The Early MLB All-Star Voting Start Debate… A Royal All-Star Game?

April 29, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Another season, another desperate promotional crawl toward the MLB All-Star game this July. And, of course, if you promote something enough through various media outlets then it simply MUST be important, right? That’s the only possible explanation. Well, if that’s the rule you live by, I hope you’re enjoying your Furby and Pet Rock. I have some GREAT Snake Oil I’d like to sell you, too.

Too often sports marketing becomes about repetition of message and not quality of product. No example better illustrates this fact like Major League Baseball’s promotion of All-Star voting for fans. Fans are asked after a short three weeks of actual baseball to vote on which players deserve to play in the All-Star game – you know, that game that decides home field advantage for the World Series. Sure, it is an exhibition game, but it is also a game designed to award the best league with home field advantage. Are you ready to pick those players in April, knowing full well that those players might be deciding if your team gets home field advantage in the World Series? I know I’m not.

This debate depends entirely on context. What is the context for the fans voting in the All-Star game? Are fans expected to pick the best players across the league to represent their preferred league in the All-Star game? Or, are fans simply voting for their favorite players? It seems that there is a substantial disconnect here. Fans are voting based on popularity in the current structure. Allowing fans to vote after three weeks of actual games is absurd because fans have very little sample size to go off of. The kicker is, of course, that the All-Star game is a game fans and players alike want to win.

So, to recap. Fans want to vote for their favorite players early and often. A smaller faction of fans, coaches, and players want to win the game to secure home field advantage in the World Series… a goal that the best players are required to accomplish. The equation simply does not add up, and the early voting perpetuates the problem. Any democratic situation requires the electorate be informed, but in this case the electorate is misinformed with bad information with a small sample size.

Popularity dictating the vote does not seem to make sense, then, because, popular players are not always the best players. And, the inverse is true also in that the best players are not always popular. The problem is, the best players a few weeks into April will not be the best players still after June 1. Consider this very real scenario, folks. If voting were ended right now here is a likely starting lineup for both sides:

American League
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
2B Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
3B Ty Wiggington, Baltimore Orioles
SS Yuniesky Betancourt, Kansas City Royals
LF Scott Podsednik, Kansas City Royals
RF Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
CF Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle Mariners
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
P Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
DH Vladimir Guerrero, Texas Rangers

National League
1B Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
2B Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
SS Ryan Theriot, Chicago Cubs
LF Andre Ethier, L.A. Dodgers
RF Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs
CF Michael Bourn, Houston Astros
C Ivan Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
P Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets
DH Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

Do those lists showcase the best talent in MLB, across the board, that is most deserving of an All-Star game apperance? No. Some of the players deserve recognition, but many will likely fade after the adrenaline of April wears off. And frustrated All-Star managers will be left holding the bag. I mean, do the Royals REALLY deserve that much All-Star attention? As a business issue – are fans going to PAY to see the stars from ROYALS? No, but then we’re back at the popularity scenario where the best players are not guaranteed a roster spot. The entire conundrum can be avoided easily if fan voting does not begin until a reasonable amount of baseball has been played.

Plus, if the World Series home field advantage depends on this game, why aren’t the selected managers able to build the type of club they want in order to win the game? Taking fan voting completely out of it, there is potentially a great deal at stake. It doesn’t make sense to put every manager in a difficult situation by forcing underqualified players on them in a playoff series that is a must win should their team reach the World Series.

If fans must be included in the voting, at least recognize that there is no baseball value in beginning the vote this early. It is an effort to pander to fans – an effort I find both insulting and useless. There are some aspects of the game that should be taken seriously, like contracts and championships. Opening the vote even earlier to fans makes a mockery of contracts by triggering All-Star incentives in contracts for players that do not deserve them, and by forcing less skilled players on managers charged with the responsibility of winning a game.

Allowing fans to vote at all is enough. Opening the vote up after three weeks into the season just stuffs the roster with questionable players and works against the goal of the game being taken seriously. Restore pride in the All-Star game… or just don’t bother.

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The Best World Series Champ of the Decade Debate – The Surprising 2003 Marlins Reign Supreme

November 9, 2009

Read the arguments by Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan about which teams they believe were the best World Series champions of this decade.

Since the final World Series of this decade was just completed, The Sports Debates must debate which specific World Series winning team was the best of the decade. (The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals do not belong in the discussion. That team was eliminated from consideration quite early in our conversation.) Almost everyone, at least almost everyone outside of New York, was thrilled to see the Boston Red Sox win in 2004. In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the heavily favored New York Yankees in the post 9/11 World Series. To me, that remains the best World Series I have ever personally watched, with the exception of the 1991 World Series (minus the outcome, of course). But as far as team of the decade, I really feel the 2003 Florida Marlins got hot at the right time and ended up being the best World Series championship team of this decade.

The Florida Marlins have been either hit or miss since its inception in 1993. The team won the World Series in 1997, too, but this 2003 team just had something about it. Not many experts expected much out of it. Sure the team won 91 games in the regular season (a full ten games behind division winner, Atlanta). The 91-win season occurred after starting the season 19-29 and changing managers (Jeff Torborg was replaced by Jack McKeon). And the team was not really expected to do much in the playoffs. But, they defeated San Francisco in the first round, a series that concluded with Ivan Rodriguez holding on to the ball at home plate after being run over by J.T. Snow.

Many people, fair or not, think of Steve Bartman when they think of the 2003 NLCS. But the Marlins deserve some serious credit for overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the series. The Marlins won Game six and seven against the Cubs in Chicago when the Cubbies featured young guns Mark Prior and Kerry Wood on the bump.

