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Bud Selig

Who still misses the National League?

The Chron’s Brian Smith makes the case for acceptance of the Astros’ league change.

Those were the days

Admit it: You don’t think about the old National League that much anymore.

I devote a lot of my daily brain space to the Astros, and I rarely do.

Saying “Jose Altuve, American League starting second baseman and leadoff hitter” sounds just fine. Seeing George Springer and Carlos Correa in the AL’s lineup against stars from Washington, San Francisco and Cincinnati felt perfectly normal Tuesday.

“Baloney. Houston has always been a National League town. This was all about money and never about the fans,” wrote Glenn, in the same year the rebuilding Lastros lost a franchise-record 111 games. “I cannot in good conscience root for a team that fields a (choke) designated hitter (i.e. washed-up fat guy) and plays the Noo York Yankees on a regular basis. How far a drive is it to Cincinnati?”

About 1,050 long and boring miles, Glenn. And I guarantee you never would think about making that slog now, especially when you can watch the best team in the American League at home and are just three months away from being able to buy a playoff ticket at Minute Maid Park.

Look, the hate was real. I got it then, and I get it now. One of the greatest things about baseball is its history, and any time that’s threatened – steroids, cheating, realignment – all of us believers get very, very serious.

“It became evident the move to the AL was an issue,” owner Jim Crane said in November 2011, after MLB approved the Astros’ sale and dictated the move to the AL, giving each league 15 teams and all divisions five clubs apiece.

Isn’t time funny? And isn’t it crazy what winning – and players and a team you believe in – can do?

The late-night West Coast games are still a chore. Outside of the Texas Rangers – who are 16½ games back, if you haven’t heard – I’m still not sold on any of the Astros’ other AL West opponents.

But Selig’s move is actually helping the AL’s best team in 2017. Four of baseball’s five best clubs are in the NL, and the Astros actually would be second overall in their old league, trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by half a game.

Selig also helped push the Astros into the postseason in 2015. The two NL wild cards had at least 97 wins. The 86-win Astros needed until Game 162 to clinch the sport’s last playoff spot and wouldn’t have sniffed a Division Series if they still played in the NL Central.

Smith got some passionate feedback on this, as you might imagine. I’m a Yankees fan from Staten Island, so I have no emotional investment in this, though I can certainly understand why longtime fans would not be over it yet. On the plus side, consider that if the Astros make it to the World Series this year, they could be the first team ever to win a pennant in both leagues. For that matter, if they wind up playing the Milwaukee Brewers, then both teams in the World Series would have that distinction – the Brewers won a pennant in 1982 when they were still in the American League. Given that they’re the only two teams to switch leagues, there’s not much competition for that distinction, but it would be pretty cool nonetheless. Whether it makes anyone feel better, or at least less upset, about the league switch, I couldn’t say.

Bud Selig elected to MLB Hall of Fame

Ugh.

Bud Selig, the folksy former commissioner of Major League Baseball who presided over an unprecedented period of expansion, innovation and turmoil in the sport, was elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday by the hall’s restructured veterans committee along with John Schuerholz, the World Series-winning general manager with the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Royals.

“To say this is a great day in my life would be an understatement,” Selig said on a conference call Sunday. “I’ve looked forward to this day for a long time and I’m really honored to say the least.”

Selig was named on 15 ballots and Schuerholz on all 16 from a new version of the veterans’ committee created to consider not only older players but also candidates who are not eligible for election through the traditional process, a vote by baseball writers. The group, the Today’s Game Era Committee, is made up of eight Hall of Fame inductees, five M.L.B. executives and three writers and historians. Inductees needed a minimum of 12 votes at baseball’s winter meetings outside of Washington.

Selig and Schuerholz will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July.

[…]

Selig, the original owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, led baseball from 1992 through 2014, one of the most dynamic and controversial periods in its history, in which the sport grew into a $10 billion-a-year industry. He governed, in part, through his ability to build consensus among the owners, perhaps his greatest skill.

“We were a sport resistant to change,” Selig said. “I believe in those years that is the most change in baseball history.”

