Tag:NL East
Posted on: February 15, 2012 2:34 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 3:17 pm
 

Nine ways to improve Major League Baseball

By Matt Snyder

We're just a few days until all 30 teams will have had pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Just like any true baseball fan, I'm giddy with excitement.

Just like with anything, the major-league level sport could use some improvements. While MLB was tied with college football for the second-most popular sport in a Harris Interactive poll, the demographics show that baseball is in danger of drastically losing popularity, as the study showed most baseball fans are older than 50. Now, obviously that gives a solid 20-year window before doomsday really hits, but baseball still needs to be cognizant that growing the younger audience is key for long-term growth.

That means baseball needs to be a little more Blackberry/iPhone and a little less rotary phone. Remember, not all change is bad. At one point in time, it was a home run when the ball bounced over the fence. I wonder what the "purists" thought when they changed it to a ground-rule double? If you wanna call me names and claim I'm not a purist, below you'll find several targets. But make no mistake about it, I'm trying to find ways to make the game more exciting for the next generation. In this century, things move faster and people have less time to pay attention. Adapt or die, as "Billy Beane" said in "Moneyball."

So here are nine things I'd change about baseball in order to make it better suited for the next generation. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section and make this an interactive discussion.

1. Put in a pitch clock. I'm dead serious -- put it up like basketball has a shot clock. Not only is it, you know, a freaking rule that pitchers have to throw a pitch within 12 seconds of getting the ball, but this would add some drama for many younger fans. The best reason, obviously, is that the umpires would actually be forced to enforce the rule that they so often just ignore. The rulebook (Rule 8.04) states "The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball."

Has anyone ever watched Josh Beckett (pictured right, surely finding a way to avoid throwing a pitch within the first 20 seconds he has the baseball) pitch? I bet he's had outings where he never once threw a pitch within 12 seconds. It makes me feel like I'm watching Steve Traschel all over again ... well, except that Beckett's actually good. I'm not blaming Beckett. The umpires let him do it and he's not alone at all (Vicente Padilla also comes to mind). Just using him as an example.

2. Get someone with some common sense to rework the blackout rules. I've covered this before, so just click through and see how amazingly stupid it is. Bud Selig needs to hire someone to do something about it. Hell, I'll throw my hat in the ring and volunteer.

3. More Saturday day games. Sunday is fine, because everyone plays a day game with the exception of the ESPN Sunday Night Game. And I understand weekday games needing to be at night. But on Saturday, we usually get about three afternoon games and the rest are at night. This is the best time for families to get their kids to the game and many families don't like to have their kids out at the ballpark late Saturday night for many reasons. Why not just start the Saturday games at 1:00 p.m. local time? Especially when school is in session. I also wouldn't mind seeing Game 3 of the World Series falling on a Saturday afternoon. It's not like Saturday night is prime for TV ratings.

4. Expand replay to everything but balls and strikes. Why does someone like Ron Kulpa or Jim Joyce have to be burdened with an honest missed call for the rest of his life? The Joe Wests of the world are in the minority here, as most of the umpires are honest, hard-working guys who just want to get the call right. As the fast motion and without the benefit of multiple camera angles, calls are going to get missed. The insane thing is we have the technology to show they were wrong within seconds, yet don't allow the umpires to use it. Why not just have a centralized review office at the MLB headquarters where one replay official watches every game? You don't need to give the managers challenges or have the entire umpiring crew go underneath the stadium for 15 minutes. Let's just use some common sense and start getting every call correct. It's very possible.

5. Make the DH universal. I've written about this before and the reasons are very simple. First of all, it's insane that a professional sports organization has a different set of rules for two leagues, especially when the leagues play each other during the regular season and decide a champion by facing each other in the World Series. So you either have to take the DH away from the AL or add it to the NL.

And here's where the purists freak out and start calling me names, since I say add it to the NL. I wouldn't be averse to taking it away from the AL, just as long as the same rules are applied to both leagues. But adding to NL makes more sense here. The first reason is that the players union would obviously never allow the DH to go away, as it would cost jobs to veteran players. The second reason is it's better for offense, and we're trying to get kids to watch the games, remember? Plus, pitchers suck at hitting. We're supposed to be watching pro athletes at their best ... also realize teams don't have to use a DH. So if the Marlins want to bat Carlos Zambrano, for example, more power to them. Just don't come with this "baseball is meant to be played both in the field and at bat" junk. Pitching is a specialization. You don't make a quarterback play defense in football anymore.

