Something’s Gotta Give

Is Bud Selig listening to anyone?

By: Chris Ross

There are some things in sports that I just can’t bring myself to care about. The WNBA finals, Paralympic games, and the World Ultimate Championships are not events that I can honestly say I enjoy watching. It’s not a criticism to the incredible ability of these athletes, because they are world-class, but when it comes to spectator sports those examples are not at the top of my list.

However, as a fairly hardcore baseball fan, you would think it would be a given that the AL pennant race is a sports event that I would be excited for. This week’s four game series between the two best teams in the Majors, the Rays and Yankees, should be one of highlight’s of this entire season. Sadly, because of the current structure of Major League Baseball, I could care less about this highly anticipated series.

Tomorrow night, David Price and C.C. Sabathia, the respective aces for their teams take the mound in a game that could be the difference in deciding the AL East champions for this season. But really, in the grand scheme of things it hardly matters. No matter what happens, the Rays and Yankees are both going to make the playoffs handily with the only difference essentially being home-field advantage.

Moreover, this matchup isn’t too big of a deal for most fans because of the fact that their team is most likely already eliminated or at least virtually eliminated from playoff contention. Only 8 out of the Major League’s 30 teams make the playoffs, and it’s no secret that for most teams, the latter part of the season is meaningless. So then why doesn’t Major League Baseball do something about this and make the season more meaningful for a greater amount of teams?

It is a very utopian thought but if Major League Baseball stopped looking through their rose-coloured glasses and actually did something to change the game for the better it could very well increase the hype and fanfare around “America’s pastime.”

One thought that has been thrown around, and something that I am very much in favour of, is the idea of shortening the season by 15 or 20 games. This would do a couple of things. First of all, it would create a longer playoff season. Secondly, a longer playoff season means there would be more teams that qualify for the playoffs.

I think that shortening the season would add a lot more excitement to the regular season as well as the playoffs. More teams would be involved and thus more fans would be more heavily immersed in the regular season rather than just waiting until October once they’ve seen that there team no longer has a shot at the playoffs.

Seriously, everyone loves playoffs and there aren’t too many things more fun than watching your team grind out a playoff berth in a tight race. It just makes sense to shorten the season.

Players like Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa have put an asterisk next to many of baseball's most cherished stats

The major flaw in shortening the season is that future statistics will no longer be relevant to the past statistics of 154 and 162 game seasons. We all know that statistics and baseball go hand in hand, but as many have pointed out, the steroid era has made many of the stats that we hold dear to our heart almost obsolete. There are just so many stats in this day and age that aren’t nearly as meaningful as they were 20 years. We have no idea what stats we can and cannot trust.

Another aspect of Major League Baseball that needs to be changed is the salary cap. I have mentioned it before, but I can’t stress enough that baseball should switch to a hard cap. Now, I do realize that teams with lower payrolls can survive and succeed as shown by the Minnesota Twins and the Florida Marlins. Nevertheless, a couple of anomalies cannot change the fact that we have so many teams struggling to compete with big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.\

Case in point, the Oakland Athletics are no longer thriving under Billy Beane’s revolutionary “Money Ball.”

The MLB should take a page from the NHL’s book and make the change to the hard salary cap. After the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the league decided to set a maximum and minimum cap. This made it so low-budget teams were forced to spend a certain amount of money, as well as keeping high budget teams within an adequate spending range. This has raised the level of competitiveness around the league, and is evident by how close the playoff races have been each and every year post lockout.

If the MLB switched to a hard cap similar to this model, there would no longer be teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates. The perennial losers that make money for their owners in the financial department are forced to at least attempt to be more competitive. How would you feel if you had to cheer for a team with an owner unwilling to spend any cash?

In contrast to this, there would also no longer be the Steinbrenner-like Yankee run franchises that don’t have to rely on prospects, scouting, and quality farm systems to stay competitive.

As I mentioned earlier, I realize that my thoughts are Utopian but the idea of making changes that would make the structure of the game so much better, while not affecting the actual game play, is too tantalizing not to consider.

Baseball is losing its status as America’s pastime and I think it’s high time Bud Selig and his crew take some significant consideration into improving the game of baseball not just for the present, but for the next generation and beyond.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Also check out howiGit’s blog.