Selig, 82, was the acting commissioner during the worst strike in baseball history, a work stoppage that wiped out the 1994 World Series, and the so-called steroid era that so badly tarnished the image of the game. But baseball has now gone 22 years without a work stoppage, and, after great upheaval and acrimony, it has instituted a stringent drug policy.

“Yes, it was terribly painful, broke my heart,” he said of the 1994 strike. “But it served as a great lesson and we took it. The same thing with the steroid thing. Yes it was painful, yes it had its ups and downs. But we solved that problem. We now have the toughest testing program in American sports.”

Selig is credited with introducing popular innovations including the wild-card playoff system, realignment, interleague play and television replay of umpires’ decisions, as well as with the creation of baseball’s lucrative internet presence, M.L.B. Advanced Media.

More than anything, Selig was a tireless supporter of small-market and midmarket teams, pushing through revenue-sharing policies that redistributed millions of dollars from the larger market teams to the smaller ones. That, combined with the increased number of playoff spots, gave clubs from cities like Detroit, Houston, Kansas City and Tampa Bay entrée into the World Series in recent years.

Actually, Selig was an advocate of contracting small market teams out of existence, all the while engaging in what Joe Sheehan called an “anti-marketing campaign” on baseball. Guess all that is down the memory hole now, so here we are. If you’ve read my blog for more than a few years, you know I am not now and have never been a fan of Bud Selig – “Beelzebud” was my preferred nickname for him. So let me just endorse what Craig Calcaterra says.

Bud Selig has been credited with and has eagerly taken responsibility for every positive development in baseball under his watch. But he has never taken an ounce of responsibility for the “environment which developed” with respect to PEDs in baseball. Indeed, he has actively shirked it. Remember what he said in 2009, after Alex Rodriguez admitted he used PEDs?

“I don’t want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn’t care about it. That annoys the you-know-what out of me. You bet I’m sensitive to the criticism. The reason I’m so frustrated is, if you look at our whole body of work, I think we’ve come farther than anyone ever dreamed possible. I honestly don’t know how anyone could have done more than we’ve already done . . . A lot of people say we should have done this or that, and I understand that. They ask me, ‘How could you not know?’ and I guess in the retrospect of history, that’s not an unfair question. But we learned and we’ve done something about it. When I look back at where we were in ’98 and where we are today, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made . . . It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity.”

Beyond that he has only talked of baseball’s efforts to combat drug use from the mid-2000s on. Never once explaining why it took Jose Canseco’s tell-all book and not baseball’s obvious knowledge of PED use by players to act. Never once explaining why its initial response was so weak and why it was only ratcheted up in direct proportion to how much bad publicity baseball received in terms of players and PED use. Bud Selig did nothing for years and then only did the bare minimum he was required to do until it became untenable to do so. After that he used the Mitchell Report to change the subject from baseball’s drug problem as a whole to a decade-long parlor game in which naming names and scapegoating individual players for drug use became the order of the day, turning scrutiny away from MLB’s Park Avenue offices and shining the spotlight on players and players alone.

It has been a wildly successful strategy. Today only the players have paid the price in terms of their legacy and reputation. Only players associated with performance enhancing drugs — or even baselessly accused of performance enhancing drug use — have had the doors to the Hall of Fame barred to them despite their other accomplishments. Barred by the very language on the ballot which asks voters to weigh in on their character. A clause which the Hall of Fame, on who’s board Selig sits, has made no effort to clarify or explain vis-a-vis PED use. As such, the Hall endorses the BBWAA’s continued holding of players responsible for the Steroid Era.

Yet Bud Selig, a man who held more unilateral power in baseball than anyone since Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis died, has ben allowed to get away with pleading ignorance and innocence when it comes to baseball’s greatest black mark since the game was integrated in 1947. He is allowed to accept baseball’s highest honor this week and again in July when he is inducted in Cooperstown. The loud and clear message this week and next July will send is that the buck only stops with the Commissioner of Baseball when the buck makes the Commissioner of Baseball look good.

