Deadballers: Ducky and High Pockets Present…

Passionately undeveloped opinions on the state of baseball, the shifting landscape of stats and analysis, and the opiate power of El Pato tomato sauce

Cobb County Charlatans

“Thanks for submitting. However, this really isn’t the type of content we’re looking for. This piece would be fine for a blog, but, for us, there are too many generalizations, it’s too political, and it really has no connection to sports.”

TO THE BLOG CAVE!

I don’t live in Atlanta and don’t deserve any credibility to comment on the new Cobb County stadium story.

But in the wake of details released Thursday about how Cobb County plans on paying for their portion of the deal, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pain. The most upsetting detail is that over the course of the 30-year plan, Cobb County will reallocate $8.67 million per year in existing property taxes to pay for the stadium.

This is, in no uncertain terms, corporate welfare to enrich the Atlanta Braves organization at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in local services. Cobb County citizens should brace for even deeper cuts to their already struggling school system, fire and police services, and other activities that regular citizens depend on whether they want a professional sports team or not. And, perhaps most outrageously, this will all go down without a public vote.

It’s not the most preposterous waste of money I could imagine from a local government. I live in Tucson, a sleepy desert town that generally minds its own business and asks you to do the same. However, Tucsonans have a bitter spot in their heart thanks to the disastrous Rio Nuevo project and the more recent boondoggle “Modern Streetcar” project, a pair of quarter-billion dollar city development plans that have lined the pockets of out-of-town developers.
The alleged revitalization comes at the expense of a struggling local construction industry (some of the largest contracting bids were awarded to out of state firms) and resulted in many local businesses shutting down due to the torn up sidewalks and resulting depression of local traffic.

Tucson was deeply impacted by the housing bubble, and really isn’t anywhere near recovering. Road improvements are restrained to the point where they are almost mythical. We have potholes that Tolkien could have written about at great length. Many public teachers work on one-year contracts, and those with specialist training are the first to be let go because they’re the most expensive to retain.

Tucson Police Department is expected to lose 100 jobs before next year. A superficial facsimile of either San Francisco streetcar charm or eco-friendly public transport isn’t going to make up for these precious losses. We could use a few hundred million dollars right now. This is why I’m upset about the new Braves stadium deal. A county outside of Atlanta is going to start dealing with these same, avoidable problems.

I’ve always known that there was much about Atlanta that I didn’t understand and couldn’t ever hope to experience as an outsider. Southern culture is beautiful and perplexing to me, from the language to the cuisine. I don’t understand what it means to be in Atlanta for more than a weekend, to deal with the legendary traffic, or to try to live and work and raise a family in the area. I’m one of those fans that Atlanta locals probably mock, a kid that started watching the Braves because they were on national TV while I didn’t have a local team to pull for and was learning how to play the game.

But it is upsetting to me to hear about this type of public fleecing, and I didn’t think I’d ever be forced to consider it on behalf of my favorite team and the cornerstone of my childhood. It is of course a sweetheart of a deal for the Braves that they’d be insane to not accept. And as a fan of the Braves, this is a positive development that should help field a winning team into the future. But the deal doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is going to have human consequences.

This appears to be a decision made by Cobb County officials, without a vote from the rest of the citizenry, that they think is going to pay for itself and help the local economy. The spin will deceptively say that the majority of residents won’t see any change in their tax bill. But those millions are coming out of existing budgets at the expense of critical assets. If an exchange of police officers and teachers for professional baseball is indeed the will of Cobb County citizens… well, I’ll just consider it another cultural quirk I’m unlikely to ever understand.

Advertisements

Advise

My older bro is busy doing fancy law stuff with lawyers out in New York. Not my cup of tea because, as you’ll see below, it greatly infringes on one’s ability to blog about baseball.

Generally, I enthusiastically respond to anybody asking me about the Great Pastime. But not when the query comes before 5am.

