WWBD – What Will Bud Do?

UPDATE: Color me amazed! This afternoon, Commissioner Selig issued a written statement indicating the ruling would NOT be reversed AND indicating he would, “look at the game’s umpiring system and the expanded use of instant replay.”  It’s extremely difficult for me to congratulate Selig on a decision, but I do congratulate him (or whichever advisor told him, “Are you kidding, you CAN’T reverse that call!”) on this decision. Now, let’s see some follow-up that will give the umpires the help they deserve to make sure as many “blown calls” as possible can be avoided. -JC

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It’s been all over the internet today, from blogs to social network sights. An umpire missed a call.

OMG… really? That happens?

While I feel awful for Armando Gallaraga for losing his shot at a perfect game on a blown safe/out call at 1B, and just as awful for umpire Jim Joyce for having made an honest mistake, what I simply do not understand is why THAT call… which did not affect the outcome of a game… is so much more important than the equally atrocious blown call that prematurely ended the Twins/Mariners game later in the evening.

During our GameChat last night, we were discussing the Gallaraga/Joyce call and the question arose concerning whether MLB might step in and reverse the call. I responded with something to the effect of, “They can’t and they shouldn’t, but since it’s the wrong thing to do, that’s probably exactly what Bud Selig will do.” I stand by that sentiment this morning.

Today, I read that the MLB office has not yet decided whether to change the call. Seriously?

Ah… but yes, it all makes sense now. The cry has never been louder for expanded use of  instant replay and we all know how Bud feels about that issue. Reversing the call would allow the Budster to accomplish several things. First, it would “get the call right,” and awards Gallaraga the perfecto that he deserves. Second, it gets the heat off of Jim Joyce so he doesn’t have to go through the rest of his life haunted by the blown call. Finally, it mutes the voices screaming for more instant replay.

Look, I’m all for finding a way to give Gallaraga his justice (he handled the situation with remarkable class and maturity, by the way… and you should read Joe Posnanski’s cnnsi column on that subject, if you haven’t already). I also have no wish to see Joyce suffer the same fate Don Denkinger did for the rest of his career after his blown World Series call in 1985 (don’t ask me how I’d feel if it had been one of the total yahoos in the umpiring business, like Joe West, had blown the call).

But as difficult as it might be to figure out how to do, baseball NEEDS expanded instant replay and if Selig reverses this particular call, while ignoring blown calls like the one that ended the Twins game, not to mention the blown calls in last year’s post season… you know, calls that actually had effects on who wins games… then the owners should immediately relieve him of his Commissioner duties. Well, I think they should do that anyway… but this would be the latest crime against baseball that would warrant his dismissal.

Stepping in and effectively saying, “a blown call that costs a player a record is more worthy of reversal and thus more important than a blown call that affects the outcome of a game,” is exactly the wrong thing to do. Which means that I fully expect Bud Selig to do exactly that.

The RIGHT thing to do would be to say, “It’s a shame that this happened just as it’s a shame we have calls that affect the outcome of games and we’re going to do something about it by expanding instant replay… but we can not go back and change anything that has already happened.” Of course, that’s the one thing Bud WON’T do.

But what say you? We haven’t put up a poll in a while. Am I wrong here?

By all means, feel free to expand on your feelings in the comment section. – JC

Friday Hot Dish

Way down south, where I’m living (in Iowa), it’s called a casserole. But as I recall from my younger years in Minnesota, up there it’s a hot dish. Either way, to me it’s still a bunch of stuff thrown together, cooked, and if you’re really good at it (or really lucky), it turns out tasty, satisfying and filling. So that’s the purpose of this post… throw a few things together and, since I’m not likely to be really good, I’ll hope to be lucky.

It didn’t take long for the Twins to completely disregard my suggested roster moves. In fact, not only did they NOT make the moves I recommended, even the one move that I said “we all know WILL happen this weekend” isn’t going to happen this weekend. JJ Hardy won’t be rejoining the Twins for their series against JJ’s former team, the Brewers, this weekend. I’m getting a bit more concerned about this slow-healing wrist. A couple of our readers added comments taking issue with my suggestion that it might be time for Brian Duensing to slide in to Kevin Slowey’s spot in the rotation. Whether my suggestions turn out to be as far off base as they’re already starting to look, only time will tell. Let’s see where things stand in 2-3 weeks.

