Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Baseball Theory

I couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least try to fix the one sport that makes less sense than a solar powered flashlight.

While I do this, baseball homers (double entendre!) will follow their usual course of action and point to meaningless facts and statistics like "Baseball is the second most popular sport in America!" or "Baseball is America's past time!" and turn an unabashed eye to the fact that baseball's time is, in reality, passing.

The sport is losing popularity, no doubt. That is an irrevocable fact you may not challenge me on (my blog, my rules). There are generations of middle aged and elderly men who cling to the glory days of past when cable television was terrible, the Internet was not yet invented and the only way to kill 4 hours of your day was to keep score of a major league game. Ahh, yes. The glorious days of yore. When 'milkman' was a job title, computers took up entire rooms, and racism was OK in certain company.

Then things changed. The Internet became our universal hang-out spot, cable television went from being "good" to "absolutely must-see, and if I don't I can watch in on the Internet, or as I like to call it, my universal hang out spot."

The NFL grew rapidly with the advancements in Fantasy Football technology, bringing the game closer to the average fan. HDTV made you feel like you were in the huddle and became a better viewing experience than attending games in person. The NBA is squeezing every ounce of usefulness out of the Internet by posting all their clips online, streaming games live online, and hosting the largest internet communities on Facebook and Twitter for a major American sport. The NHL is even facing a resurgence in popularity through its attempts to highlight young stars, smashing hits, and allowing the players to enforce each other instead of distinguishing a Flagrant 1 from a Flagrant 2.

Baseball changed too. They prohibited people from posting clips of games on YouTube, they stubbornly entrenched themselves in their prehistoric ways and fought against change at every turn.

Just like the old business man who prefers to do things with pen and paper will get pushed out of his position after refusing to learn what Microsoft Excel is, baseball, if nothing changes, will slowly die as less and less of the sport appeals to young fans.

The current generation of MLB lovers will pass on and leave behind...well, not much. What about 4 and a half hour games between two teams at the bottom of their divisions featuring pitchers just called up from the minors in the middle of a 162 game season appeals to 12 year olds?

So I thought about what we can do to make baseball more exciting. It's really the least I can do.

How about this: instead of teams having a pitching rotation featuring upwards of 5 players, make it like the QB position in football. You get a starting pitcher, a backup, and a third stringer. Limit the number of roster spots by position and reduce the number of games.

There was a pitcher starting for Tampa Bay (or something) who had lost 29 games in a row. Why does he still have a job? If he did that in the NFL he'd be called "The Redskins Starting QB". Meanwhile, the Phillies have four of the four best pitchers in the game stacking their rotation.

Would any NFL team want to have Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rogers all on the same team? What good would that do them except to prevent other teams from having those guys?

So here's what I propose. Limit the bullpen to three pitchers. Play two games per week, giving time to rest their shoulders, and in case of injury you start your backups.

I puke at the fact that I heard a month ago on SportsCenter an MLB team had put a player on the Disabled List due to "Dead Arm". ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?

Isiah Thomas once finished an NBA Finals game on a broken ankle. A BROKEN ANKLE! Make the MLB players man up and get tough. God forbid the pitches become more hitable and the scores increase.

Tangent: I saw the new MLB commercial of players running home and crashing into the catcher, or outfielders chasing the same fly ball and colliding, then the words "Baseball, who said it wasn't a contact sport?" flashed on the screen. I honestly thought it was a joke. Wasn't this the sport, just a few weeks earlier, calling for the head of the player who injured catcher Buster Posey while trying to break up the throw on his way home? There has been one notable collision in Baseball in the last 10 years, and THIS is their new ad campaign. I hate this sport.

Three man rotation, two games per week, limit the roster spots by position and, what the heck, add a pitch clock in there as well. Shorten the game to 7 innings (wouldn't want those pitchers getting Dead Arm), and have pitchers throw complete, or mostly complete games. Get rid of the dead weight pitching staff in the league and spread the talent out.

