Category: Dailies

What can a baseball fan do to get through the winter? | : Howard Megdal Article

What can a baseball fan do to get through the winter? | : Howard Megdal Article.

via What can a baseball fan do to get through the winter? | : Howard Megdal Article.

How to save Interleague baseball

Jim Leyland has made his feelings on Interleague play very clear  As one might expect Interleague play has it’s critics, both positive and negative.  what I find most amazing about ILP is that after 13 seasons,  every AL team has not yet played every NL team.  I was surprised to see that this weekend’s Cubs at Red Sox series will be Chicago’s first trip Fenway since 1918.  Yet, after as much interleague play as we’ve seen,  this match-up has somehow never taken place, until now.

Interleague logo

Fans are still conflicted over Interleague baseball

Opponents of  ILP commonly complain that IL games count as part of the regular season NL East contenders like the Phillies and the Braves have to play the Yankees 6 times each season; whereas an NL Central team like the Brewers would play AL Central counterparts like the Royals or Indians the same 6 times. Okay, not the best example given Cleveland and KC’s surprising starts, but you get the idea.  Furthermore, AL teams are at a handicap when playing in NL parks since there is no DH in the NL and pitchers must therefore, bat.

Those in the pro-ILP camp say that IL games add a little spice to the regular schedule.  Attendance figures suggest that fans still like the gimmick – particular in the two-team, two-league cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.  Despite the fact that the White Sox and Cubs play 6 times each season (3 at Wrigley, 3 at US Cellular) the hometown fans still love it.

I, of course, have some suggestions on how to rejuvenate Interleague play:

1.  Come to a universal ruling, once and for all, on the designated hitter.  I used to consider myself a baseball purist, longing for the days when the AL pitchers had to bat – forcing AL managers to be more “strategic”.  However in recent years, I’ve come to the realization that offense is what appeals to the casual fan and also attracts new fans to the game (see: The Steroid Era).  Also, high schools, college, and Minor Leagues use the DH.  Why not the NL?   More to the point, it’s high time the AL and NL stop pretending they are separate baseball entities.  The two have not been rival leagues for over a century.  They have functioned, in theory at least, as a combined league for decades.  In 2000, the Commissioner’s office absorbed both the AL and NL offices, officially bringing both under the MLB banner.It makes no sense that the NL doesn’t utilize the DH, especially when everyone else does.  Of course, I’m not married to the DH. I would be just as happy if everyone at all levels of the game dropped it; so long as there was one universal rule.  Until or unless there is such a ruling.  We could…

2.  Reverse the DH rule for Interleague play:  use DHs in National League Parks and have pitchers bat in American League parks.  I’ve actually heard this idea from a lot of different people and if MLB insists on keeping the DH in the AL -only, this could be very popular with the fans.  The whole notion of Interleague play was to do something fresh and new for the fans.  As a Tiger fan, I would get a kick out of seeing games played under NL rules at Comerica Park; likewise, it would be neat to see DHs used at a game in Turner Field.

3.  Change the ILP scheduling structure, allowing rivalries to remain fresh. Okay, I won’t pretend to understand the complexities of making a 162 game schedule for 30 different teams.  In the early days of ILP, scheduling was  AL East vs NL East, AL West vs NL west, AL Central vs NL Central.  That got old quick, so the league began sprinkling in road trips outside of the divisional match-ups, giving fans classic rivalries like Tigers- Diamondbacks along with the aforementioned Cubs-White Sox.  I suggest the league adapt a rotating schedule in which teams rotate divisions that they play against each year in ILP.

  • Year one:  AL Central plays NL Central during ILP (these could be home-and-home series, or a AL Central team could hit the road and play the entire NL Central
  • Year two:  AL central teams play NL East teams (same rules would apply as in year one for scheduling)
  • Year three:  AL Central teams play NL West teams (same rules)
  • Year four:  AL Central plays NL Central teams again (at this point they would EITHER play NL Central teams they didn;t play in year one, or they play NL Central teams at home)
  • Year five: AL central teams play NL East teams (see rule for year four)
  • Year six.  AL Central teams play NL West teams (same rules as year four)
Granted, this idea might be a logistical nightmare, but this approach would keep IL games fresh.  Fans would be able to see virtually every team, and their superstar players,  play in their hometown once every six years.  Intra-city rivalries (NY, Chicago, etc) would be played every three years, at most.
Hey, Special Committee for On-Field Matters:  are you reading this?

My take on MLB Network’s 20 greates games, part II

Here’s part II of my take on MLB Network’s 20 greatest games countdown.  This was written over the course of this past weekend while mlblogs were being migrated to WordPress.  The #1 game episode will not air until May 22, but there have been enough hints in the previews to tell us what game it will be.

#10 – A’s @ Dodgers 1988 WS Game 1.  Hollywood could not have scripted a better ending than  a gimpy Gibby’s pinch-hit walk-off home run.  But  again, was this really a great GAME, or a game remembered for a great MOMENT?

