Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grumpy Oaf, or Whiny Mutton-Head?

Today Sandy Alderson, Mets general manager, moaned on Twitter about Pablo Sandoval being voted into the All-Star Game starting lineup instead of David Wright, who, really, is a better candidate. Why I’m writing about this and not, say, Matt Cain’s perfect game, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because Cain’s accomplishment pleased me, and Sandy Alderson annoys me virtually every time he opens his mouth (or types anything); and when you’re pleased, why write and complain?

Yesterday Alderson sour-graped about how “a city of 800,000 outvoted a city of 8,000,000,” obviously implying (or, rather, pointing out a certainty) that more Giants fans stuffed ballot boxes than Mets fans did. To Sandy I say: “Whaaa!” “Whaaaaa!” I say. Has this man ever stopped grumping about the Giants since his years as the A’s general manager?Back then the gist was, “We’ve won more championships and drawn more fans! Why do people like the Giants better than the A’s? It’s not fair! It’s not fair! EEEEEE!” (This, of course, makes him sound a hell of a lot more like my kind of Giants fan than anything else, but that’s beside the point, which is that hey, maybe the Giants are simply way more interesting and likable. Well, no, that’s not really the point either.)

Today’s post (or “tweet,” which I’m reluctant to call anything, including a vocal noise coming from an actual bird) posits that if there’d been one on the ballot, Giants fans would’ve voted in a balldude. I’m pretty sure Alderson thinks this is clever and, somehow, not whiny. What I suppose bothers me most about this is that Alderson blames Giants fans for what actually is a fundamental problem with the All-Star Game vote: the fact that the fans have a lot of say. (But hey, Alderson should take heart: He was the A’s GM when Tony LaRussa managed the club; LaRussa, though retired, is managing the NL All-Stars this year, so is it impossible to imagine that—if only to appease his former boss—LaRussa would pull Sandoval after four innings anyway, giving Wright most of the playing time at third?)

It’s not exactly new, this ballot-box-stuffing thing. How, for instance, do we explain—just off the top of my head—Davey Lopes leading all National League second baseman in All-Star voting in 1981? He was having a brutal season to that point, and even he acknowledged it. Lots of guys have been voted into the starting lineup despite not deserving it. That’s what happens when fans stuff the ballot box. The Sandoval vote isn’t exactly a travesty—he’s having a terrific year, though he’s lost 40 games to injury—but I have to think most people were surprised at the voting results. (Maybe Alderson is bothered that the Giants have as many fans as they do. I’ve always felt that MLB in general would be bothered by that.)

Cincinnati fans, you should know, mounted a voting campaign in the late 1950s that resulted in eight Reds players being voted into the starting lineup. National League officials said “I don’t think so” and substituted a couple of non-Reds (such as Stan Musial), but apparently nobody thought, “Gee, this could happen every year. Maybe we should consider a different system.”

I’m not saying the fans should have no say, but—as much as I’d like to see any given San Francisco Giants team start every All-Star Game—I can’t think of anything good that comes from stuffing ballot boxes. The All-Star Game is a low-level example, but a highly visible, highly risible one. Giants fans who wanted to take the time followed KNBR’s lead and voted, over and over, for Our Boys. Each e-mail address, apparently, is limited to 25 votes, but how difficult is it to use multiple e-mail accounts? If each address could vote only once, the same principle would hold true, but it’d be an awful lot more inconvenient and annoying to keep having to create new e-mail addresses just to place votes, so maybe that approach is worth thinking about.

Years ago Bill James suggested “precinct” balloting, wherein the country would be divided, more or less, into Major League Team-centric areas, and players would be ranked in terms of how many votes they received; precincts eventually would be combined, such that if Sandoval got eight billion votes in San Francisco, it wouldn’t help him a lot if he finished eighth in New York. I’m not sure this is any solution either, though, since fans are going to vote for “their guy” anyway, and Sandoval is going to be a lot of Bay Area people’s “guy.”(Not only that, but these days, rooting interest isn’t defined as clearly by geographic boundaries as when James made his suggestion.) In other words, it’d be Giants fans voting for Sandoval, Mets fans voting for Wright, Brewers fans voting for Aramis Ramirez, etc.—and the winner would be based on whose fans filled out the most ballots.

