Monday, January 31, 2005

A case of the Mun-days

It's Monday morning, and some guy said something and something else happened, and traffic & weather together on the 8's

Scanning . . . scanning . . .

Hat tip to William World News for this one. Jim Bowden, whose Adult ADHD is postively uncontrollable, took time out from drooling at the waiver wire report and noodled some realignment thoughts out loud. Apparently, Bowden wants MLB to take a COLA approach and just organize the divisions by---what?

Well, he says "revenue." Then, in another quote, he mentions "big markets," which as we all know by now is not a synonymous term, necessarily. But before all that the writer interprets Bowden as intending "big spenders," which is particularly ill-defined. For instance, Florida would have been in the "big spenders" division in '97 and been realigned all the way to "cheapo" in '98, to be replaced by San Diego, who would have been replaced in '99 by Arizona, and in '00 St. Louis could have replaced Baltimore---at midseason, mind you---and so forth.

At any rate, baseball already has one of these divisions, Jim. It's called the AL Central.

Bowden's thoughts did get me thinking, though. I'll post an essay or something on this when I have the time, but I've long thought that the 3 + Wild Card system (which I'll call expanded-divisional)---while perhaps a success in a professional sports universe where the controlling mantra is otherwise "one-third is good; one-half is better"---has killed the concept of the "commendable season."

You know what I'm talking about, right? It's the type of season where a team plays well, plays hard, usually does so rather unexpectedly, and misses the playoffs by a handful of games. I became an intense baseball fan as a kid in the early-mid-80s, and I remember those times well. Finishing second in the division meant something; even finishing in the first division (a badge of honor in the pre-divisional days) was considered something of an accomplishment.

Maybe the best example I can think of is the 1989 Baltimore Orioles. The previous season's edition, of course, had been horrendous---historically bad to start the season and not a whole lot better thereafter. They came completely out of nowhere and hung with the Blue Jays, who had underachieved in the early going, before bowing to Toronto on the last weekend of the season.

That was a fun season. There were a lot of surprising heroes: Jeff Ballard (who?) won 18 games; Gregg Olson became the first established rookie closer (though maybe in hindsight that wasn't such a great development); Randy Milligan broke the lineup when Bob Horner tanked and became a proto-sabermetric first baseman; in a particularly memorable game, Mike Devereaux beat the Angels with a purported ninth inning homer (clearly foul) that sent Doug Rader into a rage. And so forth. I've even heard die-hard DC baseball fundamentalists who find the Orioles objectionable just on principle concede quietly that 1989 was an enjoyable season.

You know what would happen today? I'll venture two possibilities: [1] The Orioles would have lost out late not only in the divisional race but also for the wild card, and such a late choke would have left something of a sour taste in the fans' mouths; or [2] the divisional race would have been between thoroughly mediocre teams, and no one would care or remember to care about the pennant run within a year. See, e.g., Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997 and Kansas City Royals way back in 2003.

It occurs to me that Selig pushed for the expanded-divisional format because the playoffs were too exclusive ("everything or nothing"). In a sense, though, it is now apparent that the playoffs really are everything.

In other news, a couple of Nats dropped by, and Ballwonk has photographic evidence that Bluegrass Brad Wilkerson is a hobbit, albeit an extraordinarily large one.

Chris (Capitol Punishment) picks up on the Dave Johnson-to-Nats-radio rumor and hopes (as we all do) that the Nats are not approaching the search process with Dayn Perry style lust.

John (Nationals Pastime), in an invaluable service to Nats fans, attended the SABR D.C. Chapter get-together and has posted an exhaustive, two-part (so far) account. Included in the first part is this humorous anecdote of Montreal baseball promotion:

The funniest moment was in the Q+A period, one guy told a
story about how the Expos would cart in local prisoners to make Olympic Stadium appear to be a more popular place. The prisoners wouldn't be unshackled, and they would, on cue, clang their shackles on the seat in front of them, since they couldn't clap. To that, [special assistant to Tony Taveres, Kevin] Uhlich said, "That's not in our marketing plan".

Also cracking a Monday morning smile is this practical joke idea from Natfanatics:

When the Marlins are in town, put a little speaker under 1st
base and continuously play "God Bless America" whenever the Marlins take the field. We'll see if Carlos D. ends up spending the whole inning in sitting in the ball-girl's chair.

Essay update: The "John Clayton's Masculinity" essay didn't get finished this weekend. Look for it some time this week.

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