#9 – Yankees at Diamondbacks 2001 WS Game 7 – Another game 7 nail-biter, and maybe the last time the Yankees ever played America’s sympathetic heroes.  I heard this one on the radio while driving from Maryland to Michigan, so I never saw it live.  This one is definitely a keeper. I remember my surprise as a non D-Backs fan listening to Gonzalez’s series-ending walk-off single.  A Yankees win would have huge for New York in the aftermath of 9/11, but they certainly had their own magical moments in this series.  Finally, how does Craig Counsell end up in all these great World Series moments?  History is thrust upon this guy in a Forrest Gump-like manner.

#8 – Red Sox @ Angels – 1986 ALCS – I don’t remember a lot of the details from this game, but I do remember the outcome.  Many have speculated that this game started a personal downward spiral that ultimately led to pitcher Donnie Moore’s suicide.

#7 – Marlins @ Cubs – 2003 NLCS game 6 – The Steve Batrman game.  Sorry Cubs fans.  Bartman didn’t cost you the pennant; your Cubs lost to a better team who got an incredibly lucky break.  Deal with it.

#5 – Red Sox @ Yankees – Game 7 2003 ALCS – More of the Yanks/Sox rivalry.  Bret Boone would earn a new nickname in Boston and Grady Little, not Pedro Martinez, would get thrown under the bus for this loss.  The curse of the Bambino would live…at least for one more year.

#4 – Mets @ Astros – Game 6 – NLCS – a 16 inning epic and another near-pennant win for the Astros.  Many speculate that had the Astros managed to win this one, Mike Scott and the Astros would have beaten the Mets in game 7.

#3 – Pirates @ Braves – 1991 NLCS – Game 7 – This was, at the time, the most excited I was about the end of a non-Tigers game.  The Braves were upstarts at the time, the Pirates 3-time division winners (my, how the baseball landscape has changed since then).  This game would also end the Pirates last winning season.

#2 – Braves @ Twins – Game 7 – 1991 World Series – The conclusion to perhaps the greatest World Series ever played.  Definitely worthy of this list.

#1 – Reds @ Red Sox – Game 6 1975 World Series – Does anyone remember this game, aside from Fisk’s walk-off home run?  Again a great moment does not  a great game make.  Fisk’s home run was also a milestone in sports broadcasting since it was the first time the network kept a camera on Fisk as he “waved” the ball fair, creating a lasting image in the collective consciousness of baseball fans.

All in all, not a bad countdown.  I would have had some of the games in a different order, had it been up to me alone.  By the way – Kudos to the MLB Network for letting the fans vote on this countdown.  There are some games that I would have excluded, since I felt that they were remembered more for a single highlight, rather than the entire game.

Maybe I’ll put together my own countdown…

…and we’re back…

This blog is back up and running following’s migration to WordPress.  So far, I’m impressed.  I was looking at getting an account with WordPress for quite a while, so I’m glad that MLB made the move.  In the meantime, I’m going to have to get used to all that WordPress offers…

What follows is a blog I wrote over the weekend – my response to MLB Network’s 20 Greatest Games Countdown.  This first post includes my comments on numbers 20-11.  Another entry will be following with my thoughts on games 10-1.  

While there’s a break in the action, I decided to take this opportunity to respond to MLB Network’s 20 greatest games countdown.  Granted #1 won’t air until Sunday night but ads for the last episode have already let us know that it is Game 6 of the 1975 World Series – best remembered for Carlton Fisk’s walk-off home run.

As one might expect, there were a lot of recent games in this countdown.  I attribute this to younger fans and the fact that more recent games are fresher in our collective memories.  In any case, I’m impressed that some pre 1990 games made the final cut.

I think it’s important that the network stipulated that none of these be “milestone games”.  However my biggest criticism of this countdown is that several games on here are defined by a single moment, thought there are still many games on here that are what I call “top-to bottom great”.

#20 – Phils @ Cubs 45 run game.  A wacky game, not so much a great game; this game does prove that ANYTHING is possible in baseball.

#19 – 2003 ALDS Giants @ Marlins.  Definitely one of the greatest games of the 2000s.  Best remembered for the final moment when Pudge held on to the ball; with the Marlins winning on the giants final out of the game.  Of course, anytime you can see a jam-packed Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium for a baseball game, it’s a cool thing. Only now are we starting to realize how much talent was on the 2003 Marlins roster.

#18 – Phils @ Astros – Game 5 NLCS.  I’m a little young to remember this one the first time around, but I do remember how good these Astro teams of the early 80s were.  They came close to the pennant several times, but fell just short.

#17 – Yankees @ Red sox – 2004 ALCS Game 4.  I would’ve put this up higher on the countdown.  A stand-alone classic, but this game also sparked the greatest comeback in Postseason history.

#16 – Tigers @ Twins – AL Central Tie-breaker.  A great see-saw battle; but I would have preferred a different ending.  Had the Tigers won, I would have put this in my top 3.  Worth noting, this is the only Tiger game that made the countdown.

