Baseball On My Brain

Follow-up: Do HRs put more butts in the seats?
January 31, 2008, 3:19 pm
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David Gassko of the Hardball Times takes a look at the questions that were brought up recently. In short, do home runs put butts in the seats?


Perusing Sports Weekly

I’m inconsistent as it gets with magazines. First of all, I get a lot of them, which leads to the problem. I do my darndest to read them when I get them, and make use of whatever I can as soon as possible. The rest finds its way to the recycling bin.

Needless to say I’m a bit behind on USA Today Sports Weekly — but I wanted to call your attention to two things:

In case you missed it, Bud Selig got a contract extension as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball through 2012. Under Selig, MLB revenue has grown from $1.6 billion in 1992 to a record $6.1 billion in 2007. (Yes, you read those numbers right.)

What concerns me is Bud’s statement at the Winter Meetings: “I will make this prediction to you: by the time I leave, you won’t recognize this sport. It’s going to be that much more popular and we’ll have branched out into so many other things.”

Just what the heck does that first sentence mean?

I get that baseball is now playing on a global field and that it’s embracing technology at breakneck speed. But for Selig to suggest that we won’t recognize baseball gives me just a bit of discomfort. Time will tell just what Bud’s prediction may come to mean.

There’s a good article about the success of the four teams added to MLB in the 1990s. Quick…name them. Interesting to note that none of the four have a franchise record above .500, yet there are three World Series titles in the group, and a fourth played for the Series last year. Each has a different story to tell and this article give a good snapshot of all of them.

Now that I got that out of the way, I’ve got to take the recycling out.

January 27, 2008, 11:37 pm
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With talk of Spring Training being just around the corner, I’m reminded of a running joke a friend and I had a few years ago.

What was the craziest thing you could put after the word “FREE!” as part of a giveaway.

Free kick in the groin!

Free chlamydia!

You get the point.

If you’ve been to enough baseball games — particularly those at the lower levels of professional baseball – you’ve undoubtedly come across some interesting giveaways.

Leaving Tacoma Rainiers games, I was given away free loaves of bread. Limit 4 per customer.

I’ve been handed bobble heads, barbecue sets, baseballs, magnets, lunch boxes, trains, hydroplanes, rally towels, pins, CDs, clappers, ThunderStix, t-shirts, hats, toques, nesting dolls, figurines, snow globes, wobblies, Beanie Babies, banks, pucks, rubber ducks, stuffed animals with a player’s face on them, lunch boxes, baseball equipment bags, trading cards, posters, coins,  and Lord knows how much other stuff that never made it to my shelf.

It really is amazing how much stuff teams give out as “added value” to get you to come to a ballgame.

More amazing is what people will do to get this free stuff…showing up hours before the doors open, buying extra tickets so as to get more giveaways, and literally lugging trash bags full of whatever it is back to their cars. Santa with a Hefty bag.

Without sounding like a stick in the mud traditionalist, what happened to just going to a game? Has it really become that desperate of a situation that teams have to dangle made in China labeled swag to entice the public?

A major league team who shall remain nameless had a radio commercial a while back with a young-sounding mom proclaiming how great the ballpark was. It had a play area, fountain, great mascot, yada yada yada, and then finally she got around to mentioning that they even played baseball there! What a concept!

I understand that there’s a lot of competing interests for the disposable dollar. But aren’t teams just encouraging people to expect more goodies when they come to a game? In some ways it seems like they’re leading to their own implosion (forgive the harshness) when they just can’t deliver value-added goodies without dramatically changing the price of the product. Then what?

So next time you’re drawn to a team barking “Free ____________” in hopes of getting you in the door, ask yourself if you could live without the extra and just be satisfied with the core product. I know I am.

Spander on Sports
January 26, 2008, 9:38 am
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Art Spander, a legend in Bay Area sports writing, contributes this piece to the collective consciousness.

(Thanks to the crew at for the link. Gotta give credit where it’s due…and where they have those little Visa stickers in the window.)

I’ve re-read this piece a half-dozen times now…it’ll probably be a dozen by the time I finish this. When I initially glanced at it, I thought it was a feel-good story about how sport serves as a refuge, allowing us to forget about the rest of the world, even if only for a little while. Almost the same effect as going to a movie theater.

But as I came back to the piece and spent some more time with it, it didn’t sit so well with me…calling to mind the “sports junkie,” but with emphasis on the word junkie, desperate to get another fix.

