Tuesday, April 01, 2008


The closer I got, the more those feelings grew...
  • Sitting there in anticipation of Jays-Yankees game that was rained out planted a strange thought -- will there ever be a time when pro sports leagues, either for the sake of P.R. or due to political pressure, shorten their season on the vague pretense of helping the environment?

    Baseball has to get in a 162-game schedule in 182 days in order to get through three rounds of playoffs before it's too cold to play. That meant the "ludicrisosity," in Mike Wilner's made-up word, of scheduling baseball games in Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland and New York City on March 31. It was random chance that it rained (St. Louis' opener was wiped out), but don't miss the point.

    The push is on to start consuming less of everything. Why couldn't pro sports be a leader and be better off for it? It's two-fold with baseball. The crackdown on PEDs -- mainly amphetamines -- is probably going to have an adverse effect on the quality of play, since players need those to have the energy to get through the Long Season. A long time ago, Bill Lee suggested playing a shorter schedule with more time between games if MLB was really serious about getting rid of amphetamines.

    MLB could easily start the season on April 7, which is when it used to start. That's enough time to play a 140- or 150-game season in a 165-to-175-day timeframe. The players would get more rest, it's easy P.R., it's probably creates more demand to attend a particular game. Plus the players would have to take a hit on their salaries.

    The NFL could dial it back from 16 games to 14; neither hockey nor the NBA needs 82 to figure out who should be in the playoffs. The PGA can just shut down entirely, especially considering how many of those golfers have their own places burning jet fuel. Anyways, just a half-baked thought from a guy who got 65 in Grade 10 science.
  • Man, people who work in radio really do have to get up early ... who were the two people, who soon as the Ottawa Sun sports poll went live at 3 a.m., actually voted "no" to the query, "Should the Senators' on-ice effort be questioned?"

    Looking at you, two of the Three Guys On The Radio. Well, who was it then? Mr. and Mrs. Mighty SOPO? Or did a couple of the subsection of the Sens Army who like to rant about how a team with a European captain will never win a Stanley Cup misunderstand the question?
  • The captain of India's soccer team, Bhaichung Bhutia, is refusing to take part in the Olympic torch run in protest of China's crackdown in Tibet. Apologies in advance for being the cracker who saw this and conjured up an obvious Russell Peters joke: "We'll do anything to avoid physical exertion!"

    Seriously, though, Andrew Bucholtz has a post about boycotting Beijing without turning the athletes into pawns. It should get its own post here later on this week.
  • There used to be a journeyman pitcher named A.J. Sager whose career was about as memorable as the journalism career of his namesake (so far). It turns out he was in rare company -- one of the very few players whose only career hit was a triple. And he hit it off Pedro Martinez! How about that?
  • In the same self-absorbed, narcissistic way, that means hoping the Vikings do swing a trade for QB Sage Rosenfels -- as in Sage R., eh? The Vikes get the Monday Night Football treatment against the Packers in the season opener. The early line is Farve minus-27.5 for how many more times the announcers will mention the retired Packers QB than the actual Vikings quarterback, whoever it is that night. (The last part proves the point.)

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to neatesager@yahoo.ca.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

Thanks for the link! On the shorter seasons, I definitely agree with you as far as baseball, basketball and hockey. In many ways, I think baseball's ridiculously long season is one of the biggest barriers to attracting new fans: I know for a long while it was pretty tough for me to get excited about individual games when they mean so little in terms of the overall picture. The other problem with the long season is that so few teams make the playoffs, so about half of the games after mid-June are completely meaningless. Hockey and basketball could also be shortened pretty easily, but I'd like to see the 16-game NFL season kept: there aren't all that many football games at the moment compared to every other sport, and each one means a lot. The problem is that the leagues and teams won't want to shorten seasons, as it means less gate and TV revenue. Players might go for it, but they'd have to accept a corresponding drop in salaries for this plan to have any chance of success.

P.S. On the topic of sports and the environment, Japanese baseball's trying an interesting solution : instead of cutting games, they're trying to shorten them. That might be a workable approach (and it might get more people to watch games without complaining about how long they take), but Steve Traschel, otherwise known as the Human Rain Delay, won't be happy.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Oh, and the Nets are apparently becoming the first NBA team to have a carbon-neutral game: they also have an environmental manager!

Tyler King said...

Erm, no, baseball's long season is exactly what attracts its fans.