20130418-092531.jpg

Boston

First, I share my deepest sympathies and astonishment over the events yesterday in Boston. I’m blessed that personal family and friends appear to not be directly injured, though I would still consider them victims in need of all available positive juju. An acquaintance is a trauma surgeon at Mass General. Makes my stomach tie up. I think we need a live chicken up here on the mound.

In this spirit of needing to enjoy enjoyable things as a means of avoiding my instinct for disgust and abhorrence at our human condition, our troubling capacity for infliction and disheartening incapacity for meditation, here is the comprehensive list of the top baseball movies of all time. Scientific and irrefutable, guaranteed or your money back:

1) The Sandlot
2) Bull Durham
3) Moneyball
4) The Bad News Bears
5) Major League
6) A League of Their Own
7) Eight Men Out
8) Field of Dreams
9) Little Big League
10) Rookie of the Year

2,048) Fever Pitch
2,049) For Love of The Game
2,050) A Bronx Tale (mostly a slobberjobbing of the old timey Yankees. Blech. And then some Mafia stuff, which was alright)
2,051) That video of The Indians doing the Harlem Shake
2,052) That episode of LOST where Linus explains to Jack that the Sox won the ‘04 Series
2,053) Major League II
2,054) Major League: Back to the Minors

Discuss, and be WRONG.

But please, be happy and spread your happiness. Patton Oswalt said that if humanity were inherently evil, we would have eaten ourselves a long time ago (Go read the rest of his message for a pick-me-up). Call your family and tell them how much you love them, let your neighbor borrow your trash can, and have some people over for a bratwurst this weekend. For all of our sake.

Opining Expertly

“It’s the element… I’m telling ya, they let those kids run wild up there. Well, maybe it serves ’em right.”*

So it turns out I jumped the gun a bit, because ESPN stretched out the last 100 player announcement over a 4 day event rather than a two day reveal. It’s cool, though, because any point I was going to make about this process being preposterous gets amplified with any hung jury fauxdrama. Somebody should have been waiving flags at the courtroom steps. And rather than bury the lead, I’ll just let you know that the EXPERTS agree that Miguel Cabrera is the greatest that ever was or ever will be. 

I understand that ESPN is an absolute mockery of journalism, even in the mock-worthy realm of sports journalism. I understand that revenue is generated by page clicks, so it’s an excellent strategy to just create more pages within a story and break those pages up by days in order to generate more views. I can even begrudgingly accept that, in order to get any real kind of news or journalism out of ESPN baseball coverage, you have to be willing to get waxed to the tune of a 40$/year premium. That’s what hurts the most, because I could almost justify paying 40 bucks a year for Keith Law and Buster Olney work. I just can’t justify any of that money going to their bosses. Someone over there needs to be willing to take the crab out of crab soup.+

Was that the point of this post? I may just be pissed that I can’t honestly think of a reason to visit the ESPN website anymore, a website that has been a staple of my fan-hood, maybe a staple of my existence, for at least the last decade. Maybe the walls have been slowly coming down for me for longer than I would like to admit. Before I let this get too far down the rabbit hole and write that sports never were important in my life, that the distraction is just a cynical cash grab preying on our Sartrean fears of non-existence or existence in absurdity, that they might as well be serving baseball analysis with high fructose corn syrup and caffeine…

Where was I? Oh yeah… How can you put a reliever in the top 20??? Cabrera more valuable than Trout??? I see the bros as ESPN still love them some RBIs. Idiots. All of us. Idiots!

Opening day tomorrow. Try not to think about it too hard.

+From Season 5 of The Wire. Just watch the fucking Wire already. Jesus, how are we still friends?

*From 12 Angry Men, at least as best as I can remember the film. Watch that first, then go watch The Wire.

ESPNs top 500 baseball players

I’m jumping the gun on this because there are still 100 players left to reveal over 2 super exciting days, but ESPN has “compiled an expert panel of 34 to rate on a scale of 0-100 how each player will perform in 2013.” Hopefully they greatly altered the qualifications for “expert” after 2012’s Punxsutawney Phil display. Y’all can expect some deeper comments after the complete list is posted, because so far it’s really a hoot. Did you know Kevin Youkilis is 172 players worse than he was last year? It’s right there in the numbers. Numbers don’t lie. “Players” is an official statistical number. You can’t pull a number out of your ass!