It’s a bad look for baseball. It’s a disgrace that so many deserving players are denied induction because of mistakes they made while Bud Selig, a man who presided over the Steroid Era and is thus due the ultimate responsibility for its existence, is gong to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Calcaterra argues that Selig was a great commissioner, though mostly in comparison with other Commissioners and keeping in mind who Selig’s actual stakeholders were, but I will concede the game has done very well since Selig was elevated into office. There’s no question about who has gotten the blame for the PED issue, however, and it ain’t Bud. That’s how you get into the Hall. David Schoenfield has more.

Rob Manfred to succeed Bud Selig as MLB Commissioner

There will be a changing of the guard for Major League Baseball.

Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred was elected baseball’s 10th commissioner Thursday, winning a three-man competition to succeed Bud Selig and given a mandate by the tradition-bound sport to recapture young fans and speed play in an era that has seen competition increase and attention spans shrink.

The 55-year-old Manfred, who has worked for Major League Baseball in roles with ever-increasing authority since 1998, will take over from Selig, 80, on Jan. 25. It’s a generational change much like the NBA undertook when Adam Silver, then 51, replaced 71-year-old David Stern as commissioner in February. And like Silver, Manfred was his boss’ pick.

Manfred beat out Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner in the first contested vote for a new commissioner in 46 years. The third candidate, MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan, dropped out just before the start of balloting.

“I am tremendously honored by the confidence that the owners showed in me today,” Manfred said. “I have very big shoes to fill.”

Selig has led baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of the sport’s executive council following Fay Vincent’s forced resignation, then as commissioner since July 1998. After announcing his intention to retire many times only to change his mind, he said last September that he really, truly planned to leave in January 2015.

[…]

Manfred has been chief operating officer since September 2013, a role in which he reports directly to Selig and oversees functions such as labor relations, baseball operations, finance, administration and club governance.

Manfred had spent the previous 15 years as MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations and human resources, and received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012. He was the point man in negotiating the past three labor agreements, with all three negotiated without a work stoppage for the first time since the rise of the MLB Players Association in the 1970s. He also helped lead negotiations for the first joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002 and has been strengthened repeatedly.

Manfred started with baseball in 1987 as a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who assisted in collective bargaining.

Manfred has been to Selig what Silver was to Stern — a longtime trusted aide who negotiated labor deals, handled crises such as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bankruptcy saga and was intimately involved in major issues ranging from drug testing to revenue sharing. Manfred has taken criticism in recent months, however, for some of the methods baseball employed in its controversial Biogenesis investigation.

“There is no doubt in my mind he has the training, the temperament, the experience to be a very successful commissioner,” Selig said, “and I have justifiably very high expectations.”

Manfred — whose term was not specified but is expected to receive a three-year contract, according to multiple reports — grew up in Rome, New York, about an hour’s drive from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He must address issues that include decreased interest in baseball among younger people and an average game time that has stretched to 3:03, up 30 minutes from 1981. And he will be leading an opinionated group of multimillionaires and billionaires.

“I think some of Rob’s greatest attributes are his ability to reach consensus,” said St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who chaired the committee that picked the three candidates.

If you’ve read my blog for a few years, you know I’ve never been a fan of Bud Selig. I’ve always assigned him the primary blame for the 1994 strike and all the ridiculous “contraction” talk a few years after that. Don’t even get me started on the whole PED fiasco and the resultant mess that Hall of Fame voting has become. That said, baseball has had tremendous growth lately, they’re at the forefront of online media, there’s been a 20 year run of labor peace that should continue with the next collective bargaining agreement, and they’ve finally taken some steps to modernize umpiring and make it more accountable via instant replay. Selig deserves credit for those things, and to the extent that Rob Manfred can build on them, baseball will continue to be in good shape. I wish Rob Manfred the best of luck in the new gig. Deadspin, the NYT, MLB.com, and Pinstripe Alley have more.

Bye-bye, Bud

Can’t say I’m sorry to see the tenure of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig come to a close.