After the NLCS came the supposed mismatch against the heavily favored New York Yankees. The Marlins payroll was $54 million, compared to the $164 million payroll of the Yankees. However, behind dominant starting pitching, Florida won its second World Series in six seasons, winning four games to two. Josh Beckett pitched the clincher, going the distance on three days rest in one of the most clutch starting pitching performances in postseason history.

The postseason was the coming out party for then-20 year old Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera was called up midseason but he really caught the attention of the baseball world during the postseason. The highlights include hitting three home runs in the NLCS and hitting a home run off of Roger Clemens in the World Series (in what was supposed to be Clemens’ last season… hahahaha!).

What carried the Marlins was the young pitching trio of Beckett, Brad Penny, and rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis. Those three showed no fear in being thrust unexpectedly into the postseason spotlight.

The 2003 Marlins were a true underdog pretty much the entire season. The team overcame that stigma to win a title. For that, the 2003 Florida Marlins deserve to be called the team of the decade!

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The Speaking the Unspoken Rules Debate – Ozzie is Out of Line

August 13, 2009

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s argument that it is okay to speak about the unspoken rules, and Bleacher Fan’s argument to keep the unspoken rules unspoken.

I guess it is time for me to speak about the unspoken rules of baseball, right?

Ozzie Guillen is a respected (in some circles) baseball man. He played from 1985-2000, and has been a manager for the White Sox since 2003. He even won a World Series as a skipper in 2005, so I guess that lends him some credibility when he speaks up. But, we cannot forget how many times he shoots his mouth off. If you have forgotten, the first person you might want to call is writer Jay Mariotti after their little run-in.

Gulllen has threatened to hit TWO batters the next time he feels one of his players is hit intentionally. There lies the body of this debate. I am just going to cut right to the chase and say that I am declaring Bleacher Fan the winner! Here’s why.

Bleacher Fan argued that Guillen often has “diarrhea of the mouth” and that these most recent statements may backfire on his team while Sports Geek argued that this is a new era in baseball and he commended Guillen for sticking up for his players and being honest.

In one sense, I commend Guillen for the same thing. In the past, he has not taken up for his players in public. This time he seems to have their backs. While his intentions may be honorable, he is doing more harm than good this time. He is indirectly putting pressure on his pitching staff, as if the staff needs more in the midst of a pennant race. In theory, if fans accept what Ozzie is saying, here is what could happen. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander could come inside and hit White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. If Guillen thinks it is intentional, he is going to immediately tell his pitcher Mark Buerhle, “Hey Buerhle, come inside and hit both Miggy Cabrera and Curtis Granderson in the ribs.” After that it will turn into a brawl and players from both teams get ejected and suspended. Personally, I would love to see this on Sportscenter, as I love watching baseball brawls. But, this would not be in the best interest of the team.
Without the threat from Guillen, if Verlander hits Konerko, Guillen may Buerhle to hit Cabrera. Warnings would have been issued, and then everyone would move on. That is part of the game. But, Guillen and the White Sox have already received their warning now. Major League Baseball VP of Discipline, Bob Watson, issued a warning yesterday.

I’m sure your pitching staff thanks you, Ozzie! I’m sure the Detroit Tigers thank you, Ozzie! And, Bleacher Fan thanks you, Ozzie! You would be better off just letting this play out and not airing it out in public. Be honest… behind closed doors!!!

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The Speaking the Unspoken Rules Debate – The Speaking of Unspoken Rules

August 12, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that it is ok to come out and speak about the unspoken rules and Bleacher Fan’s argument that players and coaches should not speak the unspoken rules of their sport

The city of Chicago is fortunate enough to have two teams in wild card chases (with the Cubs also being in a division race.) Entering play on Wednesday, the Cubs are three games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central and three games behind the Rockies in the wild card race. Meanwhile, the boys from the South side enter play Wednesday trailing the Detroit Tigers by two games in the American League Central. It is going to be wild!

Something else has happened involving the White Sox, though.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, perhaps feeling the pressure of the pennant race, spoke out in frustration last week. This is something he rarely does (just a hint of sarcasm here). The White Sox have been getting drilled in all parts of the body over the past month by blazing fastballs from the opposing teams. Guillen has had enough, and he is going to do something about it. He has issued a warning to every team the White Sox play from here on out.

“If I see someone hit my player, and I know they hit him on purpose, it’s two guys going down. I don’t care if I get suspended,” Guillen said. “I rather have me suspended for two games than have my players on the DL for 30 days.”

Now, it is common for a team to plunk a batter at some point after their player has been drilled. It is just part of the game and most people, sans Kevin Youkilis, accept it. I know, as a fan, if one of the players on the team I am rooting for gets drilled, I want someone on the other team to get hit also. Not headhunting or anything, but maybe right in the back. After that, all is forgotten and everyone moves along.

But Ozzie “The Non-Wizard” Guillen has upped the ante. On one end of the spectrum, he has really sent a message to his team that he has their back and that the constant beaning of the White Sox has got to stop. On the other hand, he has really put his entire pitching staff under a microscope and put them under a lot of pressure. If Mark Buerhle comes inside on Miguel Cabrera and unintentionally hits him, the home plate umpire, knowing Guillen’s comments, could toss Buerhle out of the game.

Sounds like a debate to me.

Is it wise to speak the unspoken rules of baseball?

Sports Geek will argue that it is ok to speak the “unspoken” rules while Bleacher Fan will argue that it is not something that a player or coach should do!

Game on! The loser either gets thrown out of the game or gets beaned by a Loyal Homer fastball (and we all know that’s a real heater!)!

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