Results tagged ‘ Bud Selig ’

New Playoff Structure: Pros & Cons

 So, Major League Baseball announced today that baseball’s playoff format will be changing.  There will now be two wild cards in each league, with each team playing a one-game playoff to decide who advances to the Division Series round, where it is then business as usual.

There are two things I like about this system:

1. It gives my Twins a better chance to make the playoffs!  Heck, I wonder if the two consecutive one-game playoffs featuring the Twins in 08-09 and the excitement they created played a part in this decision!

2. How many times have we seen this rivalry during the regular season…

 …but have it mean very little because both teams knew they would be making the playoffs.  In the new format, there is much more incentive to win the division.

There is one major reason that I do not like this new format, however, and that is because I feel it is little more than a giant…

 …for baseball’s lack of a salary cap.  I realize that Selig wants more teams to have a shot at making the playoffs, and this format does just that.  However, how much does it truly affect the competitive balance of the league?  I would argue very little.  The rich teams will still be rich, while the poor teams will still be poor.

Overall, though, I don’t mind the changes all that much and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

The Wart Heard ‘Round The World (aka How Far We’ve Come)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF6fjVpyqGw

 

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I remember a time, back in the late 1990s, when the Minnesota Twins were the scourge of major league baseball. We were mockingly called “Twinkies”, the Metrodome was (on most nights when the Yankees weren’t in town) a sea of blue seats, the playing surface was literally coming up at the seams, and we rooted for players like Jay Canizaro, Brent Gates, Chip Hale, Bob Tewksbury, and Pat Mahomes.  We almost got sold to a guy named “Beaver” in 1998, and the Pohlad-Selig contraction deal nearly swallowed us up in 2002.

Contrast this with the news today, where the removal of a wart on the bottom of Michael Cuddyer’s foot was the top news (top news!) in my “MLB” module of My Yahoo! today.  Yes, a wart, which will keep him out of two weeks of meaningless spring training games.

How far we’ve come (for better or worse), indeed.

Men In Blue Are A Little Black

Indians_Tigers_Baseball_sff_174463_game.jpgTo set the scene: Earlier in the day, with Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers just one out away from pitching a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians, umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base that broke everything up (the runner was clearly out, as indicated by the instant replay).  As of this time, Commissioner Bud Selig is refusing to overturn the call and give Galarraga his perfecto, despite an admission of guilt from Joyce.

Then, the Twins-Mariners game last night transpires as follows:

Kevin Slowey and Cliff Lee lock up in a magnificent pitching duel, with the score tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the tenth inning.  With runners on first and second and two outs, Ichiro Suzuki hits a slow roller up the middle that Matt Tolbert adeptly smothers and flips to JJ Hardy for what looks to be the final out of the inning.  However, despite the fact that replays show the ball beat the runner to the bag, the runner was called safe and, by that time, the lead baserunner had already wheeled around third and scored easily:

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Two blown calls that cost their respective players/teams potentially dearly.  In Galarraga’s case, he will likely never approach a perfect game if he pitches for 20 more seasons.  The Twins, on the other hand, know first-hand the importance of a single game (we’ve played in two consecutive 163-game seasons) on the standings.  I can see the kind of tough position this puts Bud Selig in, and thus can understand why he is hesitant to overturn the Tigers call (as wouldn’t that be valuing individual achievement over team victories?).

Let’s just hope that this sort of fiasco leads to the introduction of instant replay into MLB as early as next season (or even this postseason in full-fledged form).  Football purists (if such a group exists) argued against instant replay for the same reasons that baseball purists (a much larger group) argue against it today (undermines umps, slows down the game, etc.).  However, replay has now become an established part of the NFL, and the league is (at least in my opinion) much better off for it, as getting the call on the field correct is the ultimate goal.  It should be the same in baseball as well.

Preview (31-22, 1st, 3.0 GA DET): Carl Pavano (5-5, 3.99) vs. Felix Hernandez (2-4, 3.50)

Today’s Sign Of The Apocalypse…

Just read the other day that the Milwaukee Brewers are going to erect a statue of this guy…

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…outside of Miller Park in the near future.  At first I thought maybe the article was a joke, but no such luck.  What next…statues of Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, and the Canseco-McGwire bathroom stall?

