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The Big Kahuna's Essay Column-Archives  

          

October 1, 2016

          There Goes The Neighborhood: In the past, we spent a fair amount of time in this column discussing the relative merits of Major League Baseball's replay system. 
          While I am of the mind that "getting the call right" is important, I am bitterly opposed to any method of replay that relies on challenges, or any other type of system with any other arbitrary limits on how many calls might be reviewed. Rather, I have always advocated that, if you are going to have a replay review of umpire calls, there should be a fifth umpire, whose sole function is to review all calls and make a fairly immediate determination.
          Even if baseball adopted this type of replay system, the use of replay further erodes baseball tradition. There is no greater example of this erosion than Major League Baseball's decision to allow the "neighborhood play" to be open to review.
          The neighborhood play, and its expert application by the most savvy of middle infielders, is not only a time honored baseball tradition, it is one of the little facets of the game that allows the sport to remain a part of human expression and not the techno-centric homogeny that organizations like the NFL strive to be. 
          The difference between baseball and football, at the highest professional levels is sometimes similar to the difference between a great local restaurant and an upscale chain. The local place has its own vibe and feeling, and the chain tries to replicate the same experience, regardless of where you find it.
          Eliminating accepted oddities, such as the neighborhood play, brings baseball one step closer to losing that special intimacy that exists between the sports and the populace.
          It seems to me that in an effort to maximize technology for the purpose of getting all the calls right, we are sacrificing some of the art of the game.
          To drive this point even further home, the Major League Baseball Rules Committee approved some changes last week, including a rule which will allow a pitcher to intentionally walk a batter without having to throw the pitches.
          It is inconceivable to me how this new rule is supposed to enhance the game.
          What's next? Courtesy runners? Not having to run the bases after a home run? Why not use a softball instead of a baseball, pitch underhand, and let hitter use aluminum bats?           
          Which brings us to the suddenly hot topic of bat flipping.
          Recently, there has been a lot of debate about bat flips, fist pumps, and showing up the opponent.
          One one hand, some people feel that bat flipping after a home run, of fist pumping after a pitcher records a strikeout, are thing that make the game more fun. 
          Really, I can't see how. If your team's player has just hit a key home run, or if your team's pitcher has just worked his way out of a jam with a big strikeout, and you need him to exhibit some gratuitous show of emotion for you to enjoy the moment, I think, it is safe to conclude, that you are not a baseball fan.           
          On the other hand, a big home run, or really any great performance, is exciting on its own merit. It provides its own punctuation, regardless of the (mostly choreographed) celebration by the player involved.


          


Relevant Question Of The Month: Even though you have been opposed to the wild card system in the past, don't you agree that having extra teams in the playoffs is good for baseball?-G. D. Sevierville, TN
          It depends on how you look at it.
          From a business standpoint, yes, increasing the number of teams, is beneficial to Major League Baseball. Fans of, otherwise, mediocre teams are able to remain interested in the outcome of the season longer. This leads to greater ticket sales, more TV viewership, and, ultimately, greater revenue.
          However, watching a bunch of barely over .500 teams lurch toward the post-season on the backs of, something like, an unimpressive 12-15 record down the stretch, is not good baseball.
          A team could stumble its way through the season, sneak in to the playoffs as the second wild card, catch a few breaks in the post-season, and win the World Series having won barely more than they lost. All season.
          That's not good baseball either.

 

October 6, 2016-Irrevocable Wavers: I realize that I have broached the subject on more than one previous occasion, but the time has come for Major League Baseball to take action to stop the obnoxious fans that are sitting directly behind home plate from making constant spectacles of themselves by excessively waving at the camera. 
          In most cases, these people are seen talking on their mobile devices, presumable to their friends, as they frantically wave at the centerfield camera.
          This is annoying on many levels. First, it's hard to imagine that these people actually have friends to talk to. So, we can only infer, that they are only pretending to talk to someone while they are waving. 
          If they do, in fact, have friends, the excessive waving is even more silly. If you are sitting directly behind home plate, you will be on camera for roughly three hours (five hours if it is a nationally televised game between the Red Sox and Yankees). It is not presumptuous to assume that people whose phone numbers that you possess already know what you look like and may, over the course of three hours, might be able to recognize you without you waving your arms incessantly.
          If you are lucky enough to score the best seats in the ballpark, there is absolutely no reason to act as a distraction to those of us watching on TV. Because, the truth is, no matter how hard I try to ignore these buffoons, I cannot avert my eyes from them. 
          Which bring me to Marlins Jersey Guy, also known as "Marlins Man".
          You might have noticed that at a lot of high profile sporting events, an odd looking guy in a bright orange Miami Marlins jersey wearing a goofy visor sitting in some fairly prime seats.
          Laurence Leavy is a Miami lawyer (which figures, somehow) that spends a great deal of time professing his love for the Marlins at sporting events in which his favorite team is not otherwise involved. Leavy seems to spend most of his on camera time looking at his phone and ignoring the game on the field, a trait he learned, no doubt, while going to Marlins' games. At various points of the game, Leavy likes to turn his visor askew for no particular reason.
          I have several problems with this. First off, unless you are a professional golfer or Steve Spurrier, no grown man should ever wear a visor. Particularly at a night game. 
          Secondarily, if you are going to spend so much time, energy, and money to make sure that you are on television as much as Leavy does, you should at least have the courtesy and good taste to have a trophy wife by your side. There is absolutely no excuse for not having a spectacularly good looking woman sitting next to you if you have as much money as Leavy apparently does.           
          Now, to be completely fair, it has been reported that Leavy, and his ugly blood orange jersey, has shown a humanitarian streak by inviting virtual strangers to attend games with him. People who have met him say that he is a nice guy, too. Which is great. But, still, if you are going to be a nationally televised eyesore on a regular basis, how about balancing the ticket by having Sofia Vergara, or somebody, sit next to you occasionally?
          I am sorry. There is no possible way that I can finish this column, as Marlins Jersey Guy is on my TV right now, sitting behind home plate, in an ugly orange jersey, with his goofy visor tilted to a silly angle. And to make matters worse, no Sofia Vergara.
          I swear, if he starts talking on the phone and waving at the camera, I might lose the will to live. On this, I will not waiver.


  
Relevant Question Of The Month: What can Major League baseball do to improve its post-season broadcasts?-G. M. Castroville, CA
          Apart from finding a way to black out the crowd sitting directly behind home plate, or to ban Marlins Jersey Guy, Major League Baseball can take several steps to improve its post-season broadcasts.
          First, it should feature more day games, particularly in the World Series.
          Despite its temptation to get primetime advertising dollars from as many games as possible, MLB should schedule as many day games as possible. Day games are more easily viewed by younger fans, who may not be able to stay up, on school nights, to watch all nine innings of many night games.
          Also, as the calendar gets later in October, and the weather gets colder in many MLB cities, playing games at night, in frigid temperatures, means that the most important games of the season might be played in the worst possible conditions.
          If some of these games are played in daylight, particularly in cold weather cities, the conditions would almost certainly be much better than they would be at night.
          Second, the broadcasting network should employ at least one announcer from each team's regular broadcasting crew as part of their announcing team. Local announcers add an insight into to the teams that they cover that national broadcast crews cannot possibly offer.
          Third, simply put, commercial breaks should be shorter. While I completely understand the networks desire and need to maximize their advertising revenue as a means of justifying the enormous rights fees that they pay to Major League Baseball, sometimes, less is more.
          If I haven't been swayed to buy a Nissan after seeing their commercial seven times during the course of a ballgame, I doubt that the eighth viewing will do the trick.
          That being said, I do promise to sign up for any and all one day fantasy leagues if only someone could promise me that I will never have to watch actual contest winner David Gomes rub his face in a most unusual manner, and with alarming frequency, ever again.

 

May 15, 2015-Manfred's The Man (Or, Out Of My Brain On 5/15): Rob Manfred is the 10th commissioner of Major League Baseball, and, is in many ways different than his redoubtable predecessor.
          In office for just a few months, Mr. Manfred faces a multitude of issues, as most assuredly, all previous commissioners have. 
          The key issues facing Mr. Manfred appear to be (in no particular order): pace of play, declining offense, unacceptably low national television ratings, the evolving replay system, and a need to address the system in which international players are signed.
          What Mr. Manfred, who comes from a background in labor law, with 25 years of experience in baseball, apparently does not have to deal with is a potential for labor unrest. Superficially, at least, it appears that Major League Baseball, and the player's association have no impending issues of which a battle might result. Economically, the organization is healthy, and the players, having won virtually every important fight with the owners over the past 40 years, are reaping the benefits. 
          The new commissioner made a concerted effort to adjust the pace of play this off season and, it appears, that some tangible results have occurred without an intrusions to the game. During the first five weeks of the season, the average time of a game in the Major Leagues has been reduced by approximately eight minutes. This has been achieved without incident, so, in the short term, this can seen as a success.
          Part of the reason, perhaps, that the games are taking a little less time may also be a result of the continuing trend of declining offense in the big leagues. Over time, this will, undoubtedly become an important problem. 
          Many suggestions have been put forth for increasing offense. These including readjusting the standard strike zone, banning defensive shifts, and allowing for a less restrictive substitution rules that allows greater flexibility for pinch hitting. All of these ideas are, in my opinion, silly and unnecessary.
          To inject some more offense into the game, without any unnatural changes to the rules, and without tinkering with the accepted strike zone, Major League Baseball should consider returning the check swing rule to what it was in the 1970's.
          Back in those days, the determination of what constituting a full and check swing were significantly different from what they are now. In the past, a batter had to not only have hit bat come past the plate, but also he had to clearly have done so without making an attempt to check his swing. In other words, if a batter was trying to hold up a swing, but the bat drifted past home plate as he was attempting to withdraw the swing, and it no longer appeared that the batter was directing the bat head toward the ball, he was not judged to have swung at the pitch.
          Now, while this may seem confusing at first, please be clear on two things: 1. this was the concept used in determining a swing for about 100 years, and, more importantly, 2. this is virtually and effectively the same criteria applied when determining if batter has offered at a pitch while bunting. 
          Eliminating a bunch of swings and misses, which are not really swings at all, will reduce strikeouts, but, also, will make hitters a little more aggressive. This will almost certainly benefit the offense, without intrusively changing the game by virtue of fooling with the rule book.           
          I would also encourage Mr. Manfred to strongly consider adopting our modified DH plan for use in both leagues.
          Although I've written about, and advocated for, the modified DH plan on numerous occasions, I will recap the basics: under the plan, once the starting pitcher is removed from the game, the starting designated hitter would also have to be replaced by another hitter.
          This would not only limit pitching changes and, potentially increase offense by virtue of that, it would also abrogate the argument that using the DH curtails strategy.
          In this current age of specialization, where starting pitchers are almost never expected to pitch more than seven innings, a rule that forces managers to have to make pitching changes while considering the affect that it may have on the team's lineup will have the residual effect of speeding up games, as fewer pitching changes will be made.
          In certain situations, a manager might elect to send up a pitcher to bat for a potential bunt, in an effort to save a batter for later in the game. In this scenario, the DH would actually increase strategic options.
          A quicker paced game with a little more offense might just also be the antidote for the declining national television ratings as well.
          It is always important that the commissioner be ever mindful that baseball is the best of games and, while it may need an occasional tinkering, is never in need of the massive overhauls favored by his predecessor.


          


Relevant Question Of The Month: What should Major League Baseball do with regard to drafting international players?-G. R. Biscayne, FL
          This is going to seem like heresy, but it might be time for Major League Baseball to abolish the draft.
          The draft was originally introduced as a method of preventing certain teams (mostly the New York Yankees) from signing all of the best amateur players. Ironically, the first year that the draft was held, the Yankees' first dynasty collapsed and, almost immediately, the entire American League suffered financially as the depleted Yankees were no longer a strong draw. Partly because of the draft, it took the Yankees over a decade to rebuild.
          So, the unintended consequence of the draft system was a drain on attendance.
          The other intention behind the draft was to limit the exorbitant bonuses paid to unproven players. Over time, this has not proven to be effective.
          Major League Baseball has tried to confront this issue in recent years through the idea of slotting, but it has not been particularly successful. A lot of money is being spent on amateur players, many of whom never contribute at the big league level.
          So, while, superficially, the idea of a draft presents Major League Baseball with some internal safeguards, upon further inspection, those safeguards are not effective. This being the case, it might be time to abandon the draft, rather than to expand it to include international players.

