A Look at Ebbets

August 22, 2011

I’m lucky to have gone to games at both the “old” Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. Dad would take my brother and me to see the two. He didn’t have a lot of time for the Yanks. But we got to go anyway – Mom was a native of the Bronx. Dad grew up a Giants fan, adopted the Mets, and took us to the Polo Grounds.

But I never saw Ebbets Field. The Dodgers had left for the coast playing at Wrigley Field in LA (taking the Giants with them) before I knew of baseball.

Now my cousin’s son Heinz can give us an idea of the site and place. Check it out.  

                                       http://newyork.untappedcities.com

Tell the truth. Last April you picked the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the NL Central Division. Yeah, me too. And we’re both liars.

As I write this the Pirates are either a half game ahead or behind the Milwaukee Brewers in what will be the most interesting division race this season. The NL Central looks like a 4-team battle. The Reds were last year’s winners. But St Louis were a preseason favorite though many thought the Brewers off-season acquisitions would give them the edge.

But no one, I mean no one, predicted the Pirates would be in the mix with 70 games to go. And why would you? They finished the 2010 season with 105 losses and last in the NL Central. They have not had a winning season in 20 years. 

These are not the Paul Waner, Pie Traynor, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazerowski, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargel’ family. All indicators are they don’t hit. 

In fact the Pirates’ batting average (.247) is 11th in the league. The Cards, Reds, Brewers, and the Cubs and Astros have higher percentages. They are 11th in runs (371), 13th in home runs (62), and 11th in on-base percentage (.314).

They are not prolific.

The Pirates can pitch. Their young staff allows 3.40 earned runs per game. But doubters and stat guys would point out their WHIP (1.31) is the same as the Reds and Cardinals. The Brewers’ number is at 1.32.

They don’t field as well as the Reds and Cards (the Brewers are a softball team in the field).

History says they can’t win. When they were contenders in the 70’s, there was the Big Red Machine. Sure they had a big family once, years ago. But when they had the next shot Bonds couldn’t throw Sid Breams out at home. Sid Bream for crying out loud. It’s been high profit team constantly selling assets.

Sure, history can be a poor predictor. But I wouldn’t bet on them. They are the Pirates.

Realign This

June 23, 2011

I needed a serious diversion. It had been raining for days – a soaking, chilly Wisconsin weekend. Andrew’s little league games were washed out. Brewers telecasts were no help as the Crew were finishing a terrible road trip by getting pounded by the Sox in Boston. 

And then Major League Baseball gave me one of the great parlor games: Realignment!

ESPN was reporting a proposal in which the Houston Astros would go to the American League, giving baseball two 15-team leagues. There would be no divisions. Interleague play retained. Each league would have a 4-5 team playoff system culminating in a World Series.

I mulled it over. I had my own initial ideas. Why not? It couldn’t be any more rediculous than all the others. Besides, it’s a parlor game.

So,

Disband the Toronto Blue Jays. Baseball is the “National Past Time.” Well, it used to be – 50 years ago. But the Jays’ attendance is among the worst. And now the Rays are closest to catching the Red Sox and Yanks in the AL East. Here’s a trade? MLB disbands the Jays. The Canadians take back the Coyotes.

Disband the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays. Who would be inconvenienced? It appears “fans” in neither market would really miss the clubs (29th and 30th in home attendance). People might say, “You can’t go to South Beach all the time.”  Yes. Yes, you can. And Tampa, a winner, can’t attract more than 18,000 per game. Lets face it. The best attended baseball in the Sunshine State is Ft Lauderdale for Yankees spring training.

Combine the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s.Kansas City has been declining since the creation of refrigerated rail cars, right? OK, I’ve never been there. But you can only get there by rail road or Greyhound, right. OK. Still after 40 years the Royals can boast of  George Brett, and a blown call at first base. And,yeah, the Green and Gold uni’s and the donkeys were fun. Bando, Catfish, Blue Moon and Rudy were great. And LaRussa’s chemically induced Bash Brothers. But, it’s been more than a  decade since Money Ball and the Magical Been. The two can relocate to Omaha.

Combine the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. Yes, the Nationals are the hottest thing going. Some one should tell the Capital’s residents. The Nat’s are drawing 23,000, 21th in the MLB. The Orioles are getting the same gate. I know. The Orioles have a real history, stretches of success and Washington deserves a chance. True. But not in this exercise.        

The Yankees and Red Sox won’t destrow the game for ever.  The Yanks’ roster is as old as I am (very old). And the Boss has passed. Will the kids be regular winners? The Red Sox? Well, if they were realigned to Finland that would be fine with me. But they’re entitled to a run every 95 years . I don’t think Phillies, Giants, and Rangers fans shouldn’t give up yet.

