Monday, August 17, 2009

Just say "NO" to Major League Baseball


Baseball is the worst sport in the world.

There … cat’s out of the bag … let’s skin the bastard.

I was a baseball aficionado. I spent years, and my hard-earned allowance, injecting every ounce of baseball into my childhood. I played baseball, watched baseball, dreamed of baseball. I bought baseball cards, laying them out on the floor like a general standing over an army of possibilities, and I’d craft my perfect team (Mo Vaughn always ended up at first base … I think I had a little man-crush on Mo Vaughn growing up … shut up, that’s not weird). I would scour over a book called Total Baseball, a 2,000-pager filled with nothing but baseball statistics for every baseball player from the 1800s up to 1994. I wondered if Three-Finger Brown could throw cooler pitches than "five-finger" pitchers. I wondered why it took nearly 60 years to let one black ballplayer into the damn league. I learned Jose Canseco’s stats like the back of my hand, and then later learned that heckling Jose Canseco from box seats behind home plate at a Seattle Mariners game would, occasionally, cause his chemically-imbalanced brain to scream, “F*** you, kid!” to me after striking out. Classic.

But why? What was the point? Why did I love baseball so much?

Baseball used to be a game of strategy. Every pitch was a chess move, every base-runner was a potential thief, every homerun was a nuclear bomb dropped on an unsuspecting battlefield. It was interesting.

Now?

I’d rather watch a rated-R movie with my mom than sit through another baseball game.

“Oh my! Shut your eyes, Erik! That’s just … I don’t like that. I don’t like that one bit. Can we find something else to watch? Can you pass me the clicker? I just want to see if there’s something else on. I’m not going to change it, I just want to check …”

The only way to truly appreciate the horrors that define Major League Baseball is to start from the top. Mr. Bud Selig. Allan Huber Selig. Oh yes, I know your real name. You have single-handedly destroyed America’s pastime. I don’t necessarily care, but we still need to take your face and shove it in the mess you just left on our country’s rug. Bad Bud, very bad Bud. We don’t do that in the house.

SELIG

Let’s just check out his rap sheet: Selig quietly fueled the steroid boom of the ‘90s, allowed a midseason lockout in the 1994-95 season to happen due to labor ignorance, turned the All-Star game, a meaningless exhibition game that shouldn’t even exist (don’t get me started on All-Star games), into the unnatural World Series-tied freakshow it’s become today, sustains Pete Rose’s lifetime ban for gambling while watching some of baseball’s greatest records, and soon to be the cherished Hall of Fame, get destroyed by steroid-users he encouraged, and, through his infinite stubbornness, has turned his own league into a coven for fat, lazy, slow, mindless players who plod away through four- and five-hour games a staggering 162 games a year. Exhausting.

Don’t forget that he also prevented Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, one of the most innovative, respected, and beloved sports owners in the world, from buying the Chicago Cubs this past year because he was too worried that Cuban would force him to be accountable for the tragic state of his league.

Bud Selig fosters failure. It’s part of his personality, part of his management style. He is a captain, dressed in the finest linens he can afford, wearing a powdered-white wig, musing over Milan and Madrid, while a massive hole opens at the bottom of his ship. Only he’s surrounded himself with other powdered-wigs, so instead of fixing the hole, they all huddle together in the crow’s nest, sipping fine brandy talking about how fantastic the weather is.

The ship is sinking, Huber.

Attendance is down, storied ballparks have been replaced for $2,000-a-seat clones, teams are hemorrhaging money, parity is becoming a foreign word, rookies are making more money on signing bonuses than 10-time All-Stars make … the water just keeps pouring in.

So who’s going to step up and stop it?

The fans. And no, that doesn’t mean we can patch up the hold by going to more games, buying more apparel, and tossing out $10,000 for season tickets to essentially “bail-out” the game. It means that we, the fans, have to stop. Stop giving Selig and the league our money and our attention.

Turn away from the game like Selig turned away from us.

THE GAME

Okay, 162 games. We’ve got to start there. In Europe, the English Premier League plays 38 league football matches, each match resulting in a win, loss, or draw. A win is worth three points, a draw is worth one point, and a loss is worth zero. Over the span of a season, the total number of points a team has determines who the champion is. Every. Game. Matters.

The team with the greatest sustained success wins. Sort of a novel idea, huh?

In Major League Baseball, 162 games are played solely for the purposes of historical and statistical relevance. Selig is too afraid to “ruin the records” (despite the aforementioned steroids era) that shortening his precious season is completely out of the question, despite the fact that his own players think, as heard on a KJR 950 Sports Radio interview with a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, “About 60 games we’re going to get blown out, about 60 games we’re going to win big, so we really need to focus on the other 42 if we’re going to make the playoffs.”

120 games don’t matter! Nearly two-thirds of the season is a statistical wash, and everyone’s okay with that?!

The league certainly is, because if the season were shortened, teams wouldn’t make as much money, players would be upset because their salaries would have to be cut in half, and, shoot, the terrible announcers wouldn’t get to tell us the pettiest statistics and historical comparisons known to humanity. If aliens find our planet, scour through our statistical databases, and discover things like “Polanco had at least three hits for the ninth time this season,” they are going to vaporize our species. No one will be alive to appreciate the irony of “District 9” opening in theatres last Thursday.

And if the statistical trivialities don’t lead to our extinction, the length of Major League Baseball games certainly will.

Growing up, baseball had a rhythm to it. Baserunners were aggressive, pitchers didn’t dawdle on the mound counting blades of the infield grass, and players hustled. I realize that doesn’t work well with Major League Baseball’s television contracts, but with advertising behind home plate, advertising on the outfield walls, and advertising sneakily placed on wristbands, dugout padding, and, among other things, pitch trackers, radar guns, and “calls to the bullpen,” (whew) I’m sure Major League Baseball could survive with a little less explicit whoring.

On second thought, with the dwindling attendance numbers and looming lockout, maybe that’s why they’ve increased. Touché, Bud Selig, touché.

Always one step ahead of the fans, aren’t you?

2 comments:

  1. You've persuaded me to continue paying no attention to baseball. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You know what would increase the number of people who read this? Re-publishing the article you wrote when I was reading "Wedding Planning for the Working Woman." I was so funny that day. :)

    ReplyDelete