Monday, November 3, 2008

Enough

I was content to roll my eyes as every second rate hack from every second rate newspaper auto-piloted his way through his "we must fix the World Series" column last week, but now that a serious, and respected guy like Buster Olney is peddling this garbage [Insider only], something must be said.

First, let's hear it from Buster, who after recalling watching World Series games played in the daytime some 35 years ago, offers the following:
Naturally, the deeper you play into the fall, the more likely it is that you'll have the kind of farce that we saw in Philadelphia, where Mother Nature flexed her muscles and forced ballplayers to play with snowmobile hats. (In the first part of Game 5, they could've used some slickers and swim goggles, too.) A lot of the innings we saw in Philadelphia were nothing less than farcical. Those are all part of the reason the topic of a neutral-site World Series inevitably will be raised at forthcoming baseball meetings. And you know what? Given all the circumstances in play -- among them, the fact that we'll never return to the time when the World Series was played on brilliant afternoons -- it's an idea that makes sense.
Never has one game -- sorry, one half of a game -- caused so much of a commotion. In the past decade, we've had scores of October -- and in 2001, November -- World Series games played in New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and Philadelphia. Exactly one of those games -- last Monday's in Philly -- had what anyone would call awful conditions. Yes, it sucked, but they figured it out, and two days later we had an exciting little sprint that crowned a champ, and none of the thousands at the parade in Philadelphia on Friday felt that the experience was a diminished one. This week the upper Midwest is experiencing sunny days in the sixties and lower seventies. In some years it will be cold. In others it will even snow. If the scientists are right we may even one day have hot damn weather. The point is that hard cases make bad policy, and for any new policy regarding baseball's most sacred rite -- the World Series -- to be based on an outlier of a game like Game Five this year is simply preposterous.
If baseball ever takes this step, season-ticket holders initially will create an enormous backlash because they will feel as if something has been stripped from them. As anyone who attends postseason games knows, however, the high cost of the World Series generally outruns the budgets of many who go to regular-season games, anyway. The postseason crowds have a very different feel because a lot of the die-hards are left to watch on television. With a neutral site, baseball could give season-ticket holders a first option to buy tickets to the World Series. In fact, it could prearrange airfare and hotel packages as part of the event.
I'm loathe to even meet Olney on this farcical, hypothetical turf, but let's play along, shall we? Yes Buster, you're right: the season ticket holders will squawk. But what won't happen is them getting first dibs, that I can tell you. Someone is going to have to underwrite this hypothetical neutral site contest, and if the NFL is any guide, you can bet it will be large corporations looking to eke out of it every bit of promotional advantage they can. Contest winners, advertising executives, and junkets of every kind will gobble up the majority of these tickets, and those that aren't so gobbled will sell for stratospheric prices. The only thing keeping that from happening now is that no one knows where the games will be until three or four days before they begin. Schedule the 2011 World Series for San Diego tomorrow, and you can bet that all of the hotel rooms will be booked by the end of the month.
And there's no doubt that Major League Baseball could make the World Series into an incredible event because it could plan and stack up a wide array of options for fans, Super Bowl-style.
This is what we want to emulate? A giant, over-hyped, bloated corpse of a football game whose "media day" has long since become a punchline and whose biggest news stories tend to involve arrests of marginal players for all manner of tomfoolery? Are we gonna send Bill Simmons and A.J. Daulerio there to mock the soulless host cities and oblivious, superficial star fuckers who latch onto the event, seemingly unaware that an athletic contest is actually involved too?
Along the way, MLB could arrange for Hall of Famers to attend daily fan-fest functions, panels and autograph-signing sessions and seminars. The general managers could hold their annual meetings during that week, and the GMs could break away from their hotel to hold town-hall-style talks with fans about their teams as their managers are in town.
Except of course that since the season is still going on and there are no free agents yet, the GMs couldn't do what they normally do at the winter meetings, which is to discuss transactions and the like. What's more, if we kill the winter meetings, what is Ken Rosenthal supposed to do? He lives for that stuff!
The Hall of Fame could announce its induction class for the following summer. In a place like Phoenix or San Diego, there could be daily charity golf tournaments, and fans could be part of the scramble. MLB could feature the John Smoltz Desert Classic on the first day, the Jeff Francoeur Invitational the second day and so on.
And nothing says Fall Classic like golf in the dessert. In other news, I guess we know that Buster isn't going to have the Braves winning the East in his predictions column next spring.
I wish postseason baseball were played like it was when I was a kid. But it's not. So it's time to move on to the next-best thing.
I guess it's inevitable that everyone will eventually revert to the notion that how things were done when they were young was the best way to ever do them, but guess what: I'm only a couple of years younger than Olney, and I never witnessed a daytime World Series game, and in fewer years than Olney might wish, no one will ever remember when they happened. What there are plenty of, however, are fans who came of age in the 90s and 2000s and fell in love with October baseball while wearing Yankees or Red Sox jackets because it was cool at night. And you know what? They don't have a problem with it.