Bud Selig said Thursday that he plans to retire as baseball commissioner in January 2015 after a term of more than 22 years marked by robust growth in attendance and revenue along with a canceled World Series and a drug scandal.

Some owners — and even his wife — have been skeptical in the past that he really would do it, but this marked the first time that Selig, 79, issued a formal statement that he intends to step down from the sport’s top job.

“It remains my great privilege to serve the game I have loved throughout my life,” Selig said in a statement. “Baseball is the greatest game ever invented, and I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term.

“I am grateful to the owners throughout Major League Baseball for their unwavering support and for allowing me to lead this great institution. I thank our players, who give me unlimited enthusiasm about the future of our game. Together we have taken this sport to new heights and have positioned our national pastime to thrive for generations to come. Most of all, I would like to thank our fans, who are the heart and soul of our game.”

Selig said he will leave Jan. 24, 2015, which would mark the second-longest term for a baseball commissioner behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who served from 1920 to 1944.

He also said he will announce a transition plan shortly that will include a reorganization of central baseball management.

Selig’s tenure included splitting each league into three divisions from two, adding wild cards and additional rounds of playoffs, expansion to Arizona and Tampa Bay, instituting instant replay, starting the World Baseball Classic, launching the MLB Network and centralizing the sport’s digital rights under MLB.com.

“The game has grown under him tremendously. He’s made every effort to try to clean the game up,” New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s left his mark on the game. There’s no doubt about it.”

I agree that the game has grown under Selig, and that he deserves credit for many of the good things that have happened. He also deserves blame for the 1994 strike, the now-subsided “contraction” fervor that was largely fueled by laughably dishonest claims about the game’s finances and the false belief that so-called “small market” teams could not be competitive, the moronification of the All Star Game, and the witch hunt that is the obsession with PEDs. He’s always been an owner’s Commissioner, which is why he was tapped to be Commissioner in the first place. I’ll leave the judgments to history, but it’s definitely time for a change.

Jayson Stark lists some of the possible and not-at-all-possible candidates to replace Selig. While I have no doubt which category this would fall into, I endorse what The Slacktivist has to say.

Bud Selig is set to retire as commissioner of Major League Baseball after the 2014 season. Ari Kohen asks, “which old white guy is the odds-on favorite” to replace him? As much as I’d love to see a former player — such as Hank Aaron or Frank Robinson — replace Selig, the commissioner does tend to be a conservative, establishment figure. Mitt Romney is probably a likelier candidate than either of those hall-of-famers.

So here’s my proposal: John Roberts for commissioner of baseball. The chief justice of the Supreme Court would, of course, have to step down from that post in order to accept the promotion, but it shouldn’t be a problem for the president to quickly nominate a replacement.

I’d be willing to compromise and suggest Antonin Scalia as an alternative. Or hey, how about Clarence Thomas, if we’d prefer an old non-white guy? Surely any of these gentlemen would be good philosophical peers of the owners, and would be able to offer some real insight on how to stay just on the right side of that good old anti-trust exemption. Who’s with me on this?

You have a strange definition of “only”, Bud

Or maybe it’s your definition of “logical”, I’m not sure.

But while first-year manager Bo Porter continues to fire up his players and general manager Jeff Luhnow oversees year one of a complete organizational overhaul, many longtime Astros fans continue to criticize the club’s impending American League debut.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday he fully understands fans’ complaints and sympathizes with their pro-National League pull. But Selig told the Houston Chronicle the only “logical choice” for baseball was to relocate the Astros to the AL, and he believes fans won’t question the move five years from now.

“The American League is very attractive,” said the 78-year-old Selig, who plans to retire Dec. 31, 2014. “We had a division number of six (teams) in the National League Central. And all the National League clubs had complained to me for a long time: ‘Commissioner, this isn’t fair. The other (divisions) are either five, and one division only has four.’ … And it made no sense.”

[…]

Selig said the primary reason for the Astros’ AL relocation came down to simple geography. With St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, the Astros were the odd team out. According to the commissioner, the Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers and Reds have “tremendous” rivalries. The Astros did not, he said, because of their isolation.