About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

22 Responses to Something’s Gotta Give

  1. chappy81 says:

    I’ll be watching Price vs. Sabathia for the Cy Young implications! I’m still liking Felix for the award. Baseball does need to spice it up. I say give the non-wild card team a 1-0 lead in a best of five series, where all their games are at home. That would give them plenty of incentive!

  2. Ryan Gaydos says:

    Good blog you got here Chris. I will definitely be looking at the CC-Price matchup tomorrow but I don’t think MLB is going to change their playoff format. It’s worked since they changed the division format and I don’t see a real problem here. It bodes well for some good tv. The salary cap is another thing that will not change.

    Even though the Yankees and Red Sox have high payrolls the Red Sox aren’t flourishing and the Yankees do not win all the games and they weren’t as hot as they were last year. The Twins have a low payroll and are winning the AL Central year-after-year.

    We’ve already seen the likes of the Marlins. They make money every year and still do not spend it on their team, like the Pirates. Changing the cap will not do anything.

  3. tophatal says:

    Chris Ross

    Selig is the biggest douche out there ! He and the MLB hierarchy are like the federal government they couldn’t spot a rain cloud were they in the midst of a rain storm. He’s states that the game is in a healthy financial state. But how can that be when at at least 70 % of the teams can barely eke out an operating profit unless they get the benefit of the tax sharing revenue scheme. Selig is a friggin’ oaf as too are the vast majority of team owners within the game !

    tophatal :)

  4. thepaulw says:

    Instead of more teams making the playoffs, go back to the two division system and elimintate the wild card. That way, this series, and a few other late series mean more, because the best teams would truly be fighting for the playoff spot.

    Also, NBA and NFL both have salary caps. I seem to remember hearing that Major League Baseball has had more different champions without than NBA and NFL have had with.

  5. tophatal says:

    Chris

    If at all interested check out these pieces and let me know what you think ? In order to view just click unto the links shown . I’ll be adding your site to my links .

    http://tophatal.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/deny-deny-deny-it-wasnt-me/

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    Just click unto the links shown to view .

    tophatal :)

  6. Jacob West says:

    Hey Chris good blog and interesting take. I agree in part and disagree in part. I completely agree that there should be a cap. I hate teams that buy their talent, i.e. Yanks, Sox, and Phillies (especially the Phillies right now.) At the same time though, I can’t run down owners that are willing to take advantage of the current system and spend so much of their money. As long as we have the system in place that we currently have though, the spending disparity will always be there.

    As far as changing the playoff format…call me a traditionalist, but I am happy with the way the playoff format is now. I was NOT a fan of the wild card when it first got implemented but Ive grown to accept it. More playoff teams would keep more interest, but it wouldn’t make the game more popular than it already is. Most people that dont care to keep up with baseball dont watch from the beginning really. They find the games boring and long and the season too long. Making the playoffs start earlier wont change their minds about that. I agree that I didn’t care much about the Yankees and Rays series either, but its mainly because its been the same story for about 3 or 4 years for those 2 teams now. The story is kind of played out. Its akin to the Celtics and the Magic playing for the East championship. No one care anymore unless you are from Orlando or Boston.

    The regular season still has plenty of meaning in MLB. Regular season loses it’s relevance around this time for 90% of teams in every sport. Fans know their team can’t make it and they could care less about the other teams chasing to get there. A lot of are bitter because its not their teams in the hunt. Once the playoffs start, interest peaks again. There are teams that can make runs though that were counted out for the longest time but end up making the playoffs. Example the Rockies the past couple of years. If you started expanding the playoffs, then that would make the season less relevant. Kind of like NCAA football right now. There are way too many bowls. Every other team makes one, and even though I love the bowl season, I dont feel like its a reward anymore for a good season. Its just a money making scheme. Enjoyed the post.

  7. Chris: Awesome column and blog. Regarding this story. First, MLB has to recitify the fact that you four out of 14 teams in AL (29%) and four out of 16 (25%) teams in NL make the playoffs — that’s just dumb — clearly the odds are higher in one league versus the other….. And that’s because a four-team division (25%) and a six-team division (16.6%) disparity. Second, it’s also possible this year that the AL East third-place team will finish with a better record than the AL West winner. Another joke. The season should be shortened. Playoff teams should be based on best records in each league. Have six, five-team divisions, add another wild card so that you have 10 teams. (Yes, the 15 team leagues mean IL everyday, since it’s unlikely MLB will add two more teams during the next decade. Honestly, it would be nice to cut down the division games to 15 or less.) Don’t get me started on the whole salary issue. Some of the cities calling themselves “small markets” — BS. Oakland is part of sixth largest TV market. Florida is 16th with just Miami/Ft. L, if you add WPB, it would be in the top 10. Sorry, those teams don’t lack a population base or tv exposure, it has more to do with penny-pinching ownership and what I like to call “small marketing”.