 

March 31, 2014-Opening Arguments: Today, a new season of Major League Baseball begins. 
          Never mind that there were two games played in Australia a week ago, and that ESPN has continued their tradition of hijacking opening day with a Sunday night game. All around the country, today is actually opening day.
          As occasionally happens, this season opens with a few changes in how the game will be played. 
          The first major change is the introduction of the new replay system. While, I have used this column to warn my readers of the evils of replay, I accept that, despite its limitations, replay has its place in baseball.
          What I object to, is the challenge system that is being used to initiate replays.   
          I'm sorry, but I thought the point of having a replay system to augment the umpires on the field was to get as many calls correct as possible. But, apparently, thanks to the gimmicky challenge system, there can be no rational argument that suggests that getting all the calls correct is the priority.
          Evidentially, Major League Baseball has decided that it is far more important to continue its Bud Selig led destiny to become the summer alternative to the NFL, rather than maintaining its traditional position as America's national pastime.   
          Why else would the Selig sycophants adopt a system that unnecessarily demands that managers selectively attempt to get incorrect calls overturned?
          The reason, unfortunately for baseball fans everywhere, is that Mr. Selig looks toward the NFL with a combination of envy, admiration, and idolatry.
          This, in and of itself, is egregious enough: the commissioner of baseball should not be seeking to follow the lead of any other sports league; but, more importantly, as I have pointed out before, the NFL system is ridiculously flawed.
          On the other hand, baseball finally followed the Federal League's lead, 21 years after the fact, and instituted a policy that will reduce violent collisions at home plate. 
          Why it took so long, is anybody's guess, but at least, Major League Baseball is making a step in the proper direction. After all, base runners are not allowed to launch themselves into fielders at any of the other bases, how did it become completely acceptable to do so at home plate?  
          In any event, baseball is back, and for the next six months, we can enjoy the crack of the bat and the pop of the mitt, regardless of what the present commissioner tries to do to interfere with that.
          


Relevant Question Of The Month: What would be your first actions if you were to replace Bud Selig as commissioner of Major League Baseball?-J.S. Sarasota, FL
          If I were named to replace Selig as commissioner, I would do several things immediately.
         I would introduce measures that increased the pace of the game. I am not specifically talking about shortening games, although I suspect that this would be a consequence, but rather, eliminating periods of inaction.
        The amount of time that occurs in between innings would be reduced. TV stations are not selling out their station breaks, and fans are able to go to the concession stands in many of the newer parks without missing anything happening on the field, so the amount of time allotted for in between innings is no longer valid.
         I would also direct the umpires to stop allowing batters to step out of the box as frequently as they do. Conversely, I would instruct the umps to keep the pitchers from wasting time on the mound.
         The second thing that I would do as commissioner is to begin and enforce a policy of ejecting any fan from the ballpark that is talking on a cell phone and waving at the camera for a period of more than two seconds. Or anyone who does it more than once a game.

 

May 17, 2012-Happy Birthday, Carlos May-Today, former American League all-star outfielder Carlos May turns 64. Other than making me feel old, this is significant because of how easy it is to remember. To my knowledge, Carlos May is the only Major Leaguer of which I am aware that wore his birthday on his uniform. 
          May played the majority of his big league career with the Chicago White Sox and wore jersey number 17. The Pale Hose were not only one of the teams that put players' last names on their jerseys, they were the first team to do so. As a result, when May broke in, his jersey proudly announced his birthday. May 17.
          And that's not even the most interesting thing about Carlos May. After breaking in with the ChiSox in 1968, May spent the off season in the Marine Reserves. It was during this time that May accidentally (I presume) blew off part of his thumb in a mishap involving a hand grenade.
          May recovered from his injury sufficiently enough to post a .281 batting average, with 18 home runs and 62 RBI, in 1969. May finished third in that season's AL rookie of the year balloting. In 1972, May had his best season as he hit .308 and was named to the all-star team for the second, and final, time.
          May's brother, Lee, who was born in March (on the 23rd, and he did wear number 23 for part of his career), had an 18 year big league career. The elder May hit 354 home runs, but he had two thumbs.   
          On May 15, after being called out on a very questionable strike three (which was preceded by an even more questionable strike two), Brett Lawrie of the Toronto Blue Jays reacted as you might imagine a person might if his thumb had just been blown off in a hand grenade mishap. Lawrie launched his helmet into the ground and it bounced up and struck umpire Bill Miller.
          While Lawrie may not have intended to hit Miller with the helmet, he certainly did hit him with it, and, it certainly may have been his intention anyway.  
          Major League Baseball suspended Lawrie for four games. This is interesting in that it came a few days after Phillies' pitcher Cole Hamels was suspended for five games for admitting to hitting the Nationals' Bryce Harper with a pitch on purpose.
          So now, follow this logic: if a pitcher hits a guy with a pitch, it's part of the game, unless he says he did it on purpose. Then, it costs him five game (which was virtually pointless as he did not miss a start). If a player drills an umpire with his helmet, he gets suspended for only four games, presumably because he did not admit to doing on purpose.  
          In effect, Major League Baseball has determined that a pitcher hitting a batter with a pitch is a more grievous offense than is firing a projectile off of an umpire. Also, it can be concluded that hitting a batter with a pitch (in the ribs, by the way) is equal in offensiveness to spouting unpopular political rhetoric.
          Now that the furor has died down regarding Ozzie Guillen's pro-Castro verbiage, it occurs to me that almost everyone involved managed to be slightly more hypocritical than the person to their immediate left.
          First, with all due respect, the Cuban-American community displayed some hypocrisy by endorsing any sort of boycott of the Marlins. While I certainly understand their passion and the accompanying reaction, it is fairly incongruous to boycott someone who endorses a political figure, partly because that political figure is responsible for not allowing his constituency to endorse other political figures.  
          Trust me, I am not supporting the Castro regime or Guillen's comments, but the fact is that this is America and we do not believe in censoring speech. That is something that they more typically do in Castro's Cuba.
          While I do not agree with Guillen's commentary, I cannot understand how he shouldn't be allowed to voice his opinion. Conversely, I do not deny the Cuban-American community's right to protest, I only find it hypocritical. However, I find the reaction of the Marlins' front office far more hypocritical. In case you forgot, the Marlins suspended Guillen for five games as a result of his statements. While they have the right to discipline an employee for, shall we say, poor public relations, it is my contention that the suspension was unwarranted.
          I'm not saying that the Marlins should not have reacted, instead, I am suggesting that if the team found Guillen's comments to be that offensive that they should have fired him. The suspension says, "look, we would like our potential customers to stop be angry, but, frankly, we are not all that outraged ourselves." A firing says, "we agree. Guillen has gone too far."
          Finally, nobody was more hypocritical than Guillen himself. First, he made the statements. Then, he tried to back away from them. Then, he apologized by claiming, A) he didn't mean it; B) he was just joking; C) he may not have said it; and D) he was mis-translated.
          So, in reality, how contrite can an apology be when you may or may not have said it, did or didn't mean it, may have or may not have been kidding around?
          Now, you may have concluded that what Guillen did is not, technically, hypocritical, and you may be right. But, it is possible that I didn't actually write that. Or that I did, but I didn't mean it. Or that I was kidding. Or not.
          


Relevant Question Of The Month: Which is correct, RBI or RBIs?-P.M. Florham Park, N.J.
          I assume you mean to ask for the correct terminology for the plural of a run batted in. Both RBI and RBIs are accepted. Technically, RBI, as in runs batted in, is more precise. In actuality, the most precise term would be RDI, as in runs driven in, as that is what the statistic truly measures. Some runs are batted in, but all of the runs that a batter brings home are driven in. Here's an example: an run resulting from a bases loaded walk is a run driven in by the batter, it is not batted in. Similarly, a hit by pitch with the bases loaded results in a run driven in, as the ball was not actually batted.

 

April 7, 2011-Something Fishy: In an April 6 game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs, played at Wrigley Field, Aramis Ramirez hit a home run into the left field bleachers. This was significant because a fan reached out over the basket designed to prevent such things and caught the ball. The Diamondbacks did not argue and the occurrence went largely unnoticed, except for the opportunity for people to drag out references to Steve Bartman. 
          However, the fact that no action need be taken did not prevent Commissioner Bud Selig from issuing a directive to all of the teams to take whatever measures were necessary to ensure that fans could not interfere with balls in play.
          The Commissioner's office told the Florida Marlins that they did not have to worry about it.
          In a related story, the Florida Lottery announced that for the remainder of the baseball season, the daily three digit lottery game's winning numbers would be determined, not by a drawing, but instead by the Marlins' paid attendance for that day's home game.
          When asked what provisions would be made if the Marlins' paid attendance for any given game exceeded 999, the lottery office spokesperson convulsed in laughter.  
          You may have also noticed that, this summer, former Twins/Rangers/Pirates/Indians/Twins (again)/Angels pitcher Bert Blyleven will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Apart from immediately creating a vacancy in the Hall of Mediocrity, the election of Blyleven causes a few problems. Chief among those problems is, what is the criteria for electing a player to the Hall (of Fame, not Mediocrity)?
          In case you were unaware, Blyleven compiled a 287-250 record in 22 Major League seasons. So, essentially, Blyleven was a little better than one game over .500 per season. Contrast this to, say, Ron Guidry, who generates very little Hall of Fame support. In fact, Guidry last appeared in the voting in 2002, when he garnered a mere 23 votes. 
          In his career, Guidry went 170-91, which is 79 games over .500. Guidry and Blyleven are essentially similar in career numbers for ERA, strikeout ratios, and runners allowed averages. Guidry's winning percentage is a stout .651, while Blyleven's is .534. While it's true that Blyleven pitched around twice as much as Guidry did, it's not like he was winning a lot of those games. Heck, he was barely winning better than half of the time. 
          So, I ask you, other than his high career strikeout total, which is largely a product of the Twins and Angels being willing to pay him to go something like 14-13 every year, and his own campaigning for his induction as he announces Twins' games, what makes Blyleven a more suitable Hall of Fame candidate than Guidry?
          Not to mention Allie Reynolds (182-107, plus two no-hitters), Jack Morris (254-186),or Ed Ruelbach (182-108, 2.28 career ERA)   
          I'm not saying that Guidry, Reynolds, Morris, or Ruelbach fit my criteria of a Hall of Famer, but they certainly appear to be more deserving than Blyleven.
          Now, there are people who are willing to tell you that Blyleven was one of the 25 greatest pitchers in baseball history (they are out there, but I refuse to link to their sites), but Bert was seldom, if ever, even considered the best pitcher on his own staff. 
          Tommy John (288-231) has a career of similar length to Blyleven's, not to mention more wins, a better winning percentage, and a very popular surgery named for him. It does not appear that John is getting into the Hall anytime soon. Nor should he.
          No offense, but Tommy John is just not what I think of when I think of a Hall of Fame pitcher. And neither is Bert Blyleven. 
          Let me put it this way, it's Game 7 of the World Series, you can pick any pitcher in baseball history to start that game. Are you picking Blyleven? 
          And if you do, and I pick Walter Johnson, or Sandy Koufax, or Lefty Grove (or Ron Guidry for that matter), who is probably winning that game?
          Exactly.
          
Relevant Question Of The Month: What do the Barry Bonds' perjury trial jury have in common with the Florida Marlins current ballpark?-R.M. Hollywood, FL
          They both only need 12 chairs.

September, 2010-Conclusive Proof That The Wild Card Stinks: Since its unveiling, we have been arguing that Major League Baseball's adaptation of adding a "wild card" team to the playoffs is not only a detriment to the concept of the pennant race, it actually stifles excitement during the season. This season offers a perfect example of both points. 
          In the American League, the Yankees and Rays spent the last few days of August and the first few days of September in a dead heat for the division lead. Did the fans of both teams spend every conceivable moment obsessing about the possibility of an epic, down to the wire, finish? Did the beat writers of both teams file story after story detailing the every move of the race? Did the whole baseball world focus its attention on the two teams with the two best records in baseball battling each other in a pulse pounding final month of the season? And, finally, did Major League Baseball reap the untold benefits of such a race?
          Of course not.
          Why, you may ask, does this potential race, cause barely a ripple of excitement? Because, it is an almost foregone conclusion that, despite how the pennant race is resolved, both teams will be in the playoffs. So, you may rightly ask, who really cares? The answer, thanks to the wild card, is virtually nobody.
          It gets even worse than that. Currently, the White Sox trail the Rays (as of September 5) by eight games for the wild card. The wild card, you may recall, is designed to give mediocre teams the illusion that they are still alive for the playoffs during the last month of the season. The Pale Hose have almost no hope of catching the Rays for the Wild Card. They do, however, have a realistic chance of tracking down the Twins, who they trail by three and a half games, for the AL Central crown.  
          So, the bottom line here is, if there were no such thing as the wild card, there would be a potentially classic race evolving in the AL East, the Twins/White Sox race would be exactly what it is going to be anyway: a winner take all fight for the AL Central, and the last month of the American League season would actually much more interesting than it will end up being under the present scenario.
          The point may be even more evident in the National League. 
          In the NL East, the Braves and the Phillies are currently separated by one game, but it appears that the media, as well as, the fans are not completely focused on the implications of this race. Why? Well, the Phils hold a three game lead in the wild card chase over the Giants.
          So, the Giants are the beneficiaries of the wild card, right?
          Wrong. The Giants woke up on the fifth of September closer to first in the NL West than they are in the wild card standings.   
          So, instead of creating manufactured excitement for mediocre teams, as is its intention, the wild card has suppressed the real excitement of honest to goodness pennant races involving good (or even great) teams.
          Worse yet, the real possibility exists, that, thanks to this ridiculous system, the World Series may, once again, be denied a match up of each league's best teams, as a lesser team is granted the opportunity to have a hot week and claim a league championship that they didn't really deserve. 
          Congratulations, Bud, on another great job.
          


