Posted on: July 14, 2009 1:55 pm

Deciding Home Field in the World Series

As we all know, MLB now decides home field advantage from the winner of the All Star game, set to be played tonight.  MLB is peculiar in that it is the only major sport that decides home field advantage, or anything else for that matter, based on the outcome of its All-Star game.  The NFL plays the Superbowl at a neutral site.  Both the NBA and NHL give home court, or home ice, advantage to the team with the better record.  MLB's method does provide more excitement to the game and does give more incentive for players, particularly those from contenders, to play harder and really try to win.  I suppose the managers should be more motivated to win as well more than make sure everyone gets in the game.  This is just as good, and better in my opinion, than the old way of alternating home filed advantage every year.  However, it does seems a lot to base on an exhibition game. 

Within the past few days I heard Bud Selig talking about this very subject on Mike and Mike in the Morning.  During that conversation, the different methods of deciding home field advantage were discussed.  They talked about the old way, the current method, and the potential of having home field in the World Series decided by best record.  Selig spoke against this and seemed to say that it would be too difficult and too much of a hassle to do it that way.  One thing in particular he talked about was the hotel rooms and transportation that really need to be booked in advance.  He said that these plans really needed to be made ahead of time and due to this, home field could not be decided based on best schedule.  What?  Unless I am completely off base here, it seems like you could not really firm up your plans for travel and hotels until after the League Championship Series to begin with.  The only way you could make those plans more in advance than that is if you knew in advance which teams were going to win the AL and NL championships before they happened.  Doesn't make much sense to me.  Even under the old plan of alternating years, you would not know what teams and cities would be involved until after the league champions were decided as well.  Assuming the AL wins tomorrow night, where is the MLB going to start booking rooms tomorrow?  Do we go ahead and book rooms for LA and New York, Boston and Chicago, or LA St. Louis?  If this method makes everything so much more simpler, i sure don't see it.  I am sorry Mr. Selig, but your argument just failed on this front.

Maybe Selig should go talk to the NBA and NHL.  After all, they have found a way to make home field to the best record work.  As with baseball, they do not know who will be playing in their respective finals until after their conference championships.  Then it is just a matter of comparing records and giving home field to the better team accordingly.  At that point you start booking hotels and travel.  This has worked in the NBA and NHL forever, why is it too complicated for MLB?  Is it too difficult to compare records and see who has the better winning percentage?  I am sorry Mr. Selig, but again your argument just does not hold water.

I am not necessarily saying that the method of deciding home field advantage should necessarily be changed, but it would not hurt to consider it.  What it really boils down to, is that the argument that Selig gave about hotel and travel bookings seems to be calling us fans stupid, and i hate to be called stupid.  So MLB if you want to keep deciding home field the way it is done now, fine, just give a plausible reason that does not insult the intelligence of your fans.

Posted on: February 12, 2009 5:00 pm

Baseball, It's still a great game!

This is certainly the most frequently I have posted blog entries in my time doing this blog.  Heck, I think at this point I will have doubled my number of blog entries in the past two days alone.  Yesterday I posted an entry revolving around a negative subject concerning our great past time, and a subject that I have personally grown more and more tired of.  In fact, most of the writing I have seen recently seems to be concerned with what is wrong with the game, and all of the negative that has come up in the sport over the last several years.  If one was to just see this media coverage, it is certainly easy to lose track with all that is right with our game and the positives that come forward from it.  I hope through this entry, I can influence some people to start looking at the positive aspects of the game and those magnificent things which have taken place and will undoubtedly continue to take place in the future.

First, there have been a number of underdog stories that have transpired over the past several years.  One that immediately comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Rays making it to the World Series.  Even as a Yankees fan, I can recognize the accomplishment here.  I truly wish it had been the Yankees instead of the Rays but that is beside the point.  A franchise who had never even had a single winning series in their prior history found themselves in the Fall Classic.  Nobody expected them to even finish above .500 at the beginning of the season.  Even during the season all of the talk was whether the Rays were for real and when would they collapse into the cellar once again.  We all kept waiting for it to happen, yet it never did.  They certainly did not need to win the World Series, or even make it to the Series, to have a successful season.  Just making the playoffs would have been a success.  With their trip to the Series, they took a step forward for underdogs everywhere.