  8. unkulsal says:

    Hey Chris Uncle Sal here, I found your name on my blog site thought I’d return the favor. I started my blog last year to have some fun with a few friends, and if nothing else we have some fun. I think your a very good writer and I enjoyed your piece on the Yanks/Rays 4 game series. I’m not as apathetic about this series, I’m living and dying with every pitch. I think the Yanks need the home field and the Rays last 10 games are/were soft before the Fighting Showalters cranked it up a notch, but I don’t have a lot of faith in KC or Seattle helping NY out so they need to take this game tonight to create some breathing room.

    I disagree with a hard cap unless you want to drop half the teams in MLB. With a hard cap ceiling comes a floor and if the floor is hypothetically $75 0r $80M you’ll lose the Tampa’s, KC’s, San Diego’s, Toronto’s etc, which is fine by me the herd could use some thinning but the MLBPA would never allow that to happen. Also shortening the season would never happen the Owners would lose too much dough, we can’t even get them to play traditional double headers.

    I recently read an article in the Wall St Journal stating parity in MLB ” the year Money in baseball didn’t matter http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703743504575493942146685242.html

    The problem is teams like Pittsburgh and Fla are playing by the rules just like the big Market teams, they’re making a hefty profit but not throwing the dough back on the field. With all the revenue sharing and MLB monies teams are in the black regardless of their whining, not even the McCourt’s want to sell the Dodgers. Spending gobs of money gives teams like NY and Boston a decided advantage but as the Rays the Padres, the Twins the Rockies and we can go down the list are proving, smart decisions juxtaposed to spending the allotted revenue monies plus the draft can create a competitive balance in MLB. Great blog site, keep up the good work, stop by to see us @ http://unklesal.wordpress.com/

  9. tophatal says:

    unkulsal

    If the small market teams s are continually pleading poverty and at the same time using dubious accounting methods then the game as we know it will see several teams go belly up. The Dodgers are a complete mess at the moment financially and that doesn’t take into account the acrimonious divorce proceedings of the owner Frank McCourt .

    The tax sharing revenue scheme isn’t working at all , not when you have the likes of owners such as Loria (Marlins) and Nutting (Pirates) simply pocketing the money rather than improving their respective teams.

    tophatal :)

    • Jamie says:

      No idea what the solution is there – the salary cap obviously doesn’t work, either. just ask the Detroit Lions.

      • tophatal says:

        Jamie

        Salary cap works but here’s the thing what use is an organizational structure when the guys at the top (front office) have the combined IQ of Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton ?

        tophatal

  10. Jamie says:

    Hi Chris,

    While I agree that the pennant race between the Yankees and Rays lacks dramas, I do think it’s fun to watch these two teams play each other – far and away, I think the Yankees and Rays are better than any other MLB teams. And I can’ t help but say the Yankees are better than the Rays (25 man roster versions): the yankees have an edge in position players, bench/DH and bullpen – the Rays rotation might be a little better, but not much, and I tend to think that big games between great games are won in the bullpen

    Thanks for commenting on http://bomberbanter.com/2010/09/22/5-spot-hughes-and-short-handed-pen-beat-rays/

    ~jamie

  11. tophatal says:

    jamie

    Other than Sabathia , Rivera and Hughes who’ve the Yankees got in their bullpen and pitching roster that’s worth a damn ? Pettite is but a tweak away from pulling a groin muscle and Vasquez couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if his life depended on it. As for Chamberlain who knows what you’ll get with the guy from one moment to the next ?

    tophatal :)

  12. bigjonsports says:

    Hi Chris. I agree with you totally they need to shorten the MLB season. If they went say 140 games let either the 2 best teams each division or top 6 teams in the National and American leagues playoff that’d be ideal. As it stands especially in Toronto here with the Rays an awesome team added to the Bosox and Yankees the Jays have no shot ever in the American League East. When you look at the Jays the last ten years they usually win over 80 games with the exception of 3 seasons I think. Literally no one cares about baseball in Toronto by August as even an 85 win season can’t get the Jays to the playoffs. The problem with MLB is the greedy owners, no salary cap and especially no revenue sharing. The Yankees for example don’t want to support their sister franchises in anyway and imagine the Yankees as a losing franchise not making the playoffs and losing out on potential home dates if the season is shortened. Shortening the season would increase fan interest and support as several more teams may have a shot at making the playoffs. The real problem is convincing the owners this is the case.