Not to mention the corporate side of the equation, as Spander illustrates through golf tournament sponsors. But when seen through the eyes of corporate preservation – it becomes a little cleared. Protect the brand long-term by keeping the name visible and associated with feel-good things, and protect it short-term by cutting employment to keep cash flow going in the right direction.

There is certainly a puzzling dynamic at play here — to spend your last $20 to watch some guy making $20 million, and put more money in the pockets of the owner making $20 billion. It’s no secret I love sports – particularly baseball – and I also work in the professional sports industry. How do I resolve it?

As of now, I guess I don’t. I’ve always said that the fastest way to affect change is to vote with your wallet. Cut off the water in the well and people will stop going back when they’re thirsty. But I also don’t want to give up my season tickets. Maybe I just won’t buy a new hat this year or I’ll get a few less bread bowls of clam chowder.

How do you resolve it? I’d like to know. Post your thoughts!

$20 and I won’t mention you in this post.
January 25, 2008, 9:44 am
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I can’t help but think about the Canseco-Ordonez saga that bubbled up the other day.

I admit that I want to read Canseco’s book — if nothing less because it could be sensationalist garbage that makes me appreciate quality literature that isn’t written by a has-been seeking the spotlight.

At best, it could be the Mitchell Report without the niceties and properness.

What does it say about Canseco if this is true? I think the answer’s simple – that he’s a dirty rotten bum. But what does it say about Ordonez if he had paid the money? How many other players has Canseco gone to with this deal? How many have accepted, how many have said nothing, and how many will say nothing about it?

Canseco broke the bond of the clubhouse – and for that he’s probably been shunned fairly thoroughly. However – he still has the power of the pen and some shred of credibility – albeit frayed and delicate. If I was a steroid user and he came to me with that offer – I’d sure as heck have to give it serious consideration. But then how do you enforce it? And what happens if he takes your money and puts you in the book anyway? What’s your recourse?

What would you do if you were in that situation? Post your thoughts!

Time to catch up on some things
January 24, 2008, 8:48 pm
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I’m behind in my writing — which I feel bad about. I started this blog with the goal of posting daily — and an aspiration to post multiple times daily. I haven’t been good about it so far, but I’m back on the saddle with some things that have been sitting in my “to process” list.

David Pinto of Sporting News wrote an article examining the impact of bottom-of-the-rotation starters. (You may also know of David if you’ve been to

The fourth and fifth starters fall into a weird realm — they tend to be filled either by overpaid free agents who happen to crop up in a week off-season, or young guys fighting for time who have shown promise in the minor leagues and spring training. We’ve seen the Mariners give Carlos Silva some pretty serious money for a guy who has been discussed as someone who wouldn’t pitch in the playoffs, and we’ve also seen Kyle Lohse have to change his requests for dollars and contract length. You’ve also got Bartolo Colon still hunting for a gig, and most teams kicking his wheels are reported to be middle of the pack.

So how do you fill those bottom of the rotation spots, and how much do you pay to do so? That’s the question many teams are struggling with this off-season. But as Pinto illustrates, it not so much who you put in the 5-spot, it’s how little you’re able to use them.

I’m inclined to agree with Pinto’s analysis — the returns on a 5th starter aren’t terribly great across the board…so how do you deal with them?

A) Get more out of your other starters by having the minimize pitch counts, thus saving the bullpen for these games when they’re more likely to be needed.

B) Keep your other starters as healthy as possible.

C) Surround your weak pitchers with the best offense you can find and hope you put up a truck load of runs.

Pinto doesn’t address the run-support issue, which I think could add another dimension to this argument. Which clubs gave their back-end starters the best chance of winning by putting up the most runs? Assuming the league average ERA for the number 5 guy is around 6.00 as Pinto shows it was in 2007, which teams got close to putting up 6+ runs to help their own cause? Surely the runs are out there to be had —

The one team that stands out is the Mariners — with a league worst (and God-awful) 8.03 ERA from their 5th starters, they still managed to win 40% of the games, good for 7th overall. That’s what you call stepping up when the stuff gets thick.

So as your team struggles to fill out their rotation, keep in mind that there are a lot of factors at work, and in the end, it’s still about putting more on the board than your opponent.

What do you think? Log in and post your thoughts!

Malcolm Gladwell on the steroids issue

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point – two books I hope you have read by now — has two interesting posts on his website about Fernando Vina and the ethics of taking certain substances.

Read it. Post your comments. You know the drill.