The 2010 Biggest Winner at the MLB Trade Deadline Debate… Rangers Enjoy Texas-Sized Upgrades

August 2, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

The MLB trade deadline has come and gone though teams can actually still make moves by passing players through waivers. I actually found myself watching TV at 4p Saturday to see what last minute deals would take place. It was one of the perks of actually having the deadline take place on a Saturday this season! After scanning the market, and looking at the deals that took place, I’m convinced that the Texas Rangers come out as the biggest winners.

Before the trade deadline even approached the Rangers acquired ace Cliff Lee. But, since that trade occurred over three weeks ago, I won’t even address that move. The same goes for the Bengie Molina acquisition from the Giants at the end of June. But even without those moves, I still think the Rangers tremendously improved their club at the deadline.

Jorge Cantu is a solid acquisition for a club that needed a first baseman. Despite some recent struggles, he still had a .262 average with 10 home runs and 54 RBI at the time of the trade. He is a proven run producer with 100 RBI last season and 29 home runs in 2008. He very well could flourish in the boom box known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He can also play third base, so that gives manager Ron Washington some options.

Another move that perhaps went under the radar a bit was the acquisition of another N.L. East player, Cristian Guzman. Guzman fell out of favor in Washington, a team that is obviously going through a youth movement, as he lost his starting shortstop position in the Spring. But he showed his true value by spending time at second base, shortstop, and right field. He’s a two-time All-Star and another guy who provides some options for Washington.

What makes these moves all the more remarkable to me is that the Rangers essentially did them using MLB’s credit card. The Rangers are currently going through bankruptcy proceeding that very well could put Texas sports icons Nolan Ryan and Mark Cuban in a bidding war. Yet, somehow, the Rangers were able to improve the club considerably over the past month.

I commend the Rangers for not standing pat. The Rangers currently hold the majors’ biggest division lead at eight games, and probably could have cruised into the playoffs with the A.L. West title. But there’s still two months to go and it’s a well known fact that the August heat often wears down the Rangers. The team needs all the fresh bodies it can get and acquiring versatile players like Cantu and Guzman provide a big lift. Plus, there’s a general consensus that the American League championship goes through the A.L. East, and Texas is out to disprove that theory.

The Yankees, as Babe Ruthless argues today, may have made the higher profile moves, but the Rangers made the better “team” moves. It could prove beneficial when October rolls around.

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The Best Under 25 MLB Player Debate… Say Hello to the J-Hey Kid!

June 4, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

My fellow write have often heckled me over the past few months regarding my infatuation with Atlanta Braves rookie sensation Jason Heyward. While I am not as smitten as they indicate, I still think he’s a special kid who is going to lead the Braves into the post-Bobby Cox era. He’s also the guy under the age of 25 in the game today who I would choose to build my team around.

The 20-year old Heyward has put up solid numbers in his rookie season for the FIRST PLACE Braves, though Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek would have you believe he belongs in the minor leagues. Heyward is currently hitting .282 with ten home runs and 38 RBI. His OBP is .411, and his OPS is .964 – both of which are good enough for fourth in the National League. Another stat I personally love is that he has walked 33 times. I’d say that shows pretty good plate discipline. He currently sits fifth in the latest All-Star voting for outfielders. I feel pretty confident in saying that if All-Star reserves were announced today, Heyward would be one of the guys chosen by National League manager Charlie Manuel.

Heyward, who grew up about 25 miles south of Atlanta in McDonough, is trying to become the star that former hometown hero Jeff Francouer couldn’t be. And it’s showing in the attendance at Turner Field. In a town where attendance is minimal during April and May, the Braves have averaged just under 29,000. Assuming the Braves get the normal bump in attendance that most teams get in the summer, and assuming the Braves stay in contention throughout the summer, the attendance numbers should show an even bigger jump.