Another underdog story that was truly inspiring was the re-emergence of Rick Ankiel with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Perhaps a better way to put it is the emergence of Rick Ankiel as a truly gifted hitter.  I think everyone knows the basics of his story.  He started in the Majors as a top pitching prospect and then he fell apart as a pitcher.  He decided he wanted to keep playing, so he became an outfielder and a solid batter.  The excitement as he kept knocking balls out of the park was palpable.  The only thing that takes away from this story is Ankiel's eventual link to HGH.  HGH or not, this is still a truly amazing comeback story.  In my opinion this story would certainly make a great movie in the likes of "The Rookie" or any number of inspirational stories based on sports figures coming back at a time or age when all would have thought they were done. 

The anticipation of the upcoming season.  Who can deny that as the new season dawns upon us, pitchers and catchers report in just 2 short days from now, that we are not beginning to fill with excitement?  I know I am looking forward to the new season with hope that the Yankees win another championship, and that all of the off-season moves work out well.  At this point, fans of every team can have optimism about the season to start.  Some may be justified and others may be in dream land, but we can all believe for the time being.  At this point, we are all equal in the standings.  Unfortunately, I will have to follow spring training from the computer but I know that I will be following it and building up my excitement for Opening Day in April.  As always, I will be looking forward to the Yankees first series of the season against the Red Sox.  I am sure that fans across the nation have things they are already looking forward to.  Maybe it's going to spring training, going to a game in a new stadium, or just being able to sit at home and watch a game while you have a cookout and drink a few frosty ones on a sunny summer afternoon.  Bottom line, all of these things that we have to look forward to have been overlooked recently.

Whether we are at the park or watching games from home, the camaraderie with your fellow fans is another great thing about our game.  I know I have made quite a few friends, both virtual and real life, by talking about our team.  While it is just a little bit different, I have even be-friended the occasional Red Sox fan.  the sport of baseball gives us as an American people a common subject to share, an institution that can unite us all.  There are very few things that can do this as baseball does.  People need to remember this as we move forward into the season and beyond.

What can beat taking your kid to his or her first game?  It was just a few short years ago that I took my sons to their first baseball game.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.  From the time we walked into the park to the end of the game, we had an absolute blast that day.  Unfortunately, I spent a little too much money.  Before it was over, my boys were walking out of the park with jerseys and caps, and a stomach full of soda and hot dogs.  And really, is there any place in the world that you can get a hot dog that is as good as at the ball park?  Without this sport, my sons and I do not have that memory.  In fact, to this day I remember the first game that my dad took me to as a kid.  It was a Yankees game when Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Goose Gossage, and the other greats from the '77 to '78 Yankees were playing.  It was a game in 1978 against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.  The sport of baseball gave me a memory that has and will last a lifetime.

Hope.  In today's world we all need hope.  Without hope, what do we really have, and what do we have to look forward to?  Baseball gives us some measure of hope in our every day lives.  If a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals can have hope, we all can.  And just maybe that hope and optimism can spill over into other areas of our lives and society.  It is something.  With our economy in shambles and being told our environment is almost beyond repair, we really need something to give us hope and optimism.  Maybe baseball, and everything it means to us as a people can give us at least some measure of hope, and if not hope at least a means to escape from our troubles and just be a kid again.

I hope that as me move forward, we can all look for positive stories, because nothing but negative events sure is depressing after a while.  Here's to the upcoming season and all that it holds in store for us all.


Posted on: February 11, 2009 1:10 pm

Steroids and baseball, Will it ever end?

