You Want to Fix Interleague Play in Baseball? Expand It!

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on July 2nd, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

Every year around the time of interleague play in major league baseball, where the American League competes against the National, the topic of its relevance comes up and whether or not it should be continued.

The usual tired arguments against interleague are trotted out: “Sure the New York Yankees/Mets or Chicago Cubs/White Sox are great but who cares about the Arizona Diamondbacks playing the Cleveland Indians?”

Next we hear that it is not balanced and it is not fair because some teams play a tougher interleague schedule and that can affect pennant races. For example, if team “A” from the American League plays a first place National League team, while team “B” fighting for the same division lead as team “A” plays a last place team in the NL, then team “A” is at a disadvantage.

And lastly of course, interleague play is an in your face reminder that the leagues play under a different set of rules and we have to hear about what it means to play with and without a designated hitter and the disadvantages of that.

When talking about a solution to interleague play, the answer from most broadcasters seems to be to eliminate it. However, shortly after voicing that opinion we get the condescending, “yeah but the fans still like it and attendance is up.” Funny how analysts suggest players and owners think of fans when debating labor and strike/ lockout issues but we seem to be an inconvenience with this issue. Like adding the wild card, and instant replay, interleague play is a great and overdue update to the game. The answer to any problems it may cause is to give us more of it and not less.

Everybody playing everybody eliminates any competitive advantage or disadvantage.

Let’s start with the match-up issue. Yes, natural rivalries are the best part of interleague play, but all the games are good to me. Fans may not get as excited about the Boston Red Sox playing the Pittsburgh Pirates as they would for the Red Sox vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, but you know what? The Red Sox vs. the Toronto Blue Jays nineteen times a year isn’t too exciting either. In case anyone has forgotten, major league baseball has the longest season by far of the major team sports. It is double the length of the NHL, two games short of being double the NBA and over ten times longer than an NFL season. In basketball and hockey every team plays every team.

In baseball the interleague schedule can be set up so that you play all teams in the other league for three games. One season you’re at home and the next you’re on the road.

Wrigley Field in Chicago is a special place to play a ballgame. A team (and their fans) that only plays there one series every other season appreciates and enjoys it more than a team that plays multiple series there every year. Would you rather see the Houston Astros play at Wrigley for nine games or see them play there for six? This would then allow an AL team to play in Chicago for three. And rather than play games seven eight and nine in Chicago, the Astros can play three games in beautiful Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Further, The Washington Nationals vs. the Los Angeles Angels might not sound exciting on its surface, but what if the Nationals have a young phenom making a come back like Stephen Strasburg, or the Cincinnati Reds’ young stud Aroldis Chapman? Young players are brought up and hyped. Why not give every city and team a chance to get a look at these players, and let every team and city get to go up against Jose Reyes, Justin Verlander, and so on?

Every year has surprise players and teams so you never know when a great match-up might happen. In the process, you will shed some of the excess and boring intraleague match-ups and the good ones will take on even more meaning because they won’t be so excessive. Yes I’m talking NY Yankees and Boston Red Sox or L.A. Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

To DH or not to DH?

I saved the hardest argument for last. The two leagues don’t have to have the same rules for this to work but it would be easier. Time to join the 21st century National League and add the designated hitter. I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard broadcasters, when talking about hitting, comment on how a player needs to hit everyday to find his stroke or his rhythm. Pitchers do not have that opportunity. And with few exceptions, they are not professional hitters.

Further, I don’t like seeing opposing pitchers get to weasel out of a pitching jam by pitching around the guy batting 8th like he is Babe Ruth and then getting out a pitcher to save his inning. I don’t like seeing a pitcher pulled in the sixth inning of a great one run game for a pinch hitter. A manager pulling off the logistics of a double switch doesn’t impress me. And pitchers like Mark Prior and Chien Ming Wang never being the same after suffering injuries running the bases should never happen.

I respect the principle of holding on to a boring part of the game because you think it is part of the game. There is a certain integrity to that. But there is also a stubbornness to it. Games do change, they do evolve and the evolution of the DH, makes the game better. It protects pitchers from certain injuries, lengthens careers of players who can no longer play the field, and enables managers to give half days off to everyday players by taking a rest from the field for a day.

