Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plea From a Baseball Lover

-Boston, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver, heck maybe even Oakland and San Francisco. All are North American cities with major-league baseball franchises, no domed stadium, and where no reasonable person would expect to find enough good weather for the World Series to be playable in late October. Why don't baseball owners, and The Commissioner who works for them, get that they are letting their greed override common sense when it comes to scheduling these games? Can't they see they are ruining the showcase event of their sport? Huh? Can't someone step up and be reasonable here?

I watched, snickering most of the time, the comical effort put out by MLB on Fox TV last night. Game 5 of the freakin' World Series played in 30-degree temperatures and blowing rain for at least an hour-and-a-half before Carlos Pena of the Rays was thoughtful enough to get a game-tying hit to make it easier for the Commissioner's office to suspend the game to be finished at another time. Had Pena not gotten that RBI single, Bud Selig would have had to suspend the game with the Phillies leading saying that the game wasn't over (contrary to standing rules), award the Phillies the world championship based on a six-inning victory, or continue to play in those ridiculous conditions. In each instance, the sport comes off looking foolish. As it was, a new rule instituted in '07 allowed the Commish to suspend the game and not start over from the beginning. I thought I definitely detected in the voices of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver...(because they were understandably reluctant to say it directly)...their disgust for the conditions, and that the game was even being played on the 27th of October in Philadelphia.

All that aside, let's go back to the real problem. You can't expect to have baseball weather in late October. You just can't. Not unless you invent some new control over Mother Nature. And not in most cities that have baseball teams. My list above doesn't include any teams in the southern part of the country, or cities with domes. But look at the list of cities where 7-10 days of good weather is unlikely in October...especially late October. MLB needs to play the World Series earlier in October...but even better would be September. In September, when the World Series was played in the "good old days", you may fully expect to have enough good weather to play these games without creating a farcical situation such as last night. And when you do, and you have good baseball weather, you would be presenting your sport in such a way as to truly attract new fans...not chase them away. You would have, in most cases, a comfortable, and probably beautiful, setting in which to present your sport. Especially if you could also manage to have the good sense to play the games in the warmth of the day.

I remember as a kid having to sneak peaks...or quick listens...to the World Series while in school during the day. I also remember my dad excusing me from school in order to take me to Cardinals World Series games in 1964, '67 and '68. As a kid, it was wonderful...getting out of school to go to the World Series with dad...memories I'll always cherish. And when at school, even if you got caught, the teacher would at least understand why your attention was diverted for the day...or a moment. It's the World Series for crying out loud! Who isn't going to understand? And who isn't going to find a way to watch or listen if they are really baseball fans? Does anyone really think that a couple of World Series games on a few workdays will lessen productivity more than computer games...or instant messaging?

But, of course, now it's all about the TV ratings, and the dollars that drive them. You can't...oh nooooooo...you just can't play the games in the daytime. Too many people would have to work. Too many young people would be in school. You'd be depriving the national audience of a chance to be involved. Hogwash! Do what's right for the players, the managers, the teams that have fought for the chance to win the championship, and the fans of your sport... you greedy owners. Play the games in September...and at least one in each host city during the daytime! Two if you have Saturday/Sunday games back-to-back. How about this potential schedule...
Game 1- Saturday 1pm
Game 2-Sunday 1pm
Game 3-Tuesday 3pm
Game 4-Wednesday 7pm
Game 5-(if needed) Friday 1pm
Game 6-(if needed) Saturday 1pm
Game 7-(if needed) Sunday 1pm

A lot of folks in baseball would say...Oh..you can't do that. (And they would be encouraged to think so by the TV executives). Too many conflicts with college and pro football and all the other things. Well, how about knowing that your event is more important to a large segment of the population than all those other things? (Like the folks with The Masters golf tournament who do things by their own rules...insisting on a certain quality of presentation from the TV folks...and maintaining enough confidence in the value of the event to do so.) Have some confidence in baseball, and your championsip event, as a product. Schedule it when it's the right time for the players and fans...not around all of those outside influences.

One other suggestion. Cut down spring training by at least a month. Baseball players don't work second jobs anymore to need spring training to get in shape. They're in shape all year. They come ready to play. Start spring training in February if you want. Start the season in March by scheduling most of your games in southern cities...or domed stadiums. If you lose a few March games to weather, remember the good ol' double-header. Then you'll be able to keep the same number of regular-season games...and play the World Series in September...when it makes much more sense. Use your noggin Mr. Commissioner. Make it happen.

Oh, by the way...Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, there's a chance the World Series will be still going on in NOVEMBER of '09. Sheesh..Gimme a break!!

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