Relevant Question Of The Month: What do you think MLB's proposal to add more teams to the post season?-S.G. Freehold, N.J.
          Despite what you may think, I am all for it. In fact, instead of adding a few more teams to the playoffs, I think that Major League Baseball should invite all of its teams to the playoffs.
         What they could do, is, start the playoffs in April. Right after spring training. Then, they could have a playoff that has every team playing an equal number of games against all of the other teams in their league. Then, all they would have to do, is to figure out which team had won the most games and award that team the league championship. The two league champions could then meet in the World Series.

July, 2010-If Federal League Had Its Own TV Channel: What if Federal League had its own television channel? What would that look like? 
          First, let me tell you, that if we had a channel (notice how I called it a channel and not a network; MLB Network is not a network at all, it is one single channel, as opposed to a bunch of channels unified by common programming), it would show a lot of baseball. But, unlike the MLB Net..er, channel, it would have far fewer annoying announcers. Hazel Mae, I am talking to you.
          Another distinct difference from the MLB Channel would be that our highlight show would not be repeated all through the day. Once would be sufficient. You would think that the programming people at ESPN (ESPC?) or the MLB Channel would be aware that shows can be digitally recorded by approximately 106% of the population. Under those circumstances, you might assume that the need to repeat the same program 11 times in a row would be non existent.
          Original programming on the Federal League Channel would include our own version of Dr. Phil. In the Federal League edition, players appear on the show to whine about bad umpire decisions and how those decisions have ruined their lives. The twist here is that Phil Laufman ridicules the guests and their concerns and then refers them to counseling session. With an umpire.
          Also, on our channel, Dancing With The Stars will feature members of the Hollywood Stars dancing with celebrity partners. 
          Apart from Dancing With The Stars, there would be nothing on our channel that could be vaguely classified as a reality show. I don't know about you, but I remember a time when every station had a reality show every evening. They called it the news. Ironically, nowadays, most news broadcasts do not qualify as reality programming. If you get my meaning.
          Several hours a day would be devoted to broadcasting live games. When live games were not available, "classic" games will be shown. Please be aware that on our channel, the term classic will not apply to a game from extraordinary recent memory. Such as, last week. Or yesterday. 
          Lastly, I envision the Federal League Channel to have at least a few hours of programming reserved for the odd ramblings of yours truly.
          


Relevant Question Of The Month: What do you think of the MLB Network?- J.H., Hudson, NY
          I like it. I like it a lot. I do wish, however, that the announcers would steer away from the disturbing trend of being bombastic.
         Baseball, unlike most other sports, does not need to promote a sense of drama to be engrossing. Drama, in baseball, will occur naturally, at various points in the season. It does not need to be manufactured by loud noises.

June, 2010-Upon Further Review: The immediate impact in the aftermath of umpire Jim Joyce's blown call in Armando Galarraga's imperfect perfect game will that the least baseball savvy amongst us will call for baseball to adopt an expanded instant replay policy. 
          The first thing the pro-instant replay crowd ought to realize is that instant replay, at least in sports leagues that have plays subject to replay review, is never instant. In fact, most replay reviews are painstakingly long. This begs the question: if you cannot make a discernable call after two or three views of the play, how can feel certain of getting the call correct after six? Or eight? Or 23?
          Most replay advocates point to the success of the NFL's replay system as justification for baseball's case for expanded replay. The answer to this is quite simple. In Super Bowl XL, the officials had two major, game changing, reviews and got them both wrong.
          This, to me, is the strongest argument against replay. If replay reviews are not 100% completely, undeniably, accurate (which, of course, they are not in any other sport that utilizes them), than they have absolutely no place in sports.
          Further, the argument for replay is a little self defeating if you accept that the fact that replay reviews will not be 100% accurate. As it stands, the umpires probably get better than 99% of all reviewable calls correct. How much better can replays do, especially if they cannot get them all correct?
          Now, those of us who saw the almost perfect game live almost instantly knew that Joyce blew the call, and, it's true, it is a shame that Galarraga was unfairly denied his perfect game. But, weep not for the Tiger hurler. It is likely that history will be kinder to Galarraga as a victim of a bad call than it would of had he completed the perfecto.
          There have been only 20 perfect games thrown in major league history and, more than likely, most of the outraged fans calling for justice, cannot correctly identify half of them. However, Galarraga's name will be forever celebrated in baseball lore as the almost perfect pitcher. If you do not believe me, tell me anything about Harvey Haddix's career other than his 12 perfect innings against the Braves on May 26, 1959. Haddix lost the game in the 13th inning and, like Galarraga, also has not been credited with a perfect game. Yet Haddix is much better remembered than Charlie Robertson, who once did throw a perfect game. 
          It would wrong of me to leave this topic without commending commissioner Bud Selig for, despite his obvious inclinations to always to do otherwise, making the proper call in resisting the urge to overrule Joyce's call and retroactively award the perfect game. Had Selig ruled otherwise, the dangerous precedent of next day officiating would have served as an open invitation for every crybaby whiner to seek administrative redress to any call which may offend their prissy sensibilities. And there is already enough whining in some baseball circles.
          Even more important, to me at least, is that had Galarraga achieved his perfect game, we would have been denied the opportunity to see exactly what a classy individual he is. His handling of the entire situation has been first rate. As has the Tigers' fans, and Joyce, for that matter. In the end, that is a greater legacy.
          Speaking of the Tigers reminds one that it is oddly appropriate that legendary Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell left this earth and merged with the infinite in this, the Chinese year of the Tiger. I'm sure Ernie is smiling about that as he chats with Connie Mack or Socrates. Both of whom, I am fairly sure, disdain the idea of replay reviews in baseball as well.
          


Relevant Question Of The Month: Don't you think that it's about time that MLB adapted a replay policy similar to the NFL?- B.H., Anniston, AL
          I think I sufficiently covered this topic in the column above.
         But, in case you somehow still do not get the point, baseball has already been corrupted by the wild card and inter league play, do they need to try to be more like the NFL to suit you?

June, 2009-A Rose By Any Other Name: Despite the title, this article has nothing to do with Pete Rose. Even though, if it did, it would probably boost our traffic and, thus, please our sponsors, but, it doesn't. 
          Instead, this article bemoans the loss of the great baseball tradition of players having creative and memorable nicknames. Long gone are the days of "The Georgia Peach", "The Big Train", and "The Fordham Flash". No longer are players identified by such monikers as "The Flying Dutchman", "The Iron Horse", and "Bambino". Never again, sadly, will anyone be referred to anything as wonderfully unique as "Old Tomato Face", "Bad News", or "The People's Cherce". It is truly a bygone era.
          Babe Ruth, perhaps baseball's greatest player, was a one man cottage industry of nicknames. In addition to the aforementioned "Bambino", Ruth is easily recognized as "The Sultan of Swat", "The King of Clout", and other such titles. Many players had multiple nicknames. Today, most players barely have one and it usually involves some uninspired shortening of their actual name.
          Joe Di Maggio was called "The Yankee Clipper", but if "Joltin' Joe" was just coming up today, I'm afraid he would be dubbed something as horribly bland as "J.D." .
          Try to think of any current players with great nicknames. It is nearly impossible. Okay, Lance Berkman is "The Big Puma", but that's one out of nearly a thousand players. 
          Alex Rodriguez, the so called best player in the game, is "A-Rod". That's it? That's the best we could do? Ken Griffey, Jr.'s nickname is "Junior"? Barry Bonds did not have a nickname, but if he played in the 1950's he might have been called "Satellite Dish Head". That is, if satellite dishes had existed back then. 
          Which, they did not.
          Pete Rose (you see, we did get around to him) was called "Charley Hustle" and it was originally meant as an insult, but you can't keep a great nickname down and Rose embraced the name.
          Unfortunately, we live in an age where creativity is undervalued. That's why reality shows are popular, almost every major motion picture is a remake, and some people still think David Letterman is funny. 
          So, here's to the day when "The Little Professor" roamed the outfield and "The Scooter" patrolled shortstop. When "Rapid Robert" fired the high hard one and "The Splendid Splinter" hit them out.
          I will always think back wistfully to when "The Commerce Comet" hit for distance, and "Sudden Sam" was on the mound. When baseball had "The Toy Cannon", "Roadblock", "Moonman", "No-Neck", and "Motormouth".
          Sadly, there are no more "Dizzys" or "Daffys", nor "Lippys", "Brats", or "Scrap Irons". But there sure are a lot of "Rods", as in "A-Rod" or "K-Rod" and a lot of guys who are known by their initials.
          Yippee. 
          While on the subject of names, let me turn my attention to another pet peeve of mine. Why do teams put the player's names on the backs of their jerseys? After all, the players already have a way of being identified while on the field. Each player where's a jersey with his own number on it. If you already have a number, why do you need the name? Isn't that what they sell scorecards for?
          Now, on the day when Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson and all of the players wore jerseys with number 42 on them, the one day when names on those jerseys would have been necessary, none of them had them.
          Typical.


Relevant Question Of The Month: What is your opinion of the modern trend of team's selling the naming rights to their ballparks to corporate sponsors? J. E., Coral Springs, FL
          I honestly don't really care. If a ballpark is named after a corporation or a product or a person, that's fine with me. If a team wants to play in Telephone Service Provider Stadium, no problem. If another team plays at Garbage Hauling Company Field, that's okay, too.
         But, here's where I draw the line. Once a ballpark is named, for me, that's it. That's what I'm calling it.
         If they decide to get a new sponsor, that's tough. I'm still calling it by the first name that they presented to me.
         Landshark Stadium will always be Joe Robbie Stadium to me. The White Sox still play at Comiskey Park, as far as I'm concerned. Frankly, I'm not sure why the public do the same. After all, no one is paying us to call these parks by their corporate names.

March 2009-Maybe It's Just Me: This year, during spring training, in case you hadn't already noticed, we are treated to another version of the World Baseball Classic. While the idea of an international tournament is a good one, this format fall short of the mark. 
          Perhaps if the tournament was held at the end of the season, rather than before the beginning, and maybe if the biggest news of the event was something other than which players would not be attending, I could get on board.
          Of course, I think it takes an awful lot of nerve to call something a "classic" before it has ever been contested, as they did in 2006. 
          Maybe it's just me, but has it ever occurred to you too, that the most desirable (and expensive) seats are the ones behind home plate and the cheapest (and least desirable) seats are the ones in center field, and yet every baseball broadcast is seen from a camera stationed in center field. Wouldn't a camera angle from behind the catcher represent the best view? 
          Another improvement in baseball broadcasting I would like to see is actually one I would like to hear. Let me explain: baseball announcing has gotten incredibly poor at almost every level. The reason for this, I believe, is that almost all announcers are calling the game while trying to craft a style or to utter a memorable quote. As a result, minor occurrences are treated to high volume exclamations. 
          The attempt to create drama and excitement where precious little exists makes a worthy event seem a little less important.
          Along similar lines, this is why I am defiantly against the wild card. The desire to create a playoff chase, where none might otherwise exist, has robbed Major League Baseball of ever having another meaningful and truly compelling pennant race again.
          Speaking of sportscasters, have you ever noticed how everything seems to happen for them at the end of the day? If you listen to enough sportscasts, you would begin to think that nothing occurs except at sundown. 
          The incredible overuse of the almost meaningless phrase, "at the end of the day", has so pervaded the language, it is nearly impossible for someone to attempt to make a point without noting the time of sunset.
          While we are at it, and even though it has nothing to do with baseball, I am equally bored with and completely tired of Lebron James' bizarre talcum powder ritual and its coverage by sportscasters as though it was in any way interesting or an enhancement to the game.
          Of course, the NBA is touting James as one of its greatest ever players, much the same way Major League Baseball was promoting Alex Rodriguez as, perhaps, the greatest player of all time. Naturally (how ironic a choice of words is that?), Rodriguez, thanks to his recent steroid admission and his clumsy attempt to explain himself, will probably no longer be compared to the game's all time best, but should he ever have been?
          Look, I'm not trying to claim that Rodriguez is not one of the most physically talented players in history, or that he has not had a remarkable statistical career thus far, but come on, how can you be compared to guys like Ruth and Williams when you are 104th in career on base percentage. 
          Now I'm not trying to say a .389 on base percentage is poor, but if you are more than 30 players behind John Kruk on this list, it's hard to imagine, particularly in an era of inflated offense, that you are the best player ever.
          Similarly, Barry Bonds, at least until he is found guilty of something, is sometimes a claimant to the title of best ever. But Bonds has a career batting average of .298. That's only good for 229th place, all time. Let me clue you in on something, if Dante Bichette has a higher career batting average than you, then you are not the greatest player of all time.


