Major League Baseball has a new pope – but can it fight off the MLS heretics?
The lords of baseball, executives from its 30 clubs, shacked up in a hotel and played the role of the cardinals (not St Louis), remaining on the grounds until they elected a new leader. And after a full day of back-room maneuvering that included one of the three candidates, MLB VP of business Tim Brosnan, dropping off the ballot, baseball fans finally saw white smoke in the early evening – MLB’s chief operating officer, , defeated the Boston Red Sox executive Tom Werner and will succeed Bud Selig in the role he held for 22 years after getting at least the 23 votes (the last reportedly coming from Washington) necessary for him to become one of the most powerful men in sports today.
Not that any of the owners asked for your opinion, but if you’re a fan of the status quo this is probably it. Selig will continue to have an advisory role after retiring in January with There were a host of issues throughout Selig’s term, including but not limited to the and multiple . But if you’re an owner, you know that the No1 job of the commissioner is to make you money and that has happened, currently to the tune of some $9bn in annual revenues.
The holdout owners who made Selig’s life difficult by backing Werner and were led by the Chicago White Sox boss Jerry Reinsdorf, who allegedly wanted someone in power who would be harder on the MLB Players Union. Even if MLB’s financial books are never, ever, opened to the public, most onlookers would probably agree that multiple fatty revenue streams coming in during a time of astronomical franchise value combined with unprecedented labor peace is probably a situation you don’t want to mess too much with with. Hearing Reinsdorf’s desire to be tougher on the union was a rehash of an ugly, not too distant past – a bit like hearing that polio was popping up in the Midwest.
That said, there are still several legitimate issues out there that , perhaps most importantly the idea that the popularity of the game, and subsequent revenues surrounding it, may have crested.
Television ratings are down, and the baseball being played is getting slower and slower, which may be just fine for the older people that watch but not for the kids who don’t. This may sound crazy, but with each passing day, which shares part of sporting calendar with the baseball season, becomes more and more of a long term threat to MLB, never mind what happens when the NFL kicks off in September. When you turn MLS on, there are reasonably full stadiums featuring colorful crowds that sing, chant and play drums while following the action, which is constant and wrapped up in roughly two hours. It looks good and it sounds good, and when you consider the progress MLS has made in just 18 seasons, competitors should be taking it extremely seriously.
just keeps finding new ways to make the game longer, with additions such as instant replay along with the usual batters box fidgeting, which in addition to being completely and totally ridiculous, is just plain weird.
Now that batters are striking out left and right, and infield shifts are making it even harder to score, action is down along with run totals.
There also seems to be a lack of stars that transcend the game. Go ahead and ask someone who knows zero about sports to name some baseball players. You may get one or two. Mike Trout? No. Miguel Cabrera? Clayton Kershaw? No. Justin Verlander? Maybe, but that’s because of Kate Upton. Alex Rodriguez and More likely, and one is an ageing baseball pariah and the other is retiring in a few weeks. Where are the LeBron James’, the Peyton Mannings’?
So yes, the going is extremely good right now, but Manfred has work to do in order to secure the long-term success of the game, the league and its owners.
The great plate debate
Here’s an issue for the active commissioner, Bud Selig. It’s quite clear that umpires have no idea to judge the new rule that banned runners from barreling into catchers at the plate, one that came into effect this offseason.
The catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball. If the catcher blocks the runner before he has the ball, the umpire may call the runner safe.
On Wednesday, we saw the same play called two different ways.
In New York, the Mets were down a run to the in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on second and third. Travis d’Arnaud ran home on a ground ball to shortstop hit by the Mets’ Eric Campbell – Ian Desmond fired to catcher Wilson Ramos, who tagged d’Arnaud for the out. Except Ramos looked to be blocking the path of d’Arnaud with his foot. An instant replay review failed to reverse the call and the Mets wound up losing the game 3-2.
Earlier in the day, the White Sox were in San Francisco playing the Giants. Chicago held a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners at first and third base with one out. Joe Panik hit a ground ball to first base that was handled by Jose Abreu, who fired home to catcher Tyler Flowers, who tagged out Gregor Blanco. It looked like Flowers blocked the plate and the league review umpires, who are based in New York offices, agreed, overturning the initial out call. That meant Blanco was ruled to have scored, tying up the ballgame 1-1.