It is time for the two leagues to get together on this and make it happen one way or the other. However, what is more than likely is to hear commentators rolling out the same opinions for the next ten years and then maybe some movement. Wow, does Congress moves faster than baseball?

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Jorge Posada Should Be Forgiven and Yes Derek Jeter is Iconic, but —

The NY Yankees’ Management Needs to Take a Page from the Boston Red Sox

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 18th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

For years now I’ve been reading about the impending problems the New York Yankees will face with their collection of aging superstars. Years ago it may have been pre-mature but the Jorge Posada soap opera last weekend and the Derek Jeter contract dispute over the summer smacks me and all Yankees fans in the face that the future is now, and unlike the Y2K hysteria this media creation is real.

Jorge Posada was wrong. He asked out of the line-up and apparently in an expletive laced tirade, he asked off the team an hour before a nationally televised game against their biggest rival, the Boston Red Sox.

Yeah that wasn’t going to attract any media attention, right. He apologized. He was and should be forgiven. The fact that he is feeling or has felt disrespected, I still find a little troubling. Further, if you are sincerely sorry, you need to stop talking about the adjustment to being a DH, put your team first, and hit.

Other great players have made the transition and accepted it as an opportunity to extend their career rather than as a demotion. You still have an opportunity to be a starting player on the winningest franchise in all of sports and you’re making 13 million to boot. You can view it as a blessing or a banishment. These can be moments to savor or moments to waste in self-pity or bruised ego. Which sounds better?

Truth is, if the Boston Red Sox management ran the Yankees they wouldn’t be having these problems with Posada and the contract difficulties they had over the summer with Jeter. The Sox are much more cold-blooded about these situations and I mean that in a good way.

In the past they let go of an iconic star, Roger Clemens, potential Boston icons, Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra, and the guy who hit a game seven grand slam in Yankee stadium to help them get to and win their first World Series since 1918, all-star Johnny Damon.

The Red Sox recent history is to make a fair market value offer and see how badly their stars want to be on the team. As a result, in recent years, David Ortiz has taken less money to stay with them (and batted anywhere in the order they asked). They have locked up some of their young stars on friendly deals like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. Youk has agreed to play whatever position helps the team.

With Jeter it seems like it is sacrilegious to mention switching from shortstop. Okay Youkilis is a younger player who hasn’t yet earned Jeter’s status but he is a star.

However, there is no debate that catcher Jason Varitek means at least every bit as much to the Red Sox as Posada does to the Yankees, maybe more, as he is their captain. During his last contract negotiations, the Sox treated him based on his current value and were prepared to let him go. They didn’t buy into the idea that they had to overpay him now for past services rendered that he was fairly compensated for, or for his iconic status. They were not going to cave and they won a stare down with the Darth Vader of the sport, agent Scott Boras.

Not only did Varitek stay for Boston’s price, but he has since accepted a back-up role, and even batted ninth without it being a problem. He is still the team leader they have come to expect. In all of these decisions, the Red Sox moves proved correct with the possible exception of Clemens, who comes with an asterisk because of alleged PED use.

If Jeter and Posada are who we thought they are, are they supposed to be fighting for every last dime? Would they put their ego (with respect to fielding position and batting order) before the team? If Jeter played for any other franchise he’d likely be making around ten million a season on a one to three-year deal and he’d be happy with it. Here, if true, the talk is he feels betrayed.

Yankees management enables these situations by overpaying players, and caring too much about what the media thinks. Yes, Yankees management did talk too much during the Jeter negotiations wanting to win the media battle if you will. As a result, Jeter is said to have a chip on shoulder about how the process was handled even though he is arguably being overpaid by around 20 million on this contract.

Here is another example. Giving Posada four years on his last deal was too much. The Yankees knew that and offered three, but rumors of the New York Mets offering four got them to match it. This is another situation where you need to be like the Red Sox and not be scared to let your players walk. You should have stuck with three and put the onus on Posada.

If 2007 World Series MVP for the Red Sox, Mike Lowell could turn down a fourth year offered by another team to stay with the Red Sox, than Posada could have as well. And again, Lowell accepted whatever role he was given and was a good soldier about it.

During 1990’s World Series run, the Yankees had a great culture integrating veterans and youth and a team first attitude. Today this belongs to the Red Sox, and it is not like their players are playing for free, they have the second highest payroll in baseball.