But in case my message has been muddled in the preceding paragraphs, allow me to be perfectly clear: the idea of a neutral site World Series is an acutely retarded one, borne of an irrational reaction to a single soggy Monday night in 2008, devoid of reason, thought, heart, passion, or reverence for over a century of baseball tradition. It would benefit exactly two classes of people: (1) corporate interests; and (2) weak and lazy sportswriters who hate travel and can't handle an autumn chill. Its institution would be a disservice to every pennant winning city going forward, and would desecrate the collective memory of the raucous crowds from the Polo Grounds in 1954, Forbes Field in 1960, Fenway Park in 1975, the Metrodome in 1991, and Yankee Stadium in any one of a dozen years. For every memorable Super Bowl, there have been a dozen classic World Series, and the fact that they're played on unfriendly territory for one of the teams involved has an awful lot to do with that.

I defy Buster Olney and any of the many other writers who have advocated a neutral site World Series to make the case that any World Series prior to 2008 would actually have been improved by being played in a neutral location, and I challenge them to ponder whether they would even be baseball fans if Bob Gibson had struck out 17 Tigers in the Astrodome in 1968, if Reggie had gone yard three times in Arlington, Texas in 1977, or if Game Three of the 2001 World Series had been played anywhere other than New York City.

If the answer is that tradition and history shouldn't dictate a thing as important as the World Series, than I pity them far more than I can ever disagree with them.

(Welcome NBC readers! If you liked this, there is plenty more ShysterBall where that came from!)

32 comments:

Richard Dansky said...

Amen.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

(crosses arms, leans back in the chair, and mutters "hell yeah" to himself silently in the dark).

DRH said...

The fact that one day of bad weather has resulted in this craziness is incredibly bizarre.

Although, I can't count the number of times I've thought to myself how much more I'd like baseball, if only they had more things like Super Bowl week..

bigcatasroma said...

Wow.

Passion. Anger. Craig, you've said it all.

aaron empty said...

Amen brother! I used to really like Buster, but lately hes been writing some wrong headed stuff

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Isn't another issue that it would be highly unlikely for the common fan to be able to take a full week off of work at the last minute?

Steve S said...

Yeah.. it seems like this year, Buster's settling for a lot more of knee-jerk hyperbole rather than detailed reporting. I guess doing Baseball Tonight has its price... dumbing yourself down for Philips and Kruk takes its toll.

mooseinohio said...

What I do not hear discussed much is the loss of economic benefit to the city that host the games. How much did Philadelphia benefit (for that matter hotels in Delaware)from having three games played in the city? While I am personally opposed to using public funding to build stadiums (folks won't pay taxes for public schools but hell yeah I'll pay for some billionaire to have his over priced millionaires play in our city - opps, getting off soap box now) one argument used to 'justify' them is the economic benefit it will provide the city and the taxpayers who fund the ballparks. So when the biggest economic benefit of this funding is finally coming to town - hey let's just move the WS to another city so their taxpayers get some benefit.

As for Olney - I'll grant him grace this time since I did it for Gammons as well.

Peter said...

Another reason not to take Olney's opinions seriously, as if there weren't enough already.

The endless harping on Manny and the "you'll be sorry" tone in his coverage of the Pedro Alvarez story have made me view him as an errand boy for ownership.

Roger Moore said...

This is what we want to emulate? A giant, over-hyped, bloated corpse of a football game whose "media day" has long since become a punchline and whose biggest news stories tend to involve arrests of marginal players for all manner of tomfoolery?

That may not be what fans want, but it's great for the media- and that's what's really driving the idea of a neutral site Series. Buster Olney and the rest of the gang don't want this because it's good for the fans or because they don't like the idea of rain on the Series. They like it because it's convenient for sportswriters.

