Tag Archives: Texas Rangers

PARITY BE DAMNED – MLB HAS IT RIGHT

Parity is something discussed incessessantly in professional sports. How can you make things “even” between competing teams. This discussion explains from the quintessential baseball movie “Moneyball”

imageIn 2012, Major League Baseball expanded it’s number of teams making the playoffs from 8 to 10. This resulted in each of the thirty teams having a one in three chance of securing a spot in the postseason.

At the same time, the National Football league allows 12 of its 32 teams in the playoffs. This results in 37.5% of the teams making the cut, or three out of every eight teams. More teams get in than in baseball, but not nearly as many as in the parity driven NBA……

If you play in the National Basketball Assosciation, your team has an astounding one out of two chances to be in the postseason and maybe that explains why they drag on for two months.image

 

Baseball has it about right and any further moves to add more teams into the mix will only serve to water the playoffs down further by creating superficial fan interest in teams that are simply not very good to begin with.

In other words, don’t fix something that ain’t broke………..and besides……this format is thriving……

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The Ups And Downs Of A Basebal Season

In the half century I’ve been following baseball, I’ve never ceased to be amazed by the ups and downs of a l-o-n- g baseball season. Through 81 games in the NBA, 16 in the NFL, nothing compares to the stretch of 162 games played over six months.

Some would say that’s exactly why I don’t follow baseball – the season is too long and the games are even longer. Well to each his own I guess, but let the naysayers be reminded that when you sit down for a 1:00 game in the NFL – that game takes longer to play than the average (under 3 hours now) ballgame.

And don’t even talk to me about about the last two minutes of a NBA game!

But we’re not talking about that. imageWe’re talking about the ups and downs of a baseball season and how that lends itself to continued fan interest over a season. Open a NFL season at 0-5 and you’re done – prepare for the draft and for ESPN solemnly admitting that it made a mistake in scheduling you for the 12th game of the season on Sunday night.

So what are these ups and downs we’ve witnessed so far at the halfway point in the 2016 season and what might be coming in the second half as baseball accelerates to the playoffs and an eventual World Series title……

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PREDICTIONS……DON’T EVEN BOTHER….

I’m bored already with the endless cascade of so called “predictions ” about the 2016 season even before Spring Training officially begins. Two days ago, for instance, the USA Today crowned the Nationals, Giants, and Boston among others as Division winners. The New York Mets don’t even make the cut for the playoffs.

All of what they predict may turn out to be true, but if we step back and remember that 162 games remain to be played , it does get kind of ridiculous…..no?

What is the use, for example, of predicting anything when injuries play as much a role in a team’s success as home runs and batting averages? And yet, we can expect a continuing barrage of these procrastinations from media who need to fill print and talk radio space…

But here are the questions they should  be asking…… And not answering…..

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WINNER TAKES ALL? – I DON’T THINK SO

I often think that “winning  it all” is overrated in professional sportsimages-1 today. Like many of you perhaps, I am aware of the Vince Lombardi and Leo Durocher’s of the sports world, but really – is Winning (with a capital W)  all that necessary? 

When, for example, we gather our kids together to start Little League baseball…..what do we say to them?  We (hopefully) say – “Go out there and have a good time and just try your best”. Simple. We cheer their victories and console their losses by often pointing out what they did right during the game.

Why does this all of a sudden get lost when things turn to professional sports? Do we say – Hey, they’re getting paid all this money and they’d better win! No, that is missing the point. These players are being paid to entertain us in the same way that Paul McCartney or Taylor Swift is paid for delivering a concert for our enjoyment.

Would you say, for example, that the Pittsburgh Pirates images-3were not “winners” this past season – when they finished with the second highest win total in the Majors? How about the Cubs……are they Losers too? images-2Not to mention the poor Mets who ran headlong into a perfectly synced team in the Royals. And the list goes on……the Yankees exceeded all expectations. The Rangers, the Astros…….what can be said of them? Did their season mean nothing?

I kind of get it in football because they have such a short season and virtually every game played is do or die. But even there, it’s entertainment pure and simple. Well maybe not so pure given the propensity for NFL  players to be arrested for everything from murder to wife beating……but still if the Jets could beat the Patriots just once…..that alone should give every Jet fan a thrill and a moment to enjoy – in the same way every Met fan should tip their hat to “their” team and say “Thank you, job well done”.

98 WINS AND PRESTO….THEY’RE GONE!

If MLB is going to insist on playing a prolonged schedule of 162 games, they should at least do everything they can to insure that every game played “counts”.  1371As things sit now, you could have a good argument in saying that the REAL season 150px-Houston-Astros-Logo.svgdoesn’t begin until August 1st when the trading deadline has passed and teams have tweaked their roster to the point they believe they need to be at to make “a run” to the finish and steal a Playoff  spot in spite of how they have performed until then (hello Rangers and Blue Jays).

