Baseball On My Brain


It’s late, it’s raining, and I finally saw the Kathy Griffin CNN video

Surprisingly, I wasn’t tuned in to see Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper hosting “CNN’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Special.”

And even if I had, being a West Coaster, I would have missed this hilarity that got edited out in the rebroadcasts.

Damn Eastern Time Zone people…getting the good stuff, once again. Oh well – I’m still not moving.

And just what does that have to do with baseball, you may ask? Absolutely nothing. But I saw mention of it as I was perusing the papers looking for baseball stories, and it made me laugh when I saw it, and some days, you just need something to laugh about. Especially when it’s been raining all day, people are concerned about floods, and it’s 2:40 am.

As you may have heard, the Phillies’ J.C. Romero was one of two players who got suspended for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy.

But to me – or Mr. Schmidt – that’s not where the story is.

The issue at hand is MLB’s handling of the suspension, in particular the timing since it could have impacted the World Series. And nothing says MLB public relations fiasco like having to suspend a player during the World Series, especially when that player is playing in the World Series.

But isn’t that what it takes to get the point across that MLB is serious about fining and suspending players who break the rules?

Now I feel absolutely no sympathy for Romero – especially if all the facts in the article are true. I am so tired of players trying to excuse their behaviors by not knowing the ingredients in the supplements they are taking.

Here’s my suggestion…if you’re taking a supplement, figure out the ingredients. Ask someone. Do your homework. It’s part of the gig.

However, I am all for a player’s right to appeal a ruling – which Romero did in this case. I understand that those things can take time, so I can even live with that part of the story.

But how convenient for baseball to once again, sit on an issue that would be damning to its image and self-interest due to the time of year and game being played. To me – this is when baseball needs to step up and lay down the law, regardless of the PR mess it might create.

While I won’t contest the legitimacy of the Phillies’ World Series victory, it does leave a bit of a tainted story, as I’m sure the historians, journalist and chroniclers of baseball history will duly note.

What do you think – was baseball right to sit on the issue until after the postseason? Vote and voice your opinion in the comments.

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Mike Freeman says no one will watch

I know, you’re shaken that such a major opinon shaper such as Mike Freeman has already dismissed the 2008 World Series as unwatchable.

I feel bad giving such a bad opinion piece such as Mike Freeman’s on CBSportsline.com a link, but it is purely for illustrative purposes.

Clearly Mr. Freeman doesn’t really give a rip about baseball and the possibility that this could turn into one of the better World Series we’ve seen. He’s already written it off because the two participants don’t bring enough blood-seeking venom into the arena to warrant his interest.

I even bothered to read Mr. Freeman’s credentials, just to see if he had any, and I’m not sure he does, other than that he’s worked at lots of other papers before entering the online realm.

Now I don’t disagree with everything he says – Tampa Bay’s fans don’t really warrant hardcore status, short of those that actually own season tickets and go to games. It’s a shame they’re being lumped in with the rest of the bandwagoneers, because they should be getting some kind of special love for this. Especially those that have had tickets since day one. That’s some hardcore support, right there. I hope they get rings if the Rays win it all.

But look – it’s not like they have a real track record of success. They’d never had a winning record prior to 2008. Heck, their best record still had them 21 games under .500 back in 2004! So after 10 years of that, even I’d be a bit leery of expectations.

Now with Philly, though – that’s a bit of a different story. Philadelphia fans in general are known the sports world over, let alone just their baseball fans. They booed Santa Claus, threw batteries inside of snowballs at an Eagles game…come on, these guys and gals should be serious. How can you not say Philly provides some kind of interest in the game?

While my knowledge of these two teams isn’t as deep as if it had been some other clubs, I certainly welcome the opportunity to watch players who have just as much skill but don’t get as much recognition show their ability on the world’s stage for all to see.

Mr. Freeman, there’s a seat on my couch and beers in the fridge for you – come on over and we’ll watch the entire World Series and I’ll show you why it isn’t to be dismissed.



Ryan Howard’s new deal

In case you missed it, Ryan Howard got paid today. Yet again, I wish I would have become a big-league ballplayer.

But that’s not the point. After reading Jayson Stark’s article, two things stuck out at me:

A) How much this will cost the team (that means how much more fans will have to come up with) over the coming years, and how other teams will find themselves in the same bind.

B) The inner workings of the arbitration and salary process.

The first part is fairly easy. The Phillies are now on the hook for an extra $3M than they probably budgeted for, and now someone (the fans) has to come up with it. They drew 3,108,331 fans last year (according to ESPN.com), so you might see a $0.96 “arbitration surchage” on your ticket this season. Maybe not, but it will show up somewhere.

The second part is the one that is much more intriguing to me. Stark mentions that if the Phillies had seemingly done their homework on previous arbitration cases and offered more than Miguel Cabrera got last year, things would have worked out in their favor since that’s who the panel was comparing Ryan Howard to.  Now not only will this decision cost them more in 2008, it will cost them more for several seasons to come, particularly if they want to lock him up for a long-term deal.

With player salaries continuing to increase and owners always concerned about where to find more revenue from, it seems hard to believe that the Phillies didn’t see this one coming. But then I again I don’t know who’s running the show there – I’m just supposing it’s league average ability folks.

For instance though – do you ever wonder why teams sign a veteran to a one-year deal  when they have a guy seemingly ready to go in triple-A? Often times it’s because that they can delay his arbitration eligibility date by delaying his MLB debut. If you know you’re not going to be in the pennant race this year, why accelerate the time table to the day you’re going to have to give the next Ryan Howard his big paycheck? Save him for half the season, in which case you’ll effectively get a free (or at least discounted) season out of him. Kind of a smart thing to do.

(BTW – the MLB Players website is really a great resource. Lots of good info on it.)

What has happened is that the game has changed, the road map isn’t as handy, and the idea for who the model is has changed. Ryan Howard is certainly an accomplished ballplayer – he may have put in the books  the most impressive first two years of an MLB career ever.

But with salary discussions having one foot rooted in the past and the other in the future – I have to wonder how the next Ryan Howard will be dealt with, and how that will in turn filter down to the fans.  While it’s in your team’s interest to invest money in talented players – that will ultimately come at a cost to you — a higher cost of experiencing a Major League ballgame.