It also includes links to player twitter handles when applicable, so you know that’s unbiased. It’s gold, I tells ya.

On the bright side, I guess I can stop reading the 2013 Prospectus. 34 experts! Holy Cow! That’s, like, a lot of experts! No way BP has that kind of staff. Also, they don’t have Kruk throwing in his two cents, so it’s basically 560 wasted pages of paper. Shame on your eco-terrorism, BP.

disclaimer: Buy baseball prospectus. You will learn a lot of cool math. Do not trust Jon Kruk for anything in your life. I think even joking about it makes me liable for future lawsuits. Jon Kruk is a braying manatee of a moron. Though that might be giving a bad name to braying, morons and manatees. 

Fantasy Camp

I will be participating in three fantasy baseball leagues this year. Two have cash rewards, one (now active in one form or another for about 11 years) is purely pride and bragging rights among friends. They feature three different formats (one points, one roto, one head-to-head), all three have variant scoring categories. Two are auction drafts with keepers,  one is a serpentine draft without keepers. I have developed 3 pretty extensive spreadsheets to accommodate the various philosophies I have to take into each of the formats. Each spreadsheet has conditional formatting, frozen rows, and references the other 2 spreadsheets. I have never used any of these spreadsheet functions for any other purpose.

I guess my point is that if I had put 1/3rd of the effort into school that I have put into any given fantasy baseball season, I probably would be a Nobel laureate by now. At least a TED fellow. But, as a surgeon I shadowed once said, “If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bicycle.”

Happy drafting, everyone.

Life and other things

Hey there.

Quite a bit has happened in the respective personal, non-pseudonym’d lives of your two favorite bloggers. High Pockets just welcomed his first born son into The League. Nolan Cy Musial Ty Honus was born leading all rookies with a .310/.388/.490 triple slash. The scouts really like the cut of his jaw. He’s got some interesting thoughts on the limitations of UZR and whether or not we get ahead of ourselves when we start forecasting free agent marginal wins/$. Good stuff. Not real polished yet, but that should come around with a class in linear equations, bladder control and the passing of his teething phase. Congrats to all involved. Sorry you’ll never sleep again, HP. MLB.tv archives games right around midnight, I think.

I purchased Baseball Prospectus for the first time, which is embarrassing but at least now rectified. I’ve gotten through the projections for Aardvark, A in the Atlanta organization. Might take a few days to complete. I also got engaged, so if everyone could keep this blog on the hush-hush for a little while longer that would be outstanding. Finally, I recently found out that my extended family all reads the blog. So to uncle Biscuit Pants, Three Finger, Aunt Yogi, grandma and grandpa; thanks for the kind words. And I promise to keep writing these totally useless jams. It was great to hear you laughing at my terrible puns.

So anyway: Let it be resolved that I, Duckfurd Q. Medwick, will post at least once a week, no more than 10-12 dick and fart jokes per paragraph. Twitter feed should light up a bit more as well, @deadballers for those of you accommodating of short quips.

Happy time-passing!

Miami

I have several things I want to write about: The Braves/D’Backs situations, upcoming thoughts on Spring Training, and the new BALCO situation… but instead I stumbled across The Marlins payroll obligations courtesy of the indispensable Cot’s Baseball Contracts :
Miami has 5.5 million dollars committed to the 2014 roster. That would be 4M to pay Heath Bell in Phoenix, and 1.5 M for catcher Jeff Mathis.

Ha.

At least the public financing of Loria’s aquarium will only cost the county like one and a quarter billion dollars. Or 250x the team’s 2014 payroll obligations.

Loria. Fuck that guy.