All these numbers are great and clearly prove Heyward is around to stay, but he has the intangibles that separate him from the rest of his brethren. He’s a five tool player who was taught by his father to respect the nuances of the game. The maturity he shows in interviews and around the clubhouse is phenomenal. This cliché gets thrown out there WAY too much, and I know I am only adding to it, but he is “wise beyond his years.” The way he carries himself around others has won him the respect of his peers already.

You can’t go wrong by building your team around Heyward. He’s off to a solid start on the field and has shown maturity off the field. I also think that it is relevant to mention that he could be someone who draws more African Americans to baseball, which is something that is lacking in today’s generation according to public statements from other current MLB stars like C.C. Sabathia and Jimmy Rollins. I remember watching Heyward standing on first base talking to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard during Tuesday’s game. I sat there thinking, “Now there are two guys who are bringing, and who will bring, new fans to the game.” It’s a win-win for everyone.

I’d certainly build my team around Jason Heyward. And it won’t be long before Heyward will be one of the top players chosen in fantasy baseball drafts. The time is coming! And he’s only getting better.

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The Mauer versus Pujols Debate… Winning Starts with Pujols

June 3, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

This is a fascinating debate to me. Bleacher Fan is asking Sports Geek and I to determine who we would build our franchise around if we were starting from scratch. Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer? I really don’t want to hate on Mauer because I really like him as a player. He’s an exceptional hitter. But for the purposes of this debate, this is an easy call. If I am an owner and am starting my franchise from scratch, I am choosing Albert Pujols.

Both have outstanding numbers. For a breakdown on Mauer, check on the debate by Sports Geek. But Pujols is a career .333 hitter, with 2010 being his tenth season in the big leagues. He currently has 378 career home runs, and has an outside shot at getting 400 by the end of the season. My fine mathematical skills tell me that if that happens, that would mean he has averaged 40 home runs a season in his first ten seasons. But this isn’t just a power hitter. If that’s what you want, go talk to Adam Dunn. Pujols has hit over .300 every season… and quite easily. In fact, statistically, 2010 is shaping up to be one of his worst seasons, and I definitely say that in jest. Some experts have said that Pujols is having a bad season, and I laugh at that because he is still among the leaders in home runs, runs batted in, and batting average. Coming into today’s play, he is third in the National League in home runs, fourth in RBI, and third in average.

He’s actually younger than you might think, too. He’s only 30 years old, which means, barring injury, he has several potentially great years ahead of him. It’s also important to note that he plays first base, which is not a physically demanding position. It’s arguably the least physically demanding position on the diamond. Mauer, meanwhile, is three years younger, but that is negated to some extent by the fact that he plays catcher, easily the most physically demanding position in baseball. There’s a reason that catchers often move to first base or designated hitter when they get older. There’s a reason that Scott Boras wants his next prized client, Bryce Harper (who we spotlighted in a debate last year) to play any position other than catcher. The wear and tear a catcher receives severely limits the career potential he can have.

Mauer is a fantastic athlete, as it is well documented that he was an outstanding football player in high school and left a football scholarship to Florida State on the table. But will he still be as good at 33 that he is at 27? That’s questionable. Just last year, he missed over a month with back problems, causing him to play only 109 games. In 2007, he played in only 91 games. 2010 is Mauer’s seventh year in the big leagues, and all 740 games he has played through Wednesday’s action have been at catcher. As of today, Pujols has started 1,474 games in nine and a half seasons. You do the match. Pujols is durable at a durable position. Father time will catch up with Mauer much more quickly than it will catch up with Pujols.

Both are outstanding players, but if someone gives me a blank check and wants me to start a franchise from scratch, the first guy I am going after is Albert Pujols.

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The MLB Team Relocation Debate… Don’t Take the Braves for Granted

May 12, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

This is quite the debate we are having today. Living where I live, and rooting for the teams that I root for, you would never guess that I could even consider this possibility. I’m not saying this will ever happen, and perhaps this speaks more to my frustration with the lack of support this team has received over the years from its city. And yes, I know this city is a huge market (population wise). But, from an interest standpoint, I believe a case could be made that the Atlanta Braves should be relocated.