6. Out with penny-pinching owners. Among the many complaints I'm waiting on in the comments section is that I didn't mention a salary cap. Here's the deal: With baseball's system, players are under team control for six years. That's a lot longer than other sport. And with the revenue sharing system, many small-market clubs are making hefty profits. Take 2010 (Forbes.com hasn't released the 2011 numbers yet). Did you know three teams lost money that season? The Red Sox, Mets and Tigers. Large markets. Guess who had the highest operating income? The Padres, who made almost $40 million. And after the season they traded superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for prospects because they couldn't "afford" to sign him long term.

The problem with the difference in payrolls is mostly on these tight-fisted owners from the old boys club of owners. Just over a week ago, Joe Sheehan of SI.com wrote an excellent article about how owners like the Royals' David Glass, Athletics' Lew Wolff, Pirates' Robert Nutting and Blue Jays' Rogers Corporation are pocketing millions upon millions while crying that they can't afford high-priced talent (though I'd probably cut the Jays out there, to be fair).

The money is there, so it should be spent on improving the on-field product, not the bottom line of a billionaire. The fans of these teams and others deserve better. There should be more George Steinbrenners -- who would rather lose money while the team wins than vice versa -- not less.

7. Shorten spring training. The always-entertaining Brandon McCarthy, A's starting pitcher, wrote the following about spring training last week for SI.com's Hot Clicks: "It's so, so, so LONG: It's six weeks of practice and pretend games. It just never seems to end. It's like our version of Oregon Trail. By the time camp ends, someone's died of Dysentery, there's a bunch of new kids that have been born, and your feet are killing you."

He's right. How many fake games do you need? Cut out two weeks and ...

8. Start/end the season earlier. The reasoning is two-pronged. The first prong is that baseball in cold weather isn't near as enjoyable as baseball in warm weather. With the World Series creeping up on November, there are just too many chances for weather issues during the most important games of the year (remember Game 5 of the Phillies-Rays series). If spring training was shortened, the season could begin the third week of March. Yes, weather is bad for the first several weeks of the season in many parts of the country, but the scheduling is easier then. There are enough warm-weather and retractable-roof teams to cover the first month. The games aren't nearly as important as the playoff games and in the playoffs you don't get to choose the venue (how about a Minnesota vs. Chicago World Series in the first week of November? Shivers everywhere). So you'd start the playoffs the third week of September and the World Series would be over in the middle of October. The second prong is you cut away time in competition with the NFL. Sorry, the NFL is a monster and there's no changing that in the near future, so don't compete with it anymore than necessary. Two less weeks of facing off against the NFL would be great for the sport of baseball.

9. Blackball Jose Canseco. Oh wait, I guess he claims that already happened. Whatever, just please go away, Jose. Take Lenny Dykstra with you. #4TRUTH. Yes, I realize this doesn't have to do with MLB, but I just can't stand these guys. The game is much better without having them around it.

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Posted on: February 15, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Edgardo Alfonzo: Mets' 'legend?'

By Matt Snyder

The New York Mets announced Wednesday that, in honor of the franchise's 50th anniversary, they will have five different bobblehead giveaways this summer at Citi Field. Each bobblehead will be of a Mets legend, one from each decade of the franchise's existence. The first 25,000 fans for each game will get their bobblehead.

Tom Seaver will represent the '60s, with the giveaway being on April 22. Rusty Staub represents the '70s on May 26. Keith Hernandez is the '80s guy on June 17 while Mike Piazza is the representative for the 2000s on August 25.

You'll note I left out the 1990s. It's Edgardo Alfonzo (July 21). I was left scratching my head a bit about this. Yes, Alfonzo was a good player -- in fact, he was an All-Star in 2000 and had great years in 1999 and 2002. But he's the Mets' "legend" for the 1990s whole decade? Really?

Alfonzo played five seasons for the Mets in the '90s, putting together a .290/.356/.429 line, good for a 106 OPS-plus. He hit 62 homers (an average of 15 per 162 games) while averaging 73 runs and 68 RBI per season. He was versatile defensively. All-around, a good player, but certainly not a legend.

Now, please don't misconstrue this as a huge complaint. I don't care who the Mets give away as a bobblehead and I'm not a Mets fan. I'm just wondering if Mets fans think of the '90s and the first player that comes to mind is Alfonzo. I combed through a few of the rosters, because I don't think I should make any kind of statement without having an alternative option, and I came up with a pretty good name: John Franco. He was the closer for nearly the entire decade. He racked up 276 saves in his Mets' career, 268 of which came in the 90s, when he had a 2.81 ERA.