Hallowed Grounds

I’ve been trying to, hypothetically, imagine how I would react if, hypothetically, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (NAMBLA) submitted their ballots and, hypothetically, only one or two of the balloted players hypothetically reached the arbitrary threshold for enshrinement. I had 11 names I would have voted for: Bonds, Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Allan Trammell, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I have gut feelings about Kenny Lofton and Fred McGriff but acknowledge that they don’t meet the threshold in any objective way, but damn I had fun watching them. I could probably be talked into Larry Walker and Rafael Palmeiro. So to only have 1 or 2 from this ballot would have been a testament to the ego and selfishness of these few hundred inadequate professionals, allegedly the best craftsman in a dying industry.

It was a very hypothetically snarky column I would have written, and one that I’m glad I didn’t have to write. Rather, the electorate just kind of pooped all over themselves and unveiled a tally that included 5 blank ballots, at least 2 protest ballots where only Jack Morris was chosen (it should be noted that nobody is obligated to publish their ballot, so the available anonymity might’a had something to do with the foolishness), and a terrifically imaginative ballot with accompanying column penned by Jon “Taintsniffer” Heyman that included the line “Saints over Taints” in his actual, honest-to-Heysoos printed and published work. I shan’t link it. I already know too many search queries involving ‘taint’ are going to land at this website.

Fortunately, it seems like several hundred writers, BBWAA and otherwise, have penned pieces of measured disgrace in the last day. Our own High Pockets penned a piece that captures the appropriate sadness that so many of us feel for the museum and its unclear future.

As alluded to in HP’s post, I had originally planned to start piecing together my own virtual museum. Which, or course, will never happen. Good golly, that would be a lot of work. Instead, I would encourage everyone to read Joe Posnanski’s take on a “Golden 100” type of Hall that would allow for the museum to act as, well, more of a museum than an intellectually dishonest and inconsistent sanctuary. Rightly or wrongly, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will probably not be considered Hall of Famers any time soon. Indisputably, Clemens and Bonds are the two greatest players I have watched in my couple decades of active fandom. Pos’s hall of fame would allow for their appropriate recognition. But I might start trying to put some prose together. This could be a baby step.

The 5 best retired offensive players that I have seen as a fan (since maybe 1992ish): Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell, Chipper Jones, and Frank Thomas. ARod and Pujols will become number 2 and 3 (in some order) upon their retirement. Jeter could, if you can believe it, challenge the top 5 depending on how he closes out his career.

The 5 best retired pitchers that I have witnessed as a fan: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and either Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina, though I lean towards Curt as I was a teenager during the purple and teal DBacks era. At this point only Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia have any real shot of cracking this top 5, Verlander if he keeps on keepin’ on.

Better days, everyone. Like next month, when they start throwin’ it and catchin’ it again.

Guest post: Allan.

The playoffs are strange, amirite? Still fun, still worth the attention. But you just can’t let yourself view losses as failures, particularly in the case of ONE GAME CRAPSHOOTS. The Braves deserved to lose one game, the Rangers deserved to lose one game. The Yankees deserved to lose twice to Baltimore, but alas they soldier on. Strange things happen one game at a time. After the Braves loss, I had a chance to go see the Naranjeros de Hermosillo play the Dodgers international prospects squad, in a game that promised “Traditional Mexican fare and Latin dance lessons.” I didn’t make it because of a brutal hangover/headcold/intestinal disaster, but that game existed. Strange things happen one game at a time.

I did most of my naval gazing on this blog over the last offseason, and I suspect that I’ll follow a similar trajectory this fall. To kick start things, I asked a buddy of mine to write a post about Bud Selig. We couldn’t come up with a goofy Deadball-era pseudonym for him that didn’t tread on some seriously anti-Semitic grounds, so we’ll just leave it at Ben. Ben works in Milwaukee, is a die-hard Brewers fan, and has a preposterous and encyclopedic knowledge of baseball counting stats. He’s also one of those lawyerly types that wants to get into contracts and negotiations, so that’s kind of neat.