Perhaps the “one e-mail address, one vote” approach would be a good first step—or even “one IP address, one vote.” And since coaches and players vote, why not combine the results, perhaps weighting the proportion toward the fans (since this is supposed to be “the fans’ game” after all)? How about, geez, I dunno, giving two-thirds of the vote to an overall fan tally (bearing in mind that since only one vote could come from an IP address, it’d be much harder to stuff the box)? Or even maybe 60% or a little less—I’m just spitballing.

Should the media get a vote? Why not? I don’t know who would count as “media” these days, but hey, what about 30% coaches, players, and managers; 30% media, and 40% fans? Would the fans really feel that they weren’t being heard? More to the point, could a system like this really be worse than the one in place right now?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yay, Nobody!

Major League Baseball announced today that two more wild cards are being added, such that 10 of the 30 teams will make the postseason. Mediocre folks should be very pleased at the thought of increasingly rewarding mediocrity, but that’s beside the point. You know, from 1903 through 1968, people were perfectly okay with only one team from each league reaching the postseason. True, I prefer rewarding more than just two teams for having outstanding seasons, but any system MLB uses will have its detractors. For instance, I don’t like wild cards, period, because palpably second-place teams get to make the postseason. Having just division winners make the playoffs at least presents the appearance of only first-place teams battling for a championship. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that the introduction of wild-card berths has made the pennant races more exciting, or at least agonizing.

During at least one Giants radio broadcast this past season, announcers Jon Miller and Dave Flemming discussed the proposal of adding a second wild-card team to each league, with a single-game wild-card playoff. They seemed to feel that this would eliminate the current problem, which is that first-place teams don’t seem to be rewarded a whole lot for finishing first (except for home-field advantage against the wild card in the Division Series). They have a point: How many wild cards have reached (and won) the World Series since 1995? A lone wild-card playoff game in each league would, at least, eliminate one wild card team from the picture, while the other will have been “penalized” by having to play that grueling “extra” do-or-die game. (I hope that game will count only in postseason statistics, as opposed to the current system in which one-game playoffs are counted as regular-season contests.)

I’d still prefer each league to have four divisions with four teams each, but those who disagree feel that there’s too much of a chance that sub-.500 teams will reach the playoffs (or, worse, go all the way). But that’s what they said when the leagues split into two divisions in 1969, and it hasn’t happened yet. Under my four-by-four setup, only first-place teams would make the playoffs (except that you know MLB would add approximately one wild-card berth per division). Another option, which may be reasonable, is to just put the four best teams—regardless of divisions—into the playoffs (or add wild cards if you feel you must), such that if a division winner goes 79-83, almost certainly there’d be enough teams with better records to keep that team out of the postseason; they'd still get to be division champions, but better teams would make the postseason.

MLB announced yet another coup, namely that the Houston Astros will be moving to the American League for the 2013 season. Right now I’m picturing someone plopping a big glob of peanut butter on the carpet, then trying to clean it up with Windex and a paper napkin—smearing and smearing it, making things worse on the whole, but managing nevertheless to scoop up enough of the peanut butter to enable you to feel like something has been accomplished. The glob was the Brewers. The Astros are the Windex. Nobody is the napkin. Okay, maybe the ever-present threat of contraction is the napkin.

The reason the Brewers moved in the first place, ostensibly, is that before the 1998 season, MLB wanted to put the Diamondbacks in one league and the Devil Rays in the other, meaning that to have an even number of teams in each league, one existing team would be forced to switch leagues. This way, see, they wouldn’t have to schedule interleague games every single day.

But now, instead of moving the team that caused the trouble back to the league where they found it, MLB is displacing another team because of an apparent belief that the more frequent matchups between the two Texas teams will lead to nirvana. Oh, and did I mention the bit about the Astros’ move signifying that each league will have 15 teams, thus ensuring interleague games every single day?

The peanut butter analogy, now that I think about it, might be a less apt one than the amputation of the wrong limb, again and again. I’d love to believe that only MLB could remove the wrong leg twice from the same patient, but I think I’ll go ahead and not believe it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

You Kind of Need to Hear It

Perhaps I should be ashamed that this is my first blog entry in months. But I’m not. Too bad.