Relevant Question Of The Month: I know this really isn't a baseball question, but I was wondering if you can explain the necessity for the government's economic bailouts of certain industries? B. Y., Raleigh, N.C.
          I, and I suspect our elected officials, have no way of knowing if any of the economic bailouts will have a positive, negative, or any effect on you or me. I simply do not have enough information, nor do I possess a deep enough understanding of economics to form an opinion.
         But, one thing I do know, regardless of whether of the government's actions have any benefits for you and me, some people will be getting rich as a result of this. I do not know who these people might be, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to be either of us.

October, 2008-Requiem For Dave Gardner: For those of you who didn't already know, long time fan favorite, Dave Gardner passed away on October 22 after a 14 month battle with cancer. 
          Anyone who knew Dave Gardner must have been aware of his passion for baseball. It was due to this passion that I received the pleasure of meeting Dave, when he joined the Margate Sentries in 2002.
          Almost immediately after joining the league, Dave made an impression as one of the game's true gentlemen. Despite being an intense competitor, Dave always exemplified the true spirit of sportsmanship. As a result, in 2003, Dave was voted the winner of the league's Sportsmanship Award. 
          To honor Dave's long record of service to the league and his shining example of courage, the award that Dave won back in 2003 will henceforth be called the "Dave Gardner Memorial Trophy." 
          As Dave's health declined over the past few months, he always remained resolute and cheerful on his trips to the ballpark to watch his son, Josh, play. Dave never wallowed in self pity or viewed himself as a victim as so many people are all too willing to do these days.
          Whether he was aware of it or not, he was an inspiration to many of us who knew him.
          Please understand, although he died from the effects of cancer, cancer never defeated Dave Gardner. Cancer withered his body, and cancer ended his life, but cancer never caused Dave to give up his faith or his dignity. The best cancer could do was, maybe, battle Dave to a draw.
          I have always believed that life is merely a collection of memories. After a moment passes, it is gone forever, unless it lives on in someone's memory. Please take solace in the fact that Dave will endure in the memories of all those who knew him.


Relevant Question Of The Month: Is the league planning on any tribute to Dave Gardner?- A. S., North Lauderdale, FL
          In addition to renaming the league's Sportsmanship Award in his honor, the Sentries will retire Dave's number 45.
         This represents the first retired number in league history.

August, 2008-Anecdotal (Not To Be Confused With Octavio Dotel): The Major League trading deadline passed with a couple of blockbuster trades. None as surprising as the Red Sox, essentially, paying the Dodgers to take Manny Ramirez off their hands. By now you've probably noticed that Ramirez has chosen to wear the jersey number 99, but that's only because his first choice, 24, is retired and his second choice, the Chinese symbol for lotus root, was unavailable. 
          The Red Sox without Manny are kind of like the Supremes after Diana Ross left. Sure, they'll still have a few hits, but hardly any that anyone is apt to remember.
          You probably saw the film of the, so called, brawl in the WNBA recently. I had to laugh when I heard one reporter comment that they were shocked to see such ugliness in the league. Obviously, the commentator has never looked at the pictures in the WNBA's media kit.
          I guess you can say when the Phillies play the Mets that neither team plays it by the book, but that both teams are managed by the Manuel. 
          People keep asking me where I think the Tamp Bay Rays will finish this season. Well, I checked the schedule and the answer is, "in Detroit".
         I'm constantly getting e-mails from readers trying to convince me that I am wrong and that the wild card is actually a good idea. I always respond by asking them if the idea of the season and the post season is determine which is the best team or, merely, to fool a lot of people into thinking their team is the best so that they can be sold a few extra tickets?
         If you ask Bud Selig and his cronies, the answer is evidently the second one.
         Every time I hear ESPN promoting the X Games, I reflexively think that they've been canceled. Wishful thinking, I guess.
         Finally (for now), can someone please invent batting gloves that do not require readjustment after every pitch?


Relevant Question Of The Month: What do you think baseball should do about Maple Bats in view of the potential risk of injury?- E. M., Brandon, FL
          The last time I answered a question, I mentioned that Major League Baseball has shown a marked propensity for knee jerk reactions. This subject is another clear example.
         Let me be clear: I think that baseball needs to take some action to protect the players, coaches, and fans. But I think banning maple, or other types of wood that may shatter, is unnecessary.
         To ban a type of wood without investigating what causes it to shatter is irresponsible at best.
        Tacking the question from another angle leads me question whether baseball will consider banning the ball. After all, many more people, both on the field and off, are injured by the ball than they are by flying, shattered, bats at baseball games. 
        The only on field fatality in Major League history was caused by a pitched ball. So, what are we to do, ban pitching?
       Personally, I think that limiting how thin a handle can be shaved will do a lot to alleviating the problem.

June, 2008-Talkin' Baseball, Sort Of: Now that summer is upon us and baseball season is in full swing, ESPN can now reduce its coverage of the NFL and the NBA to a mere 65% of their programming day. 
          On the fleeting occasions during baseball season when baseball is actually the topic of the discussion, it has become an all too familiar theme that baseball announcers and analysts feel that need to speak in overused and mostly meaningless clichés.
          It is almost impossible to to listen to a baseball analyst, or pretty much an sports analyst for that matter, for any length of time without hearing them utter the phrase "at the end of the day" at least once. Many announcers have apparently decided to use this largely pointless statement as often as they can. In every sentence, if possible. 
          It's not that term itself is particularly offensive, but it has become such a stock in trade verbal device in sports that it is, by now, devoid of any descriptive value. It would, however, make a phenomenal drinking game if you are into that sort of thing. You know, every time you hear the phrase, you take a drink. I am willing to bet that if you played this game, you would be drunk within 15 minutes of just about any sports talk show. 
         Another largely fairly vapid phrase gaining in popularity is "it is what it is". Well, no kidding.
         I mean, what else could it be, other than what it is. You know?
         The problem with this bit of wisdom is that people, particularly sports announcers, attempt to try to make saying "it is what it is" as some profound denouement.
         Saying "it is what it is" would be great, if the object of speaking was to merely point out the absurdly obvious.
         Another cloying trend that has become de rigueur with the empty suit crowd is for announcers that were never players to talk as though they were. Am I the only one who finds it irritating when announcers call David Ortiz "Big Papi" as though they are teammates? Or when they use terms like, "going yard" or "oppo" as though they were in the dugout instead of the announcer's booth? It strikes me as a fairly transparent attempt for some announcers to try and sound more legitimate. And, to me at least, it doesn't work.
         I'm sure I've written this before, but, why can't a home run just be called a home run occasionally?
         I guess it's okay if the former player in the booth talks like a former player, but the guy who stopped playing before he turned double digits just sounds ridiculous, in my opinion, when he tries to do it.
         Generations of baseball announcers had their own ways of describing the game. Some were overly descriptive and used slang and some just called the game in plain terms. The difference was, in the old days, announcers developed their own style. They valued their individuality and originality.
         Nowadays, it seems, that most announcers are conscious of trying to sound just like every other announcer. 
         This would be bad enough, but unfortunately, the announcer that they are all trying to sound like stinks.


Relevant Question Of The Month: What do you think of MLB's decision to institute instant replay?- R. K., Fort Lauderdale, FL
          It is an unfortunate circumstance that seems to compel Major League Baseball to want, so desperately, to emulate the NFL that brings us to this latest lame, knee jerk reaction.
         Instant replay in baseball is largely unnecessary, and I'll show you why.
         It has been established, I think that we can all agree, that the plays that will be subject to review will be limited. It is almost a certainty that ball and strikes and safes and outs will not be reviewed.
        This means that fair/foul plays and balls that may or may not be home runs are the only calls that will be judged by replay.
        The problem with using replay on fair/foul plays is that a replay can only determine that a ball originally called fair is foul. It cannot make a ball called foul become fair.
        If an umpire calls a ball foul, all of the action stops. If replay shows that the ball was, in fact, fair, what would the remedy be? Of course, you can't expect everyone to start running at the point.
       So, if you can't reverse the call one way, it seems logical that you shouldn't try to make the call the other way. So that leaves home runs.
       And this is precisely why replay is unnecessary. All baseball has to do to eliminate any need for replay is to simply pass this rule: if a fair ball leaves the playing field on the fly, it is a home run. If a fair ball does not fully leave the playing field or bounces off something and remains in play, it shall be in play.
       Instead of creating artificial home run barriers in ballparks as has become the custom, baseball should return to its original concept that a fair ball is an automatic home run only if it completely leaves the playing field. Then, they should put up some kind of fence or screen that eliminates the possibility of fans reaching over and touching balls that otherwise would remain in play.
      The answer is so simple and logical that it will obviously never be implemented.

March, 2008-Clemency For Bonds, A Bond Hearing For Clemens?:  Despite dire predictions to the contrary, it appears that Barry Bonds will not be unfairly convicted of perjury based on his skin color and that Roger Clemens may not avoid criminal prosecution based on his alleged political connections.
          The sordid details of these two cases have already begun to bore most true baseball fans, but the issue of whether these two icons are being treated fairly or unfairly leads the conversation into an entirely different direction from my perspective.
          It has become an everyday fact of life in America for people to accuse every institution, from the courts to Congress to Major League Baseball, and most anything else one can think of, of being unfair. This becomes particularly true in almost every instance where someone emerges from a situation on the losing end.
          It's not that the other side was better, it has nothing to do with which participant was more prepared, it's that those who make decisions (judges, cops, umpires, etc.) are unfair. 
         Have you ever noticed that on television court shows, and it doesn't matter which one: People's Court, Judge Judy, Joe Brown, Judge Alex, and the rest, that when a claimant loses their case and they are interviewed afterwards, almost without exception, the first words out of their mouths convey how the verdict was unfair? This, even after the judge has painfully explained the clear and logical decisions for the ruling.
         This can only lead to one conclusion: we have turned into a nation of crybaby losers.
         I know that sounds harsh, and it is, but it doesn't make it any less true.
         My own belief is that in an effort to spare our children of learning to cope with the pain of losing, as became popular through the pyscho babble of the 1970's and 80's, we have taught them to relinquish all responsibility for the losses and to always try to blame others for their shortcomings.
         If you don't believe it, just listen to all the ridiculous nonsense that comes out of the mouths of baseball players, coaches, and fans at every level from the Major Leagues all the way down to Little League. 
         The concept of letting everyone feel like a winner, to avoid a negative self image, has made some (maybe most) people incapable of dealing with losing and feeling an entitlement to winning, regardless of the circumstances.
         So, I ask you, what is worse, a negative self image of a completely false self image?
         Here's your answer, a negative self image can be improved by actual accomplishment and facing responsibility. A false self image probably cannot be repaired.
         It would be nice to think that Bonds and Clemens might both realize that this applies equally to them as well. 
         It would be only fair.


Relevant Question Of The Month: Do you really believe Barry Bonds will walk on his perjury charge?- E. B., Hollywood, FL
          Well he is the all time leader in walks, so I guess he has got a pretty good shot.

