November 12, 2004

DON'T TELL GEORGE:

The Heat Is On in Chase For the Boys Of Summer (Thomas Boswell, November 12, 2004, Washington Post)

Since the introduction of wild cards a decade ago, the very rhythm of the baseball year has changed. Now, after three straight wild-card teams have won the World Series, the transformation is clear. It's no longer essential to win 100 games or capture your division title to end up as world champion. With a well-constructed team that gets hot at the right time, you can run the table. The Red Sox, as good as dead, suddenly won eight straight games and have gone directly to the top echelon of American sports legend.

In spring and summer, baseball is still our favorite leisurely game, unfolding over six deliberate months. One night we have a Big Unit perfect game or a Barry Bonds landmark. But autumn and winter have become the game's most frenetic and decisive periods. Baseball has become a sport that grabs headlines 12 months a year as teams trade and spend themselves into amazing reconfigurations of themselves.

Winter after winter, we see the same basic old-fashioned baseball truism played out time and again. Yet few seem to learn. Adding pitching, especially great pitching, always matters. Adding more hitting, even great hitting, seldom closes the deal. [...]

The influence of watching the last-game celebrations of the Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins and Red Sox the last four years has been intoxicating for the whole sport. Watching the ultimate underdogs, the Red Sox, come back from three games down to end an 86-year curse has given the whole sport a buzz heading into the sign-and-swap season.

So, if you're the boss of any of 20 major league teams, you woke up this morning and said, "With the right offseason moves, good health and some luck, we can be in the World Series. And once you're in it, you can win it."

Doubtless, tons of self-delusion lies behind such powerfully optimistic feelings. But no sport, or its fans, could ask for more.


Indeed, no sport delivers more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2004 1:16 PM
Comments

And proof of how a judicious retooling needn't be a radical overhaul. Same thing's happening with NASCAR's Race to the Chase format.

Posted by: M. Murcek at November 12, 2004 1:50 PM

Right, those "ultimate underdogs", the Boston Red Sox. The team with the 2nd highest payroll in baseball. Give me a break.

Posted by: brian at November 12, 2004 4:59 PM

brian:

If we'd fought the Soviets they'd have been an underdog, even though they're entire state was structured for war.

Posted by: oj at November 12, 2004 5:19 PM

Only the French and "intellectuals" wanted the Soviets to win. What's that say about Red Sox fans?

What's needed is a Grand Fenwick of baseball, but there's no such thing...

Posted by: brian at November 12, 2004 6:21 PM

Brian,

Absolutely nothing.

The reality is that without revenue sharing like the NFL has that there will only be at most ten teams competing for the World Series. The others are little more than the Washington Generals.

A salary cap would be a disaster as it is in football where it only serves to dilute the talent and reward incompetence.

The only alternative to revenue sharing is retraction, shrinking MLB to 20 or 24 teams, eliminating the Marlins, Devil Rays, Padres, Royals, the Washington Whatevers, Pirates and Reds at the very least.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 6:52 PM

The Marlins won last year. The Devil Rays and Padres are on the brink.

Posted by: oj at November 12, 2004 6:55 PM

The Marlins got lucky at the right time and couldn't keep their pitching staff together. They draw flies, unless people come to the games dressed as empty seats.

The Devil Rays, despite having one of the three best managers in baseball, will never get to .500. They have a payroll smaller than what the Evil Empire pays A-Rod, and they get zippo TV money.

The Padres are a small market team that has utterly failed to penetrate the Mexican market. What MLB should do is fold up the Padres and move the A's there. At least Billy Beane knows how to handle a $50-60 million payroll.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 7:09 PM

162 games and three playoff series lucky?

Posted by: oj at November 12, 2004 7:11 PM

As Yogi Berra used to say, 90% of the game is pitching and the other half is hitting.

The Marlins' pitchers all got hot at the same time. This year they reverted to form, got hurt or whatever and the Marlins were home watching on TV.

Only a big money team can compete on a year-to-year basis once the 'Money Ball' market inequalities were digested. THe Bosox, who play 'Money Ball' with a big bankroll, will be at or near the top for the foreseeable future. The same is true with the Yankees who just can throw money out there far beyond any other ballclub.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 7:26 PM

Hot from March to November isn't luck

Posted by: oj at November 12, 2004 7:37 PM

They were hot from August at most to November. And more importantly they couldn't keep the team together at all.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 7:56 PM

Bart:

The Padres have drawn between 2 million and 2.5 million since 1986 in their old stadium.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at November 12, 2004 8:06 PM

I actually think that maybe what baseball needs is a club system, rather than a franchise system. If Kansas City only wants, and can only support, a AAA or AA team, then that's what the Royals would quickly become. If New York can support a half-dozen teams, that would dilute the strength of the Yankees. Also a club system would pretty much prevent the blackmailing of cities that has become epidemic in American sports in the past 15 years or so. There'd be no need to steal another city's team--you'd just start your own. I know it's not perfect, and wouldn't completely solve the current problems, but there's no indication that the baseball owners are able to fix things.

Posted by: brian at November 12, 2004 8:10 PM

That really should be done in football. Right about now the Arizona Cardinals would have been relegated so far down the food chain, they'd be in Odessa-Permian for homecoming.

San Diego has only 2.8 million people in the Metro Area, making it the 17th largest metro area in the US. It is bordered by Orange County which is Angels territory, the Mojave Desert and Mexico which is the Third World and has nobody not in politics or the drug business who can afford to buy tickets. It is a small market by any definition.

Posted by: Bart at November 12, 2004 8:20 PM
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