Anyway, it's not a big deal, but I'm curious, Mets fans: Would you rather have a Franco or Alfonzo bobblehead?

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Posted on: February 15, 2012 11:17 am
 

Guillen: Hanley not '100 percent' OK with move

By Matt Snyder

While it made the offense much stronger, the signing of star shortstop Jose Reyes caused some drama for the newly-named Miami Marlins this winter. That's because, as we all know, the Marlins already had a star shortstop: Hanley Ramirez. The signing of Reyes pushed Ramirez to third base, though there were rumors floating around the Winter Meetings that Ramirez had demanded a trade. Those turned out to be false, but evidently he still isn't exactly happy about the move.

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen point blank, almost emphatically, said, "no," when asked if Ramirez was "100 percent on board" with the move to third base. He didn't even hesitate, also saying that Ramirez was upset with having to change positions. Guillen did say, however, he expects Ramirez to be 100 percent OK with the move by the time they play St. Louis (opening day of the regular season) and that everyone should "just let it be."

Here's the entire video of Guillen discussing the situation, shot by Miami Herald writer Clark Spencer:



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Posted on: February 14, 2012 11:10 pm
 

Nats GM: Harper cocky, but not malicious

Bryce Harper

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Even before he was picked first overall in the 2010 draft, the Nationals' Bryce Harper had a reputation of rubbing people the wrong way. Harper's talent has never, ever been questioned, but his demeanor and attitude have been.

I saw it last year in a Class A game in Lexington, Ky., where he nearly started a fight by trying to bowl over a catcher despite having no chance of dislodging the ball, only to back down quickly. He famously blew a kiss at a pitcher after homering off of him last season, drawing scorn from many. Others have scoffed at his use of eye black and even the way he wears his hat -- and for Pete's sake, he named his dog "Swag." And then there's his Twitter account.

Bryce Harper
Last week Harper told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he wanted to be a Joe Namath-type athlete off the field.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the team understands Harper is a typical 19-year-old, but what to impress upon him that anything he does won't be treated like the actions or words of a typical 19-year-old. The Nationals, Rizzo told the Washington Post, have counseled Harper and tried to impress upon him his role in the organization.

Rizzo also said, he doesn't think Harper's a bad kid, "there's not a malicious bone in his body. Now, there's a cocky bone in there," Rizzo told the Post's Jason Reid. "And there's an ego bone. And there are other bones … but there's not a malicious bone in his body."

Nationals manager Davey Johnson is reportedly pushing for Harper to make the team's opening-day roster, but Rizzo seems to think Harper has development left beyond his production on the field.

"He's going to make it to the big leagues when I realize that, developmentally, he's ready to play in the big leagues," Rizzo told the Post. "That's physically, that's emotionally and that's psychologically."

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:04 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 10:12 pm
 

MLB, Showtime believe 'The Franchise' has legs

Ozzie GuillenBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Over the next couple of weeks, Major League Baseball and Showtime will be planning out the rest of their shoots over the course of the season for this season of The Franchise, which will follow the Miami Marlins' season. But by the time the regular season begins in April, Chris Tully, MLB senior vice president  for broadcasting, said they'll already be looking for the 2013 subject.

"We think this concept has legs," Tully said on Tuesday. "I think Showtime has as much passion for the project as we do. The challenge was getting it launched, but once we were able to get over that hurdle, the reception has been excellent."

After following the Giants in season one, Tully said several teams approached MLB about opening their doors for the cameras in 2012. But as many teams as expressed interest, there was one team that just stood out and made the decision easy -- the new-look Marlins.

"I think we're foturnate with the players already on hand and the new players they brought in. With Ozzie (Guillen), the new stadium, the new branding, the new uniforms. We're catching them at the most opportune time."

Miami Marlins
It seems so. There will be no shortage of storylines for this season of The Franchise -- the show, Tully said, will no doubt touch on Guillen, Hanley Ramirez's move to third base to accommodate newcomer Jose Reyes, the addition of Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle, as well as the opening of a new stadium. Tully confirmed a Miami Herald report that the filming has already begun, including the Marlins' meeting with Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes last week. The cameras will certainly be rolling when the Marlins' pitchers and catchers report for spring training this weekend.