Gone are the days when the stadium is packed with crazed tomahawk-chopping fans. As a young Braves fan I remember the fire and the passion at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, and then later at Turner Field. But it’s now gone.

I specifically remember going to a game in 1993 against Barry Bonds and the Giants on a weekday. The “Launching Pad” was packed as the Braves were in the midst of a pennant chase. Those days are gone.

Flash back to a couple of weeks ago. The Braves, riding the buzz of Jason Heyward’s arrival and the fact that the Phillies were in town, managed to draw less than 25,000 all three games. Unacceptable. I know it was in April and the kids were still in school. But still, that’s embarrassing. The Braves currently sit 13th in the league in attendance at just a shade under 29,000, and those numbers are heavily inflated due to an opening series against top draw Chicago. Judging from the look of some of the crowds, I’m fairly certain that the number reflects how many tickets are sold and not the number of “people in attendance.”

There are many reasons for this. Take a look at the Braves radio affiliates. Yes, many stations in Georgia carry Braves baseball, but eight states currently have Braves radio affiliates. You can’t be many places in the Southeast and not find Braves baseball on your radio dial. Many fans outside of Atlanta rely on the Braves radio network to get their fix. The passion that doesn’t exist in the city of Atlanta most definitely exists in other parts of the state. I know adults in South Georgia in multiple counties that will call their satellite provider and fuss when a Braves game isn’t being carried for whatever reason. Many people not only in the Southeast but throughout other parts of the country grew up watching the Braves on TBS, even when they were terrible. Also, as scary as this image may be to you, it’s not uncommon for Loyal Homer to lay in the pool on a hot Sunday afternoon and listen to the Braves on the radio (Editor’s Note: Gross.). I wonder how often this takes place in Atlanta and its suburbs.

Part of the problem with the lack of passion amongst “fans” in Atlanta is that many residents in the city didn’t grow up in Georgia, much less Atlanta. Being a big market, and being a business and media hot spot, many Atlanta residents have moved there from other parts of the country for professional reasons. They don’t have the attraction to Atlanta’s sports teams because they didn’t grow up with them. It’s one reason why Georgia Tech has a hard time attracting fans while the Georgia Bulldogs, an hour away, usually has a waiting list for season tickets in football.

I initially balked at this idea when suggested by Sports Geek during our production meeting last week. But the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But there are other parts of the Southeast where Braves baseball is more popular. Up until the arrival of the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins, the Braves were the only professional baseball team in the Southeast. Trust me, that means something. It’s a reason why the Braves have passionate fans in places like Charlotte, Memphis, Birmingham, and other places. Atlanta better tighten up, or who knows what could happen in the future.

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The Most Hated MLB Team Debate… What’s So Lovable About the Cubs?

May 5, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

The Sports Debates recently came across an article that states that the Cleveland Indians are the most hated team in baseball. It shocked all of us. First and foremost, I didn’t realize enough people even cared about the Indians these days with Mr. James still in town wearing a Cavalier uniform. I also haven’t found too many people to say that they hate the Indians. They bring up no feelings of passion from casual fans in other parts of the country, and that’s always a measuring stick for me. Nonetheless, we decided to have a little mid-week fun today and discuss the most hated team in baseball.

I think almost every non-Yankee fan despises the Yankees as there is no middle ground there. I’m going to go off path a little today and write that people are getting sick and tired of those supposed lovable losers from the North side of Chicago. What exactly is so lovable about them? I write this realizing I am stepping on Sports Geek’s toes and risk alienating him (Editor’s Note: Don’t piss off the editor)!

I used to not dislike the Cubbies. I remember distinctly rushing home from school in the late 1980s and early 1990s just to see the Cubs on WGN. The Cubs have that 2:20p eastern time start, and it was always a treat to hear Harry Caray call a game. I would usually get home in time to see the start of the fourth inning. I became quite familiar with players like Ryan Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, and Doug Dascenzo. I can still see it now. But somewhere along the line I got sick of the Cubs and their fans.