The Answer

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the rough shape that major league baseball is in when it comes to parity and competitive balance.  I was then challenged by another blogger to provide a solution to the problem.  To me, the solution is relatively simple…it’s the implementation that is the tough part.  Here are my thoughts…

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First and foremost, baseball needs a salary cap akin to the system in the NFL.  Sure, baseball has the luxury tax, but that is like asking a billionaire to pay a thousand-dollar fine everytime he does something wrong.  It sounds like a lot, but to the billionaire it is relatively little, thus he will continue to repeat his bad behavior (e.g. buying up and keeping contracted all the best players).  In the NFL, teams can only spend a certain amount (in 2009 the figure was $128 million) per season.  Plus, there is even a “minimum floor” clause of sorts that says a team has to spend at least so much money (like a minimum speed limit on the freeway) in order to prevent some franchises from just packing it in and hoarding $$$ to line their wallets if the season isn’t shaping up as planned.  Sure, there would still be bad teams.  However, general suckish-ness would be based on poor team management, like, say, starting this guy at QB…

 

Secondly, the TV pot needs to be broadened as well…

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Once again, the NFL (which I considered to have the best professional sports economic system out there today) requires TV rights to be shared between both teams competing.  In baseball, all the revenue goes to the home club.  So, the Yankees, because of their enormous and populace viewing area, can create their own TV network and rake in the dough, while the Twins (after trying that approach with Victory Sports Network and failing miserably) plod along with Fox Sports North and, comparatively speaking, get chump change in return.

Those two changes would go a long way towards making baseball much more economically sound (in terms of honoring the heritage of the game, not just turning the biggest possible profit by assuring the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs every year), and would not be all that difficult to implement.  However, major obstacles still exist in the implementation of the plan.

The biggest problem (and this will probably be the biggest understatement I ever post on this blog) is this guy…

confused.jpg Allan H. “Bud” Selig, baseball’s commissioner, was once an owner himself (of the Milwaukee Brewers), so he is very sympathetic to their causes.  Thus, he will NEVER impose sanctions on their freedom, even if it means destroying the fabric of the game in the process.

Because of this, the Players Union (once headed by Donald Fehr, but now led by Michael Weiner, pictured below)…

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…won’t, and doesn’t, budge an inch, as they are always terrified that former owner Selig is out to get them.  That is why implementing a salary cap or steroid testing is like pulling teeth.  A new, much more impartial commissioner would go an incredibly long way towards rectifying the situation, but since the players are still raking in the dough and the owners are protected by Buddy-Boy, the status quo hasn’t quite been shaken enough yet to oust Selig.

Of course, in a certain humerous turn of events that even I can smile at, Selig’s contract expires after the 2012 season.  In other words, right before the world is supposed to end (!)…

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So, I guess our only hope is to pray that the Mayans were wrong…as after ’12 baseball might get back on the right track!

A Decade Of Twins Memories

I know I’m a little late on this, as the New Years parties are all but forgotten already, but I wanted to take a few moments to recount some of my favorite Minnesota Twins memories of the decade past:

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2000: When a team features such players as Jay Canizaro, Butch Huskey, Jason Maxwell, Sean Bergman, and Mike Lincoln, it was a bit difficult to really get excited about the teams’ chances.  However, having just been introduced to the sport and completely enthralled by it, I can remember going to the basically-empty Metrodome (been to a T-Wolves game lately?) with my Dad, buying an outfield seat, and then moving right up close to home plate because not even the ushers cared what you did back then!

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2001: The team finally comes together and starts winning thanks to players like Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, and Eric Milton.  The Twins didn’t win the division, but after nearly a decade of losing baseball, they finally brought some excitement back to the Dome.

contractbud.jpg2002: The year I learned to hate Bud Selig.  In an effort to make MLB more profitable, Selig hatches a scheme to contract two franchise to bolster the others.  The obvious choice were the Montreal Expos (later to become the Washington Nationals), but the Twins?  Obviously some back-room buyout deals between Buddy-Boy and Twins owner Carl Pohlad were occuring.  Luckily, MLB realized that contraction was ill-advised and allowed the Twins to easily capture their first division title since 1991.

