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The Game No One Can Play.

Baseball is the most complicated sport, ever. I've previously stated that the baseball rule book is one of the largest tomes for any game, and then, each individual stadium where it is played has its own ground rules, based on how that particular ball park is configured and those rules need to be added onto the above.

Baseball is a unique game. As Pete Rose, the banned MLB hit leader famously stated: "It's a round ball and a round bat, and you got to hit it square." You have to pitch upwards of 90 miles an hour to get it past those sluggers. You have to field some of the hardest hit horsehide in history.

In order to become a baseball superstar, a lot of things have to go right. You have to have the right physique, train, eat well, grow through your teen years. You have to get good coaching, good training, and play with others that can help raise your game. You have to get recruited, nurtured and fine tuned during your minor league career, and then when you get to the Big Show, you have to perform at an even higher level, earn the contract you have been given, typically something in the multimillion dollar range, and please the fans who are shelling out their hard earned cash to watch you play.

And that brings me to our Top Story: Manny Ramirez suspended for fifty games for using. Ha, ha. Manny Roidmirez. Ugh. Now we know how the Red Sox won in 2004 and 2007.

I have already laid the blame for how the game has played out since the Strike season of 1994 at the doorstep of Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He let this happen. In fact, he silently encouraged this to happen. He had to know what was going on, and if he didn't know, he is a bigger fool than I first believed. But in his eagerness to bring fans back to the game, with that home run chase of Roger Maris by two juiced up players: Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, he got what he wanted. Baseball was back in business and the stadiums were packed.

But how do you stuff the genie back into the bottle? Once players begin using drugs to enhance their natural abilities, how can you get them to stop? Where is the program to ween these superstars off of their steroids? When other, younger players start turning up, the veterans might feel they need to beef up more, hit bigger flies, show the kids how to do it. And when you've been playing for a while, maybe there's a sense that you need a little help.

Baseball is an unforgiving game with a marathon schedule. 162 games, traveling from Coast to Coast: Seattle to Miami, Boston to San Diego, with games typically 6 days a week, every week from April through September, and longer if you're lucky.

The Selig plan for "cleaning up the game" has clearly failed. I'm not even certain the game CAN be completely cleaned up. With no test for HGH, with players attempting to justify the millions they are being paid - with pressure to perform at an even higher level, and with the lure of even more money and accolades given to the best of the best, where's the incentive NOT to try and get away with it? If you are a player with borderline abilities, you feel you need to do it. And if you're a marquee name, and you see these other players starting to do as well as you do, you feel you need to improve. It's an inescapable situation that almost forces players into a place where they make that choice.

My thoughts: Selig should resign, immediately. In my mind, he is the reason baseball is where it is now. Don't wait for your contract to end. Get out now and don't come back.

The Schedule should be reduced. Clearly, 162 games is an extremely long season. Add in a month of Spring Training, and that's seven months of baseball these athletes are subjected to every year. Let's make April the Spring training month, Have the season start May 1 (the weather is better by then anyhow), and end the Regular season by September 15th, so the playoffs can start earlier and the World Series won't get played in November (like it's going to be, this year).

No doctors visits unless properly sanctioned. We hear that athletes ingest stuff that they didn't know what it was, prescribed by some doctor they went to see for some "personal health issues." That cannot happen ever again. Athletes need to be cared for and monitored every day from the day they sign with a club til they day they walk off the field for the final time. Make that a part of every MLB contract, or really every pro sports contract.

Years ago, "Saturday Night Live" did a sketch called "The All Drug Olympics," where the concept was an olympic games where every athlete was permitted to take any drug they wanted. In the sketch, a weightlifter trying to clean and jerk 1500 pounds pulled his arms off. In a real way, we have gotten to that point. We expect our hometown heroes to do the impossible. We expect them to win, to perform to the highest ability, to always come through in the clutch. If they don't, why are they getting millions of dollars? The problem is, nearly everyone in the sport is getting millions of dollars! But this is a function of the TV and ad revenue deals that MLB has in place. Could television have been the ultimate undoing of baseball?