January, 2008-You Say You Want A Resolution:  Last year around this time, I posted an article about how I don't make New Year's resolutions. At least, I think I did.
          If I didn't, I'm pretty sure that I meant to, although I may have forgotten.
          I was supposed to take a memory course, but I think I forgot about it. Then again, I may have taken the course and just can't remember it.
          Anyway, I meant to write the article and thought about it, and isn't that half of the battle? 
         Confused? Forget it. I obviously have.
         One thing I haven't forgotten about is how much sillier our speech patterns are getting. As if to personally denounce Darwin's theory of evolution, some people are resorting to speaking in such a way that belies the concept of society advancing.
         Here are some examples:
         That's what I'm talkin' about!- This is something people say when they want to take some credit for something they have absolutely nothing to do with.
         Have you ever noticed that when people exclaim, "that's what I'm talkin' about!" that they weren't just talking about the thing that caused them to exclaim? 
         This is only slightly more annoying than speaking with someone who asks, "do you know what I'm sayin'?"
         People who end almost every sentence with this question are, in my opinion, really curious as to whether you might happen to know what they are saying. I'm convinced that this is because they are unclear as to what they are saying. They are looking to us for help and clarity.
         Tell me about it- I love it when I make a simple observation and somebody says, "tell me about it", because I almost always take them up on the invitation.
         Here's an example: suppose I say, "man, it's really raining out there" and somebody says, "tell me about it." I feel compelled to respond, "well, you see, rain is a type of precipitation, a product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that is deposited on the earth's surface. It forms when separate drops of water fall to the Earth's surface from clouds. Not all rain reaches the surface; some evaporates while falling through dry air."
         Or something like that. 
         Perhaps nothing rises (or lowers) to the level of stupidity as much as the current trend in some sports with regard to trash talking. What, with it being the off season for much of the baseball world, I, like a lot of you, spent the past few weeks watching way too much football.
         Pro football, college football, playoff games, and bowl games.
         The one thing that I've noticed about football, as opposed to baseball, is the seemingly unending devotion players and coaches have to in game trash talking.
         I've never understood the value of any talking, much less trash talking, during a game. Based on what people are saying, I have started to draw the conclusion that people should say less whenever possible.
         One more thing before we go. Last year around this time, I was asked to give some predictions for 2007. As you can see here, I pretty much batted 1.000.
         In closing, I'll just say that I'm a firm believer in the old adage that the less said, the better. On that, I am resolute.


Relevant Question Of The Month: Hey, man, what I really, really wanna know is, what do you think of this whole Roger Clemens deal? Was he juicing or was he just taking care of business?- E. A. P., Memphis, TN
          I have no idea as to if Clemens used the performance enhancing drugs he was accused of using or if he is telling the truth. I doubt anyone will ever really know for sure. I am almost past the point of caring.
          My point here is that baseball fostered the culture of steroid abuse, I've been writing about this for almost 10 years, by turning a blind eye towards it and then reaped the benefits of the steroid era. Just as they are reaping the benefits of all of the publicity surrounding the hearings and reports and suspensions and accusations and denials.
          Do you think the power brokers in professional baseball are upset about all of this publicity occurring during the off season? They most certainly are not.
          Bad press is better than no press. Just look at the attendance figures for the past few seasons.
          Did Clemens, or anyone else that has never failed a drug test, cheat? I don't know: maybe, probably, possibly. Take your pick.
          It almost doesn't matter as the truth will never be fully revealed and there will be no resolution.
          And one more thing, happy birthday King.

September, 2007-Take A Proper Gander:  Believe it or not, Bud Selig was presented with an opportunity to become my favorite sports commissioner of all time, including yours truly. If you are stunned by this statement, imagine how I feel.
          Now, don't worry. Bud, as is his predilection, blew the chance to do the right thing and did what he does best, which is nothing.
          The situation that caused this anomaly occurred a few weeks ago when Phillies pitcher Brett Myers concluded a post game rant by calling a reporter a pejorative for the mentally handicapped.
          Now, had Myers chosen to call the reporter by a racial, ethnic, or religious slur, Selig, no doubt, would have expressed outrage and, likely, would have suspended Myers. At the very least, Myers would have been given a severe reprimand. But, because Myers chose to use the mentally handicapped as a means of insulting someone, nobody said a word.
        No one picketed the Phils' ballpark. No one held a press conference. Apparently, few cared. Unfortunately, the profoundly handicapped have to much else to deal with, trying to live with as much dignity as possible under extreme circumstances, to have an effective public relations strategy.
         To be fair and accurate, Myers, who has had plenty of other troubles, apologized the next day and said that he hoped that he hadn't offended anyone. But this really isn't about Myers. It is about the hypocrisy of our politically correct society.
         In our supposed sensitive society, we are programmed to express immediate shock and horror if someone offers an opinion that can, in any way, be twisted into a racial or religious insult, even if this is not the speaker's intention. It is this expected knee jerk reaction that is part of our culture's desire to show its evolution and its enlightenment.
         On the other hand, it is completely acceptable to use derogatory terms for the handicapped as synonyms for negative connotation or for comedic purposes. People, in every day life as well as in movies and on network television, use the "R" word with impunity.
         What does that say about our society? 
         It says that we are quick to be offended on behalf of others, unless, of course, those being offended are people who can't stick up for themselves.
         Worse yet, we are clearly stating that we, as a society, are only willing to pick on those who are incapable of fighting back.
         Now, let's be clear about this. I don't advocate racial, religious, or ethnic slurs either. And I'm not saying that people should be told what they can or cannot say. In fact, I think it's a good idea to let the bigots and jerks of the world reveal themselves through their words. But, I  just believe that if we are censoring ourselves and others we should at least be consistent and not cowardly about it. 
         
         Okay. End of sermon.

         We received an awful lot of positive feedback regarding the last column that concerned my wish list for baseball.
          Because getting pleasant and laudatory correspondence is such an unexpected and refreshing change, I thought that I would offer a few more items that escaped the last column.
          Now that the Boston Red Sox have begun the playoffs, you will undoubtedly hear announcers refer to something called "Red Sox Nation" again and again and again. And then a few more times.
          Let me clear something up about this moniker. Although virtually every team, pro or college, refers to its fans (or more accurately, the fans refer to themselves) as a nation, I believe the term originated with the St. Louis Cardinals half a century ago.
          The reason the Cardinals' fans were a nation was that the Cardinals had the most powerful radio station broadcasting their games.
          KMOX, emanating from downtown St. Louis, could be heard from the Eastern Seaboard all the way out to the Rocky Mountains. As a result, the Cardinals had fans scattered all over the country well before games were regularly broadcast on television.
          Now, it is true that the Red Sox, as well as some other teams, have legions of fans spread across the country, but the reason for this is that many people have moved away from New England (and New York and Chicago, etc.). I cannot imagine that a nickname that celebrates the fact that people have flocked away from your home territory is a good name to promote.
         Sometime during the baseball playoffs and World Series it is possible that one team will hit three consecutive home runs. If this occurs, you can be sure that an annoying announcer will refer to this as "going back to back to back."
         Well, I hate to be the one to tell you that back to back to back is a physical impossibility. Don't believe me? Get three friends and try to line them up that way. Unless one of them has two backs, it cannot be done.
         You should also be advised that heighth is not a word despite some baseball announcers using it. The correct word is height.
         I would also appreciate it if announcers would stop lumping playoff and World Series records into a common pile. If Yogi Berra's Yankees would have to go through extra playoff rounds, like Derek Jeter's Yankees must, Berra would have set post season records that would never be approached. It is just flat out inaccurate to suggest that playoff achievements are the same as World Series accomplishments.
         Finally, I would be greatly pleased if baseball could find a way to not have the World Series leak into November. I dread the day that the series is decided by an outfielder losing a ball in the snow.


Relevant Question Of The Month: In the past, you have railed against the current playoff system in Major League Baseball, but even you would have to admit that this season has vindicated the system, wouldn't you?- N.C., Brick, N.J.
          The short answer here is no.
          The longer answer is, that although the playoff chase in the National League may be compelling or exciting, it is certainly not good baseball.
          You have a bunch a mediocre teams limping toward the playoffs, being chased by a couple of mediocre teams that got hot at the end of the season. What you don't have is a clear picture of who is the best team in the league. And isn't that what a championship is supposed to determine?
          The baseball season is six months and a 162 games (per team) long. The team or teams that were the best over this long haul are subject to elimination, in a short series, by a team that was clearly inferior for half of a calendar year.
          So, I ask you, what is the point of crowing a champion? To determine which is the best team? Or merely who won at the end of the season?
          If you conclude, as logic dictates, that the purpose of awarding a championship is to reward the best overall team, then you are forced to admit the current Major League Baseball playoff system is not efficiently equipped to do so.

August, 2007- Wishing And Hoping: It's the middle of summer, so Christmas is months away. Additionally, my birthday has long since passed. Despite these facts of the calendar, I find myself wishing for things.
One of the first things that I wish for is that, as Henry Aaron is passed on the list of all time Major League home run hitters, that people refrain from disparaging the memory of the man that Aaron passed.
Oh, I know that most astute baseball fans recognize Babe Ruth as one of, if not the, greatest player of all time, but the picture of Ruth is often portrayed inaccurately. Contrary to popular belief, Ruth was not a big fat guy who only hit home runs. Granted, at the end of his career, from which, unfortunately, most of the film of him exists, Ruth's weight did get away from him, but for most of his career, Ruth was a very athletic player. There is significant evidence that Ruth had better than average speed into his thirties.
Virtually everyone who knows anything about the subject concedes that had he remained a pitcher for his entire career, he would have, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances, been a Hall of Fame pitcher. I just wish that the picture of Ruth that dwells in the minds of baseball fans were more in line with the player he actually was.
Further I wish that revisionists would stop making alibis for the bad behavior of modern day players by dragging Ruth's name through the mud. Far too often, when a current or recent player is admonished for some transgression, someone is always too quick to offer that Ruth was a womanizer, a drunk, or something worse. This is as unfortunate as it is demonstratively false.
Ruth may not have been a perfect person, or even a perfect player, but according to those who saw him and knew him, he was pretty good in both departments.

While, I'm at it, I'd like to add that I wish that in the new Yankee Stadium, the deep left center field gap known as Death Valley, would be restored to a more historical distance. Indications are that the dimensions of the new stadium will be the same as in the current configuration of the old ballpark. That's a shame. Left center field at 399 feet is more like Injury Valley. If you want to call it Death Valley, I think you got to push the wall back, at least, 30 feet.

Here are some other things on my wish list (in no particular order):
I wish that batters would stop feeling the need to adjust their batting glove straps after every pitch. This pointless waste of time galls the heck out of me.
I wish that people (fans and players) would learn that a batter does not get an RBI when a runner scores on a wild pitch or passed ball.
I'd love announcers to stop using the word "unbelievable" every time they see an exciting play. Look, if a baseball player hits a home run or makes a great catch, regardless of the situation, it may be wonderful, it may be terrific, but it's probably not beyond belief. Now, if a baseball player kicks a game winning field goal in the World Series, that would be unbelievable.
It would be nice if fans would not yell "balk!" every time a pitcher makes a pick off throw. Most fans who engage in this behavior could probably not identify a real balk if one happened.
I wish players, managers, and coaches, would stop asking for an appeal from an umpire when what they really want is a reversal of a call that they disagree with. Asking an umpire that is over 100 feet away from the play to overrule an umpire that is three feet away from the play is as idiotic as it sounds.
I would be greatly pleased if the sports media would stop using the term "small market to identify teams that have ownerships that are poorly financed or that do not like to spend money. How can San Francisco be a large market and Oakland be a small market when they are part of the same metropolitan area and share much, if not all, of the same media market?
I wish that Major League teams would stop posting radar gun readings of every pitch on the scoreboard and on TV. If a pitcher throws a fastball and a good hitter swings and misses, do you know how fast it was? Fast enough.
Further, these readings are normally grossly inaccurate, It's probably no secret that the speeds are inflated, but, even more ridiculous is how often pitches are misidentified. I've seen pitchers being credited with having curve balls that, according to the radar gun, are faster than their fast balls.
I wish that people would stop saying that a batter hit by pitch is not entitled to first base because, "he has to get out of the way." A batter has an obligation to attempt to avoid a pitched ball. This really means that a batter cannot get hit by a pitch intentionally. If a batter truly could not be awarded first base unless, as they say, he got out of the way, than no player would ever reach base by being hit, because, if you get out of the way, you're not getting hit.
I'd be very happy if stations and networks broadcasting baseball could do away with those annoying sound effects that accompany every reply. When we are being shown a replay and that play is being described by an announcer, I think most of us realize that it is not the same exact play happening twice. We don't need a sound effect to tip us off. Replay has been around for 45 years, we get it.
Finally, wouldn't it be nice if baseball had a real commissioner with real authority over the game? It would be a major improvement if, somehow, baseball could once again have a central authority figure rather than a figurehead that only represents the interests of ownership.
I know it's a pipedream, but, probably, so are all my other wishes.


Relevant Question Of The Month: What do you think of the Yankees building a new stadium one block to the north of the current Yankee Stadium?- P.F., Clearwater, FL
          Obviously, as a traditionalist, I don't really like it. It is almost inconceivable to me that, within two years, the Yankees will be playing on ground that is not where Babe Ruth homered, Lou Gehrig made his "luckiest man" speech, DiMaggio played flawlessly, Mantle hit tape measure bombs, and the Pinstripers made baseball history.
          As an optimist, I remain ever hopeful that, in a few years, the new park will become obsolete and the Yankees will return one block to the south where they belong.