You can do it again New York. Stop talking to the media about these things (or keep it to a humble minimum), make the tough choices now, and reap the rewards for it later. Contract wise you may be stuck for a while because of the deals you already have on paper but if players aren’t performing you can’t be scared to bring up Jesus Montero and any other young players you have in your system. Then it will be up to you to treat your stars firmly, fairly, and with dignity.  And remember, your stars of tomorrow will be watching.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Message to Major League Baseball: Let Computers Call Balls and Strikes!

The Time Has Come

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 15th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

Last week I wrote an article favoring expanding instant replay that you can see here. Despite MLB’s reluctance, I do think it’s inevitable that it will expand instant replay beyond its current form to include calls on the bases.

The Holy Grail, the untouchable, seems to be balls and strikes. Most baseball elites are on record stating that it can never be subject to instant replay. I agree. There should never be review of balls and strikes because machines should call balls and strikes in the first place!I am sick and tired of hearing about a particular umpires personal strike zone. Or that it should take players a few innings to learn an umpire’s strike zone on a given day.Another argument broadcasters use to defend questionable umpiring is that it is okay if the ball and strike calls are bad just as long as they are consistent. I get the rationalization but that’s what it is, a rationalization defending a now correctable problem.

Further if a bad call is made on one team’s number nine hitter and the others number three, who gets the better of that deal? This highlights another problem in that consistency goes by the wayside to accommodate the star system and the strike zone they get.

When the Atlanta Braves were great in the 1990’s, there was the Atlanta Brave strike zone. Tom Glavine was a very good to excellent pitcher made even better by the extra inch and half off the outside corner he enjoyed during his career. Broadcasters would acknowledge and then say that he earned those calls.

It works for hitters too: “If Barry Bonds didn’t swing at it, it must be a ball”. Conversely, when an average player who likes to take pitches, like a Brett Gardner, umps may call strikes on balls to speed up the game.

Further, How many times have you watched an at bat and saw a pitch called strike one on a three ball and no strike count and thought to yourself the ump is just calling that a strike to keep the at bat alive? Or the reverse, a ball called on a no-balls and two strike count to give the hitter another chance?

Lets talk impact and compare a bad call on a home run versus an umpire with a bad strike zone. If an umpire makes a mistake on a home run, no doubt it can affect the game’s outcome. But it is one call and if no one is on base or it is early enough in the game a team can come back.

An umpire with say an overly tight strike zone can cause your pitcher to give up more than one home run in a game, (by allowing multiple hitters to work favorable pitch counts.) It can knock your pitcher off his rhythm, and increase his pitch count and it can tax your bullpen.

On the other hand, an ump can kill a rally with to wide of a strike zone by allowing the pitcher to get ahead in the counts. There are not going to be that many bad home run calls that affect games in a season. There are ball and strike calls that affect games everyday.

If you watch baseball with any sort of regularity you’ve heard over and over again from announcers that pitchers can’t pitch from behind in the count. That to do so is playing with fire. Or from the hitters perspective they comment on how they will try to work the at bat to a hitter’s count to get a pitch they can hit. The approach, rhythm, or timing by the pitcher or hitter can be thrown off by bad calls.

Instead of a clutch hit resulting from a two ball and one strike count, you get an inning ending double play resulting from a one ball and two strike count because the batter swings at a pitch out of the strike zone because that same pitch was mistakenly called a strike on the previous pitch.

All of these subjectivities are unacceptable when there is a solution. Pitch tracking technology exists and works instantly. What is a strike on a three balls and no strike count should be a strike on no balls and two strike count. What is a ball when J.A. Happ throws it should be a ball when Cliff Lee throws it.

Wicked movement that can sometimes fool the human eye will not or will be less likely to fool a computer. And we’ll never have to hear an announcer say, “so and so umpire doesn’t call the high strike” or “he’ll give you that inside or outside pitch”, again.

Every few years you hear about how spring training will be used to work out a consistent strike zone from the umpires. It hasn’t happened. It won’t happen. Because of ego, human error, bias, and physical abilities of how the eyes see. Machines now have the ability to give far greater consistently and accuracy than the human eye. And for those that like the emphatic personality of an ump calling strike three? Fine we can give the home plate ump an earpiece and let him make the call, and of course he will still be there for calls at the plate when runners try to score.

