Hi 90 / Lo 73
|Volume 68, Issue 152,
Monday, June 30, 2003
Should baseball alter game to thrive?
There was a time when Major League Baseball players were little more than well-dressed indentured servants in cleats. That dry, unforgiving, landscape was changed forever. Fittingly, in fact, by a man named Flood.
He was Curt Flood, an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals who challenged MLB's anti-trust rules in 1969. Those rules gave team owners complete ownership of their players. Flood's trailblazing created the $250 million-dollar man Alex Rodriguez and free agency, giving ballplayers the rights that every other American enjoyed.
En route to this, the casual and serious fan was bored. Without any major problems, they searched. Not for stats, but rather, they lurked high and low for problems. Expansion, the designated hitter, everything except the kitchen sink. Whining and crying reached all-time highs.
Rebelling is the nature of American, there wouldn't be a country without it. But to rebel against something that is, for the most part, just fine, is silly. Bigger offensive numbers are a by-product of innovation and bigger players.
Every now and again, pitchers' duels are great for you assisted-living types, but this generation needs action. Balls splashing into pools or more natural, larger bodies of water.
I argue that this is the true golden age of baseball. Bask in the names and accomplishments of the greats of this era: Barry Bonds, the game's first 500-500 man. Roger Clemens, 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts. Each man is on the Viagra-side of 35 and each is one of the top-five players at their positions.
Surely, these names don't make deceased greats Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson turn in their graves, or in Ted Williams' case, turn in his refrigerator.
Nowadays, everyone is concerned with ratings and attendance.
Oh, so that's how you determine the welfare of the game? Commissioner Bud Selig and the more than 700 MLB players can't control the sluggish economy with increased slugging.
Come on, the economy is in the hands of former Texas Rangers owner and current President of the United States George W. Bush, not Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr.
Retro music stores and baseball are the places where records still matter. With all the offensive outbursts, no one has really threatened the treasured numbers of the game.
Yeah, some minor alterations must be made.
Instilling importance into the annual All-Star game was a must. Ties are for lesser games like either version of football (fútbol).
Nobody, sans bums, likes change. But MLB's mid-summer classic was becoming as memorable as a blade of grass. Granting the winner home field in the World Series will reawaken the casual fan and may hook
Gut the limp-wristed drug policy and put some pride back into the game. Increased bulk, reportedly aided by rampant use of steroids, and cheating in numerous other forms are the true and only villain of today's game.
Institute these measures and then leave the game alone. Don't follow the blueprints of the NFL or NBA just to turn a quick buck and forsake the purity of the game.
Now is the time when baseball takes the lead and leads the country's sports landscape. Basketball is dependant on a retired icon (Michael Jordan) and an 18-year old savior (LeBron James).
Besides his nickel, an 18-year old kid shouldn't be looked on to save anything.
All the game needs is your trust, and, more importantly, your wallet.
So, for you to do your part in changing the landscape in baseball, do nothing. Well, nothing as in stop bawling for changes and realize this is the greatest era of baseball in quite some time.
Eventually, the "purist" will realize that purity is what you make it. Purity eventually becomes tainted if not watched carefully and treated.
By leaving the game in its current format, the casual fan will return en masse. Baseball can be exciting if given an opportunity to flourish.
All it'll take is time and some understanding.
Look, if you haven't gotten the message by now, you probably never will.
Let me spell it out for you then. Circle the first
letter of every paragraph in this column, see what those letters spell,
then follow them verbatim.
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