Maybe I can blame Steve Bartman for that, or perhaps I should say the reaction of the fans to him. Sure, Bartman interfered with the foul ball down the left field line. But did Bartman blow a 3-0 eighth inning lead that game? Did Bartman lose Game 7 the next night? If you were to hear some Cubs fans talk you would think Bartman is the root of all evil. Heck, maybe they are blaming Bartman for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Got to blame someone right? I’ve personally always thought the Jeffrey Maier incident in the Yankees-Orioles ALCS game back in 1996 had a bigger impact. But, no, that isn’t the belief in the Windy City.

Maybe it’s because I get sick and tired of hearing Cubs fans complain when I go to a game involving the Cubs. I’ve been to a few Cubs games in Atlanta over the years and they whine worse than Bleacher Fan’s boy Dwight Howard. They think they are entitled to something, and they think the baseball gods owe them a thing or two. That is incorrect. Poor Cubbie fans! Haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Heck, they haven’t even been to a World Series in what, 65 years? That’s not my fault. It’s not my fault the team couldn’t make it to the World Series with two aces like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in the rotation. It’s not my fault Dusty Baker likes toothpicks. It’s not my fault the White Sox, the cross-town rivals, won a World Series in 2005. And, please, enough with the Curse of the Billy Goat and trying to reverse the curse! The only way to reverse the so-called curse is to win on the field. So quit whining!

Maybe I get the wrath of some of our loyal Cub readers. If so bring it on. But with a show of fingers, how many World Series have the beloved Cubs have won in your lifetime? I’m waiting………….! This is why the Cubs should be the most hated team in baseball. They talk the talk, but haven’t walked the walk in our lifetime!

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The Most Surprising MLB Move in April Debate… Can The Mets Really Keep This Up?

April 28, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

I was contemplating over this debate for a day or so. The strong play of the Padres and the extension of Ryan Howard’s contract were issues that originally came to mind. But you know, I thought about how the first 20 games of the season had gone, and I must say it became clear to me what I must argue. The most surprising move in April is the move of the New York Mets to first place.

If you will recall, back on April 19, I said that Omar Minaya was on the hot seat. And I still think he may be, so I am not letting him off the hook. But after ten games at the start of the season, I recall thinking to myself, “My gosh, the Mets are the worst team in the league. They are worse than the Pirates and Nationals!”

At the time the lineup was really struggling. Jose Reyes was not back to full strength. Jason Bay was hitting under .200. The only guy hitting at the time was Jeff Francoeur. It was a lineup that consisted of eight easy outs. And while the lineup still isn’t hitting like it is capable, it is definitely getting there. Jerry Manuel mixed things up a bit. He slotted Reyes in the third spot in the lineup, in front of Jason Bay, David Wright, prized rookie Ike Davis, and Francoeur – and it has worked. The Mets are riding a six game winning streak and currently sit a half-game ahead of the Phillies for first place in the East.

Davis has definitely been a spark for the team. Since getting called up on April 19 he has hit .333 and the Mets have gone 8-1. He has been a stabilizing force at first base, a position the Mets have had a surprisingly tough time filling in recent years with the injuries to former first baseman Carlos Delgado. For all of the attention Braves rookie Jason Heyward has gotten so far, especially from yours truly, Davis is quietly making an early splash, so don’t hand that rookie of the year trophy to Heyward just yet.

The pitching staff has been surprisingly strong in the beginning also. We all know how dominant Johan Santana can be. That is not a shock. But did anyone think that Mike Pelfrey would be 4-0 with an ERA at 0.69 at this point? This is MIKE PELFREY, guys! Now I am certainly not insisting that I think he will keep that up. He has not become Santana, Roy Halladay, or Ubaldo Jimenez overnight. Pelfrey has helped pace the Mets pitching staff to an overall ERA of 3.11 through Tuesday’s action, which is currently good enough for third in the league. Keep in mind that coming into the season the pitching staff was supposedly a weak spot.