This will not slow down the game and it will eliminate players and managers getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes, which may speed up the game.

So if it won’t slow down the game. And if it will bring more consistency, fairness and accuracy, why wouldn’t baseball institute it now versus say twenty years from now?

It would suggest they are okay with bad calls, inconsistency and a less efficient way of calling games and of angering their fan base. Or they’re just dumb. After all it only took twenty-three years after the Don Denkinger call soured the 1985 World Series to institute any kind of replay in 2008.

I know, they don’t want to do anything rash or be hasty. At this rate I expect machines to be calling balls and strikes in the year 2034 , unless baseball accepts the inevitable and changes it sooner rather than later. They can always try it out in spring training to give it a test run.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Barry Bonds, Tim Duncan, Alex Rodriguez, Peyton Manning and the Skip Bayless Double Standard?

Does Bayless Flip Flop on the Criteria He Uses to Judge Who is Best?

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 11th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

When asked on ESPN’s First and Ten on May 6th who is the best baseball player of all time Skip Bayless answered Barry Bonds. He discounted Bonds’ alleged steroid use. He sloughed off that Bonds ” — wasn’t that great in the postseason”.

Here is what Skip has had to say about other great athletes:

On Peyton Manning – He calls him the greatest regular season quarterback of all time but eliminates him from the greatest of all time QB discussion because of his postseason performances.

On Tim Duncan – Includes Tim Duncan on his list of top ten greatest basketball players of all time, and the first factor he mentions as to why is because of the four championship rings he won with the San Antonio Spurs.

On Alex Rodriguez – Before Rodriguez wins a World Series with The New York Yankees, Skip dubs A-Rod as A-Fraud, because of his poor playoff performances.

Now follow me Skip:

  • If Peyton Manning has won a Superbowl MVP…
  • If four NBA championships put Duncan in the conversation…
  • If A-Rod was A-Fraud in your eyes before winning a World Series…

Since Barry Bonds did not win a World Series than how is he not a fraud when his postseason numbers are not any better than A-Rod’s in the same sport? Or comparable with Manning’s for his sport? Not to mention how you discount Lebron James in basketball for what you call his lack of clutch gene.

By your own logic and past arguments how can you rate Bonds the best? Further, it is a gross understatement when you say Bonds was not that great in the postseason. Pre what the consensus was for Bonds’ PED use, he was terrible in the playoffs in his Pittsburgh Pirates days, especially when you apply the stringent standards that you do Skip when talking about superstars in any sport.

At best, if you do want to discount PED use (which I wouldn’t) I can see how you would reach the same conclusion with Bonds that you do with Manning and call him the greatest regular season player you ever saw. Because I don’t discount alleged PED years, I would take Ken Griffey Jr. as my best from Bonds’ era.

For all-time greatest? I’m sticking with The Great Bambino, Babe Ruth. Ruth would have probably hit over 900 home runs but he was too busy accumulating more complete games and shut outs than Pedro Martinez.

Look at it this way, when their careers are done I can see a modern-day debate between Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriquez for who is better. Now imagine one of them pitching and winning over 90 games and having a World Series pitching e.r.a. of under one. Who ya got under those circumstances?

What Babe Ruth accomplished would be like Tom Brady intercepting more passes and running back more punt returns for touchdowns than Deion Sanders.

Ruth is in the “who is the greatest discussion” with just his hitting. His pitching ends the debate for me. It’s to prisoner of the moment to say never as far as what we will or won’t see again in terms of an athlete. But the Babe, and a baseball player that dominant as a pitcher and a hitter tops the list of least likely to ever see again.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Expand Instant Replay in Baseball Now!

Before History Repeats Itself

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 6th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

It was Game six of the World Series. The year was 1985. Die-hard baseball fans already know what I am talking about. Arguably the worst call in sports history. In the ninth inning first base umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta safe when he was out by a step and a half. The Kansas City Royals came back to win the game and the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals.

