BRONX, NY – As the 2014 Major League Baseball season inches ever closer to the traditional halfway point, we have a total of 20 teams within 8 games of at least a Wild Card playoff spot. What is this? The NFL? While parity may be the objective for all major pro sports leagues, I think it sucks. At this point, why not just add another 2 playoff spots? How ’bout 4? When does it end? Let’s water down an already watered down product even more. We already have 33% of the league “qualifying” for the post-season every year – isn’t that enough?
Apparently not. Among outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s priorities is to make the post-season even more of a possibility for every team. The actuaries running the game (I’m looking at you, Real Sandy Alderson) have done the math, and they’ve concluded that PT Barnum was in fact correct when he made his famous “sucker born every minute” proclamation. The Cubs haven’t been to a World Series in 69 years-haven’t actually won one in 106 years. Let ’em in, I say! The Colorado Rockies with their special brand of fake baseball? Open the post-season gates. Those glaucoma sufferers need all the bad baseball they can get.
This form of “sissified” Baseball, which includes specialists of all sizes and stripes to do one specific task, have led to an erosion in quality. LOOGY, anyone? Closers now? One inning at a time – and never in the middle of an inning or with runners on – heaven forbid!! Sparky Lyle earned saves by shutting the other team down for 3 2/3 if that’s what it took to win the game!
For all of these “wrinkles,” I blame the Brian Kennys and the other SABR-head morons who believe they invented the game. Case in point? The Oakland A’s with their stout lineup and dominant makeshift pitching staff have raced out to Baseball’s best record. In fact they led the league in Walks and Runs scored going into their game against the Mets on Tuesday. The Mets, by the way, lead the National League in Bases on Balls, but in terms of actual runs scored-they’re near the bottom. Which proves that one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. It still takes better baseball players to win more games than the other guys. And about those A’s, Chris Young and Travis d’Arnaud hit homers off their ace, ex-Met Scott Kazmir. Put that on your SABR Hot Dog, Brian Kenny.
I bring this up because last Sunday was the annual Yankees Old Timers Day at the Stadium; one of the best days of the baseball calendar. The history and soul of America’s Pastime run right through the Bronx and this annual gathering of legends brings together not just some of history’s greatest players, but a bygone era when baseball was the center of the sports universe. I’m not talking about “old-timers” like Johnny Damon and Ramiro Mendoza. Or Jeff Nelson, or even the great mercenary El Duque, no matter how much Suzyn Waldman squeals. I’m speaking about real legends of the game. I’m speaking about players from an era when there was the American League and the National League. When the teams with the best records in each league after 154 (later 162) games were crowned “pennant winners,” and would meet in the World Series. No divisional rounds, no wild card playoffs, no “play-in” games. Just the top 2 teams from each league squaring off.
Seeing self-obsessed jackass Reggie Jackson was not the legend I was looking forward to seeing. I didn’t need to see Charlie Hayes or Brian Boehringer or even Pat Kelly either (though a Bobby Meacham invite would have been nice – just sayin’).
Sure, the passing in the past 15-20 years of Pinstriped icons Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio and yes, even Bobby Murcer has diminished the Old Timers gathering, but not completely. I recall getting goosebumps whenever the great DiMaggio was introduced as the “greatest living Yankee.” On this most recent gathering, the headliners were living legends Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Each of them was unable to join their fellow greats on the field, instead relying on a golf cart to shuffle them out to adoring fans. Berra’s ovation and tribute was the longest and the loudest. A great Yankee. And a great American, having served his country during World War II. Berra and Ford were the headliners. Everyone else was merely seat-filler.
Come back tomorrow for something that will fill your seat, another Meet The Matts Radio segment/podcast…