The Pittsburgh Pirates won 98 games during the regular season, and yet they have vanished from the Playoffsimages-3 following a one game playoff against the Cubs and Jake Arietta images-2who pitched the game of his life with a “Namath like” guarantee beforehand.  I’m not taking sides here because if the Pirates had won, the Cubs  would have gone home with the third best record in the Majors with 97 wins.

The point is this…….only two of the three teams with the best  record over the course of the season are still in the hunt. The teams in the National League Central are being punished for being really good because they are the powerhouse Division right now. But, that can change as it has over the past few years when the American League East was stacked with the same kind of talented teams.

I’m not a mathematician and I don’t get paid to do this, but surely the suits at MLB can figure this out so we have a better chance of seeing the best of the best in the Playoffs and (ultimately) the World Series. 

In the meantime, the Yankees images-14who won 87 games over the course of the season and would have qualified  (with more wins than – for example – the Rangers) for a “Playoff” spot under different circumstances as well as the aforementioned Pirates who have packed their bags and are  heading home. 

MLB images-31 and specifically Rob Manfred (right) has tweaked the Playoffs before, most recently with the addition of two Wild Card teams who play a one game shootout at High Noon. Very dramatic ( a real show in prime time for television $$$),  but does it really do the game justice………or….. (and they’ll never admit this) is the April through July “season” merely an extension of the Spring Training season. It’s a valid question and it needs to be answered.

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A SHOOTOUT – DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

logo4Well, what do we know, there’s a real live pennant race brewing in The 1371Lone Star State between the surging and confident Rangers and the “all hands on deck” Astros.  It’s a pennant race made in heaven for baseball fans as both teams prepare to face each other in Houston following the Rangers sweep that jettisoned them to the top of the AL West, a position the Astros had held for the previous 50 days.

On July 4th, the Astros stood atop the standings leading the Angels by 4.0 games while the Rangers were treading water at .500 (41!41). The Astros position seemed to be solidified by a Division where no one wanted to or seemed capable of taking charge. The Mariners never appeared to know the season had actually begun, while the Angels were in disrepair and struggling to even keep pace. In essence, it was a Division made for the taking as their opponents woke up asleep at the wheel and the Astros (the supposed team on the horizon with their budding farm system) moved into the void.

The question all along was two-fold……….were the Astros for real……and would a team in the Division arise from their slumber and create 8329581_origa challenge for them? Both questions seemingly have been answered by the Texas Rangers.

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 31: Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers watches his walk off homerun against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 31, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, TX – JULY 31: Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers watches his walk off homerun against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 31, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The unknown is the interesting part……will the Astros led by Jose Altuve (left) and a solid line of starting pitching  be able to withstand the charge of the Rangers…….and can the Rangers ( led by the very underrated Adrian Beltre (right)  continue their assault on the Astros next weekend in Houston……..or are they topping out in a position to fall back asleep at the end of a grueling season for both teams?

The best part is (as they say) yet to come (next weekend). But the real truth is that we……as Fans of Baseball we get to see it all unfold.

THE 163rd GAME – BASEBALL’S CRAPSHOOTI

In less than a month, after concluding a six month 162 game season, four teams will take the field for the 163rd time. Two of those teams will be heading home – their season over a mere three hours later. For the other two teams, they’ll be boarding a plane to the next city to meet one of the Division winners in a best of five series away from their home field. One game decides their season – sudden death as they say in the NFL – do or die. 

This may work for the average fan and it’s destined to be a ratings bonanza for the television networks……….But is it really good for baseball?

If the regular season ended today, the Texas Rangers would visit Yankee Stadiumimages-4
images-14 to play the Yankees. Cole Hamels would be the “no brainer” starter for the Rangers. Meanwhile, Joe Girardi will have to choose between Tanaka (a proven big game winner in Japan ) and Evaldi, a fourteen game winner so far, but with a somewhat bloated over four ERA. No matter, for both teams it’s a crapshoot.

Meanwhile, over in the National League the Pirates would fly to Chicagoimages-2images-3 to face the Cubs. In this matchup, the Cubbies winter addition of Jon Lester – the man hired to put them over the top- would be tested as he will be pitted against the ace of the Pirates staff – Garrett Cole. A suspense driven game to be sure…….but consider this…….

If not for the greed of owners and baseball itself, there are better ways to end a six month season. However, it would involve shortening the season to (perhaps) 154 games. This would allow for a two of three series to decide which of the wild-card teams move on.

The loss of revenue for those eight games – but really only four home games for each team – is easily offset or at least reduced by the addition images-31of two extra games for the TV networks to fight over. But the real bonus is that baseball will revert back to their original 154 game schedule and there would no longer be a need to argue about whether Roger Maris really broke the Babe’s record in the coming years. The asterisk would be gone.

Rob Manfred  (upper right) has a vision for baseball. His agenda should include adding a new format to the playoff schedule. Owners will resist but fans will rejoice…….and isn’t that what it’s supposed to be all about……the Fans…..or am I mistaken in that?