How some form of instant replay was not instituted the next season is mind-boggling. In 2008 baseball finally relented and allowed for limited replay to review home runs, fan interference and whether a ball is fair or foul. Under the current system,Denkinger’s call would still not be overturned.Because of another obvious bad call at first base that occurred during the no-hitter pitched by Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins on May 3rd, the topic of expanding replay in baseball came up this week on the ESPN show, Rome is Burning. Host Jim Rome said “Why make a sport that already moves too slow and is boring more slow and more boring”. His vote is to keep the system the same. Many of his peers feel the same way. It is a shortsighted point of view that ignores history.

Believe me, not if, but when Denkinger’s call repeats itself in a playoff situation, given the exponential growth of the media since 1985, it will be open season on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig by Rome et al for not already having expanded replay in the first place. I can already hear it, “Now you have to expand replay… at least for the playoffs”. I’m here to implore you, don’t wait for that event to happen, expand replay now! For the entire season!

Why we are reactive instead proactive for what seems to be an obvious and inevitable change is a subject for another day. But Rome has a point. Replay can be too slow, but it doesn’t have to be.

One concern with replay over the years has been “the feelings” of the officials and taking the calls out of their hands. Boo hoo, this is so ludicrous that it is a waste of space for me to have to comment on it. Referees, umpires, officials are not there to be part of the game, or to affect the game’s outcome. We do not pay to see or watch them. Their purpose is to insure the rules are being followed and the right calls are made. If there is a better way to do it, it should be done. With respect to their hard work, officials should not be part of the story.

Speaking of feelings and being part of the story, umpire Jim Joyce was emotionally broken up last year after he blew a call that cost Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers a perfect game.

Denkinger has had to live with his call for years. They don’t deserve that burden when it is so easily correctable. Not surprisingly, after the Joyce incident Denkinger came out in support of more replay. Listen to him and don’t boo Joyce or other umpires for honest mistakes, boo baseball for not having replay.

So, to speed replay up, let’s not waste time having umpires walk off the field to do the review to avoid possibly being overturned by someone else. Let’s go right to a replay booth with a nice 72 inch HD TV and get the call corrected faster. Most corrections can be made in well under a minute. You give each team three challenges a game, they get an extra one every time they are right or for extra innings.

You can offset the potential effect it has on the game’s time by making it an instant ejection plus one game suspension to argue a call. Further, presumably some of the corrected calls are going to be out calls, which will end innings sooner and speed up some games. Even if it extends a game by a few minutes isn’t it worth it to get the calls right?

The replay systems we have throughout the sports world seem to be working out pretty well. It is not as if replay has been used and made a sport worse. Or where you have fans demanding to take replay out of the game. If anything we want more! Further, it would be pretty simple to expand it in on a trial basis and remove it in the unlikely event it didn’t work.

And if you’re still not convinced, get a copy of that 1985 game six world series and watch that call over and over again for an hour and then imagine that call in that situation being made against your favorite team and then tell me what we should do.

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Coming up shortly is my article about why technology should be used to call balls and strikes

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

King Theo Epstein the Overrated?

The Boston GM Bolts for Chicago

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on Oct 12, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

So Theo Epstein is going to the Chicago Cubs. I wish him luck. I think it would be great for baseball and the city of Chicago for the Cubbies to win a World Series. But how is it that the Brian Cashman of The New York Yankees gets so little credit as a GM because of his high payroll and Theo Epstein gets lauded and credited with being a great GM with the 2nd highest payroll? What? He was only outspending Tampa Bay by $120 million instead of $160 so he has to be smart?

Yes I am a self-admitted Yankee fan and while there are likable qualities to both Cashman and Epstein, I think the correct analysis is to evaluate them in the framework of their unique situations.

Both have proven themselves in the context or running high payroll teams, standing up to ownership and adding a small measure of sanity as they both look to blend and develop a farm system in conjunction with overpaying free agents. However, does this translate to genius or to success with teams that don’t have an absurd payroll?

In basketball if a team was on the brink of winning or competing for a championship, and Phil Jackson was available to coach, it is a no-brainer to hire him. But what about if you were in rebuilding mode? Would the Zen Master be your first choice? Maybe, maybe not.
Since Theo is the flavor of the day lets take a closer look at his work.

Formerly of ESPN and now with the MLB Network, Peter Gammons referred to Epstein as “King Theo” for landing Curt Schilling in a trade prior to the 2004 season. What a brilliant move, trading for arguably the most clutch pitcher of his time in his prime.