They like the idea of being able to book their tickets a year or more in advance. They like the idea of being able to spend a week or two in a warm, sunny place when their home city is cold and dreary. The love the idea of a purpose-made media circus because it gives them tons of ready-made material. They want to pretend that they're speaking up for the poor fans, but they're really in it for themselves.

Grant said...

When I saw that headline yesterday I just laughed. I stopped reading Buster Olney long, long ago, mainly because I realized he cared much more about being a well-known and respected media insider than he did about the game of baseball. Even his "blog" (which is not a blog. it is a daily notes column. I'm 22 years old and even I know that newspapers used to have this kind of thing all the time, back when newspapers cared about their audiences) is not readable. He's sanctimonious. He has willfully ignored the stats revolution. Hell, even fossil Peter Gammons is more willing to listen to the stats-oriented guys than Buster is. Buster Olney, while he seems like a nice enough guy, and more thoughtful than the blowhards on Around the Horn, is not a sportswriter worth taking seriously any longer.

I almost canceled Insider, but then ESPN brought Keith Law on board. It's worth paying for Insider and throwing away their ludicrously bad magazine just to read Neyer and Law. Otherwise? Forget it.

bigcatasroma said...

What amazes me about baseball writing is that Neyer, Law, and even our boy Craig here (who, by the way, has ANOTHER FREAKIN' JOB) are able to write DAILY about BASEBALL matters, i.e. drive home some hard points about player evaluation, top ten lists that aren't top ten lists, scouting, provide links to interesting articles, etc. Each day, several times a day, there is something new and refreshing. MSM knee jerk to one pointless issue, and run with it for several days.

I continue to harp on Not Funny and Even Less Funny on WWL's morning radio show. I mean, last Tuesday they approached the Monday debacle w/ the "gambling" issue, and ran with that for several days. Nobody in their right mind cared; the only people who did were degenerate gamblers. But they muckraked enough for that to be "their story." Similarly, several writers decided on Thursday to write, not about free agents, or the season, or the Phillies history of phutility being vindicated, but about moving the WS to a neutral site.

Lazy, base journalism at its worst.

dtro said...

Buck: Sonnanstine with the pitch. Flyball deep to left, Crawford going back, looking up, and...it's off the factory. Ryan Howard with a homerun off the factory wall here at Petco and it's 5 to 1 Philadelphia. And the 500 or so Phillies fans who were able to get tickets are going wild.

McCarver: Boy, it sure is a nice night here in San Diego.

Right on Craig.

Ken Dynamo said...

given the choice, i probably wouldnt vote for a neutral world series site, but on the other hand i dont think i'd care of MLB actually did it. pretty sure i definitely wouldnt care at all.

christopher said...

well said. And this whole controversy would have been avoided if selig had cancelled the game before the first pitch. Then we would have had stories about how even the weather couldn't slow down the phillies.

And I love the phrase "oblivious, superficial star fuckers" - you should work it into as many posts about football as possible - but shouldn't it be hyphenated? :)

Craig Calcaterra said...

Christopher -- I have a grammar guide around here somewhere, but "star-fuckers" wasn't in it, so I went with my gut.

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

Well said, Shyster. Thanks.
Personally, I'm baffled at Olney's ongoing cred as a leading Baseball analyst. Shyster, Neyer, and several others left him in the dust a while ago.

As far as daytime World Series games, I am one who IS old enough to remember them. I grew up in Houston, and was in third grade for the 1969 classic between the Orioles and the Mets (Brooks Robinson, Rusty Staub, et al..), and my teacher, Mrs. Hodges, brought in a portable radio and set it on her desk so we could listen to the games during class. We also huddled around a transistor radio on the playground to catch the innings during afternoon recess. It's an incredible memory. This was also during the time when NASA's Gemini and Apollo launches were big enough to herd the entire school into the cafeteria to watch them on one, 19 inch TV.
Not pertinent to the thread, exactly, but those of us who have always loved baseball find ways to follow day games.

christopher said...

Yeah, those things tend to avoid the real thorny grammatical issues surrounding swears and insults. Useless as far as i'm concerned.

Daniel said...

When I saw this on Olney's blog headline, it made me pretty upset. I know Olney's got his faults, but I've always appreciated the stories he links to. He seems like a good guy and has some interesting anecdotes.

But I can't believe he's pushing this same stupid line as everyone else. I do not want the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is ridiculous.

Buster just lost himself a reader.

mooseinohio said...