As I sit here writing this post I have a few thoughts concerning the ongoing steroid discussion as it relates to baseball and the stars in the sport.  This is the first blog entry I have posted in quite some time but I have not had the time to do so.  This may reflect my impatience with the entire subject and my desire to just see it go away.  Some may also believe that it has to do with me being a Yankee fan and growing increasingly sick of seeing my team's players outed in various reports, books and other media.  I believe, and hope, that I can be a little bit more neutral and impartial than that.  At this point, I would be as sick of hearing about steroids and baseball if it were Boston Red Sox players being named rather than New York Yankees players.  To begin, I would like to say that I am not defending or making excuses for the use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.

First, it has been obvious that there is certainly disparate treatment of athletes who test dirty depending upon what sport they participate in.  It seems that this entire week has been devoted to the story of Alex Rodriguez and performance enhancing drugs.  I am sure there are other stories in sports and this cannot possibly be all that is going on.  We also have seen the same treatment of Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and many other baseball players.  Some have escaped as much wrath due to admitting use and acting humble, see Andy Pettite.  However, all of the baseball players named in any report will forever have their careers tarnished by this.  In fact, the entire era is probably tarnished by steroids.  It has even been said that none of these players should be allowed into the Hall of Fame because of steroid use.  For a contrast I turn to the NFL.  In the recent past Sean Merriman and Rodney Harrison have both been found to have used a performance enhancing drug.  Neither one of them were put through the media circus or called before Congress as baseball players have been.  They received a suspension and the biggest concern of fans seemed to be, when will they be back on the field?  If there is any validity to the argument that we don't want our pro athletes using any PED so that children and developing athletes won't use them, then the same rules and scrutiny should apply across the board.  Otherwise, we are really saying that it is really okay to use performance enhancing drugs if you play football, but if you play baseball it is a mortal sin to even consider it.  And let's face it, where do you think being bigger, stronger, and faster will pay off the most?

People have now been stating that the remainder of the 104 names of players who tested dirty in the 2003 testing should be released to the public as Alex Rodriguez's name was.  There are a couple of objections I can see to this.  First, this testing was done with the promise that it would be confidential, would be destroyed, and there would be no punishment assessed for a positive test.  It was absolutely wrong for any name, including Alex Rodriguez, to be released to the media, period.  It was through these guarantees that players agreed to that round of testing to begin with.  If the players cannot trust ownership and the league when it comes to these positive tests, can they trust them on anything else? For all of those who think that we have the right to know all the names, I will put one question to you.  If you took a medical test at your job, say for drugs, based on the promise that it would be confidential, and there would be no punishment for it, would you believe that it would be justified to publish your positive test result at a later date?  To add to the problem, your name is then trashed in the media.  While most of us would not have to worry about the media, you have to admit that it would be embarrassing.  Would you have any trust for your employer at that point?  Additionally, if the other 103 names were released does anyone believe that would end the steroid era and no other player would be suspected?  There is no way.  Releasing the names would do nothing except to provide tabloid fodder as no one can be punished for these tests anyway.  Truly, the only person wronged by the release of just one name out of 104 is Alex Rodriguez himself because he is now being singled out.  Who knows, even if they all came out he may still receive the most attention, but at least would be one among many.

Another subject that has been continually coming up is Cooperstown.  There have been many columnists and fans that say that no player ever tied to the steroid scandal should be eliminated from consideration from the Hall of Fame.  At this point that list would include many of the best players of this era.  The Hall of Fame is supposed to be a museum to the greatest achievements on the field.  The simple fact is that a lot of the greatest players of this era have been tied to steroids, or had their name mentioned in relation to the subject.  This naturally leads to the question of what standard of do we use to keep players out of Cooperstown based on steroid ties.  Would it be as little as an individual said they did it or would it have to be based upon a positive test?  Clearly there should be more than just the word of one person to keep a person out of the Hall forever.  It actually may just cast a doubt over every player who has played during the steroid era.  If all players are guilty by association, do we then keep them all out of the Hall?  That would certainly seem like an extreme solution.  To me the most reasonable solution seems to be to do as Bob Costas has suggested and put a sign up indicating what the steroid era was and what it signified to the sport and the nation.  People then could make up their own minds as to what it would mean to them.  This would also ensure that players who have accomplished some astounding feats would be enshrined.  Let's not forget that there have been other ways of cheating in the past and I am pretty sure there are some Hall of Famers who have engaged in some form of cheating.