How did this trade come about? Lets see, Arizona could no longer afford Schilling and had to move him. Of the three teams that were capable of pulling off the trade, the Philadelphia Phillies did not have the money to pay him. Arizona still had their panties in a bunch with the Yankees over their signing David Wells after Zona thought they had a handshake agreement with Wells. As a result, the Diamondbacks were asking for a lot more/better players from the Yankees. That left the Red Sox all by themselves. Courting Schilling on Thanksgiving was a nice touch but really not necessary, nor proof of genius.

But lets not forget that many key pieces to the 04 team and breaking the curse of the Bambino were already in place prior to Epstein assuming his throne. Including world series MVP Manny Ramirez, the guy who broke open game seven in Yankee stadium with a grand slam, Johnny Damon, the still six inning dominant Pedro Martinez, the very solid Derek Lowe, catcher Jason Varitek and the list goes on.

In 2003 the Red Sox lost in part because of their bullpen. Who was the best closer available on the free agent market? Well any barroom fan could have told you it was Keith Folke of the Oakland A’s. I don’t know how he thought of this, but King Theo outbid the A’s and signed him. (The Yankees had some reliever named Mariano Rivera so they weren’t in on the bidding) Pure genius right?

Epstein also gets credited with acquiring the following players for the 04 team: David Ortiz and Kevin Millar. And lets give Theo some credit for over the years not trading players from his farm system such as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsberry, Kevin Youkilis and Jonathan Papelbon. Yes he got Josh Beckett in a trade but he had to give up Hanley Ramirez to get him. He may have overpaid for him in his last contract but on balance still a plus a move since Beckett was key in a second world series in a decade.

However, like Adrian Gonzalez, Beckett was a known commodity with only a handful of teams having the assets to make the trade and the money to sign or pay the player. It is easier to be smart when you have greater resources and limited competition, no?

Here are other names added during the reign of Theo: Jeremy Giambi, Pedro Astocio, Pokey Reese, Byung-Hyun Kim, Ramiro Mendoza, Matt Clement (The Sox less ridiculed version of Carl Pavano), Wade Miller, Jose Cruz Jr., Coco Crisp, Wily Mo Pena, Daisuke Matsusaka, J.D Drew, Bartolo Colon, Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Eric Gagne,Edgar Renteria, Mike Cameron, John Lackey and Carl Crawford. Epstein also made major efforts and failed to land Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (lucky him).

There are plenty of mistakes that get overlooked when you win. Mistakes that teams with lesser payrolls can’t afford to make or overcome.

The media loves to credit certain people. They love the story of Theo. With the Yankees they the loved story of Joe Torre. With one team it’s the manager leading the team, with Boston it was the GM. In football, Bill Parcells could be a team’s hot dog stand vendor, but if they win he is the one who lead them to victory.

Beware King Theo, unless he comes from your farm system in Chicago don’t expect to sign the next Curt Shilling, or Keith Folke. You will be watching the Yankees, your new genius replacement in Boston, or perhaps another market with more money to spend then you sign him.

Fate may still smile upon Theo is Chicago, with the Yankees and Red Sox not likely to be bidders on Pujols. If the Cubs sign him (or Prince Fielder) it won’t be because of genius it will be because they’re the highest bidder…

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Should Steroid Users in Baseball Be Eligible for the Hall of Fame?

The Case for and Against

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on April 21st, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

To some people it’s simple. Performance enhancing drug users cheated and that should automatically disqualify them for the Hall of Fame (HOF).

If a law student is taking the bar exam and answers 95% correctly on his own but gets caught cheating on one question, they don’t say well he passed without the question he cheated on so we will pass him anyway. I get that. However I don’t think it is this simple.

Conversely, one could argue that the era was corrupt and it is unfair that the players are getting all of the blame when the union and management are getting off the hook. And how do you figure out who used versus who didn’t? Further, how do you factor in those who got caught while others you just have suspicions? No. The issue isn’t that complicated either.

At one time or another many people speed when they drive. Some people get tickets, some don’t. That’s life. We can’t let everybody off the hook because some people don’t get caught. You know what you’re doing when you put your foot on the accelerator. You roll the dice, you break the law or commit a violation, that is what it is.