Games after June are not meaningless (Lessee, the Mets/Phillies, the Rockies...) - it's the only league, because it's so hard to make the playoffs, where late season games really do matter. In the NHL, who the heck cares whether the #2 team in the conference passes the #1 team - they're both making the playoffs. Same for 13-16 playoff teams that wrap it up early. In baseball, you can kick ass in the regular season and miss the playoffs (late-80s Jays), as opposed to hockey where you can mill about for 70 games at around .500 and have a small late-season surge to get in. And don't get me started on the OHL.

In baseball, only games between the good teams are relevent late in the season. In hockey, only games between the shitty teams (with next to no chance of a playoff run) are. It's pretty obvious which is preferable.

Baseball is the only sport where you can sustain a large number of games because starting rotations are unique to baseball and provide for a legitimately varying experience between games. If hockey teams played 3-game series it'd pretty well be the same game each time - that's never, ever the case in baseball.

Cripes, it's like baseball 101 here, people. The only way you could legitimately shorten the season is by scrapping interleague play, which purists probably wouldn't have too big a problem with.

sager said...

It's true, there's no such thing as a meaningless baseball game (take that, Andrew) but you could shorten it and it would still be plenty long enough (take that, Tyler).

Tyler, aren't you the guy who was veheming and inveighing the other day against the dread 12-man pitching staff that forced the Jays to release your beloved Reed Johnson?

A 140-game season with 28 off-days means teams could go back to 10 or 11. It might even make the four-man starting rotation palatable to pithers' agents. (The top four guys would get 30 starts each, and the fifth man would make 20 ... someone like Pedro Martinez could last a couple more years as a "Sunday pitcher," like Ted Lyons did with the White Sox in 1940s).

At the end of his career, Lyons only pitched on Sunday afternoons, when teams often had doubleheaders that brought in their biggest crowds in the era before weeknight games ... his last season, 1942, he completed all 20 of his starts and won the ERA title.

He also once threw a complete game in 1 hour 7 minutes, according to his Wiki. He must have been the Roy Halladay of his time.

Dennis Prouse said...

The NFL is the one league that could actually lengthen their season, and the fans would be quite happy. There is such an insatiable demand for the NFL that you could argue they are actually pulling a DeBeers, i.e. limiting the quantity of the product to create scarcity, thus driving up demand.

The one thing the NFL could do is zap one or two pre-season games. That month-long pre-season drags on forever, and the games are a farce. The starters go in for one or two series at most, after which the scrubs take over, many of whom are about to be cut. After countless mini-camps, three weeks of training camp, and two exhibition games every NFL team has a good idea what their roster is going to look like. Those last two exhibition games are just a cash grab where they don't have to pay the players, but can collect full price for the tickets.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

I'm confused, Tyler:

"Games after June are not meaningless (Lessee, the Mets/Phillies, the Rockies...) - it's the only league, because it's so hard to make the playoffs, where late season games really do matter."

"In baseball, only games between the good teams are relevent [sic] late in the season."

If only games between the good teams are relevant late in the season, doesn't that lead to a lot of late-season games that don't matter? I wasn't arguing that all late-season games are meaningless, as that's clearly not the case. The division and wild-card races are always relevant, but there's a lot of teams that aren't involved in them. My point was that I don't see any point in even playing a game like Kansas City - Texas after June, as it has next to no relevance to anything in my mind, seeing as both teams are pretty much out of the playoff race by then (or were never really in it). What meaning does a game like that have, apart from a chance to evaluate players and prospects? It doesn't seem to make any difference to the season's outcome for either team.

sager said...

Dennis, always good to hear from you... I was putting in Vikings-related items just for one of our leading football guys.

What is a NFL training camp, like 7-8 weeks now? Plus teams have OTAs (organized team activities) in March and April.

Honestly 2 exhibition games in the NFL is enough, especially when you consider teams are already making enough for charging $10 to people to watch scrimmages in practice. (Seriously, as sports fan experiences go, going to a NFL camp seems like a lot more fun than baseball spring training ... I get the impression that if you wanted an autograph or a photo or to talk to a player, they're a lot more available.)

As for the regular season, 18 seems a lot... you wonder if there's an optimal point where a team and the athletes can only produce so much good football in the cycle of one season.

Anyway, the question was, does yo see a day when the big ball-and-stick leagues shorten their seasons as part of going green?

This is in the shadow of a good point Lorrie Goldstein raised either last summer or the summer before. The green movement won't be seriously until governments start limiting plane travel.

(Dennis, you're a business guy, how long does it take to fly Ottawa-Toronto from the time one leaves the house to getting to where you need to be in T.O.?)

sager said...

Andrew, it might be a hangup on the connotation of "meaningless."