Here's to the end of the entire steroid saga and a return to our great national past time in the very near future. 

Posted on: January 30, 2008 11:42 pm

The Start of Baseball Season

I am sitting here looking forward to being able to watch a baseball game pretty soon and realize it is still albout 2 months until the start of the regular season.  Pitchers and catchers are reporting soon and the opening of spring training is just 27 days and 23 minutes away as I wtite this.  I have now started to wonder what is it that makes me sit and think about the start of the season so soon before it starts  I like watching football, but I do not really give it a thought before August.  I really don't pay attention to it from the end of the Superbowl until mid-August.  I love watching hockey, and am a pretty big fan of the sport, yet it does not consume my thoughts in the off-season as baseball does.  What is it about this game that makes it special?

1. It is America's game:  Although football has surpassed baseball in attendance and television viewing, it has always been regarded as America's game.  It has been an American sport, and our national past time for over a century.  It got it's start in the late 1800's and continues today.  In that time baseball has created most of the great sports heroes of our country.  It gave us Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams (for you Red Sox fans), Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and many others.  These players not only played the game greatly, but they have shaped our sports world.  They provide us with endless debate about who the greatest pitcher was, or the greatest fielder, or the greatest hitter.  While a sport that encourages this much debate might divide people, baseball helps bring us together as a people.  It is a common thread that we all share to this day

2. It is a relaxing sport: This is a sport that is best watched on a warm summer afternoon or evening with a cold beer and time to just sit back and relax.  It is designed perfectly for this.  As we all know it is not an extremely fast paced sport.  Therefore you always have time to get up and get a beer from the fridge between batters, or between innings.  It even has the seventh inning stretch.  How much more relaxing can it be.  It also shows that while you won't be perfect, you can still succeed.  As Ted Williams put it, it is the only human endeavor where a man can fail seven out of ten times and still be considered successful. 

3. It is a reflection on life:  Baseball's 162 game season is a perfect analogy to life.  Football is a sprint, a 16 game sseason.  Baseball is a marathon.  A baseball team can have a bad stretch of 16 games and still be a contender.  Life is like this, it is a marathon.  The point is to keep going and if you have a bad day, you can just let it go, and you know you still have tomorrow. 

4. It is a thinking man's game: Baseball, much more than any other major sport is a game for the thinker.  It is dependent on numbers, and its history revolves around those numbers.  Today, those numbers shape the strategy managers use in the games that are played.  They have to consider how pitchers and hitters match up, especially when making substitutions.  Beyond that rather simple concept is having to know when and how to shift fielders with certain batters, when to bunt, when to swing away, and many other strategic decisions.  This is unique to baseball.  It is not as if a football team will start different quarterbacks, or even substitute them, depending on a matchup against  a particular team.  Until I started following it I never realized how much there is to the strategy in this great game.

5. The mid-summer classic:  This is simple.  It is the only professional sport that has an All-Star game that means anything.  It is an important game when homefield in the World Series is at stake.  Sure, basketball and hockey have midseason all-star games, which gives them some popularity but still no meaning.  The Pro-Bowl has got to be the most pointless.  A meaningless game after the most important game of the season is just not very exciing in my opinion.

6. The October Classic: The World Series.  Since its inception over one hundred years ago, there has only been one series cancelled.  That was a sad day for baseball and the country.  It is a tradition that has survived depression, recession, war, disease, and many other calamities and will continue far into the future.  As they say on t.v. there is only one October.

I hope that what I have written here makes sense and conveys my thoughts on what it it that makes baseball special to this country.

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