That way, when the Nationals draft a guy like Stephen Strasburg, it'll feel like we drafted Sam Bradford or Peyton Manning, a pitcher for the future, a guy to base our franchise on, and a player who we can count on to dominate in every game...not one out of every five games. What's the use of one great pitcher if, at the most, he can win 20% of your games for you?

Put clips online, stream games online, build the brand via social marketing tools and fire the crap out of Bud Selig and hire Mark Cuban. Add a salary cap per team so the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies can't buy up everyone they want and leave teams like Kansas City, Houston, and San Diego picking up off the scrap heap.

Doesn't seem too difficult does it? But when you have a sport run by old farts so lodged in their old-school style of thought, thinking the sport will succeed on its tradition and this is just a down period, change never happens.

My final attempt to save baseball? Allow PEDs. Not the dangerous ones, just the ones that give a slight advantage. Might as well, right? The sport became a joke because of it. It was in the peak of its popularity when the big name players were using. All the records are tainted because of it. Just succumb to the pressure....come to the dark side.

Oh, and we HAVE to stop letting the managers wear baseball uniforms. C'mon, they look like pajamas. You can't defend that. It's gotta stop.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Brief Thoughts on the NBA Finals

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Because isn't that really what it's all about? A player developing himself into a star? Staying in Dallas while a team was built around him for 13 years (13 YEARS!), and finally exercising his Finals demons against the same team that vanquished him 5 years prior?

Isn't that the championship story we want to hear about? Isn't that the purity in sports that we love to root for? To watch the seemingly good conquer the seemingly evil?

Dirk is the kind of superstar you can't help but love. He motivates his teammates the right way, mentioning that Jason Terry hasn't been as clutch as they needed him to be. Terry responded tremendously in Games 5 and 6. Then, in Game 6, when Dirk shot 1-12 in the first half, it was Jason Terry that reminded him, "Keep pushing. Remember '06."* You visibly saw his team stand up for him, and have his back these playoffs. He's a player his team loves to play with. How often is that said?

And when the Larry O'Brien trophy is awarded, we want to see the MVP be overcome with emotion...pure joy...at finally getting what he worked so hard for. We don't watch sports to see superstars preen, boast, and pound their chests when they win a title (or 6 months before they win anything). We want to see years of struggle, hard work, disappointment and motivation be wiped from their face as they hold the championship trophy up for all to see, as if saying, "Look at what we did. This is ours. You'll never take this away from us."

So in this moment, be happy for the NBA. It's one of the rare times things work out the way they're supposed to. We have a true champion who did it the right way, and if nothing else, reminded us why you don't go to sleep when Dwayne Wade hits a 3-pointer to go up by 15 with 6 minutes left in Game 2.

Because anything can happen when you have a 7-foot German on your team.

*Quote borrowed from Adrian Wonarowski's column on the Finals seen here, (I promise to give it back)

**This column brought to you with no mention of any over-exposed players by the Association for Not Jumping on the Bandwagon of Hating Players or Giving Too Much Attention To People Who Don't Deserve It**

Friday, June 10, 2011


The hate has gone too far.

Look, I enjoy irrationally saying that Kobe Bryant might not be as good as Clyde Drexler, but only to get a rise out of my friends who are Lakers' fans. But I know that Kobe is the second best shooting guard after Jordan. I appreciate that The Decision polarized basketball fans and gave us a team, and a player, to root against. I love the rivalry and the passion and the excitement. But the hate has officially gone too far.

First of all, LeBron is not who we wanted him to be, and he will not be who we want him to be. If you hated him when he first came into the league and learned to appreciate his freakish ability later (me), or if you loved him when he first came out and now hate him because of The Decision (the rest of you), or if you've hated him forever because for some reason you think Kobe Bryant is a better role model (LA fans), regardless, LBJ is not who we want him to be.