It is most definitely early, and the Mets will be having a key “measuring stick” battle this weekend with the Phillies. But for the first 20 games of the season the surge of the Mets from worst to first has been the biggest move. And remember, there is a guy on the disabled list named Carlos Beltran who will provide a big boost when and IF he returns.

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The Firing an MLB GM Debate… Time For Omar to Hit the Road!

April 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

I have been waiting for a debate like this. You know how there are just some guys that just irritate the ever living crap out of you? They give you high blood pressure when you do not have blood pressure problems. They make you cringe upon hearing their name. You wonder how they keep getting a free pass in their profession! Omar Minaya is THAT GUY, for me!

Minaya earned his stripes and built his early reputation by the job he did in Montreal. The Expos were very competitive for the most part in their last few years in Montreal, and some of that credit has to go to Minaya. However, a closer look at his tenure reveals that as general manager in Montreal, he traded away the likes of Jason Bay, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Chris Young. Wouldn’t the Nationals organization like to have some of those guys right now?

My problem with Minaya, though, begins with his time with the Mets. He was hired by New York before the 2005 season and began to restructure the team. It worked out in the short term as the Mets won the NL East in 2006. It has been all downhill ever since, as the aging Mets fell, reaching a new low last year when they won only 70 games. That particular team was bitten by the injury bug and a lack of depth. The lack of talent in the minor leagues led to no one being able to step up and fill in the gaps. I mean, come on, Gary Sheffield was hitting clean up for much of the season. This is not the Sheffield we all know from his prime. This is the then 41-year-old Sheffield who was released by the Detroit Tigers early last season and not meant to be the focus of a lineup.

Some of Minaya’s off the field decisions and “activities” leave me scratching my head also. Manager Willie Randolph was feeling the heat during the middle of the 2008 season. We all knew that. But to fire him in a hotel room, and then announce it to the world with a press release released at 3:12 in the morning was just downright wrong and reeks of no class. And then, let’s not forget the incident last year with New York Daily News reporter, Adam Rubin, in which Minaya attacked an embarrassed Rubin during the middle of a press conference.

The pressure is starting to build in New York again, and this season’s 4-8 start is not relieving the pressure. Fans are calling for a change, both in the front office and on the field. Keep in mind that the Mets are playing just their second year in Citi Field, and it’s unfortunate that fans in New York aren’t coming to the park to experience the sights and sounds because the team sucks. Something has to change, and if I had my way, firing Omar Minaya would be the beginning of that change!

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The 2010 MLB Sleeper Debate… The Fish Could Swim to the Playoffs

April 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

We are ten days into the Major League Baseball season and there are some things happening that do not surprise me. Albert Pujols is raking the ball. The Houston Astros are terrible. The San Francisco Giants have an awesome pitching staff. Chipper Jones already has a nagging injury. I could go on and on. But for the purposes of this debate, we are looking at possible sleeper teams in baseball this season. Babe Ruthless has chosen to go with the Royals, while Sports Geek has decided to go with the Rays. Both of are good picks in contrasting ways. But I am going to go with the Florida Marlins.

Did you know that last season’s Florida Marlins team won 87 games? I happen to know that since I follow the National League East quite regularly. The Marlins seemingly fly under the radar every season, and that is one of the essential reasons why they have to be considered a sleeper. Despite having a solid team returning, do you want to guess how many fantasy players from the Marlins are actually on a team in The Sports Debates fantasy league? I counted three, with those being the obvious choices of Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Dan Uggla. No one really knows about this team, and that includes the residents in South Florida, as the Marlins historically rank near the bottom of the league in attendance.

We have shown the Marlins a little bit of love in the past month. I highlighted the N.L. East as the best division in baseball a couple of weeks ago, and just last week Sports Geek said that the Marlins had the “best rotation for the money.” That rotation starts with Johnson, obviously, but veterans like Ricky Nolasco and Nate Robertson can definitely win double digit games.