May, 2007- Riding The Opine:  Let us begin with a premise on which most people will agree: everyone is entitled to express their opinion.
I firmly believe that this premise is true and, for good measure, it is guaranteed, by implication anyway, in the Constitution.
          The problem is that far too many people use the right to express their opinion to try and offset facts which contradict their argument. At that point, the right to express an opinion turns into the right to express an opinion even if it makes you look stupid.
          The reason that I bring this up is, like a lot of internet sports columns, my articles generate a lot of mail. With this mail come many different opinions. Most of them are anonymous opinions.
          No column of mine has ever spawned as much commentary as the recent Pete Rose column (see below).
          Without rehashing the thing, let us just say that there were a great many people who expressed opinions that made them look stupid. Not for disagreeing with me, mind you, but for reducing their opinions to a series of insults or gross inaccuracies.
          I won’t even comment on their spelling and grammar.
         Okay, yes I will.
         The general state of spelling and grammar on the internet is atrocious. I can make peace with that, but few things are as stupid as the accepted insistence on adding as many o’s as possible to the word so, as in sooooo. (By the way, this is correctly pronounced as "sue".) Adding extra letters does not connote greater importance, especially in such a non essential word. (I realize that I’ve lost half of you. That’s good; I’m not talking to you, anyway.) Years from now, people will realize what a ridiculous practice that this is, like leisure suits, pet rocks, mood rings, and reality shows.
         Virtually every jackass with an opinion rattling around in his head feels the need to write and tell someone about it before it dies of loneliness. Now, I’m not referring to well thought out reasoned replies, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the author. No, I’m referring to the ones that usually have the words “moron” or “idiot” in the title. I’m referring to the people who think they’ve won an argument by typing “Yankees Suck” (or the equivalent) in capital and bold letters.
         I am constantly receiving correspondence from people who disagree with my column and think they’ve outsmarted me by calling me names or telling me to “get a life”.
         I’d like to thank each and every one of them. It is such a pleasure to be able to laugh so much while at work.

        All that being said, I’d like to express a few opinions as they relate to baseball.

         1) I still think the wild card is an abomination. Baseball was meant to have pennant races.
         2) Divisions in Major League Baseball should have no fewer than six teams. If this means that baseball should realign and that the wild card is eliminated, so much the better.
         3) Interleague play, which only further dilutes the schedule and does very little to help the smaller market teams, ought to be abolished.
         4) Pink Yankee and Red Sox hats look almost as silly as the people who buy and wear them.
         5) Luxury suites, in all stadia built in the future, should be in the outfield or above the upper deck. This opinion is offered on the premise that people in luxury suites aren’t really there to watch the game anyway, so why put them in the areas with the best sight lines?
         6) Umpires should wear blue.
             Not black. Not gray, or red, or white. Blue.
         7) Batters who are hit with pitches while wearing elbow (or any other kind of) armor and still charge the mound should receive double the punishment.

         Any day now, Barry Bonds is going to surpass Henry Aaron’s all time home run mark of 755 and become the most prolific home run hitter in Major League Baseball history. When this occurs, there are a lot of people who are going to be unhappy about it. The toxic combination of Barry’s abrasive, and sometimes condescending, personality mixed with the foul odor of the widely held belief that Bonds began using steroids around the time that he started shattering records has made Bonds a less than popular choice to be baseball’s next home run king.
         For most anti-Bonds people, this is not a racial issue. Had it been Ken Griffey, Jr. breaking Aaron’s record, a vast majority of those who detest Bonds would be perfectly comfortable and even ecstatic at the prospect of the impending new record. Certainly Hank Aaron’s cold shoulder toward Bonds suggests that antipathy toward the Giants’ slugger is not a racially motivated issue in many cases. On the other hand, there will always be some people who value skin color more than anything else (Oddly, a lot of those people spend a lot of time and money trying to get a tan. Go figure.)
        The point is that a resounding majority of people don’t like Barry Bonds simply because he is Barry Bonds.
        Now, I’m not going to indulge the debate of whether or not Bonds is a worthy Hall of Famer, other than to say this: the people who claim that Bonds was having a Hall of Fame career before he started using illegal substances (if ever proven) are missing the point. Shoeless Joe Jackson was having a Hall of Fame career, too, before he was involved in the throwing of the 1919 World Series.
       While Bonds will surely be voted into the Hall of Fame, regardless of whether the steroid allegations prove true or false, a lot of people will probably always look upon Bonds’ post-1998 accomplishments as tainted.
       This may end up being unfair, but, I’m told, people are entitled to their opinions.


Relevant Question Of The Month: Is Sammy Sosa, should he hit more than 600 career home runs, a Hall Of Fame caliber player?- G.N., Evanston, IL
          If I were to have a vote, there would be a bunch of players who I would be more inclined to vote for before I would even consider Sosa. While only four other players have ever hit more than 600 career home runs, you must understand, the home run does not mean what it once did. For me, it's not a question of whether Sosa is good enough (it's debatable anyway), but, rather, which deserving players are still not in.

March, 2007-Contrition By Subtraction: I'm sorry for not writing sooner. Really, I'm sorry. I apologize. I realize I was wrong and I sincerely wish to make amends.
          Pete Rose, are you taking notice?
          When you use poor judgment or make a mistake and you wish to be forgiven, it is usually best to apologize first. Pete Rose apparently believes it is only a good idea to admit your misdeeds after getting caught and then, instead of apologizing, to suggest that everyone overlook his trespasses in the name of "moving on". 
          To review: In 1989 Pete Rose, baseball's all time hit leader, signed an agreement with then commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti which resulted in Rose's banishment from baseball on the premise that he violated baseball's gambling policy while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. 
          Even though virtually every baseball fan knows that gambling on baseball while being an employee of that industry is a severe breach of one's contract and that the normal penalty for such an action is a lifetime ban, Rose's fans, and many fans in general, favored Rose's reinstatement.
          As far back as 1989, I supported Rose's ban. My logic was always pretty simple. I felt that, if he hadn't bet on baseball, Rose would have never signed the agreement with Giamatti.
          For 15 years Rose denied ever betting on baseball. For 15 years I argued with many other baseball fans about Rose's guilt and the appropriate punishment. Finally, in a book he published in 2004, Rose admitted to betting on baseball while managing the Reds. However, instead of apologizing for A) betting on baseball, and B) flat out lying about to just about everyone for 15 years, Rose basically told the baseball world to get over it.
          Now, almost every time he speaks, Rose implores the present commissioner (if you can call him that) Bud Selig to reinstate him. But Rose is really talking to you and me. The fans.
          This irritates me and it should irritate you. First, for being lied to. Second, for being lumped together with Bud Selig.
          Unfortunately, too many fans are still arguing on Rose's behalf. Usually, their arguments center on the fact that he bet on baseball while he was managing as opposed to when he was playing. As if that, somehow, mitigates the offense.
          Look, here's the bottom line: Rose bet on baseball. He then lied about it for 15 years. He is unrepentant about betting and equally unrepentant about lying. As great of player as Rose was, he deserves to be outside of baseball. And that includes the Hall of Fame. Which is really all that Pete cares about now, anyway. 
          Anytime you hear him talk about how good for baseball it would be to reinstate him, you can be sure that all Pete really means is, "I want to be inducted into the Hall of Fame."
          While he definitely earned his spot in the Hall of Fame with his tremendous playing career, he also earned the banishment that keeps him from getting his plaque.
          While we are on the subject of the Hall of Fame, a small controversy is taking shape on the worthiness of Mark McGwire as a Hall of Fame candidate. A lot of sportswriters seemed to feel that the suspicion regarding McGwire's possible steroid use and his refusal to deny using steroids, particularly in his very regrettable congressional hearing appearance, would be justification for keeping McGwire from getting a plaque in the Hall.
          This may surprise a lot of people, but I'm not completely convinced that he deserves to be a Hall of Famer regardless of the steroid issue. 
          I can hear the screams of protest and indignation, but follow my logic.
          McGwire's main claim to fame is his 70 home run season and his 583 career home runs. Taken at face value, these are impressive credentials, but put in context, they are far less convincing. 
          McGwire hit a lot of home runs in an era when almost everyone hit a lot of home runs. Granted he hit a few more than anyone and he may have hit the farther, but still, hitting 70 is not nearly as meaningful as it seems when Sammy Sosa is hitting 66 and several other guys are hitting more than 50. Which may be why McGwire never won an MVP award.
          The 70 home runs stood as a record for only three seasons before Barry Bonds hit 73. Roger Maris, who won two MVP awards and played on seven pennant winning teams in a 12 season career, held the home run record for 37 years. Placed in its proper context, Maris' record, and career, would seem to be the more noteworthy, but hardly anyone bangs the drum for Maris to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
          Some people dismiss Maris as a .260 hitter, which he was, but McGwire only hit .263 for his career, and did so in an era of inflated batting averages. Maris played his entire career in an era of suppressed batting averages, meaning that his .260 was more valuable than McGwire's .263.
          Now, I'm not saying that Maris is a definite Hall of Famer, all I'm saying is that if McGwire gets in, Maris' plaque ought to be already hanging there.
Relevant Question Of The Month: Should Pete Rose ever be allowed in the Hall of Fame?- P.P., Oakland Park, FL
          I suppose if he buys a ticket at the ticket booth and presents it at the door, they should let him in, but as far as awarding him a plaque and conferring upon him the title of "Hall of Famer", I think he should get in line behind "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and continue to serve as warning to other that believe the rules apply to everyone but them.

T.Z. from Coral Springs writes: There should not be a HOF without the name of Pete Rose in it; whatever Pete did in regards to betting on Baseball, he did it as manager.
         His accomplishments in the field were done as a player and nobody can take that away from him; the fact that he bet on Baseball doesn’t necessarily makes him the only one who has done this, but the only one that got caught doing it.
          Other players have done things worse than betting on Baseball and have gotten many opportunities (Darryl Strawberry, Steve Howe among others) what message do we send our kids by doing this? Is it Ok to do drugs, but it is wrong to bet on your own team?
          Let the people judge him and decide whether or not he deserves to be in the HOF; I still remember the ovation that he receives when the team of the century was introduced a few years ago in an All Star game.

Big Kahuna Replies: I appreciate your response, but I think you may have totally missed the point here.
          First off all, you brought up the fact the Rose's admitted betting on baseball occurred during his managerial tenure and not during his playing career. Despite the fact that I covered this in the article, you seem to think that this caveat excuses the offense. It does not. Rose gambled on baseball while in the employ of the organization. Period. If he chose to  violate the rule, it matters not that he did so after his playing career.
          Second, you note that he should be forgiven or enshrined because he may not be the only person in baseball whoever bet on the game. In the words of my friend, the Geico Caveman, "uh...what?!"
          You may not realize this, but you are defending Rose's obviously inappropriate actions by suggesting that other people have committed the same offense. That's like saying that someone who murders several people shouldn't be punished on the grounds that they didn't invent murder.
          You then finish off the paragraph by stating that Rose was somehow victimized not for what he did, but merely for being caught. Come on, upon reflection, that has to sound silly to you, too.

          Your third point references Major League Baseball's terrible record with regard to drug abuse by its players. On this point you are correct. Major League Baseball does, indeed, have a very poor record on dealing with this issue, but I might point out two things: 1)It is a completely separate issue and 2)I don't see Steve Howe or Darryl Strawberry getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, either.
          More than that, while drug offenses are serious, insider gambling is still a much greater threat to baseball's existence. If drugs permeate the game, the game suffers. If gambling permeates the game, no one can ever be sure the game is being played on the level.
          Your final point recommends that Rose should be judged by the fans, preferably the same ones that gave him a standing ovation at the All Star Game in 1999 when he was named to the All Century team. One basic flaw in your theory is that in 1999 Rose was still lying to your face about having bet on baseball and most of the fans still believed him. Five years later, Rose admitted he had been lying all along. He might not get the same reaction today.
          Moreover, some of Rose's former teammates, including Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, have spoken out against reinstating Rose. That, my friend, speaks much louder to me than any ovation.
          In summary, let me restate that Rose was a great player, his accomplishments on the field were legendary, but his transgressions far overshadow his on field greatness. Someday, hopefully, Rose, and his most ardent fans will understand that any other conclusion would be a disgrace.