Fans will lose interest if 75% of all teams has no chance to go to the Series.  Right. Like all clubs in any year since 1900. Alignments won’t produce winners. Today’s divisions system doesn’t insure the Nationals’ success any more than 2 leagues insured the Senators success. It’s all about management and commitment.

How should Interleague play be treated? Easy. Eliminate it. 

In the end, here’s an outcome:

American League – East: Boston, NY Yankees, Cleveland, Detroit, NY Mets, DC-Baltimore.

American League – West: Texas, Houston, Omaha, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Chicago White Sox.

National League – East: Philadelphia, Atlanta, St Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago Cubs.

National League – West: San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado, Arizona, Seattle.  

And, after all of that, the Red Sox and Phillies go to the Series.

Big League Gimmick?

May 23, 2011

Major League Baseball’s interleague has become a gimmick. Worse, it could be harmful to the game. 

I reached this conclusion after the Brewers had finished sweeping the visiting Colorado Rockies. The Crew has won 10 of 12. The Cards and Reds are in sight.  

That was little interest to my brother. He had taken my young nephew, Cam, to NYC for the Yankees-Mets Interleague series. It was a great idea. I told Kathleen we should take the kids on a similar trip. My I idea is Philly to DC – a little national history, a lot of baseball. This was a good opportunity for Bill to take Cam because he had changed jobs. The next vacation might be 12 months away. 

And, sure, the Subway Series is cool for those of us who grew up in Jersey. But I consider it more an exhibition.  

What interleague does do is disrupt and alter an MLB season. Interleague produces imbalanced competition. Consider the following.

Commissioner Selig had sought realignment since there had been 30 teams but 15 in each League. Adopting a plan for 16 (NL) and 14 (Al), clubs could be moved based upon regions, rivalries and other reasons business or competition.

After months of analysis, comment and debate only the Brewers moved. That was “realignment” baseball style. Instead we get unbalanced schedules and competition. Consider the following.

Yes, fans have seen the glamor series – Yanks-Mets, Sox-Cubs, Giants-A’s, Cards-Royals and Reds-Indians. But for every one of those match-ups MLB gave us White Sox-Dodgers, D-backs-Twins, Houston-Toronto, and Pirates-Tigers.

Yes, interleague play has teams like the Yanks, Red Sox and Giants coming to “foreign” markets, but this isn’t the NBA schedule when each city gets to see Kobi and LaBron. It’s more like seeing the Dead or the Stones.

And what about those glamor tours? Well, the Red Sox play interleague series against the Cubs, Brewer, Padres, Astros and Pirates. The Yankees play Mets, Cubs, Reds, Rockies and Brewers. The Rays get the Marlins and the NL Central clubs – Brewers, Astros, Reds and Cardinals. What?!

Its exhibition baseball or worse.

Too bad my brother went to the exhibition. He could have flown in from Denver and spent the weekend with us. I would have bought all the ticks to watch his Rockies get swept in a meaningful series.

Is Major League Baseball actually going to take over the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the most prestigious franchises. It sure looks like it might.

Frank McCourt has a peck of problems – personal and financial – which has left the club’s viability teetering. The Dodgers are $400 million in debt and had to borrow $30 million from FOX to meet expenses. In addition to the financial conditions of the club, the Dodgers “brand” (frankly I hate the term, but it is a business) has taken a beating over the past few years.

The Dodgers have a long and distinguished history. The club was formed in 1888. While most fans are familiar with the Trolley Dodgers of Brooklyn’s streets, the club was first the Bridegrooms for multiple players getting hitched at the same time.

And theirs is a history of success. The Dodgers’ 6 World Series are more than all but the Yanks, Cards and Bosox. It seems like the Dodgers have been in the Series, or a force, every decade.

(Note: As a Yanks fan I have to point out most of the Boston success was when there were real trolley dodgers in Brooklyn.)   

The Dodgers broke the color barrier. Baseball got the Dodgers-Yankees clashes of the ’50s. They opened the West (suckered the Giants to Candlestick and gave us the Mets. Ouch.). They have given us “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the Pennant!…” and “I can’t believe what I just saw!.” They have given the game Jackie, the Duke, Kofax and Drysdale among 57 players, managers, executives, and broadcasters in the Hall of Fame.    

Heck, they gave the game the Kansas City Royals. OK, big deal. But owner Ewing Kauffman emulated the uni’s and created a “school” based on the Dodgers facility in Vero Beach.

Yes, the Dodgers have been a model – but they are not now.

Now they are in the hands of McCourt, Selig, and their attorneys.  Pee Wee is tossing in his grave.