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2003: After a dominating 2002 campaign, the Twins were nearly out of the division race at midseason of ’03. However, after acquiring outfielder Shannon Stewart from the Blue Jays to bat lead-off, the Twins took off and won the division nearly going-away.

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2004: Of the back-to-back-to-back division title winning teams, this squad was the best.  In the ALDS, the Twins took the first game at Yankee Stadium and were on the brink of going up 2-0 heading home.  However, Joe Nathan (who had taken over for the departed Eddie Guardado and been completely dominant the entire season) led an extra-inning lead slip away and give the Yankees momentum to win that game and then sweep both at the Dome.  Of course, maybe it was just fate, as those Yanks proceeded to go up 3-0 on the Red Sox and well, Dave Roberts can tell you the rest…

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2005: Not a fun year for Twins Territory.  We didn’t outright suck, but we never really competed for the crown, either.  Even the usually stoic Brad Radke was overheard griping about the lack of run support from a horrendous offensive unit.  Also, this was the year that tensions erupted between Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau and a few blows were thrown, one that somehow connected with little Lew Ford!

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2006: The Twins spent one day in first place, but since it was the final day they made it count!  They played well pretty much the entire season, but so did the Tigers.  A late-season hot streak pushed the Twins over the top on the season’s final day.

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2007: How quickly a team can go from “contending” to “rebuilding”. In the first losing season under Ron Gardenhire, a lack of fundamentals and downright sloppy baseball made the final month of the season almost unwatchable.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253550680&c_id=min

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253551036&c_id=min

 2008: After underachieving all season, the Twins basically needed to win out the final week of the season, starting with a sweep of the White Sox, whom they were chasing for the division title. I was at all three of those games at the Dome, and they are (easily) the most exciting games I have ever been to. The Twins would later lose to the Tighty Whities in a one-game playoff, but not before some of the most exciting baseball I have ever witnessed.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200910067016143&c_id=min

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200910067016879&c_id=min

 2009: (Read: 2008).  This time the Twins make the one-game playoff count in the most exciting single baseball game I have ever watched!

It was a great decade of Twins baseball memories…why not try for another one?!

The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

Why We Lost, Theory #2: We Were Overmatched From The Start

yankeesboard06.jpgIn the previous post, I made the point that the Twins have nobody to blame but themselves for the ALDS sweep at the hands of the Yankees. But is this really true?

This is kind of a touchy issue, at least for me, as it implies that the Twins (or any small-market “David” vs. a big-market “Goliath”) really never have much of a chance to compete against the “big boys” of the league.

Any competant baseball fan knows that the economic system of the game is messed up due to the fact that no salary cap is in place.  Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels (in the American League) have such a huge advantage over the Twins and Royals of the world that its a wonder any other team ever represents the league in the World Series (I guess that is the crapshoot of a playoff structure that features a 3-of-5 first round).  Sure, Bud Selig’s supposedly brilliant luxury tax system (where, much like Robin Hood, the league robs from the rich to give to the poor) helps a little bit, but in reality all it ends up doing is narrowing the free agent pool each year (as the middle-market teams are able to lock up a few key players to long-term deals).  It most definetly, however, does not prevent teams like the Yankees from nabbing the best free agents year after year (case in point: C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett brought in before the start of this season).  The Twins could never have dreamed of signing guys like that.

Of course, baseball will likely never changed (at least not with Selig at the helm), as the success of the Yanks, Sawx, and Halos fuels the revenue machine, especially in the World Series.  Though it might provide some sanctity back into the game, nobody wants to see the Twins and Athletics, to use two examples, duking it out in the ALCS.  If the MLB execs had it their way, it would be New York and Boston every single year.

The whole situation kind of reminds me of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech from the movie A Few Good Men:

“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”

While more parity would be great for baseball, it will never happen because admittedly it would weaken the short-term (until new rivalries are formed, at least) revenue stream of the league.