By the way, given that Hardy isn’t ready yet, it makes perfect sense to have Trevor Plouffe join the team this weekend. Luke Hughes is on the DL and Matt Tolbert can’t return to the Bigs until 10 days after he was sent down, so Plouffe makes sense. Let’s just hope Gardy isn’t tempted to use him as a late-game defensive replacement in a close game. Trevor has eight errors already this year.

Joe Mauer... moving up TSN's "Best Player in Baseball" list.

The Sporting News polled 125 baseball “experts” (apparently my ballot was lost in the mail) to find out who they thought the best 50 players in baseball are. Guess what!? Joe Mauer isn’t #1! Yeah, that Pujols guy over in the National League (or as I call it, Class AAAA) got the nod for the second year in a row. But Joe’s on Albert’s heels at #2 after moving up 37 spots from last year’s poll. Seriously… these experts thought Joe was the 39th best player a year ago? I mean… I know he missed April with back issues so maybe the votes last year were influenced by what was then Mauer’s “current performance”, but 39th?

Doc not impressing the TSN 'experts'?

The Twins’ other representative in the top 50 is another head-scratcher. Justin Morneau is ranked 23rd by these experts. If current performance is important, how is Doc’s 2010 not being recognized? He’s off to arguably the best start of his career. And he’s DROPPED 9 spots from last year?

The panel, as described by TSN, “included 18 Hall of Famers, 12 Cy Young award winners, 8 MVPs, 15 rookies of the year, 3 batting champions, 3 home run champions, 9 Silver Slugger award winners, 18 Gold Glove winners, 6 ERA champions, 4 World Series MVPs, 2 relievers of the year, 7 managers of the year, 5 former executives, 6 media members and 9 team broadcasters.” Sounds like a bunch of old men, to me.

Apparently senility has set in among some of those old “experts”.

It wouldn’t be a JimCrikket link fest without something from Joe Posnanski, of course… so I’m going to link to two of Joe’s recent efforts. Don’t worry, they’re both short.

First, Poz (I don’t know if that’s really a nickname he uses, but if it isn’t it should be) looked at the Hanley Ramirez fiasco and posed the question “What if it had been Jeter?”  He’s also given us a peek inside the Sports Illustrated tent and, as someone who’s giving some thought to buying an iPad in the near future, I found his “Sports Illustrated for iPad” posting of some interest.

You may have noticed how I’ve avoided any mention of last night’s loss to the East Coast Bitch Sox in Boston. It was aggravating on so many levels, but I think the thing that stood out the most, right from the start of the game, was the absolute joke that particular umpiring crew has become. Since the Twins have a “history” with some of those guys (remember Brendan Harris not being allowed a time out and having a pitch zip by him while not even looking?), it was probably predictable. But rather than me ranting today, I’ll just send you over to k-bro’s place to see her scientific (I’m sure) diagram of the strike zone last night.

I guess I need to get a little real work done this morning, so that’s enough for now. Check back later… if I come across any other interesting ingredients for today’s hot dish, I’ll add them as the day rolls on. – JC

UPDATE 1: I did mean to include this post from Jim Manelaro concerning the Stephen Strasburg “event” in Rochester. Strasburg, the uber-phenom of the Washington Nationals who is being kept busy mowing down minor leaguers until the Nats can be sure he won’t qualify for “super 2″ arbitration status in a couple of years, pitched against the Red Wings Wednesday night.

He pitched well (although newly promoted Twin Trevor Plouffe did get one hit off him). As you’d expect, the Rochester stadium was overflowing (with a significant number of fans wearing Strasburg T-shirts sold at the stadium by the Red Wings!) and when Strasburg was finally relieved of duty, he was given a huge ovation as he left the field. However, he apparently did not acknowledge the ovation with the traditional “cap tip”, causing much of the ovation to turn to boos. This has apparently become a bit of a “thing” now. So my questions, working backwards a bit, are:

1- Why is it a big deal that Strasburg didn’t tip his cap to the opposing crowd?