I threw just a couple little lines in italic, but this is all the result of rote memorization and recollection otherwise.

Take it away, Benjamin:

Allan H. “Bud” Selig took over as interim commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1992 after a 18-9 no confidence vote of owners ousted Fay Vincent.

Since Selig became the commissioner, he has over seen the addition of four teams, the contraction of zero teams, the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series, interleague play, the Wild Card, a tied All Star Game, a steroid scandal, a new television network, the move to the digital age, the move of the Expos to Washington, the move of many franchises into new stadiums, and the decision to set home field advantage of the World Series based on which league wins the All Star Game.

His career has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Some issues were thrust upon him. Some fires he put out. Other fires he started. As the door closes on his 20th season at the helm, it seems appropriate to look back at the ups and downs of Commissioner Bud Selig’s time in office.

Expansion

When Selig took the reins in 1992, there were 26 teams. Professional baseball in Florida and Arizona was limited to spring training and the minor leagues. In 1993, the Colorado Rockies and Florida (now Miami) Marlins were added as expansion teams. Adding two teams to the National League set both leagues up with 14 teams.

Between 1992 and 1993, the total attendance at Major League games jumped by nearly 15 millions spectators across the country. Mile High and Pro Player Stadiums accounted for 7 million, but attendance around the rest of the league also jumped.

After the 1994 strike (see below), attendance figures sagged back to the 50 million range. The league did not crack 70 million again until 1998 and the second expansion in the Selig Era.

Baseball had made it to Florida, but Arizona still did not have a Major League team. The Phoenix metro area was a great untapped resource for regular season baseball. The city was already predisposed to prefer the National League since Los Angeles Dodgers games were broadcast in Valley of the Sun and the San Francisco Giants’ triple-A affiliate was the Phoenix Firebirds. In 1998, the Diamondbacks franchise joined the NL West and got the immediate boost of playing in the same division of the MLB teams most Arizonans already followed.

For the smart planning and savvy decision-making that landed a team in downtown Phoenix, the opposite appears to be true for the other 1998 expansion team in Tampa Bay. The Devil Rays (now Rays) play at Tropicana Field, which is just too far from Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg. The Trop is also exciting as a stadium because the roof was built too low and the catwalks hang over the field of play.

The expansion teams have immediately impacted the league. The Marlins have won two World Series titles, the Diamondbacks have one, and the Rockies and Rays have each won a pennant.

Expansion and the opening of 20 new ballparks during the his time as commissioner has helped Selig guide baseball through a strike and back to average yearly attendance figures that eclipse 73 million fans.

1994 Strike

The true black eye for baseball under Selig’s watch was the 232-day baseball strike that caused the first World Series to be missed since 1904. In 1904, the National League champion New York Giants refused to play Boston Americans (now Red Sox) due to the rivalry between Giants manager John McGraw and American League President Ban Johnson.

The fledging World Series survived the 1904 fall classic being cancelled and Major League Baseball survived the 1994 World Series being skipped. Major League Baseball became the first professional sport in America to lose an entire postseason due to a labor dispute.

The baseball strike, which began in August of 1994 and carried over until April 2, 1995 generally was loathed by fans, who did not care which side “won” because all fans lost. After losing the 1994 postseason, Commissioner Selig was determined to have a 1995 season. He stated that MLB was committed to having a 1995 season with the best players willing to play. And so began the brief, inglorious run of replacement players.

The 1994 strike cost runs at records and potentially altered the history of at least one franchise. Tony Gwynn was hitting .394 at the end of play on August 11. Matt Williams had an incredible 43 homeruns. Cy Young Award winner (yes, awards were still given out) Greg Maddux ended the shortened season with a 1.56 ERA.

But all of that pales in comparison to the impact the strike had on the Montreal Expos.

Through 114 games, the Expos were 74-40, with a six game lead on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. With a line-up that included Larry Walker, Moises Alou, and Marquis Grissom in the outfield, a starting rotation anchored by Pedro Martinez and Ken Hill, and a lights-out bullpen anchored by Jeff Shaw and John Wetteland, the Expos were primed to make their first playoff appearance since 1981.