“The teams left in the National League Central all had a geographical (base) – there was a relationship. Houston was sitting down there; there was no relationship,” said Selig, who stressed he made the decision in the best long-term interests of baseball. “And I understand they’ve been in the National League for a long time, and I’m sympathetic to that. But we had to move a team, and … the fact of the matter is when you looked at all the other things that could happen, the only logical thing was for Houston to move. … I didn’t have an alternative.”

I can think of at least three reasonable alternatives, none of which would have necessitated the need for all-season interleague play, as we will now have with an odd number of teams in each league. Note that the Cincinnati Reds get their traditional rival the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as their Opening Day opponent. Baseball could have done any of the following:

1. Left things as they are. The divisions have been unbalanced since they were created in 1994, with the NL Central having a sixth team since 1998. Why did we hear so little about how “unfair” this was until there arose an opportunity to impose a condition on a somewhat sketchy new buyer? Every team in the NL Central has won the division at least once since 1995 with the exception of the pathetic Pirates, and the number of teams in the division is the least of their issues. I don’t buy the premise that there was a problem that needed to be solved.

2. Expand to 32 teams and go to four four-team divisions in each league. This would solve the balancing issue, and would make scheduling easier to boot. You could use it as an impetus to get rid of that silly interleague play altogether, since all that really does is vary each teams’ strength of schedule, which is a definite competitive liability for some teams each year, and make rainouts harder to make up. There’s plenty of money in baseball these days – the biggest problem is bottom-feeding owners – and no sign of that reversing course any time soon. I’d nominate Montreal as one expansion location, as that might help MLB make up for the grievous sin it committed against them a decade ago; I don’t have a clear favorite for a second franchise location, but there are plenty of potential sites. I can understand why the owners might not want to do this, but it’s surely a logical possibility.

3. Use divisions for scheduling purposes only and ditch them for playoff seeding. This is basically what the NBA does, where the top eight teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and winning your division carries no special benefit. MLB could simply take the four teams with the best record – or the top five, with #4 and #5 playing that one-game death match as they do now for the right to advance – and be done with it. This deals with the “unbalanced division” problem and almost certainly ensures that a team with a losing record cannot make the playoffs. It can’t dilute the concept of a “pennant race” any more than the three-division/wild card setup already has.

So there you have it, three logical alternatives to shifting (or shafting, depending on your perspective), the Astros. Maybe the league switch was the “best” solution by whatever criteria Selig and MLB had, and maybe it was the only solution that could get sufficient political support to actually happen. But it sure wasn’t the only logical solution. So happy Opening Day, at least for those of you who can see it.

More replay for MLB, please

They’re thinking about it, but don’t rush them.

Major League Baseball currently is exploring the expansion of instant replay with the World Umpires Association, and no timetable has been specified for any adjustments to the current policy.

The owners and the MLB Players Association agreed in collective bargaining last year for a new Basic Agreement that replay could be expanded to be used on fair-foul calls down the lines and balls deemed trapped by fielders. Any formal expansion of replay requires collaboration between owners, players and umpires. Replay is currently used only to determine the legitimacy of home runs — whether the ball was fair or foul and whether the ball was over the fence.

“I’ve had very, very little pressure from people who want to do more,” Commissioner Bud Selig told a small group at a sport and society conference at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

The umpires union has told MLB officials in recent meetings that a significant assessment of options needs to take place if replay is to be changed. Right now, any possible expansion would not occur until next season at the earliest.

Want to know why this is needed? Here’s one reason:

This particularly egregious example of a blown call, which happened in April, has been widely discussed around the Internet. Arguably, instant replay isn’t really needed for stuff like this. I mean, at least one other umpire must have seen what everybody else in the stadium saw on that play. If there were some way for another umpire to step in and say “that call was wrong”, either on his own or via an appeal from one of the teams, replay would be superfluous in a case like this. But there is no way to challenge a call in baseball as you can in football, so this sort of thing is breezily dismissed by the so-called purists as “the human element” instead of decried as the wholly avoidable travesty that it is. But hey, as various people have pointed out, at least this terrible call didn’t ruin a perfect game or change the outcome of a World Series.