2- Why would an opposing crowd be THAT enthusiastic in the first place toward an opposing pitcher?

3- What the heck were the Red Wings thinking when they printed up T-shirts and turned their entire crowd in to an 8,000-strong Syracuse/Strasburg love fest? (Yes, I know, money.)

4- I want to know what the Red Wing players… and for that matter the Twins organization… thinks of Rochester’s bizarre promotion of an opponent? (If I were a Red Wing player, I’d have been pissed!)

UPDATE 2: This one made me laugh and almost cheer a bit, as well. Seems the people who run the city of Los Angeles decided they should boycott the state of Arizona over the issue of their controversial immigration law. Now, this blog is not the place for me to express my feelings regarding the law itself, but I REALLY don’t like it when the people on either coast (who think they know everything and that the rest of us should do things the way the folks on the coasts tell us to) start throwing their weight around.

So THAT’S why I found this response from an Arizona Corporation Commission (an oddly named agency that oversees electrical power plants in Arizona) member to the Mayor of Los Angeles hilarious:

“If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives power from Arizona-based generation.”

Seems Los Angeles gets about 25% of their electricity from power plants in Arizona. Oops.

Yeah, I know it’s unlikely they could actually withhold electricity from LA, but any time someone is willing to stand up and say “stick it, jerk!” to bullies, I love it. I also know this article has almost nothing to do with baseball… except let me say that if Bud Selig actually does change his mind (what mind?) and pull the 2011 AllStar game from Arizona over this issue, the good people of Arizona should tell Bud to “stick it”, too. Immigration is a serious issue and should be dealt with by serious people… and that leaves out Bud Selig (and the LA City Council, too).

Bud: “Doubleheaders not fan friendly”

This could become a regular weekly feature here at Knuckleballs. “Jim Crikket’s Friday rant about Bud Selig”. Nah… that would mean when he says something stupid early in the week, I’d have to wait a few days to rant about it.

Commissioner Selig held his annual meeting with Associated Press Editors (wow, how they must look forward to THAT every year!).  They probably wish he would spread things out and talk to them every couple of months because when it’s just once a year, you have to lump all his nonsense in to one story.

Let’s touch on a couple of items, shall we?

- Pete Rose’s application for reinstatement, made in 1997, remains under review. I laughed when I read that. I really shouldn’t be overly critical because I’m well aware that I have a couple of files in an office drawer that concern unfinished projects dating back to 1997 and probably beyond. But at least I’m not telling anyone those things are still “under review.”

- He is happy with the current video rules for umpires. Well why wouldn’t he be? They clearly worked very well in last year’s Divisional Playoffs… if the intent is to assure that the Yankees get every opportunity possible to avoid losing in the first round of the playoffs. When the choices are, “get it right,” or “get the Yankees to the World Series,” we know where Bud stands.

- Selig talked a bit about HGH. I’m just not really sure what he said. “One can debate what HGH does or doesn’t do. It needs to be banned.” Setting aside that it seems to me like you want to have that debate, if it’s still necessary, before you ban something, would someone mention to Bud that MLB already bans HGH, please? Maybe you should consider testing for it, Mr. Commissioner. “As soon as Dr. Green has finished his study on things, believe me, I’m most anxious to move forward.” (Dr. Green is Bud’s ‘science advisor’… why does a Star Trek image immediately come to mind with Bud as Capt Kirk and Dr Green as Spock?) Apparently the fact that the HGH test already has been validated by the US Anti-Doping Agency isn’t as conclusive as whatever Bud’s science officer…er… advisor is doing. But there’s really no rush, folks, because HGH use isn’t prevalent, right Bud? “The answer is we really don’t know. Most (team athletic trainers) think it’s relatively low, but they really don’t know.” No, fans, that is not a quote from 10 years ago concerning players using steroids… but it sure sounds like it could be, doesn’t it?