After the strike, team president Claude Brochu ordered General Manager Kevin Malone to tear the team down. Malone did not offer Walker salary arbitration and he left as a free agent. Wetteland was sent to the Yankees, Hill to the Cardinals, and Grissom to the rival Atlanta Braves. By the end of 1997, Martinez, Alou, Shaw, and much of the 1994 roster were gone.

In 2003 and 2004, the Expos were playing 22 home games a year in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ownership wholeheartedly approved because MLB owned the team. Selig’s Expos were in a five-way tie for the Wild Card in 2003 on August 28. However, it was decided that the Expos could not afford call up any minor leaguers when rosters expanded on September 1. The team collapsed.

The Expos played their final season in Montreal in 2004 before moving to Washington, D.C. to become the Nationals. The Nationals are now a powerhouse team, spending money, adding talent, and taking over the Mid-Atlantic market once dominated by the Baltimore Orioles or transplant Yankees and Red Sox fans.

Home Run Era

Putting fans in the seats became hugely important after the 1994 strike. Attendance in 1995 dropped to 50 million. Fans felt betrayed by the sport and did not have any reason to come back.

In many ways, Bud Selig needed a miracle to recapture fan interest and attention. New stadiums helped. So did new teams. But baseball is driven by the players.

One of the great things about sports is that anything can happen. The game will likely be predictable. One team will beat the other 4-3 in an unexciting fashion. There’s always that chance, though, that the game you attend will be the one where Nolan Ryan strikes out three hitters on nine pitches in an inning. The one where Torii Hunter climbs to the top of the wall to steal a homerun and preserve the lead. The one where Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa hits a baseball farther than any player had before.

In 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball. Bud Selig could not have been more happy to let it happen. Attendance had climbed back to over 62 million in 1997; respectable, though still well short of the 1993 season.

The 1998 season saw the greatest homerun race in Maris and Mantle chased down the Babe’s record in 1961. Roger Maris hit an unthinkable 61 homeruns in 1961, breaking Babe Ruth’s record 60, which stood for 34 years.

McGwire, the power-hitting first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. set a scorching homerun pace to start the season. By June, Griffey had crashed back to reality and, when all was said and done, he ended the season with a pedestrian 56 homers, which merely equaled his 1997 output. But June also saw Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa hit 20 homeruns, breaking Rudy York’s record for homers in a calendar month. McGwire and Sosa were in dogfight with each other and history.

On September 8, 1998, Mark McGwire slugged homerun no. 62 off Cubs starter Steve Trachsel. Selig was in attendance for the historic event. Sosa hit no. 58 earlier in the same game. On September 25, Sosa homered twice to take a short-lived 66-65 lead in the homerun race. McGwire answered later in the day to tie it back up. Sosa did not homer again, while McGwire continued crushing the ball. McGwire hit two homeruns against the Expos on September 27, finishing his season with 70.

Attendance at Busch Stadium went up nearly 1 million fans, it was just under 500,000 more at Wrigley. For the first time since the strike, Bud Selig’s league had cracked the 70 million figure for season attendance.

Sosa took home the NL Most Valuable Player award. The New York Yankees won the World Series by sweeping the San Diego Padres, and Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union had apparently finally squared things with fans.

Steroid Era

It turns out that Selig, MLB, and the Players’ Union were fine getting fans back and doing it via the longball. In 1998, no one questioned how the lanky power-hitter McGwire and the base-stealing speed outfielder Sosa had somehow transformed into muscle-bound superheroes. (Chicks dig the long ball).

Then Barry Bonds hit 73 homeruns in 2001. And sportswriters, fans, and federal investigators got curious. It’s not just the anecdotal evidence about Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa. There was the 37-homerun season for light-hitting Bret Boone in 2001. Brady Anderson’s 50 in 1996. Luis Gonzalez’s 57 in 2001 (Gross). Albert Belle’s 49 in 1998 and his 50 in 1995. Juan Gonzalez’s five seasons over 40. Ken Caminiti’s 40 in 1996.