Another point I hate about the SB being in warm weather climates is it hurts a team that builds itself around being successful in colder/windier climates (Chicago, Denver, Buffalo) and win their division with such a strategy but potentially lose the SB because of it. I suspect that if the Buffalo Bills had been able to play their four SB in Chicago or Denver they'd had won at least two.

How does this relate to baseball? Well, left handed pitching typically struggles in Fenway, fly ball pitcher struggle in smaller ballparks (e.g. Cincy, Philly, Colorado) whereas they may be better suited for San Diego or LA. So GM who build their pitching staff to be successful in their parks and earn the most difficult post-season spot (even with the WC baseball still has the fewest teams make the post season) may not be able to capitalize on that advantage in the playoffs.

Also, moments like Fisk's homerun may never exist. Would Reggie Jackson's MR October label ever had been coined if he wasn't launching those blast in Yankee Stadium? Not sure and don't want to take the risk finding out.

rob said...

Don't forget that Onley went this route on replay earlier in the season too. Umps have been missing home runs since they built fences in the outfield, but remember the hew and cry over those two home runs in NYC last summer? You'd have thought they suspended a World Series game or something.

Bill said...

Outstanding. Send a copy of this blog to every shut of a sportswriter agreeing to this Neutral site BS and have a copy of this waiting for all the owners, GMs, managers, and the ball girl down the left field line for the Nats. Outstanding blog Craig.

Jake said...

My thoughts on this theory can be expressed thusly:

To never again let the citizens of Detroit, Boston, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, or Minnesota experience the feeling of a WS home game? Unacceptable.

Jacob said...

To never again let the citizens of Detroit, Boston, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, or Minnesota experience the feeling of a WS home game? Unacceptable.

It's not just those cities that would suffer. No city would ever get to experience winning a home game in the World Series unless they happened to be lucky enough to make it to the series the year it was held in their city.
The neutral WS site idea is ridiculous. In general, MLB shouldn't do anything that makes it more like the NFL.

Regina said...

Here's a distaff voice (and incidentally a Phillies fan). Neutral site would not work well for the World Series. It's a series, not a single game, like the Super Bowl. Imagine, for Game One, one team shows up in home uniforms, the other in road greys, one has a DH, the other does not. A few days later, the costumes and assignments switch, venue stays the same. Silly.

And what travel day? Wouldn't need them in a neutral park. Travel days, off days, they are part of World Series strategy (Maddon was happy with the weather suspension, because it meant no more Cole Hamels).

What would the pitching rotation look like in a neutral park World Series, up to seven days with no off days, with the short roster?

In baseball, all the outfields are a little different -- depth, cutouts, funny corners. That's part of home field advantage. Gone in a neutral park.

The All-Star Game would become meaningless again.

At the trading deadline, all the playoff contender teams would try to cannibalize the team whose home field is the neutral World Series site -- to get players who know that field.

Yeah, let's have it every year in California. There could be an earthquake. Memba that?

We would not be having tis discussion if Bud Selig had made the right call on Monday October 27 and postponed Game 5 at the outset. Any fool with eyes and access to weather radar could see what would transpire in Philadelphia that evening. But, initial mistake made, the Commish did the best he could under those circumstances. I'm still trying to figure out how he got Tampa Bay to tie it up in the top of the 6th.

If this Series had a different outcome, I'm sure I'd still be swearing at the Game 5 situation like Chase "F-bomb" Utley. But if you really want to ruin baseball, move the World Series to a neutral park.

Grady said...

bravo. glad i caught this.

Giancarlo said...

Pretty much the best thing you've written on this site

Jake said...

What I'm saying about Detroit, New York, et al. is that there would be no WS in those cities ever... A real loss for baseball fans in those cities, no matter their allegiances.

Grant said...

Regina, you make good points. But I would like a return to the All-Star game being an exhibition.

Joist said...

I'm really bummed I didn't catch this diatribe yesterday, because I completely agree.

If you ask me, the only reason Olney doesn't have the reputation of being a moron is that he has a very subdued personality on the air, and his blog and chats are generally vanilla. If you read him daily, though, he comes up with brain farts (or is it brain-farts?) like this one every couple of weeks or so, and the reader is left scratching his head, wondering what this guy is smoking.

Puquerda said...

excellent post. neutral site world series is preposterous, and comparing a seven game series involving 280,000 real fans to one football game involving less than 100,000 "fans" does not make any sense.