The bottom line is this: Baseball games should be decided by the players. Sure, there will always be external factors that cannot be controlled – wind, weather, bad hops, etc. But bad umpiring needn’t be one of those factors. Whether or not technology is part of that solution, the culture has to change. I don’t see any reason why that can’t start now.

Astros to the AL update

I remain puzzled by this.

Major League Baseball is discussing with prospective Astros owner Jim Crane possible compensation for agreeing to move the team to the American League.

Three people familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday that MLB has broached the subject with Crane, who in May reached an agreement to purchase the team from Drayton McLane for $680 million. One industry insider said MLB representatives floated $50 million as a possible compensation package for Crane and his group of investors to move the team from the National League. It is not known if MLB has formally offered the $50 million, or if such compensation would come from a reduction in the sale price or by other means.

The discussions would suggest that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has moved past vetting the Crane group and will attempt to finalize the sale.

“Baseball seems very interested to cause this to happen,” an industry insider familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

That would constitute a significant shift from August, when MLB removed a scheduled vote to approve the sale from the owners’ meetings agenda. A person familiar with top MLB officials’ thinking said concerns about past business practices of Crane’s companies remain a point in contention in approving the deal.

Another industry insider contends MLB has been using past EEOC complaints and settlements involving war profiteering as “a bargaining chip” to leverage Crane into accepting a move to the AL as a pre-condition to taking over the team. Selig and the MLB Players Association have stated a desire for two 15-team leagues that will allow for the addition to two wild-card playoff teams. One of the 16 NL teams would have to change leagues for that to happen, and there have been no volunteers. With a pending sale, coming off the worst season in franchise history (56-106), the Astros would appear to be susceptible to persuasion to sever ties with the NL that go back to 1962.

Let’s put the question about the extra playoffs aside for the moment. It’s ironic that this is being discussed at the end of the season that featured the two most dramatic playoff races of the wild card era, but the shift in emphasis from the regular season to the postseason is a ship that sailed so long ago it’s on its third round trip by now. What I don’t understand is why 15 teams per league, which will necessarily mean interleague play year round, is considered desirable. If you want balanced divisions, I’d rather make like the NFL and expand to 32 teams with four four-team divisions per league and no wild card, or two eight-team divisions with the top two from each making the playoffs. Failing that, if interleague all the time is where we’re heading, then let’s drop the pretense of having separate leagues, essentially a fiction these days given that there are no more league presidents, and adopt saner schedules as folks like David Pinto have advocated. That would mean coming to a decision one way or the other on the DH – as a lifelong American League fan, I’m for it as I’m sure the MLBPA would be too – but that’s a debate I’m willing to have and to lose if it comes down to it. The current proposals are to me the worst of all possible worlds, which means I’d better start getting used to it. At least having the Astros in the AL would mean I’d get to see the Yankees every year. Even for me that’s not worth the ridiculousness of it all, but you take your silver linings where you can find them.

MLB needs to stand by all of its players

A brief history of baseball’s other color line.

There is no Latin American Jackie Robinson, no single Hispanic ballplayer who lifted his people onto his back and crashed through baseball’s racist barricades. But there always has to be a first, and many of the game’s historians point to two Cubans, Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, who made their debut with the Cincinnati Reds a century ago. Of course, baseball was still segregated then. The Reds took great pains to highlight the irreproachable ethnicities of their newest employees: yes, they were Cuban, but they were purebred Spaniards, without so much as a trace of African blood.

One thing that was not in dispute was that the Cubans could play. “Uncle Sam’s monopoly of the baseball market has been seriously threatened,” one reporter surmised, noting that “this little nation of brown men whom Uncle Sam set up in the nation business” was liable to “rise up and lick Sammy at his own game.”