- Bud doesn’t see expanding the first round of playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-seven games. “I happen to like five-game series, but I understand. I said to the committee one day if you want to be playing on Thanksgiving Day, we can talk about all these things.” Apparently, Bud would envision teams taking a week or two off BETWEEN those two extra games since adding them would push the end of the season back 3-4 weeks.

As the headline of this post indicates, I’ve saved my favorite for last. The subject of speeding up the games apparently arose in the AP’s discussion with Selig. The AP writer indicates that, “Recommendations to quicken pace of games may not be put in place until the 2011 season. Because this is an era of long games, Selig isn’t sure whether doubleheaders are fan friendly.”

Bud goes on to say, “I’m not sure fans like doubleheaders. I had that feeling, frankly, in running the Brewers many years ago. Maybe you’re still there at 7:30.” He admits that owners have tried split double headers to maintain the revenues for each game, and then adds, “But in terms of doubleheaders, I’m not sure they’re even fan friendly any more.” So owners aren’t interested in doubleheaders because they have to give away gate receipts for one home game, but that really doesn’t matter because getting two games for the price of one isn’t “fan friendly any more” anyway. Whatever you say, Bud.

This gives me the opportunity to tell a story about the last Twins doubleheader I attended. It also allows me to address a side issue, that being the risk of inclement weather causing problems for fans who come from outside the immediate area to attend outdoor games.

As a young man of about 21 years, I came to the Twin Cities in 1977 with a few friends to attend some Twins/Yankees games. It was a four-game series with single games Friday night and Sunday afternoon and a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. I remember nothing about the Friday night game or whether we even went to the Sunday game. But I do remember the doubleheader.

Toward the middle of the first game, it began to rain. By the end of the first game, we knew we were in for a longer-than-normal “intermission” between games. Yes, we made use of the time to have a few extra beers, but after a while, there’s only so much a bunch of guys can do to entertain themselves at a ballpark where no baseball is being played.

So I found a payphone and made a call to a girl I had gone to HS with who had moved to the Twin Cities. We weren’t close friends, but she’d never thrown a drink in my face so, reinforced by several Hamms beers, I called her. She seemed somewhat amused by the idea of me being with a bunch of rain-soaked, beer filled guys stuck at Met Stadium on a Saturday night. In fact, she even took advantage of the opportunity to rub salt in the wounds a bit. She mentioned that she and HER friends were getting ready to head out to a new night club (yes, in 1977, I’m sure she said a “new disco”… stop laughing). Then she suggested that if the second game got cancelled, we should consider meeting them at the club later.

I went back out to talk to my friends who were still sitting in the rain (yes, we really were too stupid to get out of the rain between games). I told them I had talked to a friend and asked the guys if perhaps they’d like to consider meeting half a dozen girls at a club instead of waiting to see if game 2 would get played. Once the alternative sank in to their somewhat clouded minds, it took about 1 second to reach a unanimous verdict. I won’t bore you with the sordid details of the rest of the evening (and most of the following Sunday morning), but suffice to say, we all had a very good time.

I’m not sure what this story has to do with anything, except to point out that doubleheaders were, are and always will be “fan friendly” and that even if you have to deal with a bit of rain at times, it doesn’t mean your night or weekend has to be ruined.

Finally, this last sad note from the AP article.

As you may or may not be aware, Commissioner Selig has stated he does not intend to stay on as Commissioner past the end of his current contract, which expires at the end of 2012. (No, this is NOT the sad news. Keep reading!) When the issue was raised by the AP, Selig said his plans had not changed, but then went on to mention that, when the issue came up recently, his wife commented, “If you believe that, then you believe you just bought the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Damn.

Why the Yankees $uck

(WARNING: This is a long post that includes references to numbers. If you get severe headaches from reading long posts or any post with even the slightest mention of numbers, continue reading at your own risk. The author got a headache while writing this post. He takes no responsibility for your headaches.)