With Manny Ramirez, one of the biggest names ever to play the game, now disgraced, every player has been touched by this issue, even the ones that have not used. Maybe the point is that nobody can really play this game. There is no other Hank Aaron. No other Willie Mays. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

(x-posted to spaceagers)


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
I was talking baseball with my roommate at lunch today - my fervor for the Twins has rubbed off on her, and we were hashing out last night's awful never-should-have-been-played rain loss to Baltimore.

I agree about Selig resigning as well as the shorter season. The Twins will open up their new ballpark, sans retractable roof, and I'm sure we'll lose some games at either end of the season to snow. World Series in November? Never in Minnesota. It's one of those things I'm going to miss about the Metrodome. As much of a pile of crap as it can be, it is our pile of crap, and we know how to use it.
May. 7th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
I mean, these are shorter fixes that will help encourage healing within the game, but I don't know about the long term prognosis for baseball.

Ultimately, MLB won't want to shorten the season, since that would cut back on revenue from the networks broadcasting and the ticket sales. Certainly Selig wouldn't be a part of "reducing profits," at any cost, another reason why he needs to be out of there.

But yes The World Series will BEGIN in November for the first time ever (which I guess is a huge boon for Fox, since they can now count the Fall Classic as part of their Sweeps).

Can't they stretch that plastic roof over the top of the new park, and get some space heaters and such?
May. 7th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
I'm outraged that there's no retractable roof - look at the beauty of Miller Park, where the Brewers play. That stadium blows me out of the water. Target Field (what an awful name) looks way more angular weird. I'm fine with taking the risks of outdoor baseball... but when you have the ability to create a retractable roof in a city that regularly sees snow in April and October, why not?

The inside concourses are going to be heated, so here's what I forsee: a chilly day where the Twins play and everyone crowds inside, to watch the game being played 100 feet away from them... on monitors.

The 162 game schedule is grueling on the players, and even though you have to shake off a bad loss in any sport, it's rougher when you have to go out not only the next day, but many days coming, and play such a long game.

Only marginally off-topic: I've added Ken Burn's "Baseball" mondo documentary to my movie queue. Have you seen it? Thoughts?
May. 7th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
When I heard about the blueprint for this new stadium, I was completely shocked. If there's any team that had to have a retractable roof, (besides the Blue Jays in chilly Canada) it is the Twins! They said there wasn't enough money to build a stadium with a roof. I said, so why build a stadium!

I don't mean to make excuses for professional athletes, but the baseball season is insanely tough. NBA players at most have 3 games a week, NFL players get 1 a week, though granted they are a full contact sport. Still, there's no underestimating how difficult it is for players to perform at a high level for the entirety of a season.

This is anything but off-topic! You haven't seen "Baseball" yet? I would say it has its ups and downs, but worth watching of course. Maybe there should be an additional "Inning" added to the story, all about this era of steroids... Or maybe we have to wait until everything gets cleaned up.
May. 7th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Amen !!

But I'm not too optimistic. The only thing that really matters is money.
May. 8th, 2009 03:50 am (UTC)
It really makes me wonder just how all these seasons would have played out had nobody used. Maybe the Cubs would have won by now?
May. 8th, 2009 05:29 am (UTC)
Ouch. And ouch.

Maybe that should be their new slogan: "Cubs baseball -- steroid free since 1908 (if you don't include the Sosa years)."

Ah, for the good ol' days when baseball players looked like human beings, not football linebackers, and they were paid so little they had to get jobs in the off-season. And, yes, I blame Selig for almost all of it. Where have you gone, Kenesaw Mountain Landis?
(Deleted comment)
May. 8th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
Re: ESPN - Apologists for Bad Behaviour (withthe exception of Bob Ley)
Haha! Yeah. Clearly there are certain reporters that are in some players' pockets and others that clearly aren't and it's completely obvious which is which.

Ultimately, the game is great, but the business of baseball has made a lot of people unspeakably wealthy, and to no good purpose. Really, aren't the owners' wallets on steroids?
May. 8th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Baseball is a unique game.

Er, not quite. The rules were lifted from a British school game called rounders.
May. 8th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
Well, based on that game but carried to an extreme. There's also a bit of cricket in there too.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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