Politics has prevented us from testing the accuracy of this prediction. As a source of talent, Cuba, whose diamonds are off-limits to American prospectors, produces a small fraction of the Hispanic players who now represent more than a quarter of all major leaguers and an even larger percentage of those in the minors. No American institution owes a greater debt to Latin Americans than baseball. Our national pastime would be nothing today without the likes of Pujols, Bautista and Reyes, and it all started with Almeida and Marsans, who played in their first major league game on — I’m not making this up — July 4, 1911.

So how is baseball honoring their legacy, almost exactly 100 years later? By holding its 2011 All-Star Game in the cradle of America’s new nativism.

That would Arizona, where MLB still hasn’t said anything about SB1070 and the insult it is to a large portion of MLB’s players and fans. I never expect much from Bud Selig, but he’s still managed to disappoint me here. Even a symbolic gesture would have been better than the nothing we’ve gotten, as it least then we’d know that he noticed. The silence so far is shameful.

So how about that instant replay?

I presume you’ve heard about the perfect game that wasn’t, thanks to the blown call by the umpire with two outs in the ninth inning. If not, see here, here, and here for the details. All I have to say about this is something I’ve said before, which is that I do not understand the resistance to making a best effort to get as many calls right as possible, which in this day and age means an appropriate use of available technology. So I’m going to let Ken Funck say it for me this time:

Add an umpire to the crew, put him in a video booth, and have him buzz the crew chief on the field when he sees something was missed. Since that extra umpire might have the best view of a given play, let him correct any egregious mistakes he sees. There’s no clock in baseball, and umpires already manage the timing of the game by, say, sweeping the plate clean while a catcher gets his bearings after taking a foul ball off his grill. No need for challenges or formal booth reviews—on a bang-bang play, just slow the action down for another few seconds to see if the replay umpire needs to fix an obvious mistake. If not, the game moves on. Giving this power to an umpire in the booth doesn’t undermine the authority of umpires, it expands it, and it protects them from the sort of unfair criticism that [umpire Jim] Joyce is likely to catch in the coming days. It would also add so little time to the game as to be negligible, and there are other, better avenues of speeding up games (e.g., limiting pitcher/catcher conferences or the number of times batters can step out of the box) that aren’t an accomplice to situations such as Wednesday night’s missed call.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my work life, it’s this: humans will sometimes make errors, so you need to set up processes to catch them before they lead to tragic consequences. Joyce certainly feels terrible today, but really, he shouldn’t. He did the best he could in the situation he was placed, and made a mistake that any other umpire, or indeed any other fan, could just as easily have made. The true error wasn’t made by Joyce, but by those whose blind adherence to empty slogans like “tradition” and “authority” and “the human element” put him in a position to fail so publicly. I hope they, too, had difficulty sleeping last night.

There was a time when I was willing to take it slow on instant replay in baseball, but that time has passed. We’ve seen way too many examples of blown calls that could and should have been easily corrected if the right tools had been available. It’s time to use those tools and get the job done better.

Having said all this, by the way, I don’t want to see Commissioner Bud Selig overrule the umpire, even if he has the power to do so. The point is to get the call right at the time. MLB can do a better job of that if it chooses to do so.

Selig avoids All Star Game issue

We always knew he was a weenie.

With a lengthy non-answer, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday gave no indication he would move the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix in response to Arizona’s immigration law, saying MLB has already done everything it should do regarding equality.

[…]

The players’ union has come out against the law, and some — including the city of San Francisco — have called for MLB to pull its Midsummer Classic from Arizona.

But asked about it after a quarterly owners’ meeting adjourned, Selig responded only by citing MLB’s progress in hiring minorities.

“We have enormous social responsibilities,” Selig said.

“We’re a social institution. We have done everything we should do — should do. Our responsibility, privileged to do it, don’t want any pats on the back. And we’ll continue to do it.

“We’ve done well. And we’ll continue to do well. And I’m proud of what we’ve done socially, and I’ll continue to be proud of it.

“That’s the issue, and that’s the answer.”

That’s also a whole lot of nothing. Honestly, though, it’s not unexpected. While sportswiters and bloggers may call on Selig to take action, I don’t see him doing anything unless he’s compelled to do so. Maybe Congress could force the issue, but that’s a long shot at best. No, if Selig can be goaded into action it’ll have to be the players’ union, which didn’t directly address the All Star Game in its statement but did say they would “consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members” if the law went into effect, which it now has. Your move, MLBPA.