But it's the stories that have yet to emerge that are the most exciting, Tully said. One of his favorite storylines in the Giants season was the unlikely emergence of Ryan Vogelsong, who hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006 and then made the All-Star team in 2011.

"One of the key things is giving access to viewers that they don't usually get," Tully said. "How do they interact with each other, with management and how they interact with their family and friends."

Last season the series started with a "sneak peak" in April and then started in July for a run of nine total episodes. This season is expected to be nine episodes, but it's unlikely they'll have a preview episode, starting the full nine half-hour episodes shortly after the All-Star break and running through September.

Most exciting, though, may be that we'll get the full, uncensored Guillen, who is known to like an expletive or two. Those were bleeped when he was featured as part of The Franchise's precursor The Club, on MLB Network.

"We didn't use bleeps last year," Tully said. "I don't think language is a focus or a concern."

It's just going to be a bonus.

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 12:38 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 12:48 pm
 

Showtime series to feature Guillen's Marlins

Ozzie Guillen

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Let the Ozzie show begin.

The Miami Marlins will be featured in this season of Showtime's The Franchise, MLB and the network announced on Monday. Last year the Giants were featured in the six-episode show that followed the Giants from spring training through the season.

The Marlins  are the perfect choice for the series, with not only new manager Ozzie Guillen, but also a new ballpark, new uniforms and new stars in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. Throw the ever-volatile Carlos Zambrano into the mix and you may have some television magic.

The 2012 version of the series has already started filming. The Miami Herald reported last week that a camera crew from Major League Baseball filmed the team's meeting with free-agent Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes last week in Miami, while Monday's release from MLB and Showtime noted the production has already begun.

The Marlins seem ideal for the task, just looking at the players on the team, and their new manager.

While Guillen will get plenty of face time to be sure, there's also several other entertaining players on the team. Outfielder Logan Morrison has made more of a name for himself with his antics on Twitter than his play on the field, while Bell is one of the game's great characters.

Then there's real-life baseball reasons to follow -- how will Hanley Ramirez take to moving to third base? How about Josh Johnson's return from shoulder inflammation that cost him the majority of 2011. And then there's just the sheer baseball thrill of watching Mike Stanton, one of the best young players in the game. Add a new park, new expectations and the fact that the pay-cable channel won't bleep Guillen and the Marlins were easily the best choice for Showtime -- and the viewers.

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Posted on: February 11, 2012 4:55 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 5:02 pm
 

Report: Marlins offer Cespedes $40 million

Yoenis Cespedes

By C. Trent Rosecrans


The starting point, it appears, for Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes is $40 million.

A report on Cafe Fuerte, a Spanish-language blog based in South Florida, quotes a source as saying the Marlins offered Cespedes a six-year, $40 million contract. It also said he has no immediate plans to meet any other teams. However, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweeted that he's heard the Marlins' offer was less than the $40 million reported by Cafe Fuerte.

Cespedes visited Miami earlier this week and then returned to the Dominican Republic on Thursday. During his visit, Cespedes told reporters he'd like to play for the Marlins.

The 26-year-old outfielder has drawn the interest of not only the Marlins, but also the Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, Orioles and Indians.

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Posted on: February 11, 2012 4:20 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 8:08 pm
 

Marlins unretire No. 5 for Logan Morrison

Logan MorrisonBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Did you know the Marlins retired the No. 5? Me either.

Well, it's been unretired, MLB.com reports. Originally set aside to honor Carl Barger, the team's first president and chief operating officer, the team has allowed outfielder Logan Morrison to don the number.

Barger died on Dec. 9, 1992, before the Marlins ever played a game. The Marlins retired the number because his favorite player was Joe DiMaggio.

Morrison, though, is doing it to honor a different No. 5, his dad's favorite player, George Brett. (I won't say what it means about me that Logan Morrison's dad and I have the same all-time favorite player.) Morrison was born in Kansas City and on Twitter, he said his father always told him to play the game like Brett. Morrison's father, Tom, died after Morrison's rookie year in 2010.

So, here's what Morrison, who had previously worn No. 20, had to say about the number change on his Twitter account:


Morrison also shared a picture of what his new jersey will look like.

The team will add a plaque in its new Miami ballpark to honor Barger.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted that the door to Morrison changing numbers may have been pushed open when the team offered to unretire No. 5 to woo a certain free agent first baseman who, like Brett, had worn the number for many years in the state of Missouri.

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