So I was invited to a party last Sunday. (Yes, I do get invited to parties. I do! Okay, I wasn’t invited, but my wife was, and I got to go out in public.) Was talking baseball with one of the other attendees, an A’s fan of long standing, and he told me the anecdote below. Sadly, I can’t verify it, and I’m only going on what the A’s fan said and the way he said it, and even though it might lose its impact in words that you see onscreen rather than hear, here goes:

As Bill King and Ray Fosse sat beside him in the broadcast booth in Milwaukee, Lon Simmons was talking about baseball stuff when suddenly he stopped dead and said, “Uuuuugggggghhhh! An elephant died at the zoo!” Like the A’s fan, and like me upon hearing this story, you might be thinking, “What does that mean? An elephant? Is this some kind of baseball slang I haven’t heard before or something?”

“Oh my goodness, Bill! Those brats!,” said Simmons, referring to Milwaukee’s famous bratwursts. ”How many of those did you have?” And the next thing you heard was Simmons and Fosse making “ergh” noises and trying to get away from Ground Zero.

Now, how often do you hear broadcasters accuse their colleagues, rightly or wrongly, of emitting lethal gas? So obviously, if someone in my home and/or immediate family were to commit such an expulsion, which none of us would ever, ever do, the new expression of protest will be “An elephant died at the zoo!”

For some reason this reminded me of a Giants broadcast in which, returning from the break between innings, Hank Greenwald, after several seconds of dead air, made two “geh!”-type sounds, then an audible swallow of what, as I recall, turned out to be a sandwich. “My mother always told me not to talk with my mouth full, but I’m a grownup now and I can do whatever I want.”

Both stories, of course, pale in comparison with the now classic Ron Fairly tale from 1988, which the A’s fan reminded me of and which I seem to have recounted in EEEEEE! about four times: In what evidently was a boring game, Fairly told one of those old baseball stories—I think it was the one about the horse who visits Casey Stengel/Leo Durocher/Yogi Berra/Dave Bristol for a tryout: holding a bat in his teeth, he hammers pitch after pitch out of the park; in the outfield, he catches fly balls in his teeth, then drops them and boots them back toward the infield with his hoof; and when the manager in question asks if he can run, the horse says, “If I could run, I’d be in the Kentucky Derby!” Ah-hahahahahahahahaha!

Upon finishing the story, Fairly started laughing... and could not stop. I don’t know what was cracking him up, because it sure couldn’t have been the story. But eventually, as he’s nearly breathless with laughter, the crowd microphone picks up a fan yelling, “Get a hold of yourself, Fairly!” and then, later, “You should hear yourself, Fairly!” More silence from Ron, and then a snort and a “Hee hee hee!”

The A’s fan mentioned that Fairly and his partner, Wayne Hagin, didn’t get along, so Hagin just sat there, refusing to bail out his partner and pick up the play-by-play. I don’t remember being aware of any animosity between the two, but Hagin’s decision to stay silent would fit with what little I do know about the guy. I don’t miss either broadcaster, but I don’t miss Hagin even more than I don’t miss Fairly.

If you have deigned to read this blog entry and can think of some good broadcaster stories, I’d love to read them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Buster: Smoked

I’ve written a new piece on Buster Posey’s horrific injury, in case you’re interested If you’re not, shame on you. Shame!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This blog is sort of inactive

My new material, such as it is, can now be found at my
Ruin Your Eyes site. Occasional announcements and other stuff will show up on the companion blog.

The San Francisco Giants are the World Champions of All Time, Space, and Dimension

Yes, I know this is supposed to be a blog, which implies that there are regular updates about every facet of everything I do, but you don’t want to know what I’m wearing on my feet. Perhaps you do want to know, in case this news passed you by, that THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ARE THE WORLD CHAMPIONS OF ALL TIME, SPACE, AND DIMENSION. I never get tired of typing that. Watch: THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ARE THE WORLD CHAMPIONS OF ALL TIME, SPACE, AND DIMENSION.

For something I wrote about the fact that THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ARE THE WORLD CHAMPIONS OF ALL TIME, SPACE, AND DIMENSION, please see It’s True! on the RYE website. Sure, it’s more than a month since the happy event took place, but I’ve been thinking about it all this time, and I’m still not sure it's real.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


It’s been only five months since my last blog entry, so stop complaining (or cheering, as the case may be). Today I added a new piece, Blap!, to the website. Read. Enjoy (or hate, or maybe ignore). Or don’t do any of those things—I mean, who am I to tell you what to do? Stand up for yourself, already!