More pressure on MLB over the 2011 All Star Game

Keep it up.

A New York congressman who called for the league to move the 2011 game from Phoenix is the latest person to push for an economic boycott against the state in protest of the new law. Companies have been pulling conferences out of Arizona resorts while others have suggested consumers shun companies, such as US Airways, that are based in the state and have yet to condemn the the law.

“I think that when people, states, localities make decisions this monumental, they should know the full consequence of that decision,” Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., said. “I think Major League Baseball, with 40 percent Latino ballplayers at all levels, should make a statement that it will not hold its All-Star Game in a state that discriminates against 40 percent of their people.”

Forty percent is an overstatement – from what I’ve seen elsewhere, MLB is about 27% Hispanic – but the exact number is not particularly important for these purposes.

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who focuses on sports, said the economic loss from one game would have “a pretty small impact” on Arizona but that the attention it would draw could be damaging.

“A publicity campaign that goes on for months and months and months makes other people, who have nothing to do with Major League Baseball, stay away from Arizona,” Zimbalist said.

It’s not just the All Star Game, though that would be a nice symbolic place to start. About half of the teams have spring training sites in Arizona. Get them to pull out, and you’re starting to talk serious hurt. Plus, just getting the first high profile rebuke like losing the All Star Game would send a message that this is the right thing to do. Someone has to be first.

More here, here, and here. It’s great to see sportswriters, players, and managers like Ozzie Guillen speak out. Here’s one player who won’t participate if the All Star Game is in Arizona next year:

[Padres star Adrian Gonzalez] told FanHouse that he will not attend next year’s All-Star Game in Phoenix if the law is in effect, and that he’d like for major league baseball to boycott spring training in Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law on April 23.

“I’ll support the Players Association 100 percent,” said Gonzalez, who grew up in both Tijuana and a suburb south of San Diego. “If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I’ll probably not play in the All-Star Game. Because it’s a discriminating law.

“I know it can’t be done, but they should take spring training out of (Arizona) if it’s possible.”

That’s a lot of people speaking up, and there will be more to come. I just hope Bud Selig is listening. And as long as we’re sending messages to the Commissioner, would someone please tell him to drop that stupid “league that wins the All Star Game gets home advantage in the World Series” idea? Thanks.

A more worldly World Series

This sounds cool.

US Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has proposed to launch a “global World Series” between US and Japanese champion clubs, press reports said Friday.

Selig’s Japanese counterpart, Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato, told Japanese media on Thursday the proposal was made when they met in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

“Mr Selig has expressed his enthusiasm to realise (the series) while he is in office,” Kato was quoted as saying in the daily Sankei Shimbun’s Internet edition. “He emphasised that the real World Series will be important not only for Japan and the United States but also for the world.”

Selig, who is due to retire in 2012, “said he was not floating the idea as a dream but he wanted to deal with it as a real issue”, the Nikkan Sports daily quoted Kato as saying.

I don’t know how this would work – certainly there would be logistical issues if you wanted this to be a best-of-seven series with games played in each team’s stadium – but I like the idea and hope all involved can make it work. And maybe someday, get other countries’ league champs to play as well.

Please listen to Hank

I’m not sure which depresses me more – that Hank Aaron feels the need to remind everyone that Barry Bonds is the home run king (and that Hank himself is just fine with that), or that there’s a bunch of idiots like this one who don’t care and want to commit violence to the record books anyway in order to satisfy their perverse sense of justice or something. The fact that one of these people is MLB Commissioner Beelzebud Selig, who of course bears no responsibility whatsoever for the whole steroids thing, just makes it that much worse. I don’t even know what to say about this stuff any more. Between the hysteria over steroids and the annual ignorance-fest known as the Hall of Fame voting, it seems like the only way I can continue to enjoy the game of baseball is to strictly limit my exposure to what’s spoken and written about it. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bang my head against a wall.