poor boy from the DR can come to the USA, commit a felony, serve no hard time and then get a job paying 8 M a year.  Melky Cabrera is  the role model of bench players everywhere.  Until Allan Huber Selig grows a pair and fights for a one and done penalty for the use of PEDs, it will always infest the game and devalue the accomplishments of a Hank Aaron or a Roger Maris.

As long as DHs make more money that the last man on the bench, the MLBPA will never give up the position in the AL.  I will rue the day, but it will come when the NL folds and accepts the ill-conceived gimmick of the DH.

Outstanding job, one area you might want to look at is the ash-maple bat controvery.  I wrote Crack of the Bat on my blog earlier this year and today watched Will Veneable break 5 bats vs the Mets today.   It is a potenial fatality bidding its time.  Jim  

Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: April 2, 2013 2:47 pm

MLB Family Feud '13

While Barack Obama is a fine President in some respects, he will never be accused of trying to be too original.  I don't believe there is a trend or bandwagon Mr. Obama and his advisor group have not yet jumped on, whether it be the charge towards privatization of all government services, Selection Sunday hoopla (Louisville), green-lighting the rapid growth of monopoly or Billy Beane's sabermetrics.

Your insightful "two cents" are always welcome and expanisve to the topic, TE.  Thanks for reading.

Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: April 2, 2013 2:32 pm
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Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: April 2, 2013 2:32 pm
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Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: April 2, 2013 2:31 pm
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Since: Mar 5, 2011
Posted on: April 2, 2013 2:30 pm
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Since: Mar 21, 2010
Posted on: April 1, 2013 9:16 am

MLB Family Feud '13

Here are my two cents on each of the themes that you have presented in this blog:

1) The World Baseball Classic just like the World Cup does not get alot of headlines here in the U.S. because the only competition against the world's best athletes that Americans care about is the Olympics.
Advantage: The Olympics.

2) As far as Sabermetrics goes, not only is it gaining in popularity but it also beginning to gain mainstream acceptance. President Obama has used metrics to successfully win two terms and now other politicians (especially some of the ones that have been in office a while) are starting to at the very least give metrics a look. It's impact and reach can no longer be denied even by traditionalist. Advantage: Sabermetricians.

3) The PED policy for the players is still the same: don't get caught. The PED policy from Bud Selig's point of view depends strictly on public sentiments and opinion so that is why there is so much confusion.
Advantage: The Players (who don't get caught).

4) The DH is not going away and the Players Union will make sure of that. It is about "protecting the jobs of players" even though they can't do the job of playing the field.
Advantage: The Designated Hitter Rule.

Good job with this blog.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or