#15 – Yankees @ Mariners – ALDS 1995.  Clearly the defining moment in Mariners history.  It has been said that this game saved baseball in Seattle and paved the way for the construction of Safeco Field. And of course, it’s always fun to see someone, anyone, take down the Yankees.

#14 – Phillies @ Blue Jays 1993 WS Game 6 – Another game best remembered for one highlight:  Joe Carter’s Series winning walk-off home run.  This particular episode was hard to watch: I could see Mitch Williams squirming in his chair as they reflected on the game.  Who says these things don’t stay with players?

#13 – Indians @ Marlins – 1997 WS Game 7 – everything is turned up a notch in a game 7.  Though I had no vested interest in this game, I remember being on the edge-of-my-seat as the game went on; truly experiencing the drama that a close ball game could provide.  This should have been ranked higher.

#12 – Diamondbacks @ Yankees 2001 WS Game 4.  November baseball. The specter of 9/11  was hanging over America, President Bush threw out the first pitch and Derek Jeter was dubbed “Mr. November”.  Hollywood would have had trouble creating such story lines.

#11 – Yankees @ Red Sox AL Tiebreaker.  Three words: Bucky f@#$in’ Dent.  A great chapter in the Yankees/Red Sox feud.  Definitely belongs on this countdown.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable

That’s what Miguel Cabrera should have said this afternoon.

Cabrera returned to Lakeland today – to speak to the press and presumably begin Spring Training; yet he refused to utter the words alcoholic or addict.
The baseball fan in me is happy that he will not be missing the regular baseball season.  The human being in me sees that this guy needs help.  Knowing the track record of how all professional sports leagues deal with addictions, I’m concerned that he didn’t say enough and neither the Tigers nor MLB are taking enough action.

Reflections on Carolina Stadium

This past Saturday (my birthday)  I attended my first college baseball game at the University of South Carolina’s Carolina Stadium.  There, I got to see the Gamecocks beat Ole Miss.  Here are some of my game-time observations:

  • I’m impressed by the overall feel of the park.  The place may only be slightly smaller that Charleston’s Joe Riley Park.
  • This scoreboard/video display blows Joe Riley Park away!
  • NO BEER??  It is a college game after all…
  • Cocky – USC’s mascot may be the funniest i’ve seen at any level of sport.
  • The stadium’s dugouts are huge – they may well be the same size as those a Comerica Park.
  • I like the left field bleachers and the flags across the top, in order of the SEC standings.
  • Of course, I dig the 360 degree accessto throighout the seating bowl.  I walked the circumference of the seating at least twice during the game.
  • Naturally, an old wrestling mark like me would get a kick out the Ric Flair “Woooo1”  sound bit played after a USC pitcher struck someone out.
  • About the only suggestions i would make for the whole a/v presentation is more pitcher data – pitch count, name, etc  and less country music!
  • Overall, a vey Major League-style presentation with musc, replay on the big screen, and the occsional t-shirt toss.
  • Had a guy enter in front of me who flashed a San Diego Padres business card.  Ya gotta wonder how many scouts are crawiling around this place.
  • The replays have sponsors onthem…cha-ching!
  • “The John Deere Drag”  at the top of the 6th…cute…
  • Gotta review th balk rule for both college and pros.
  • The stadium is located way-off campus.  a bit off the beaten path, but its situated so that it provides a nice lttle view of the part of the Columbia skyline.
  • Aneat little touch, and maybe its a college thing:  I noticed that when  apitching change is made, the manager doesn’t take the ball and give it to the new pitcher.  Rather, the outgoing pitchers gives it to the incoming pitcher.
  • I will never get used to the “PING!” of the aluminum bats…

All in all, I was very impressed.  I dont think it was hype when USC claimed they had one of the best college ballparks in the US.  They also have a very strong fan base.  No wonder the team formerly known as Capital City Bombers (now the Greenville Drive) moved.

Just heard a chilling stat on the MLB Network,  the Tigers are 0-5 at night this season,

Of course the Tigers lost…they were televised in Charleston!

It seems anytime I’m able to watch the Tigers here in Charleston (and no, MLB Extra Inings doesn’t count) they lose.  Saturday night was no exception.

So far, it appears my worst fears about this year’s Tiger team are true.  A nine game stretch against Cleveland and KC did little to show us what this team is made of.  Seriously, how often have we been able to describe any Tigers team by saying “their hitting is soft, but their rotation is rock-solid”?

We all knew this West Coast road trip was going to be tough.  If these first two games are any indication, it’s going to be down right brutal.

Congratulations to  Ubaldo Jiminez and the Colorado Rockies on their first no hitter in franchise history.  My God, is this really their 18th season?  With tonight’s no-no and several near-no hitters already this season, is it too early to speculate that the post-steroid era will be one of pitching dominance?

Saturday was my birthday, and I spent much of the day at the South Carolina / Ole Miss game in Columbia  – my first college game.  Hopefuly, I’ll be recapping that tomorrow, along with whatever pics I can get from my Blackberry.