Everyone knows about Ramirez and Uggla, but did you know that last season’s National League Rookie of the Year plays for the Fish? That’s right! Introduce yourself to Chris Coghlan. He is off to a slow start this season, but in 2009 he was a nuisance for opponents as he seemingly always was on base. I like to call him a “contact hitter specialist.” Some like to call him a “professional hitter,” but I do not think that gives him enough credit.

Another player who is off to a hot start this year is Jorge Cantu. Cantu already has 13 runs batted in this season. He has at least one RBI in eight straight games. He also flies under the radar. Until writing this argument I did not realize that he had 100 RBI last season.

All of these guys are managed by Fredi Gonzalez, who I think could be on the short list to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta next year. Gonzalez was a third base coach for the Braves from 2003-2006. His ability to get these young guys in Florida to come together is underappreciated by a lot of people, but it is hard to ignore the results.

The fact that you probably do not know much about the Marlins is what makes them a sleeper. But if they make a serious run towards the postseason, which is quite possible, then you just may hear more about those elusive Marlins that no one can reel in!

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The 2010 Worst Contract in Baseball Debate… Toronto, What Were You Thinking?

April 12, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

There are many head-scratching contracts that have been offered by general managers to baseball players in recent years. The Sports Debates highlights three of them in our arguments today. I also have yet to figure out why “Moneyball” expert Billy Beane decided to throw money away and give Ben Sheets a one year deal with Oakland for $10M. That negates Beane being an expert at anything anymore. But, if there is one current contract out there currently that strikes me as totally ridiculous – the contract that Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells has stuck in his back pocket.

Back in late December of 2006, Wells and his family received the Christmas present of a lifetime when he signed a seven year deal worth $126M. This is the gift that keeps on giving for Wells personally, though it has not done much for anyone else. It has helped give then Blue Jay general manager J.P. Ricciardi a pink slip. And it has helped lead the Blue Jays to no more than 86 wins in the three years since the contract was signed. All he has done over the first three years of the deal is hit a combined 55 home runs. Let’s delve more deeply into this deal.

This contract has to be one of the most backloaded contracts in the history of sports. It is true that he received a $25M signing bonus, but the first three years he played with minimal financial damage being dished out to the Blue Jays. And even this season, at $12.5M, is okay. But 2011 is when the fun really begins. Warning to Blue Jays fans: This could hurt!

In 2011, Wells’ salary inflates to $23M. What? Are you kidding me? And then for some reason, Wells will have to take a pay cut and make only $21M per season for the 2012-2014 seasons. Poor thing!!! Here is my favorite part of the contract, though. Wells has the right to opt out of his contract after the fourth year, which would be after next season. Hahahaha! Come on! Are you serious? Sorry Blue Jay fans, but he is not doing that. You are stuck with him until after the 2014 season because he also has a full no-trade clause.

And it is not like the guy is Albert Pujols, either. Last season, he hit 15 home runs with a batting average of .260. That is just not going to get it done. Yeah, he is off to a great start this season, hitting .350 with four home runs so far. But that is just over five games. Let’s see him do it over the course of a full season.

I bet Wells sleeps great at night. But I bet his agent, Brian Peters, sleeps even better knowing he pulled the steal of the 21st Century.

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The MLB Team Rebuilding Debate… Baseball Does Not Need a Bailout

March 25, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Baseball, above any other sport, reflects America. It mirrors American diversity and capitalizes on the exceptional qualities of each team to create a truly unique sports experience. Unlike football or basketball, baseball does not try to maintain an illusion of universal parity. Instead baseball embraces what it really is – a league of differences.

Baseball has rich teams and poor teams. Strong and weak. While some will cry foul at this overt rejection of an ideal notion of equality, can’t the same be said of America? Is this country not a land of diversity – a home for the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, and people of all types? If it is, then so should its national pastime.