I reduce the debate to two questions: Is the HOF an honor for a player? Or is it a historical museum of record? If I was a voter and I believed the former I would vote against anyone getting into the HOF that I believed beyond a preponderance of the evidence used steroids or any PED.

If I was a voter and believed the latter than I would consider PED use on a case-by-case basis.

My thinking is the HOF is both an honor for the player and a historical museum of record. Therefore if I were Commissioner for a day there would be two ways to get into the HOF: One with honors and the other without.

You can’t tell the story of baseball without telling the story of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Pete Rose (I know, gambling issue for Rose). You don’t give them the jacket, you don’t give them the ceremony and their PED use is as prominent on their plague as their statistics. They have to wait ten years instead of five and they’re in the “offenders” wing of the hall.

In America, we do not pretend dark moments in our history do not exist. On the contrary, we go out of our way to remind ourselves of them so that we might learn and avoid repeating mistakes.

Having said that I feel the need to remind myself we are talking about baseball and not world affairs. That baseball players who use PED’s are treated far worse than other athletes of major sports, and the relevant condemnation probably lies somewhere in between.

I think the media gins up the issue to a degree because their love affair with numbers and statistics is greater in baseball than any other sport. However, another key factor was MLB and the union putting off testing as long as it did. They could have diffused their own time bomb if they dealt with it much sooner. But I digress.

As for eligibility and considering players on a case-by-case basis, my standard would be higher for PED users. A player would have to meet that subjective threshold of “were they a HOFer before or in the years when they were deemed clean?” Bonds, and Clemens meet that standard so I would vote them in without honors. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and given his three-time link, Manny Ramirez do not.

For example, McGwire’s HOF case is built around one thing, home runs. Take away the steroids and he is somewhere between Steve Balboni or Dave Kingman and a true HOFer.

If I was a manager and I had to choose a first baseman for my team and my choice was Mark McGwire without steroids or Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Will Clark, Mark grace, or Keith Hernandez, I would take any of those other players. None of which have gotten a whiff of the hall. Some of which had injuries and perhaps could have extended their careers and numbers if they gave in to the dark side.

Mattingly for example, was an MVP, a batting champ, nine time gold glover, and voted best player in the game by his peers over a two-year period (according to a New York Times poll of 417 players in 1986). But he had back issues zap him of his power, which caused an early retirement the year before the New York Yankees began a run of winning four World Series in five years. With steroids he could have possibly played through that run, been the first Yankee to reach three thousand hits, had a lot more home runs and won all of those rings before retiring. But he did the right thing, or I should say didn’t do the wrong thing. I just can’t see putting McGwire in before Donnie Baseball or the other first basemen mentioned above.

You can document the home run chase in the summer of 1998 and other such accomplishments in the hall while creating a teaching moment for young visitors by explaining why McGwire or Sosa are not in.

What about an asterisk? Any record accomplished by any player who has admitted or been found guilty in a court of law of PED use should have an asterisk.

One positive about the steroid era for me is that I have a greater appreciation for the career and single season home run leaders, Hank Aaron and Roger Maris, respectively, who accomplished their records cleanly.

My closing thoughts on the issue are, not surprisingly, the cover up is worse than the crime. Jason Giambi worked his way through this much smoother than guys like Bonds, Clemens and McGwire by completely cooperating with the grand jury and offering a mea culpa to the media.

In defense of the players, it is not out of the realm of believability that some players used because they believed they had to use or they would be at a disadvantage because of those that were.

Imagine stock brokers operating without an SEC, do you think more laws would be broken under those conditions? One might think they have to cheat under such circumstances to keep a job or to excel to the next level.

In essence, players were unregulated with a don’t ask don’t tell policy by those who should have been enforcing a drug policy who chose instead to look the other way and profit as well.

It is for that reason that I think we remove the scarlet letter placed on anyone’s chest from this era. Hold them accountable, collectively learn from it, acknowledge the past, and move on.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

Why the St. Louis Cardinals Should NOT Resign Albert Pujols

Do You Think the Yankees Would Resign A-Rod If They Could Get a Do Over?

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on April 13th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

No one is debating whether or not Albert Pujols is a great, first ballet, hall of famer. He has been great for the city of St. Louis, he’s a champion, and to date he is clear of any performance enhancing drug accusations. But if the money he’s going for after the 2011 season is as rumored, north of 300 million, that is a figure beyond what the Cardinals or any team should offer. Nothing personal Albert, but you’re not worth the risk.