On Friday, I passed along a couple of recommended blog links that I found interesting and thought others might enjoy as well. One of them was Joe Posnanski’s post concerning Home Run trots.

Well Joe has a new post up on his blog and it’s another winner. You should read it.

Now.

I mean it. I intend to rant about the subject of his post and it won’t make much sense if you don’t read Joe’s post first. So go read it. Now.

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Admit it, you didn’t go read it, did you? Your loss.

If you did, then welcome back.

If you read Joe’s post regarding this Forbes.com list, you learned a couple of things. Specifically…

  • Even after accounting for revenue sharing, the Yankees bring in revenues about two or three times those of virtually every other team in baseball.
  • The line of BS that the Yankees, their fans and members of the media that buy their crapola try to sell us about how the Yankees win because they invest their revenues in their baseball operations while owners who receive revenue sharing pocket it instead of investing in their team is just that… utter fictional BS. Every team (with the possible exception of the Marlins) spends the vast majority of their revenues in their baseball operations. Some just invest very poorly.
  • The Yankees $uck.

That’s not to say every Yankee player, employee, and fan $ucks.But those who do $uck, so extreme in their $ucking that it is difficult not to color the entire group with the same brush.

And furthermore, everyone who follows the game but is not a Yankee player, fan or someone who’s livelihood is directly tied to the Yankees KNOWS the Yankees $uck.

But why? It’s one word… arrogance. F’ing Yankee arrogance.

And any time you want to really see an example of that arrogance, bring up the obscene competitive advantage the Yankees have that has directly led to the Yankees being all but guaranteed a playoff spot every. single. year.

Don’t believe me? Ask Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.

Early this season, Attanasio dared to pass along a rather obvious observation to USA Today that his team was struggling to afford an extension for Prince Fielder while the Yankees are paying their infield more than the entire Brewers’ payroll. In typical arrogant Yankees fashion, their president, Randy Levine, told a NY radio station that Attanasio was “whining.” Actually, if he had stopped there, it wouldn’t be such a prime example of Yankee arrogance. But here’s the quote:

“I’m sorry that my friend Mark continues to whine about his running the Brewers. We play by all the rules and there doesn’t seem to be any complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years. Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your players. The question that should be asked is: Where has the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing gone?”

See… this is the standard line of garbage that Yankee fans hurl back in response to even a suggestion that there might be some reason other than just an inherent right or superior organizational talent (did you know Brian Cashman is a baseball genius?) that has resulted in the Yankees being granted an automatic berth in MLB’s playoffs for most of the past two decades.

“We play within the rules”. “We give other teams millions of dollars in revenue sharing.” “Other owners pocket the money instead of using it to pay for players.”

Well guess what? If you dig a little deeper in to that Forbes.com article, they specifically mention two organizations that got the most bang for the buck in 2009. According to Forbes, for six of the past seven years, those whining Milwaukee Brewers, “have had a wins-to-player cost ratio of 110 or higher, meaning they have generated at least 10% more victories per dollar spent on players than the average team.” By the way, the team Forbes tagged as the “best in baseball” in that category (with a ratio above 120 in eight out of the past 10 seasons) was yourrrrrrrrrr Minnesota Twins!

So, apparently the Brewers (and the Twins) are putting those millions of F’ing Yankee dollars to good use.

But what about the rest of the league? Aren’t teams like the Royals pocketing those revenue sharing dollars while fielding minor league quality products and trying to pass them off as MLB teams on the field? Well yes and no.

The Royals, and a few other teams, have certainly trotted out some incredibly bad baseball players dressed in their teams’ colors over the past couple of decades.

But despite what Yankee fans (and apparently, their president) would have you believe, it’s not because they aren’t spending the money they’re taking in while the Yankees are pouring all their revenue back in to the baseball operation.

In 2009, even AFTER the F’ing Yankees ponied up a few million dollars in revenue sharing, they realized NET revenues of $441 million. They invested 94% of that back in to their operation, with the remaining 6% constituting their “profit”.

