November 24, 2014

Is Radical Realignment Needed in Major League Baseball?

An AL Pacific Division featuring the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, A’s and Mariners? If you’re FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, that’s your recommendation as part of a much more radical realignment strategy that he floats in an article today.

After reading his piece and reviewing his various proposals, I am heavily in the NO camp with regard to his more extreme ideas. Part of this comes from being a baseball traditionalist…I’ve always been resistant to change in Major League Baseball, and love all the quirks that are part of the game (like the AL’s designated hitter rule). I was heavily against inter-league play at the time it was introduced, fearing that it was a temporary gimmick that would cause more harm than good when it would be eventually repealed. Plus, I would argue, that’s what makes the World Series so special. I was wrong in this case; interleague play is here to stay and I love seeing the AL teams come through Chavez Ravine each year. And the World Series hasn’t lost its luster as a result.

Rosenthal’s argument on radical realignment is based primarily on the competitive imbalance in the AL East, with the domination of the Yankees and Red Sox over their opponents:

“The Yankees and Red Sox will remain financial super-powers for the foreseeable future. Even scarier, both teams have become so efficient, they eliminated any intellectual edge that certain low-revenue teams had gained.”

“If all clubs possess similar brainpower, then dollars become decisive, dooming the AL East also-rans. A cynic might suggest they would be better off pocketing revenue-sharing money than trying to compete.”

Ok, fine; obviously there is a severe financial chasm that exists between the high and low-revenue clubs. I could be on board with potentially making some limited shifts in the AL East to address the issue, but where I disagree is Rosenthal’s solution of blowing up all the divisions in favor of prioritizing regional rivalries which he says draws more fans. I would argue that the scarcity of these games is what fans love and what matters most is how the teams are performing. Is there more buzz about Lakers-Clippers games than Dodgers-Angels games? Not when one team is consistently mediocre (unless you’re the Clippers). It’s just another game. Dodgers-Angels games just feel different…they almost have a playoff feel to them with fans from both sides excessively energized, and I wouldn’t want to lose that.

Rosenthal makes some interesting points about competitive balance and the financial benefits from moving the Red Sox to another division (presumably the AL Central) and moving one team from the AL Central to the AL East (he suggests the Tigers, which I’m sure makes Rosenthal persona non grata in Detroit right about now).

If competitive imbalance is truly a problem, I’d be more in favor of looking at scheduling and weighting teams’ opponents for the upcoming season based on how they finish the current season, like the NFL tries to do. Win the World Series, and you’re playing the toughest out-of-division schedule the following year.

Fortunately Bud Selig doesn’t seem too interested in Ken’s theories, so radical realignment appears to be just the musings of a baseball reporter with too much time on his hands during Spring Training.

ESPN OTL Segment Shows Journalists Still Dissing Bloggers

Wow – I just finished watching the ESPN Outside The Lines segment on the recent Raul Ibanez steroids blog post that has the interwebs on fire!

The guy in question, Jerrod Morris, a writer for Midwest Sports Fans, wrote an article that discussed how Raul Ibanez’s power numbers have increased this year and speculated on the reasons why this jump occured. One explanation, he mused, was performance enhancing drugs and, well, the rest was history. The blogosphere began reporting that Jerrod said that Ibanez was taking steroids (not accurate), and ESPN took it a step further by getting two journalists together (including Ken Rosenthal and a guy from the Philadelphia Inquirer) to interrogate Morris.

Man, this was a takedown that was orchestrated like no other. I’d encourage you to watch it yourself and form your own opinions, but some of mine are:

1. Many in the media still thinks bloggers are unprofessional, unaccountable, inaccurate writers – the writers that were tearing Morris apart kept hammering on the fact that he made accusations without any facts. When I read the article and watched the segment, I thought that Morris wasn’t given a fair shake – he was pretty clear in his statement online and on ESPN that he didn’t accuse Ibanez of taking steroids but it everyone seemed to try to accuse Morris of that very fact. Weren’t the mainstream media members pushing Morris on something that wasn’t accurate? It seemed they were practicing the very activity that they were accusing the blogger of – hmm…

2. No one has really spelled out how Ibanez was made aware of anything – This seems like a big game of telephone, where the blogger posts something, another media outlet writes their interpretation of it, another person relays this to Ibanez, and the player unleashes on someone where no one is clear on what the message was.

3. Jerrod’s blog is going to blow up because of this – The very media outlets that try to discredit Jerrod and his blog have actually done quite the opposite- they have made everyone aware of the power of these blogs to write on hot topics and tackle topics that the mainstream media won’t. I think Jerrod and his blog will ultimately be the winners here…much to the dismay of folks like Ken Rosenthal.

writers note: The only research I did for this article was reading Jerrod’s words and watching the OTL segment ;)

6/11/109 Update
A few words from the blogger (Jerrod Morris) today wrapping up his thoughts…

After reflecting more about the interview on Outside the Lines yesterday, just a few more thoughts:

Ken Rosenthal asked at one point, “how did we get here?” What I wish I had said was: “We got here because one newspaper mischaracterized what I said, because a reporter from that same paper went running to Raul Ibanez for a comment without (ostensibly) Ibanez or the reporter reading the actual article I wrote, and because the mainstream media and its holier-than-thou high standards decided to run with the story. If none of that had happened, the Raul Ibanez story would be making its way towards 300-400 views right now and fading from relevance even here at MSF, as opposed to being a national story.

I wasn’t setting out to create a firestorm, but it is curious (there’s that word again) that the MSM was so quick to jump on the story. Could it be because the MSM salivates anytime the terms “steroids” or “PEDs” and an actual player’s name are in the same sentence? Might such stories drive pretty high traffic and viewership? Seems to me they would (and, admittedly, the last few days have proven it for us here at Midwest Sports Fans. Thanks mainstream media!).