To date the two biggest contracts in the history of the sport have been signed by Alex Rodriguez. No doubt the first time A-Rod was a free agent he was a better player than Pujols is now. A-Rod was younger, faster, had as much power, and was a better defender at a more premium position, shortstop, versus Pujols at first base. How did that contract work out for the Texas Rangers? A-Rod performed, but it financially handicapped the organization. They couldn’t build around him, so they dumped him to the NY Yankees, and ate ten million a year to do so.  And like the Seattle Mariners, Texas improved after he left.

Astonishingly, the Yankees eventually give A-Rod a second long term contract of ten years for 275 million. Not long after, there is the steroid admission, a hip injury requiring surgery and declining numbers.

Consequently I don’t see any fifty home run seasons in A-Rod’s future. Stolen bases? Not so much. Defense? Declining. Home run chase? Who cares? Between Texas and New York you see all the things that can potentially go wrong for a mid market team like St. Louis: Paying too much money to one player, off the field issues, declining skills due to injury and or aging.

A-Rod is the first example but far from the last. Let’s eliminate the everyday players who are clear of a performance enhancing drug connection and show me one that has produced 30 million a year numbers beyond the age of 37. Albert would be into his forties by the end of a ten year deal.

Based on the highest paid players through 2010, ask yourself are these players worth the money they were paid to their teams? Alex Rodriguez (33 m) Derrick Jeter (22.6 m) Mark Tiexera (20.6 m) Johan Santana (20.1 m) Miguel Cabrera (20 m) Carlos Betran (19.4) Ryan Howard (19 m) Carlos Lee (19 m) Alfonso Soriano (19 m) Carlos Zambrano (18.8 m) John Lackey (18.7 m) Manny Ramirez (18.6 m) Torri Hunter (18.5 m) Barry Zito (18.5 m) Maglio Ordonez (17.8 m) Todd Helton (17.7 m) Aramis Ramirez (16.7 m) A. J. Burnett (16.5 m).*

That is eighteen out of the top twenty that were debatably overpaid last season. Do you think all of these players could find a team willing to pay those figures if they were free agents again?

Think the New York Mets would like a do over on the big contracts they gave the injury prone Santana, Beltran, or even Jason Bay or Francisco Rodriquez? Generally, pre free agent numbers are better then post.

Miguel Cabrera is an exception however his off the field alcohol issues add a question mark to him. Plain and simple the odds are stacked that you’re paying for past performance and you will not get value out of a long term deal.

More logic used to justify such a salary for Pujols by analysts like ESPN’s Jon Kruk is that, “well A-Rod has a 275 million dollar contract and Albert is better then A-Rod now so, you know, Albert should get more”. If I walk into a car dealership and the sales agent says to me that the idiot before me paid ten thousand dollars over sticker price for a car that doesn’t mean I will do the same.

A team (the Yankees) that is clearly playing on a different financial field than any other cannot be used to set the market. Nor can the actions of a desperate owner, Tom Hicks of the Texas Rangers, who made a deal that set his team on a path to financial ruin.

Being from New York I am not a Boston Red Sox fan but I respect the way they do business with their players and how they created a climate where players take less money to stay there…they accomplished this by showing fiscal discipline and letting stars like Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn and Johnny Damon leave. Theo Epstein and company assess the value of a player, don’t get emotional about it and make a take it or leave it offer. Star players like David Ortiz and Jason Varitek have taken less money and or diminished roles to stay a part of Red Sox nation.

If Albert wants to be a “true” Cardinal, and spend his career with one team, let him take a little less and not break your budget. If he wants to go to the Chicago Cubs for some extra coin let him. Don’t be sucked into a bidding war and pay what will handicap you like A-Rod did with Texas.

The Cubs are not about to win even if they sign Pujols. In order for the Red Sox to break through their curse, they needed a juiced up Manny Ramirez (allegedly), David Ortiz, Curt Shilling, Pedro Martinez, Keith Foulke (who was closing like Mariano Rivera that year), Johnny Damon and the rest of the idiots. If the Cubs or anyone pay Pujols three hundred million, they will get the first laugh, but odds are you will get the last.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…