         

January, 2007-That Was The Year That Was, Or Was It?: The new year always brings with it a few things. A bunch of checks mistakenly dated with the previous year, an immense collection of unfulfilled resolutions, and a plethora of recaps of the year gone by.
          This column is no exception. I will not only look back at 2006, I will resolve not to write any checks with last year written on the date line.
          Before taking a backward glance at 2006, I'd like to comment on another year end phenomena. To wit, the following two clichés: 
          1) "I can't believe it's...(fill in the number of the coming new year)". 
          Why is it so hard to believe that it is now 2007? Wasn't last year 2006? Don't they always seem to go in ascending numerical order?
          Despite the fact that the answers to the preceding three questions are all "yes", who will hear, or have already heard, someone express their disbelief that this is 2007 enough times to make you start questioning it yourself.
          2) "I can't believe that...(fill in the name of year just past)".
          Again, why is it so difficult to comprehend that 2006 is over? Didn't it contain 12 months? We didn't skip any, did we? The fact that people say this during the last week of December, you know, when every year ends, and they say it every year, year after year, never ceases to amaze me.
          Since it is 2007 and 2006 is, in fact, really over, and, more importantly, I couldn't think of anything else to write about. Let's look back at last year.
          The year began with our continuing effort to recover from Hurricane Wilma. As devastating as the storm was to so many people, the fact the we have recovered so sufficiently and did so reasonably quickly, despite dire predictions to the contrary, it seems so far in our past. Life got back to normal for a large majority of people much quicker than anticipated.
          Baseball here in South Florida recovered a lot slower due to widespread damage to all of the league's facilities. The result was the league's first post season playoff tournament instead of the normal playoffs.
          The Parkland Braves won in the Original Division and the Margate Sentries won in the Expansion Division.
          The Braves added another title in the 2006 Spring/Summer season, their fourth in a row and 12th overall, before shocking the baseball world by abandoning the team's identity and renaming themselves the KWB Mets.
          On the other hand, the Sentries were unable to continue their reign over the Expansion Division as they lost the 2006 Spring/Summer Expansion Series to the Lighthouse Point Beacons, three games to one. The series was marred by some of the fiercest bench jockeying in league history.
          The Sentries finished the year with a new manager as Steve Caplan resigned his post on November 28. Phil Laufman was named as Caplan's replacement. 
          Several other clubs changed managers in 2006.
          The Tile Market Cubs replaced Dave Boczkus with Felix Sanchez. The Sunrise Sunsets named Carlos Rodriguez as a successor to Dave Lopez. The Tritons elevated Mike Whittaker into a co-managerial position with David Bourns. But the biggest managerial change occurred when Randy Kierce left the Playball Academy after 20 seasons and two league championships. Craig Stoves took over the Cadets in Kierce's place. 
          As shocking as Kierce's retirement was, the biggest news story of 2006 may have been the dissolving of the DAS Enterprises Black Diamonds.
          The Dark Gems, also known as, the Compressed Lumps of Coal, the Rocks Devoid of Light, and the Shmuelimen ceased operations after the 2006 Spring/Summer season. In 24 seasons, the Diamonds won three championships.
          The year ended on something of a happy note as the Baltimore Orioles managed to secure public financing for a remodeled Fort Lauderdale Stadium. The upgraded stadium, and surrounding complex, will serve as the Orioles spring training home, as well, as the Federal League's South Florida base of operations.
          City officials, who had originally agreed to their part of the deal, backed out at the last minute in a late December vote, but the city commission was coaxed into a special meeting and, upon a revote, changed their minds again and approved the deal.
          Work on the new facility should begin after the Orioles' 2007 spring training is completed in April. The new complex will open in 2008.
          Wow, 2008. By then, some of you will have a hard time believing 2007 is over.
          Relevant Question Of The Month: What do you think 2007 will hold for major league baseball?- A.M., Phoenix, AZ
          Big contracts for guys you've almost never heard of, home runs, strikeouts, lots of commercials between innings of televised games, some controversy involving Barry Bonds, way too many pitching changes in almost every game, news stories about steroids, at least one ridiculous comment by Bud Selig, increased ticket prices, and more talk about a new stadium of a possible relocation for the Florida Marlins that turns out to be all talk.
          I think that about covers it.

Send your question for the Big Kahuna to:
bigkahuna@federalleague.com

         

October 2006-Why Baseball Is Still Better Than Football: The opening of the World Series, not to mention Federal League's Fall/Winter season has set me to thinking.
          About 20 years ago, the noted writer, Thomas Boswell, presented a list of 99 reasons that baseball was better than football. It was a mostly light hearted article. It was, however, not materially wrong.
          For the past 30 or 35 years or so the public has been told, and convinced, that baseball is far slower paced than football and that football is the more exciting, and therefore better, game. This is nonsense, and I'll prove it. 
          Taking Major League Baseball and the NFL as the prime examples, there is far more activity in baseball. Activity also occurs more frequently in baseball. In football, plays are run every 40 to 45 seconds when the clock is running. In baseball a pitch is delivered, or a pickoff is attempted, usually, within 20 seconds. 
          The vast majority of football plays, line plunges, short passes with no run after catch yardage, incomplete short passes, and fair caught kicks, have less action than a pitching change. Those plays account for about 60% of the average NFL contest.
          100% of NFL plays, exciting or boring, are subject to replay review and cancellation due to penalty. Baseball plays stand forever.
          People like to talk about how football was a game made for television. This is particularly true if you are a network salesman. Baseball broadcasts have a lot of commercials, but NFL games are absolutely loaded with them. Check this out sometime: A team has the ball deep in opponent territory and calls timeout which leads to a commercial break. After the break, the team runs a play and happens to score, which leads to another commercial break. After the break, the team kicks off, the kick is not returned, and we are treated to another commercial break so that, in the middle of a game, the ball has been advance once and we have been subjected to approximately eight minutes of commercials.
          Even with frequent pitching changes, baseball has nothing to compare with that.
          So, with some apologies to Mr. Boswell, here is my list of reasons that baseball remains better than football.
          Celebrations- In baseball, we celebrate a game winning hit, a no hitter, a championship, you know, important stuff. In football, they celebrate everything. A touchdown (regardless of the score or its importance), a sack, a tackle, a holding penalty, a play overturned by replay, etc. I have seen fans give the kicker a standing ovation for driving the opening kickoff out of the endzone.
          Running Out The Clock- Unless the score is reasonably close and the trailing team has a bunch of timeouts, the last three minutes of a football game is almost always a farce. The winning team, if it has the ball, will, essentially, quit playing in an attempt to run out the clock. The quarterback will fall on the ball to keep the clock moving and then the offense will stand around as long as the officials will let them until they repeat the process. This is excitement?
          In baseball, the game is truly never over until it is. Theoretically, no matter how far behind a team is, they always have an opportunity for a comeback.
          Replay- Is there anything more paralyzingly dull in all of sports than waiting for football officials to rule on a replay? Several minutes pass by with absolutely nothing happening on the field while the officials watch the replay before deciding if the play stands or not. Ironically, the networks almost never cut to commercial during a replay break.
          Baseball doesn't have replays to decide plays and I hope it never does. Sure, occasionally a bad call, such as in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, might decide a championship, but even with replay, the officials are still subject to getting some calls wrong (see last season's Super Bowl).
          T.O.- This is self explanatory. Football has Terrell Owens, baseball doesn't. 
          Steroids- Baseball's policy on steroid use has been a joke, but, at least baseball gives lip service to eliminating performance enhancing drugs from the sport. In football, at least up until recently, steroids were practically a necessity.
          Ties- Baseball resolves ties in the most sensible way possible, by playing more baseball until a winner is achieved. Football resolves ties by playing a basically different game. Overtime football is so fundamentally different than regulation time football that, from a strategic point of view, the game is played in almost a completely unique way. In regulation, teams try to score touchdowns, but, on occasion, settle for field goals. In overtime, teams play for field position that will enable them to attempt a field goal and are almost totally disinterested in trying to score a touchdown. And don't get me started on college football overtime. 
          Frozen Tundra- Just a note here, because as the weather cools, you will begin hearing this term over and over. Tundra, by its very nature, is frozen. You can't have unfrozen tundra. Frozen Tundra is redundant.
          Baseball has a lot of things that need fixing. Anyone who has ever read this column before knows that I truly believe that, but, even in its current imperfect state, baseball remains far, far better than football.
          Relevant Question Of The Month: Why does the Super Bowl seem to be a bigger deal than the World Series when the Super Bowl is usually boring and the World Series usually isn't?- D.F., Saginaw, MI
          First off, I think, the Super Bowl gets more hype because as a one day event it lends itself to being hyped.
          Secondarily, I think Major League Baseball has missed an opportunity to showcase itself by playing its post season games almost entirely at night with, mostly late starts. Additionally, network coverage, with its added commercials, makes those late starting games become late ending games. This is totally unnecessary. Games should start earlier and the league and the network should get together on making them shorter.
         Having an occasional daytime World Series game would also help. It makes the game seem more like an event. Currently, World Series games, played in primetime, are made to seem like just another prime time program. In other words, it's no big deal.
         Lastly, a lot of people watch the Super Bowl even though they are not football fans. Basically, there is usually nothing else going on, particularly on Sunday, during that time of year. A lot of people use the Super Bowl as a convenient excuse to have a party during a dead time of year. Hopefully, the World Series will never be reduced to that.


Send your question for the Big Kahuna to: bigkahuna@federalleague.com


          July, 2006-Random Thoughts Of A Long, Hot Summer:
It is most regrettable, but it must be said. Style now rules over substance in our culture. It has become much more important to appear to be good than to actually be good. That's why a whole generation of young players seem to be far more concerned with the angle of their caps rather than how well they actually play the game. Pointless fads and trends, including, but not limited to, the pulling out of you back pockets, wearing odd colored socks, having your pants tucked into your shoes, having your pants draped over your shoes, have become popular recently. Good habits of fundamental play have taken a back seat.
          A long time ago, when most people in this country were farmers, nobody told you how good they were. Their actions told you. We even had a pretty cute saying about that. It went, "actions speak louder than words."
          Since becoming a more cosmopolitan society, it seems, that humility is a bygone trait. And since words are as, if not more, important than deeds, why not call attention to one's self as much as possible. Even if you're not particularly good. Which is how these fads get started and promulgate. People, when given the freedom to choose, will often imitate one another. 
          Anyway, now that Dontrelle Willis is struggling to keep his record at, or near, .500, can players go back to wearing their hats correctly? I mean, and this is no knock on Willis, it is one thing to be stupid. It is entirely another to make the conscious choice to broadcast that stupidity. 
          Speaking of stupid, what the heck is up with ESPN. Is it me, or are their announcers just getting dumber as time goes on. I can't watch a highlight anymore without some empty suit saying something completely idiotic. I mean, can't they just call a home run a home run every once in a while?
          While we are on the subject of ESPN, anybody else notice how they have recently decided to become the official network of the drunk, fat, stupid, lazy guy sitting in a potato chip crumb encrusted recliner? Come on, highlights of old poker tournaments? And now, for your entertainment...darts. What's next? Pachinko?
          By the way, have you ever noticed that the vast majority of Sportscenter's top ten plays usually are made by the losing team. Check it out, sometime. Style over substance.
          However, when it comes to cheap gimmickry, nobody tops the brand new Continental League, an independent outfit set to begin play in 2007. Bear in mind that, around here, we are big fans of independent pro baseball, but we are rooting like heck for these guys to fall on their faces. The league is touting a new rule that would allow the first home run hit in a specific inning (I believe it is the seventh inning) to count double.
          You read that correctly. A home run will count double.
          So, if a guy hits a two run home run his team will get four runs (I'm not sure if he gets credit for four RBI or how the pitcher's ERA is affected, but it's such a dumb rule, I don't really care), if he hits a three run homer, it's worth six runs, and so on.
          I guess ESPN and Bud Selig and everybody else in league with Satan have finally convinced enough people that baseball is not good enough on its own, it needs gimmicks. And lots of them.
          Baseball, dear reader, actually needs fewer gimmicks. A little less noise at the ballparks, a little less of the glitzy megatron scoreboards and hyper predictable canned music and sound effects. When was the last time you were even mildly amused by the sound of breaking glass coming over the PA system after a foul ball? I long for the days when a major league park was a palace instead of a casino, which is what they now most resemble.
          Baseball is a quiet, reflective, thoughtful game that has plenty of excitement if they would simply play the games a little quicker.
          I find it ironic that new stadiums are constructed with an eye toward getting the fans closer to the action, but that the volume of prerecorded crap that comes out of the PA system, prevents those fans from hearing the sounds of the players that they are supposed to be closer to.
          Way off the subject, but probably far more interesting, is this little nugget. Did you know that three teams have never had a player hit for the cycle? 
          The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in their brief, but painful history, have never had a player hit for the cycle. The Florida Marlins, in their slightly longer, and much more successful though still painful, history have yet to have a player complete the cycle. Surprisingly, the San Diego Padres, in business since 1969, have not had a player hit for the cycle either. (I just figured you needed a break from my complaining about virtually everything I cast my eye toward. Okay, back to live action.)
          This next item is for people who still think that the wild card system is a good idea. Do you realize that two of the following teams will not make the playoffs this season? The Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, the Detroit Tigers, the Chicago White Sox, the Minnesota Twins. Three of those five will make it, two will not, while the American League West will send a team to the postseason. Shouldn't you, as a fan of baseball, be outraged by that? The Texas Rangers might be in the playoffs while the Twins (or Tigers, or Red Sox, etc.) might not. That's just plain wrong.
          Semi-relevant Question Of The Month: Why are the foul poles called foul poles when they are in fair territory?- B.M., Fort Lauderdale, FL
          Ah, the old chestnut resurfaces.
          Actually, I have two answers, the more clinical of which I will present first. The foul poles are called what they are called because that is what they are named. You might be called Bob only because that's what your mother named you and not because you actually bob. Some people are named Angel who are clearly not.
         I think the original intention was simply that the pole (and foul line, which is also in fair territory, but somehow escapes the intense scrutiny focused on the poles) was just there to mark the border of fair and foul. Naming it, the pole which demarcates foul and fair, must have seemed like a mouthful, so people, as they do, shortened the name to its present moniker. I doubt, back in the old days, anybody gave any thought to the fact that someday guys would be hitting balls off the poles for home runs, because, back then, the poles were normally way out of range for the dead ball batters. The poles merely served as a guide for the umpire to better judge when a ball had gone foul. Hence the name.
         I think the name has only come into question since the rise in popularity of the home run. Our home run obsessed society can't imagine that the pole served any other function than sitting there waiting to be hit by some curving line drive, thus enabling us to celebrate yet another home run.
         Of course, there is my other theory, which is that the first poles were actually made of chicken wire and were intended to be called "fowl poles" in honor of their building material. This notion, was, of course, ridiculous, so, most people, when they heard "fowl pole", thought, instead, "foul pole", and that's how this whole thing got started.