Thus, can the Twins even be expected to compete with the Yankees in any series?  They have Sabathia and Burnett, we have Baker and Blackburn.  They have the best middle of an order (Teixera, A-Rod, Matsui) since Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri batted consecutively, while we have one stud (Mauer) and two others (Kubel, Cuddyer) that are by and large overmatched by quality pitching.  They have guys like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano at the BOTTOM of the order, while we have Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto, and Jose Morales because they are all we can afford.  They can throw arms like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes at us, while he have Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares.  No comparison.

So, those are the two theories as to why our beloved Twins were brutalized by the hated Yanks.  Which one is more valid?  I think it is a mixture of both.  The Twins would need to play a perfect series to even give themselves a chance to beat the Yankees, and instead we choked in every big opportunity.

Who Said Barry Bonds Has No “Appeal”?!

BondsTrial.jpgWhile I’m a little late on blogging about this news, it was announced a few days ago that federal prosecutors in the Barry Bonds case are appealing the judge’s ruling that Bonds’ positive steroid tests from 2003, as well as doping calendars put together by Bonds’ personal trainer Greg Anderson, could not be used as evidence that Bonds perjured himself.  This announcement was made shortly after Anderson again refused to testify against Bonds.  This new development will push the trial back into the summer months.

I know that many of you are probably sick of hearing about this kind of stuff during baseball’s ethereal-like Spring Training, but I feel compelled to discuss these matters due to the fact that they represent the biggest current problem in baseball right now.  Much like the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the Steroid Era has caused the game to lose much credibility, and thus must be dealt with in a very serious fashion.  I would like nothing more than to never write about the issue of steroids again, but unfortunately that may be long (if ever) in the future.

In an interesting comparison, I think that Bonds may very well be the “Shoeless” Joe Jackson of our generation.  Even though there wasn’t much concrete evidence that Jackson ever accepted a bribe to throw the 1919 World Series, he became one of the “Eight Men Out” nonetheless and was banned from the game for life just for THINKING about taking a bribe, essentially.  It could very well have been that then-Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis made an example of Jackson, essentially declaring that not even the greatest stars could get away with acts that tarnish the game.

While Bonds’ case is a bit different, as he is much more quantifiably guilty than the Shoeless one, I believe he is also being made an example of.  I mean, there are many other players (weren’t there over 100 on the ’03 list?!) that the Fed could be going after, but instead they are focusing on nailing Bonds.  I’m not saying this is wrong by any means, as Bonds deserves to be punished if indeed he did perjure himself, but I’m just pointing out that the federal government is doing what current Commissioner Bud Selig has proven unable to do…play the “Judge Landis” card.

Notes:

-Just to let my readers know, I will not be blogging about individual Twins Spring Training games.  I know it is exciting that the boys of summer are getting after it again, but I’ve never really been able to get into evaluating essentially meaningless games.  Once the regular season starts, however, I hope to have some comments every night!

Union Man

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A day or two ago, MLB Commissioner Buddy-Boy Selig had a few harsh words for those criticizing his stand against steroids in the game.  Selig said that it “annoys the you-know-what out of me” to be criticized for the Steroid Era, and that he tried to institute a tough testing policy in 1995 but was fought by the MLB Players Union (led by Donald Fehr) every step of the way.

Now, while I can understand Selig’s frustration with Fehr’s Union, which has gotten completely out of hand with too much power the last decade or so, the commish seems to have forgotten one certain thing: the title in front of his name.  As commissioner, what Selig says is what WILL happen in baseball.  If he was frustrated by Fehr in 1995 while negotating the new bargaining agreement to avoid a longer players strike, why didn’t he just come to the public with the information?  He could have easily just held a press conference and told baseball fans that the Union is impeding my efforts to clean up the sport.  So much pressure would have been place on the Union at that time that they likely would have complied.  However, Bud instead chose to overlook the entire issue at the time (think all the U.S. Presidents before Abraham Lincoln overlooking that “little” issue call slavery) in order to gain a brittle trust with the Union.  That was his big mistake, and he is paying for it royally now.

So, when I hear Selig getting defensive about all the negative press he is currently receiving, I think he deserves every bit of it.  Only certain commissioners (Kennesaw Landis being first and foremost) have truly tried to do what was best for the game, but Selig is not one of them.  He THINKS he is (because he got the players back on the field in ’95), but really he just mortgaged the next decade to steroid issues.

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