It's often been said that baseball is the one game that can be interesting even when your team is way out of contention. Tom Boswell did that great the 100 Reasons Why Baseball is Better Than Football column where he pointed out that when you see a game in person, you always see something that you didn't before.

S.I. did something in the same vein about 10 years ago when they did a story called "Diehards" on the people who went out to a late-season Marlins-Reds game. Point being, a baseball game between two teams a combined 50 games out of first place can still be fun, you can still find meaning it a lot easier than you can a December NFL game between 4-10 teams.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Yeah, that's a fair point. I usually still watch Jays' games after they can't realistically make the playoffs, and they're always fun in person regardless of the standings. Not sure if I'd be committed enough to keep following a team that was never even close, but good for those who are (I quite liked that "Diehards" piece, by the way). My original thought was just more in terms of if playing the game actually affects the playoff races, and it can certainly be argued that a lot of games don't, and thus aren't entirely necessary: that doesn't mean they can't be fun, though.

Tyler King said...

Why in the blue hell SHOULD a game between Kansas City and Texas be relevent late in the season? I want my late-season viewing urges turned towards good teams, not shitty ones!

When I said games after June were not meaningless, I specifically mentioned the Rockies, Phillies, and Mets. Not the damn Royals and Rangers.

Maybe people find the fight for #8 seed in the NHL fun, but those are damaged people.

Compare the quotes:

"The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"


"The Giants capture the #8 seed and after another month against teams better than them with home field advantage all the way through might have a chance at a respectable run!"

And Neate, the fact is change is not something baseball fans are too big on. The 162-game schedule is older than the Blue Jays! So no, it would not be "plenty long enough" for a lot of baseball fans if it were shorter.

By the way, teams could survive on 10 or 11 man staffs as it is today. Carrying 12 is just stupid. You don't need a shorter schedule to justify that.

As for 4-man rotations, I can survive without them. Again, as is the benefit with baseball, it provides for more variation between games. If they changed that it'd mean fewer jobs for pitchers (who are often paid more than the bench men who replace them), and the PA likely wouldn't be ecstatic either. I just don't see where in the baseball community you'd get support for shortening the season.

As to the NFL, lengthening the schedule again is just increasing your injury risk unnecessarily, which is probably why the season is so short as it is.

sager said...

Tyler, if baseball went by tradition, they'd still be playing with the four-fingered glove, and Jackie Robinson wouldn't have got his chance until 1964 instead of '46.

I don't need a shorter sked to justify a smaller pitching staff, but Tony La Russa would be a different story, eh?

sager said...

Scott Boras would be a different story. Fixed.

Anyway, answer my original question, would people accept a shorter season if -- very conditional if -- there was a benefit for all humankind? Or are we greedy.

andy grabia said...

Greenzo Out!!!

sager said...

Jack Donaghy, brilliant.

Tyler King said...

Yeah, I don't exactly think 20 fewer games will bring the US within Kyoto targets. Just a hunch.

So no. The answer is no.

Dennis Prouse said...

Ottawa - Toronto is about three hours and change door to door flying Porter, about four hours flying into Pearson, and about four and a half to five driving. This includes driving to the airport, checking in, going through security, sitting around doing nothing while you wait, and of course the 45 minute to an hour taxi ride from Pearson to downtown. (Can you tell I do this a lot?)

I always thought that the NHL's unbalanced schedule was a smart way to cut down on travel, but apparently the fans don't like it. (There are times when you SHOULDN'T listen to the fans, and this is one of them. The unbalanced schedule is creating some terrific playoff chases in both conferences, and when they move away from it again the fans will just cry about a lack of rivalry games. Rule 1 - fans are never truly happy.)

Anyway, you can count me amongst those who believe that as long as China keeps popping up new coal fired power plants (many without scrubbers) every few weeks, all the meaningless symbolism in North America isn't going to mean a whole lot. Amending sports schedules for the sole purpose of "going green" definitely falls under the category of meaningless symbolism.

sager said...

@ Tyler: Name the one gesture that would save the environment.

@ Dennis: Meaningless symbolism? What, like people turning the lights off for one hour?

I still say they shorten seasons for the purpose of a better product, the welfare of the players, and going greener would be an ancillary benefit.

Tyler King said...

Going greener would be making the games themselves more efficient - enforce the 20-seconds (I think that's the rule) between pitches, regulate the use and efficiency of lights, etc.

Seriously, baseball stadiums are not exactly pumping evil gases into the air... apart from maybe the collective exhaling of the crowd.