What about those miserly Royals? Well, as Posnanski mentions in his post, the Royals also invested 94% of their revenues (including their share of the revenue sharing pie) back in to their operation and showed the same 6% profit the Yankees did (though the Royals profit was less than $9 million, while the Yankees’ nearly hit the $25 million mark in profits). By the way, the whining Brewers had a nearly identical 94%/6% split. Take that, Randy Levine.

So, it appears the Royals aren’t trying to game the revenue sharing system to make vasts amounts of money. They just really suck at assembling a baseball team.

As we all know, the Twins are swimming in revenue now that Target Field has opened. In fact, Forbes estimates that the Twins will see revenues jump by $30 million dollars over 2009’s numbers. (Say… isn’t that about the same amount that the Twins’ payroll went up from 2009 to 2010? Yeah? Probably just a coincidence.)

But before any of us starts assuming this means the Twins will able to start competing for the next round of superstar free agents, keep this little fact in mind: If you took the new 2010 revenue levels and DOUBLED them, that would still be $50 million LESS than what the Yankees collected in 2009 (even after paying in their revenue sharing dollars).

The Yankee apologists are correct about one thing, though. The Yankees are following the rules. King George and his boys, Hank and Hal, have gamed the system perfectly. They pretty much just print the money they need, toss the rest of the teams what amounts to little more than “tip money”, and go on about the business of throwing obscene amounts of cash at every superstar free agent who hits the market.

They do it because it’s what MLB rules allow today. That doesn’t mean the rules shouldn’t change.

But how? How do you create a more evenly competitive environment when there is so much disparity in revenue opportunities?

A salary cap that prevents the Yankees from spending more on payroll than other teams? All that would accomplish would be putting more money in to the Steinbrenner family trust fund and it would never get the needed support of the MLB Players Association.

A salary floor that would require every team to spend something closer to what the Yankees do on players? The Yankees spent more on payroll than over half of the teams collected in TOTAL revenue (including revenue sharing dollars) in 2009. Are you going to force half the teams to operate at a net loss?

No, the issue is not payroll size. The Forbes lists demonstrate that every team (except possibly the Marlins) is reinvesting most of their revenues in to their baseball operations. Some invest in their farm systems and scouting operations and some invest in aging, incompetent free agents who are past their prime or never had a prime. (It does make you wonder, though, how Jermaine Dye hasn’t ended up back in a Royals uniform, doesn’t it?)

The only way competitive balance can be reached is with a redistribution of revenues. You simply can not have one team with two or three times the financial resources available to them than any other team has and expect competitive “fairness”.

But how to redistribute the wealth? It’s not that difficult, really. It just takes a Commissioner with some intestinal fortitude and integrity (of course, MLB has Bud Selig instead) and 29 other owners willing to stand up to the Steinbrenners (instead of just Mr. Attanasio and 28 other owners without the guts to back him up).

So here’s what Baseball Commissioner Jim Crikket would do.

I would tell the Yankee owners that the issue is in their hands. I’d give them six months to come up with a plan that assures that no team (read: the Yankees) will ever have more than twice the revenues from which to operate their franchise than any other team. If the Yankees had revenues of $350 million and every other team fell somewhere between $175 – $350 million, I believe you would have competitive balance.

I’d also tell the Yankees that if they fail to come up with a workable plan within that six month period, we’re going to announce that MLB is expanding by two teams (to finally have two balanced leagues of 16 teams). I’d tell the Steinbrenners that one of those teams would be locating in Hartford and that the other would be setting up shop in Newark or, better yet, Brooklyn.

Oh, and by the way, I’d also tell the Yankees that the owner of that new team in their backyard market would be Mark Cuban. (After his bid to buy the Cubs failed, he’s reportedly now interested in the Dodgers.)

Then I’d tell them that all local broadcast rights for every team will be going up for auction and all such fees will be paid to MLB and distributed equally among all teams. If the Yankee-owned YES network wishes to bid for the rights to Yankee games, let them do so. But they get no special deals and they pay market prices… to Major League Baseball.

Then we sit back and find out just how smart Brian Cashman really is… and how much whining Randy Levine does.