Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Zen Dayley: Selig's buddy Boras would have avoided that muddy morass

This semi-rant would have come across as the whelp of a beaten Rays bandwagon-jumper two days ago -- but it's back in play after the wind-whipped, rain-soaked Selig follies in Philadelphia last night.

Scott Boras -- superagent, Satan and stealer of Christmases Future for the years 2012-2017 exclusive -- might have been on to something when he proposed having neutral-site World Series games. You might recall that everyone was calling him a goof when he floated this idea in 2007. Boras wanted a best-of-9 series where the first two games would be a big Super Bowl-style schmoozefest played at a neutral site. The glass-half-full way to look at it is at least he was brainstorming well ahead of the "travesty" (Cherry Hill Courier-Post) in Philly last night.

One suspended game in the 104-season history of the World Series is not the end of the world. The point is that baseball should really look at whether it can gamble on a good weather in after Oct. 20. Granted, this is an age where most corporate entities carry on like their motto is, "What's the worst can happen?" but last night was unacceptable.

One could play apologist and point out the kneejerk media might be more tolerant if they had got a more glamourous World Series matchup, such as Boston Red Sox-Los Angeles Dodgers, instead of Tampa Bay-Philadelphia. It's also quite possible that in the media wars between ESPN and FOX Sports, some writers who are more aligned with the former are only too eager to go off the deep end, especially when it looks like the latter had a lot to do with trying to get in a game.

However, perception is the reality. It looks like baseball put the players in greater physical jeopardy than they sign up for when they put their name on a contract. (As an aside, at least those contracts are more guaranteed than the NFL's.) Baseball commissioner Bud Selig apparently stumbled badly in his news conference.

Anyway, to get back to the main point, Boras, and anyone else who's been turned off by 4½ games of generally sloppy, understand a basic truth about baseball. The game, to quote Phillies fan Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley, "requires precision down to the millimeter. Non-baseball fans often don't understand why games aren't played in inclement weather and it's because it cheapens the game significantly."

Saturday's Game 3 brought home the dodginess of playing baseball in a northern city before April 15 or after Oct. 20. In that game, the Rays' Evan Longoria hit a home run to left field in the sixth inning that might have turned the game around for Tampa Bay -- but the fall wind knocked it down, and it became a long out. The Phillies did get big homers from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley (both to right field). There were enough cockups defensively -- both catchers threw wildly on stolen-base attempts -- to suggest the conditions were helping turn the last two teams standing into the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Last night was 10 times worse. You could go another 10 years and not see anything like this again, but what we saw last night and Saturday was not baseball. It's a game you play largely with what you can do with your hands, and those hands don't work so well when your fingertips are nearly frozen.

Earlier start times, or daytime World Series games just the stuff of sportswriter fantasy. My idea is more far-fetched: This site has talked shorter regular season, with 18-22 less games and more scheduled off-days for the players. That could certainly encompass starting the playoffs sooner and reducing the risk of rainouts (it's already being discussed on some level).

It is ironic. Football can be played in almost any conditions. Some of the NFL's most iconic moments -- the Tuck Rule game, the Ice Bowl -- have come in weather that was fit neither beast nor ballplayer. It's had zany moments -- the Snowplow Game -- in bad weather.

The NFL holds the Super Bowl in either a dome or warm-weather city. It's like, hey, this is prestigious and important enough to us that we don't want the conditions to keep the players from trying their best. Baseball, though, seems to be a bunch of big ineffectual nothings when it comes to making sure the players can do their in ideal conditions. That's bad for the game, it's ridiculously antifan. It's funny following this as a Jays fan, since their season started with a rainout because they were playing March 31, way too early, and now the end of the season is being held up by rain.

It doesn't have to be this way. At least Boras, that embodiment of evil, was actually thinking of fans, something baseball has forgotten about by pushing the season almost to November. Go down to a 140-game season or so, the Series could be done with by now -- and leave more time to watch football, where no ones minds when a game is decided by which team screwed up less at a critical situation.

Anyway, here is a kind of best-of from a rainy night in Philly:

"Major League Baseball should be ashamed for allowing its most important game of the year to deteriorate into an embarrassing mess because of slavish obedience to its pimp, the Fox Television Network." -- Phil Sheridan, Philadephia Daily News

"A giant -- and entirely predictable -- storm was bearing down on Game 5 all day (oh, for the halcyon days of afternoon baseball, when they could have played without worry). There was no chance to play this thing without incident.

"Still they pressed on. And it was a travesty.

"... Selig said (the resumption) would definitely be at night, of course, so it comes down to TV more than when the weather conditions are appropriate. If the weather is good at 3 p.m.? Or 4? Or 6? Big deal. They'll wait until the weather is good in prime time. And Selig said they'll wait this out as long as it takes." -- Kevin Roberts, Cherry Hill Courier-Post

"... we have Selig trying to force a game in that shouldn’t have been played or at minimum should have been suspended when the weather conditions deteriorated." -- Moon Dog Sports


Duane Rollins said...

Start the season two weeks earlier. With every team still playing, you can work weather issues out by playing in domes and southern locations. Additionally you have all season to make up games that just can't be played.

If the World Series is being played from Oct 1-14, then weather is far less of an issue.

sager said...

"Domes and southern locations." You would need 7 to make that work in the 14-team AL, but there's only 5 ... Toronto and Tampa Bay are the only domes. Minnesota moves to an outdoor stadium in 2010. Seattle has a canopy roof but it's open to the elements. The only southern locations are L.A. and Texas.

Over in the NL, same story ... L.A., San Diego, Florida, Houston, Arizona, Atlanta are the warm spots ... Milwaukee is the only northern city with a dome. You'd still have to place someplace that can get cold, and you'd be doing it earlier?

Plus from a competitive standpoint, making Boston or Detroit always start on the road is not fair. It's better to play a shorter season.

Duane Rollins said...

Better...maybe. Likely...no. I just can't see MLS giving up that income. A far fetched idea with a better chance of happening would be to have each team play two neutral site series to start the year--some could go to Japan, some to Korea, some to Europe, some to...wherever there was a place to play and a market to build.

There is no way of getting around the weather issue. It's a matter of limiting its impact. That said, I'm not holding my breath on anything happening at all.

Rob Pettapiece said...

A 140-game season is the painfully obvious solution.

How it works now is: six months to play 162, one month to play the postseason. 22 fewer games means we can cut back on season length by a month, so it becomes five and one. Season is about April 15 to September 15, playoffs run into October, and the World Series ends around Thanksgiving.

Problem is with one of the owners or players. Either you cut players' salaries or reduce the amount the owners make in a season. Imagine, the nerve of making multimillionaires slightly less rich! (Ignoring, of course, the fact that shorter seasons would reduce injuries and lengthen careers.)

Rob Pettapiece said...

However, I should mention that a shorter season would increase ticket prices. So you reduce the complaining from the owners at the expense of Joe Fan. Depending on your view, that's either good or bad...