Suddenly the record books were dramatically different. Baseball, more than any other sport, is tied to its statistical history. These dramatic, record-shattering demonstrations of power were all taking place under Bud Selig’s watch (or lack thereof).

Congressional investigations, 500 homeruns becoming meaningless, and Skip Bayless’ baseless accusation that Jeter used steroids followed. The sports media that ate up the chase in 1998 buried the players, front offices, and the commissioner’s office in the 2000s. The Mitchell Report did little more than fan the flames.

Editor’s note: Game of Shadows is a heartbreaking read. Finally got around to that, and it made me feel pretty dirty. I’m currently reading “The Soul of Baseball,” an outstanding Buck O’Neil book by Joe Pos, to get the taste out of my mouth. Carry on, Ben.

Selig and the Players’ Association came to terms on tough suspensions and random drug testing, but the stain will stay with the game until a new generation of players blots out those records.

New and Changing Media

Under Selig’s watch, Major League Baseball set up MLB Advanced Media, which paved the way to uniform team websites, streaming audio, and MLB.tv. Ahead of the other major sports, Selig oversaw the launch MLB Network on cable and satellite television. This venture paved the way for the NFL, NBA, and NHL to do the same.

The fact that MLB has so embraced the internet has allowed it to maintain a strong international following. Many big market teams, such as the Yankees and Dodgers, maintain their websites in multiple languages. The NBA has done similar things and focused on its expansion into China.

One way that the new media savvy of Selig’s MLB has paid off is through twitter. The league and each of its teams have official twitter feeds that provide lineups, game updates, injury reports, and news and notes. This has noticeably changed the nature of baseball beat writing, and MLB deserves credit for embracing the medium.

Wild Card

It’s fun. It works. Do we really have to discuss it?* The wild card has been a revelation for baseball and it is Selig’s baby.

*Ben, you’ve got two good friends who think the Wild Card, for one season, can go take a shit in the ocean. Choose your next words carefully.

The teams coming out of the wild card slot have won the World Series. The new version, with two wild card teams, is a more compelling version of the NCAA tournament’s play-in games. First, they aren’t in Dayton, so that makes it better than the March Madness version. More importantly, it provides the excitement of having a game seven atmosphere on the first day of the post season.

There are still kinks to be worked out. Having the lower seed host the first two games and then travelling to the higher seed for between one and three games. Year one did provide the excitement and only Braves fans really have a gripe.**

**Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr fuck.

All Star Game

If the wild card is Selig’s greatest accomplishment, the All Star Game may be his worst decision. To his credit, Selig defends both with pride.

He shouldn’t.

Having the All Star Game determine home field advantage is just plain dumb. It does make the game more compelling, but exhibition games (outside of soccer friendlies) aren’t really meant to be more than entertaining.

Justin Verlander was uncorking straight fastballs to show fans how hard he can throw in 2012. He was also getting lit up in a very un-Verlander way.

We’re now a decade past the tied All Star Game in Milwaukee. People were disappointed that the game ended in a tie, but it was no more of a problem than a spring training game ending in a tie. But there’s the image of Selig talking to the umpires and looking confused. It seems like he never wanted to see that image again, so he completely overreacted.

MLB could alternate home field from league to league by year. Or let the team with the better regular season record have home field. Or base it on the overall record in interleague play. Basically the All Star Game deciding home field is marginally better than flipping a coin or rock-paper-scissors.

Overall

Selig has kept labor peace, given baseball the wild card, and mostly ridden out the storm of the steroid era (which he also oversaw). He has the longevity that makes him a likely to enter the Hall of Fame in the non-player wing after he retires. Despite the low points in his regime, there have been far more highs and Selig is responsible for smoothing out the fractured ship he inherited two decades ago.

Strong work, my Hebrew Hammer of a friend.