Robin Ventura stormed out of the dugout looking like he would do to the umps what in 1993, but instead kicked some dirt and got ejected. The Chisox wound up giving up seven runs in the inning while the Giants, who are currently chasing the Dodgers in the NL West, snapped a five-game losing streak.
said after the game:
Four hours ago, he’s safe. Four hours later, he’s out. So I don’t know what to say.
Here’s one thing he could say – if this isn’t sorted out by the postseason, Major League Baseball could potentially see some very important games impacted by a rule that no one can seem to figure out. It’s bad enough that teams involved in pennant races, such as the Nats and Giants, are having games decided by a rule that’s much more grey than black and white.
What can be done? Well, said on Wednesday that putting a “cylinder” or a marking above home plate would clearly define where the catcher could put his feet to be in position to make a tag while simultaneously providing the runner a clear lane.
That doesn’t sound like a bad option, not unlike the , which exists “to stop secondary defenders from taking a position under the basket in an attempt to draw the offensive foul when a player is driving to the basket”.
What would you do? Let us know down below.
The Yankees remain just four games out of the wild card but their chances of an AL East title grow more distant by the day. The Baltimore Orioles of the Yankees on Wednesday, stretching their lead over New York to eight games after the New York offense struggled yet again. The Bombers have scored seven runs in four games, all losses, prompting manager Joe Girardi to answer “I don’t know” to the question of why the Yanks can’t hit.
sounding like a bit of a chip of the old block on Wednesday. The usually silent Yankees owner said “They’ve got to step it up and they know it” and added:
The injuries have been as frustrating as they were last year. When you lose four of your starting pitchers by the All-Star Game ... it’s going to have an impact.
Yeah, no kidding. Regardless of the Yankees’ bad luck, the frustrated Hal is basically saying “I spent $214.8m and all I got was this lousy baseball team”. That’s sensible.
In the old days, a byte from The Boss, that being Hal’s dad, the departed George Steinbrenner, would have put the fear of some invisible supernatural force into his players. Hal doesn’t carry that card yet, but with practice he could improve, and generally speaking this sort of outburst is to be encouraged. The Yankees are, at the very least, a lot more fun when their owner is shooting from the hip.
Steinbrenner also said that he would decide on the fate of general manager Brian Cashman, the architect of this bloated behemoth and their virtually empty farm system, after the season. Hal also noted that he expects Alex Rodriguez, serving a one-year suspension for links to PEDs, to be back in camp come February. The Yanks owe him $61m over three more seasons.
A Royal roll
One of the beauties of baseball is the schedule. Because teams play virtually every day, it allows them to go on wild runs and make up large amounts of ground in the standings in a short amount of time. Take for example, the Kansas City Royals, who were eight games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers on 21 July. Just 25 days later, KC are , including over Oakland on Thursday. That couldn’t happen in, say, the NBA, where teams don’t play almost every day – for example, the will play 14 games in a similar period in November.
This also works the other way, of course – while the Royals were racking up wins, Detroit were throwing their fans into a panic, before admitting he has been battling shoulder soreness. Now the team that traded for all-star ace pitcher David Price are suddenly in a fight for their lives with KC in the AL Central, and other wild-card contenders such as Seattle, Toronto, New York, Cleveland and Tampa Bay – that’s certainly not what the Tigers were counting on after making a splash for Price at the trade deadline.
Meanwhile, Kansas City are 12 games over the .500 mark for the first time since July 2003, which is enough for the to release plans for playoff ticket distribution. Even after this remarkable stretch but regardless, Kansas City play exactly four of their next 19 games against teams with a .500 record or above, and three of those are at home versus the Cleveland Indians, who have an even 60-60 record. That puts the Royals in a prime position to keep the heat on Detroit, a team playing with massive expectations and the pressure to go with it.
Anyone concerned about the the slumping of Yasiel Puig need not worry, at least when you figure in his Thursday performance, one which helped the Dodgers win 6-4 over the Atlanta Braves. Heading into Thursday, the show-stopping Cuban outfielder was hitting .200 Lucky 13 brought a slump-snapping 3-4 performance on a day when Puig made the most noise with his glove.