He won't be Michael. No one will. Kobe won't, LBJ won't, Durant won't, Wade won't. LeBron was never going to be the next Michael. There are only new superstars. Name one current superstar who was an exact replication of a previous legend? It doesn't happen. There are only new superstars and no one will be like MJ. But according to my Twitter feed the last few nights, if a superstar isn't the next Jordan than his career is more disappointing than the smell of freshly laid mulch on a hot summer day.

Yes, LeBron has disappointed in the post-season in the past particularly in Cleveland where it was a one man show. Yes, he has disappointed in the fourth quarter of this series against Dallas.

But what about when he basically beat Chicago all by himself? The overall #1 seed in the NBA? With the reigning MVP on the court? What about scoring 11 straight points in the fourth quarter against them to clinch a win, and eventually the series?

I'm not trying to sympathize with LeBron.

I'm not trying to sympathize with LeBron.

I wrote it twice because if you really hate LBJ you skipped over the first line cause you think I'm a empty-headed, bandwagon chasing, superstar loving, no-morals deviant with questionable integrity.

In fact, I just think the hate has gone too far. Way too far. I'd submit that Game 5 was the only game the Heat needed LeBron to take over. They won Game 1, the entire team collapsed in Game 2, and they won Game 3 (On an assist from James to Bosh for the game winner. But that doesn't count cause LeBron didn't take the shot. Just like it didn't count when Jordan passed to Steve Kerr for the game winner...right?).

In Game 4 LBJ put on a tremendous disappearing act. We heard about it all week. In the spirit of this column I will attempt a meager defense. Not that James was tired, that's a weak excuse. Not that the team didn't need him, they did. I just think Dwayne Wade was the one taking over. And if you've ever played pick-up basketball you know when one guy is hot, you get him the ball. You don't also try to also take over. It messes up the flow, it impedes what is happening. LeBron was staying out of the way.

Is anyone buying that? I'm not totally buying that, but I think that played a part in it. When you have two superstars on a team the co-mingling of their talents becomes a problem. We saw it all season and we're starting to see it again now in this series. If Wade needs the ball every possession to stay hot, how can LeBron get in a rhythm? I know...that's not a great defense either...but I'm trying here!

I blame the loss not on LeBron's disappearance, but on coach Erik Spolestra for taking Wade out to give him rest he didn't need while he was firing on all cylinders. That's like nailing a job interview then farting while shaking hands.

Game 5 was a no-win situation for LeBron. His haters were out in full force, and the only way he could dissuade them was by a stat line the reads something like: 50 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists, AND a game winner over Dirk Nowitzki, Gheorge Muersan, Shawn Bradley, Manute Bol, and the Statue of Liberty. And even then they'd say he hated America and was a sexist for scoring on Lady Liberty and not calling her after.

Otherwise anything else was going to be a disappointment. He could score 48 and if the Heat lost it'd be LeBron's fault. If he scored 20 points and they won his haters would shout "He had a terrible game!" Unfortunately, that's not an overstatement. I know it to be true because James had a triple double last night, one of the most difficult things to do in basketball, and I STILL heard that he had an awful game.

Was it James' fault? Or was it the Mavericks shooting 68% from the 3-point line? Was it James' not scoring 40 points that lost it for them? Or was it Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Nowitzki coming up huge in the fourth quarter, at home, with all the momentum on their side that won the game for them?

Sure James only had 9 points in the first half, but the Heat had scored 57 points and were only down by 3. God forbid we make basketball a team sport.

OK, I've done enough.

Here's my point: The hate has gone too far with LeBron James, and you have to see how this series (and his career) play out before we place him among the Legends of the NBA.

To be clear: I'm rooting for the Dallas Mavericks in this series. They've earned this series the right way, building the team from within, having their superstar take his game to the next level in the playoffs, knocking off the reigning champs, and having a great coach make all the right adjustments. But all the ill-focused, irrational, and uneducated hatred towards LeBron makes me want to root for him just so all the haters will be put in their place.

I won't. But I just want you to realize the effect you're having on my sanity. Jerks.