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May, 2006-The DH Factor or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The DH Rule:
I am frequently misidentified as a baseball "purist". Since I am not totally clear on what being a "purist" really entails, I cannot really deny or accept the charge. On the other hand, I do consider myself a traditionalist. That is, I believe that many baseball traditions should be preserved and passed on to succeeding generations as opposed to Major League Baseball's policy of discarding or destroying many of baseball's endearing traditions, only to rediscover them well past the point of their preservation or revival and to wistfully celebrate them as some sort of nostalgia.
          Having said that, and at the risk of having my traditionalist's membership revoked, I will admit I prefer the American League version of the game, the one with the designated hitter, to that of the National League, where pitchers bat.
          Before our office becomes flooded with your indignant e-mails, let me assure you that I already know the vast and detailed reasons why most fans, including ones that like interleague play, the wild card, micro-divisions, etc. (you know, non-traditionalists) hate the DH rule. 
          I know all about the anguished cries of the DH taking strategy out of the game (I don't buy the premise, by the way, after all, pitcher up, runner on base, less than two out...you know the pitcher is bunting. Same situation, late in a close game, you know a pinch hitter is coming up. That's not strategy. Since the role of the starter has changed to one of six to seven innings, the whole argument is kind of moot). The theory that pitchers, not having to bat will make them more likely to throw at opposing batters (the DH rule has been in force in the American League for 33 years and there is no evidence to support this claim) doesn't wash either. 
          So, while the DH position, is sort of odd and has only grudgingly gained acceptance, it is still better than watching most pitchers try and bat. While I'm not going to claim that the DH adds strategy to the game (because, although I suspect that this is true, I'm not sure I can offer sufficient support), I will submit that the DH changes the dynamic of in game strategy. And that's not necessarily bad.
          Having said all that, here is my idea for reconciling all of the arguments against the DH, while preserving the best element of keeping the DH.
          Ready? Okay, but before I reveal it to you, remember that this is a copyrighted column and that you heard this here first.
          To fix the DH rule and make more acceptable to almost everyone, all that needs to be done is to allow each DH to only be allowed to bat for one pitcher per game.
          It's so simple, and yet, it needs an explanation.
          Let's say that a player, we'll call him Ted Williams, is DH'ing for a pitcher, let's call him Bob Feller. Williams can bat in place of Feller as long as Feller remains in the game. As soon as Feller is pulled for a relief pitcher, Williams is also out of the game. New pitcher? New DH.
          To modify this slightly, I would suggest that a manager does not have to declare his new DH until the spot in the order is actually due. This would enable managers to change pitchers will almost the same regularity as they do now without wasting their entire bench. Or you don't have to. Use six pitchers? You are going to go through six DH's or some of your pitchers will have to bat for themselves. Personally, I prefer the former, as opposed to the latter, concept.
          However, this new DH rule would still add a great deal of strategy to the game. Example: Feller isn't pitching that well, but Williams is hitting like, well, Ted Williams. Do you pull Feller and lose Williams' bat from your lineup or do you try and let Feller work it out? This immediately will change managers' attitudes regarding the rather cavalier use of their bullpens.
          It's so simple and yet it's nearly profound (alright, I'm getting carried away, but you have to admit it's a wonder no one else has thought of it in the past 33 years, or, if they have, why it hasn't been adopted).
          With the advent of this new rule, DH's like David Ortiz are going to be less valuable (which, I think, is fair) unless they can spend a larger part of the season playing a position instead of DH'ing.
          Now, I'm sure someone in Major League Baseball or the Major League's Player's Association will find some asinine reason to object to this proposal, but that only would affirm what a great idea it really is.
          Even if this new DH rule never goes any further than this column, hopefully, it would at least serve as a guideline for the way baseball should affect its changes. Baseball should concentrate on subtle changes that may enhance the game, rather than radical, sometimes irreversible, changes that dramatically alter the game, especially if money is the primary, or sole, reason.
          Making the DH better would be a subtle rule change that, while not drastically changing the game, would, in my opinion, make an existing rule, a tradition, if you will, better. And I am, after all, a traditionalist.
          Relevant Question Of The Month: Should a designated hitter be allowed to win a league's MVP Award?- D.D., Lynn, MA
          The short answer is, yes.
          The long answer is that a player that is, pretty much, a DH only had better have way better numbers than an MVP candidate that is a position player to get my vote (not that I have one). Otherwise, you are declaring that defense is virtually worthless.
         A great many of baseball's researchers and statistical gurus have tried to reconcile the question of how much a player's defensive abilities should count toward assessing a player's overall value. While most experts disagree on the correct proportion, I'm sure they all agree that the answer is considerably higher than "not all all".
         So, in my opinion, DH's can be considered for MVP Awards, but their lack of a defensive contribution should, without question, be held against them.

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April, 2006-Heard Around The Ballpark:
You hear a lot of interesting things at the ballpark these days. Some if it funny, some of it enlightening, most of it downright silly.
          You can't attend a game anymore without hearing some yutz yelling, "you're pulling your head!", almost every time a batter swings and misses.
          This has become such a kneejerk reaction to a swinging strike that people who might not have even been watching the batter feel inclined to yell it. Here's a quick question: is it possible for a batter to swing and miss without pulling his head? Answer: of course it is. It happens quite frequently. So, why has this overused phrase become so popular? Well, my guess is that there are a lot of folks at baseball games who want to try and sound like they are experts. Those kind of people have picked up on this phrase as some sort of time tested batting advice. It has remained in vogue because no one ever really has contested its validity. 
          Until now.
          While it is true that "pulling your head" is not conducive to batting success, it is not the root cause of all swinging strikes. Nor is it the cause of most swinging strikes. It is a problem that plagues some hitters some of the time. Sometimes a batter swings and misses because the pitcher threw a really, really good pitch. Yelling it out as reflex, every time, a batter swings and misses is not only kind of ignorant, it can also be detrimental. If a coach or trusted teammate offered this nugget of wisdom to batter that was not moving his head too much, it is possible, in some instances, that the batter may overcompensate by focusing too much on his head (which he wasn't pulling anyway) rather than focusing on the pitch.
          So, while yelling the "pulling you head" thing may make a player or fan feel like they are giving expert advice, let the baseball world now know that when your hear someone cry out that phrase, odds are that you are hearing someone who probably doesn't have a clue as to what he is talking about.
          The problem here is that the "pulling your head" cry is most often heard by players.
          Here are some other ridiculous things players have become fond of saying.
          Players have become enamored with asking for an appeal in situations where appeals are not applicable. Normally this occurs when a player or manager disagrees with an umpire's call and wants another umpire to reverse the decision. While umpires almost never will reverse a call unless they had a better view and the first umpire asks for help because he knows that he may not have had the best angle to make the call, players have started to try and get umpires to ask for help on every play that they disagree with. Calling this an appeal is incorrect. Asking to have an umpire that's 90 or more feet a way from a play overrule an umpire that is right on top of a play is just plain stupid.
          This just goes to show that players who do not understand the rules and protocols of the game, shouldn't argue.
          Here's something that you'll probably hear several times this season: "there are no ties in baseball."
          First of all, of course there are. While tie games are almost as extinct as complete games by pitchers, they still exist.
          In Japan's Major Leagues, ties are fairly common, but for those who think that they do not or should not exist in the United States, I quote from the Major League rule book, rule 4.10, paragraph d, "if each team has the same number of runs when the game ends, the umpire shall declare it a 'Tie Game." Sounds to me like they are ties in baseball, even according to the Major Leagues.
          Occasionally, when a pitcher is throwing exceptionally well, particularly if he has recorded a few strikeouts, a batter will offer that, "this guy has got nothing."
          I'm almost always forced to conclude in these instances that if the pitcher really does have nothing and he just struck you, and most of your teammates, out, than logic dictates, that you, in fact, must stink. Yet batters say that all time.
          Some batters like to mention, after a strikeout or particularly bad at bat, that they can't hit slow stuff. And while this may be, it appears that most of the players who say that they can't hit slow stuff, can't hit fast stuff either.
          Pitchers are not immune from this type of hilarity. Occasionally after throwing a pitch that was called a ball, a pitcher will query to the umpire, "where was that." The obvious answer, of course, is, "outside the strike zone."
          A lot of funny and nonsensical things get said in the stands, but when players reveal how little they know and understand about the game, it can be truly funny. And a little sad.
          So, allow me to mention a few things that shouldn't have to mentioned, but do.
          Home plate is in fair territory. A ball that bounces past first or third base in fair territory but lands in foul territory is still fair. The hands are not part of the bat. 
          And most importantly, while I can't speak for any other league, in this league, the umpires do not care who wins and no, they are not just in a hurry to go home. They may blow a few calls now and then, but it is not because of favoritism or dereliction of duty.
          Which brings us to the infield fly rule.
          You want to laugh? Ask any 10 people at the ballpark to explain the infield fly rule.
          Whenever the infield fly rule is called in game, bewilderment runs rampant through the stands. And sometimes on the field.
          To avoid confusion, here's a primer on the most important things you need to know about the infield fly rule:
          A) There must be two forces in effect. In other words, there must be runners on first and second or bases loaded.
          B) There must be fewer than two out.
          C) The ball must be fair for the rule to be in effect.
          D) The play, in the umpire's judgment must be a fly ball (or pop up, if you prefer) that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort. This applies even if the infielder in question fails to catch the ball or if someone other than an infielder (an outfielder, for example) makes the play.
          That's really all there is to it, yet you'd be surprised by how much confusion reigns when the play is called.
          And don't let me get started on balks.
          If you did not enjoy or comprehend this column, you must have pulled your head.
          Relevant Question Of The Month: If, in fact, some of the noted sluggers who have broken records in the past few years are proven to have used steroids to achieve these marks, what should baseball do about their entries in the record books?- T.M., Redding, CA
          As much as I have been railing about the steroid thing in baseball since, oh, about the time Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in a season, my answer with regard to what should be done about the record books is nothing.
          It grieves me to say it, but Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire hit all those home runs and if, someday, it is conclusively proven that they cheated to do it, it does not change the fact that they hit them and that baseball fostered a system that enabled them to do it.
         It would be a great shame if Babe Ruth's and Roger Maris', among others, records were wiped from the books because of doping, but since Bud Selig (why am I always picking on this poor man?) and his cronies, not to mention the player's union, chose to allow this to happen by turning a blind eye to what was an evident problem, than failing to sanction the records after they effectively sanctioned the actions would be hypocritical.
         So, if any record holder is found to be guilty of steroid use, let their records stand as testimony to the owners and the union's culpability to yet another stain on the history of the game.


 

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