  13. tophatal says:

    bigj’

    The owners aren’t going to short change themselves not when most teams are struggling in terms of revenues and income . ‘nough said !

    tophatal :)

  14. Big J says:

    The NFL model is the best example of revenue sharing and making sure your league survives. Look at the top 50 wealthiest sport franchise and the majority are NFL franchise including low and behold the Detroit Lions!!!!!!! The NFL has a TV contract worth 20.4 billion with the networks every single team has its salaries and expenses paid before the season starts and the League has plenty left for other whatever. 20.4 Billion and they only get 8 home dates per franchise. You can never really tell who’s gonna win it all every year in the NFL either. I hate the idea that 4 teams buy all the players in the off season then at mid-season when its not working trade for all the best players again so they can make the playoffs. How many times have the Angels clinched their division out West and how many World Series have they been to? As a fan its boring seeing the Yankees and Red Sox every year!!! The NFL system of salary cap, and revenue sharing is the best model of a strong unified healthy sports league.

    • tophatal says:

      bj

      Having the best model possible isn’t the be all end all ! Success to the fans is actually about winning but in large part for the owners it’s primarily about how much money that they can make even when it comes of the backs of the fans . I mean what teams in the NFL actually own the venues outright that they play in ? More often than not those venues are built at the expense of the residents within the communities where they’re domiciled ?

      Yankees and Red Sox make their monies because in large part a large part of their revenues are gleaned via their respective cable outlets (YES Network / NESN) that they own outright. None of the other teams within MLB seem to smart enough to go that route.

      tophatal … :)

      tophatal :)

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  16. Sorry but the system is fine as is. Sure the NFL does have the best system but the owners want to change that out of greed. Anyone who thinks baseball teams loose money during any season just doesn’t understand what is going on. The worst teams in the league still make money. The playoff system in the MLB works fine. I’m sorry but the Rays do care about winning the division. When you look back at division wins the Rays want more than one. Sure the Yankees don’t care but lets not forget that team has 27 championships so of course they don’t care about division wins. The only reason this debate has come up is because the other super power sits in third in the division. Their fans and baseball would much rather have the Red Sox in the post season instead of the Rays. Well too bad. If you need a “reason” to care about the races in baseball then look at the NL where there are multiple races that are close.

    • tophatal says:

      andy’

      Where are the teams making money when in large part they’re being assisted by the league itself through the tax sharing revenue scheme at the end of the day ? Is that what capitalism is meant to be about ? Give me a god damn break !

      Why not have the federal government bail their asses out instead ?

      I mean if they can do it for the likes of the financial sector and automotive industry then why not baseball ? Are you completely serious with your notion that teams are still making money ? The Rays are fore-casted to lose in excess of $ 70 million this year alone .

      tophatal

  17. unclemonkey says:

    I agree, 162 games is way too many. I hated the fact that you had both the Rays and the Yankees coasting through the end of the season not caring about winning the division, just the fact to get in. One of the first things I would do is get rid of the home field advantage won by winning the all-star game. The home field advantage should go to the team with the best overall record. Shorten the season – who cares about the stats, like you said, how can you compare anyway. I think you would get a huge backlash on the adding more teams to the playoffs as most people hate the wild card. But what do you do with a sport where most of the teams are out of contention midway through? One of the suggestions I’ve heard that I like, is an even shorter series for these multiple wild card winners against each other – maybe one and done or best of 3. It would get the wild cards team ace out of the way giving the division winner an advantage. Maybe have 3 wild cards with the top 2 teams by record getting byes and the worst record of the 3 division winners having to play one of the wild cards to get to the semis. That way the top 2 teams in the division have an advantage.

    I think a lot of leagues could learn from the NHL who made radical improvements to their sport and now the interest is growing. NHL teams are selling out everywhere because there is an exciting product to watch. The playoff race goes until the last days and once the playoffs start, anything can happen. There is nothing better than playoff hockey.

    Regarding the salary cap, I agree, however, the Yankees actually do have a very strong farm system and some great prospects right now.

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