Today’s debate explores whether baseball should change the way it does business to accommodate a faster rebuilding process for bad teams. Unequivocally, the answer is no!

Former Cleveland Indians infielder and New York Yankees’ manager Bob Lemon once said, “Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups screw it up.” As a baseball purist, I tend to agree. Overhauls for the sake of maximizing profits may make business sense, but they do not always turn out well for the sport in the long run.

Let’s examine the home run craze of the 1990s, for example. It brought excitement back to a sport that seemed to be waning, following an unpopular work stoppage that ended the 1994 season prematurely. The long ball emerged as the savior of baseball. Fast forward a decade and society looks at the same time period as a black eye for baseball. All the media attention and buildup that the homerun record chase generated seemed like a good idea at the time, but ultimately all of the hype clearly contributed to the increase in performance enhancing drugs. The Steroids Era has permanently marred baseball. Nowadays if homerun numbers are up, people scramble to find something – anything – to blame, rather than considering hitting might have been up that year. In 2006 players were cutting open balls to make sure they weren’t juiced to provide a non-steroid advantage to hitters. All of this craziness could have been avoided if baseball had just thought through all aspects of the scenario and not just chased a quick fix.

For this debate my worthy adversary, Loyal Homer, and I were asked to use the Cleveland Indians as a case study in slow restructuring in MLB. In 2001 the Indians general manager Mark Shapiro made a prediction that the club’s rebuilding efforts would not be realized for several seasons. His words proved truthful, as it took another six years to return to the playoffs. Before you start feeling sorry for the “struggling” franchise consider this: Shapiro’s efforts to restructure the club did not have lasting positive effects. Following the Indians deep postseason run in 2007 they collapsed, tying for the worst record in the division in 2008. Cleveland has not been back to the playoffs since. Although the restructuring occurred during Shapiro’s watch, so did the epic collapse, proving he certainly he did not have the right answers, either.

Winning takes time. It took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to win a World Series. The Chicago Cubs are at 102 years and counting. Sure these clubs fielded some phenomenal teams during their droughts, but they were not able to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a World Series championship. Losing helped them build character. It gave them an identity, and in my opinion, endeared them to America. Both clubs have an enormous national and international following. If these teams won championships frequently and there never was a Curse of the Bambino or the Billy Goat, would they be as popular today? I am sure they would have a larger following because the clubs play in big markets, but I do not think they would captivate America they way they do today.

It is wrong to point out the “alleged” decline of baseball to discredit the current system. The Sports Business Journal admits that baseball’s ratings were down last year, but not because small teams were struggling to rebuild. Instead the media outlet states that a lack of televised playoff chasing teams caused the diminished ratings, rather than general dissatisfaction. I would also be willing to bet that baseball is still feeling some aftershock from the Steroid Era. But the season was not without success. In fact, historically underachieving teams like the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies were among the top five in television ratings increases last year.

Baseball does not need a bailout for bad teams. Struggling teams just need time to work things out. People should not jump hastily to conclusions and restructure to “level the playing field.” Look no further than last season for evidence of this. In 2009 The New York Yankees’ payroll ($201,449,289) was more than five times that of the Florida Marlins ($36,814,000). These two teams had the greatest disparity in salaries, but they were both competitive. The Marlins nearly won the National League wild card, finishing better than 19 other MLB teams. Baseball does not need to revamp its draft system or free agency to stay competitive. It just needs time for teams and managers to straighten things out. It took the New York Yankees nine seasons to win their elusive 27th championship, and they were literally throwing money at any and every weakness they could find. I did not hear too many people empathizing with the Bombers and suggesting intervention to help with restructuring. Now the Yankees are the defending World Series champs. Their game plan did not change, it just took time to sort out the kinks.

Baseball is best in its purest form. In the words of American author Paul Gallico, “No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined.”

The game’s greatness is far above our poor power to add to it or detract from it. Baseball should be left alone.

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