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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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- More from Where to Smoke
Puffing in the 2013 Baseball Playoffs
A Guide to Find a Place to Smoke in the MLB Playoff Cities
Posted: October 1, 2013
This might be the year that Major League Baseball became the joke that has been many years in the making. The joke—perhaps "the lie" is a more accurate term—is that MLB still promotes itself as a true competitive sport. Oh sure, there's competition, but that competition has been made a mockery by two unsurprising events. The first is the ongoing scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). You already know too much about this and the multiple suspensions (you'll see some of those suspended back with their teams in the postseason) and how, against all odds, MLB's top dog, Bud Selig, went a long way towards making Alex Rodriguez a more sympathetic character than anyone thought possible. Let's not revisit that here.
The second ongoing scandal is the one of blown calls by well-meaning umpires who simply cannot keep up with the speed of the game and cover all the angles. If there were not more blown calls this year than in recent ones, they sure got a lot more notice and airtime. And that included balls and strikes.
If you've read this column the past few years, you know that I have favored the use of technology to get the calls right on the field. MLB's promise to take a vote at the November meetings on the expanded use of instant replay is little more than an attempt to put a serious gloss on the lie, er, joke. By basing the new system on a manager's challenges, MLB continues to show itself unwilling to take the step to the only logical end: Get the call right. Get all the calls right.
What if a manager exhausts his three challenges, losing them all, and a questionable call occurs? The umpires, seeing the flaw, reportedly have proposed a "doomsday trigger" that would allow them, the umpires, to request a replay so that they could review the play. Why not just review every significant/questionable play? MLB argues that would slow down the game too much. Well, not if replay eliminates managers coming out and arguing and if MLB were also to have an electronic system of calling balls and strikes.
We can go round and round on this. The bottom line is, in my estimation, that until MLB decides that getting all the calls right is paramount, the game is nothing more than entertainment. That's fine with me. I no longer have much of a rooting interest in any one team and a bad call won't necessarily affect my appreciation of a finely turned double play or a great catch or a monster home run. A lot of fans who do have a rooting interest will continue to argue the calls that have an affect on the outcomes of games, but when the tools exist to get it right, the idea that the game is more than a piece of theater remains a joke—or a lie?—until the governing institution of the game decides that the so-called "human element"—that is the inability of umpires to be in the right place at the right time all the time—is just not working.
The Regular Season
Wow. Talk about unmet expectations. Fans of the Blue Jays, Angels, Nationals and, as always, the Yankees when they don't make the playoffs, feel particularly let down this season. In Southern California, the Dodgers, with baseball's biggest payroll, and the Angels, with arguably the most badly invested payroll, took conversations down a road that is natural, but ultimately unhealthy, for baseball. Is Albert Pujols worth the money? Is Josh Hamilton? (It was, however, a pleasure to watch Mike Trout put in another MVP-worthy year.) It's all about money and, looking forward, about how much the Dodgers or another team might yet spend on free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano.
Clearly, the trades the Dodgers made late last year with the Red Sox and the Marlins have worked out for the Angelenos. Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez have been especially productive. And you can't let talk of the Dodgers go without mentioning possible rookie of the year Yasiel Puig. Done. Puig has been mentioned, but he has a long way to go. In truth, the Dodgers pitched their way to the postseason. Clayton Kershaw is the best in the game right now and Zack Greinke is not far behind. Kenley Jansen, the closer, has been very consistent. The Dodgers had a great second half to clinch the National League West division and then get more ink for jumping into the pool of the vanquished Diamondbacks than maybe even the Syrian war for a couple of days.
The Red Sox went from worst to first in the American League East, had the best record in baseball, and did so without any league-leading performances from anyone. A lot of credit is given to John Farrell, the new skipper there, for calming things down after Bobby Valentine and for focusing the team on pulling together. This after Boston lost 93 games last year. Credit general manager Ben Cherington too for getting the right players in the right roles. A big part of Boston's success, it seems to me, is that the team had two great, fast outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, in center, and Shane Victorino, in right, for most of the season. There's ground to cover and tricky angles in Fenway. These two took away some hits and extra bases.
Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh played better than expected, while the Texas Rangers crashed again after leading by nine games. Oakland surprised no one who was paying attention and, unmoved by the Angels' acquisitions, won the AL West.
Comments 2 comment(s)
JOHN COOPER — PLEASANTON, CA, UNITED STATES, — October 1, 2013 4:17pm ET
Edward Brandyberry — CORAOPOLIS, Pennsylvania, United States, — October 3, 2013 3:51pm ET
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