Baseball Needs to Work on Its Calendar
If baseball insists upon playing 162 regular-season games, three postseason rounds and the World Baseball Classic every four years, weather problems will continue to disrupt the World Series.
The sport wants it all — 81 home dates for each club, an expanded postseason, greater international exposure — plus increased revenues from spring training and inter-league play.
Well, for the fourth straight year, at least one World Series game was played in 40-degree temperatures, and that's leaving out wind and rain. The 2009 Series, thanks to the WBC, could end as late as Nov. 5.
Many baseball people hate the idea of playing the Series at a neutral site, but the idea is worth exploring. The Super Bowl, while one game as opposed to a best-of-seven, is hardly diminished when it is played in a warm climate — or even a dome — under ideal conditions.
Just over a year ago, agent Scott Boras proposed a best-of-nine World Series, with the first two games played at neutral sites. That concept was extreme — imagine a 5-0 sweep — but Boras had other plans that made sense.
Boras suggested a World Series weekend featuring a televised gala announcing the major regular-season award winners one night and another event introducing the new Hall of Famers the next day. He believed such a weekend would generate more corporate dollars, and the same would be true if the entire Series was played at a neutral site.
Think about it: The games would be completed as scheduled. Fans would travel the way they do to the Super Bowl for at least some of the games. The Series would no longer require two days off for travel — one day off, perhaps after Game 4, would provide a sufficient break.
San Diego and the two Los Angeles parks would be obvious possibilities, as would retractable-roof stadiums in Phoenix, Houston and — if they ever get built — Florida and Tampa Bay.
No, you say? Fine, come up with something better.
Commissioner Bud Selig has indicated a willingness to scale back to 154 games, but the owners do not want to lose any regular-season revenue. Meanwhile, most baseball people want the first round of the postseason expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven. And the WBC only figures to grow in popularity.
One solution would be to cut back spring training, start the season the last week of March and play the first month in as many warm-weather climates and domes as possible. Neither players nor fans would mind losing a week of spring-training games, and the owners' financial sacrifice would be relatively inconsequential.
There's an answer out there somewhere. Baseball needs to find it.
THE PEAVY SWEEPSTAKES (CONT.)
After failing to strike a deal with the Braves — at least for the moment — the Padres intend to explore deals with two other clubs on Peavy's preferred list, the Cubs and Dodgers.
Peavy has the right to veto any trade. The Astros, another National League team he likes, have too little to offer the Padres. The Cardinals, the final team on his list, are not expected to make a bid.
The Peavy discussions will resume next week at the general managers' meetings in Dana Point, Ca. The Cubs have long had interest in Peavy, but do not have quality young pitching to send the Padres. However, their interest could grow if they fear losing right-hander Ryan Dempster, who filed for free agency on Thursday but is still expected to re-sign with the club.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, are deep in young talent, but as a division rival of the Padres, they almost certainly would be required to pay a higher price. Don't count on it: Left-hander Clayton Kershaw is all but untouchable, and even righty James McDonald is more valuable to the Dodgers then he was in July, when he was part of the CC Sabathia discussions. The Dodgers can now sign Sabathia as a free agent and lose only draft picks.
McDonald does not throw as hard as a starter as he did as a reliever in the playoffs, and his stuff is not at the level of Kershaw's or righty Chad Billingsley's. Still, some believe his feel for pitching is the best of the three, and his development should give the Dodgers the flexibility to pay righty Brad Penny a $2 million buyout rather than exercise his $9.25 million option.
The Padres would approach the Yankees and possibly other American League clubs about Peavy only after they exhausted their options with his preferred NL teams. A deal with the Yankees would be more complex, for Peavy would insist upon an extension along the lines of Sabathia's new contact to waive his no-trade clause.
HAS HE LEARNED?
Upon hiring Ken Macha as manager on Thursday, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he was a "big believer" in second chances. Amen to that, but the only way a manager succeeds in his second chance is if he learns from the first.
After the A's fired Macha in Oct. 2006, a number of respected A's veterans — including Barry Zito, Dan Haren, Jason Kendall and Mark Kotsay — were strongly critical of him in comments to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
"The atmosphere wasn't positive, for some reason," Eric Chavez said. "That was hard for us to deal with — here we are, winning the division, we're banged up but we're still doing what we should be doing, and every time he spoke to us, he'd say how much he appreciated the effort, but then you'd read things where he was always smashing people ... This negative cloud was just eating at everybody."
It is rare — and alarming — when players are willing to share such thoughts about a manager on the record, even after he is fired. Macha's supporters, however, say he was under intense pressure from A's GM Billy Beane, who can be hard on managers.
Melvin is more patient than Beane, but Macha needs to follow the example of managers such as the Phillies' Charlie Manuel, Rays' Joe Maddon and Red Sox's Terry Francona, all of whom treat their players with respect — and are respected in kind.
"The job of the manager is really not to be buddies with all of the players," Macha said at his introductory news conference on Thursday. "You have to make very difficult decisions over the course of a year ...
"... The bottom line is this: The manager is responsible for wins and losses. The amount of respect that you get from the players is showed by the intensity in which he played. Take a look at our teams we had in Oakland, they always played better as the season went on. We always won games in Oakland."
True enough, but Kotsay, at the time of Macha's firing, did not credit the manager.
"I heard Steve Phillips on ESPN saying, 'I don't understand this move because those guys were playing (well) for Macha,' '' Kotsay said. "Well, we didn't play for him. This collective group wanted to win together, we felt we have a chance to win together, and we provided the leadership.
"The core guys who went out and played every day were the leaders of the team and carried us through the uncertainty. If there were problems, they were dealt with among the 25 guys."
THE DELUGE REVISITED
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was involved in three difficult plays before Game 5 was suspended — one in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, when the rain was intensifying.
On the first, a single by Evan Longoria that scored Carlos Pena from second, Rollins said the ball picked up speed as it skipped off the grass, leaving him with little chance of making a play.
The second play was the Rocco Baldelli popup that Rollins lost in the rain for an error. Rollins said his inability to see the ball through the rain was a bigger issue than the wind.
"The ball blended in with those big old raindrops," Rollins said. "Right before it got to its peak, I said, 'It's one of 'em up there.' When the lights hit the raindrops, everything was the same size."
The one ball Rollins said he should have had was the two-out single by B.J. Upton in the sixth that led to the Rays' tying run. The Phillies were angered by the hit, believing Rollins would have made the play easily on drier ground.
Rollins said he was playing one step closer to home plate than normal due, believing that a routine grounder would lose speed in the drenched infield. His positioning cost him some lateral coverage, but Rollins got to the ball, which bounced off the heel of his glove.
While Rollins offered no excuses, he did give one additional explanation, saying that when the lights reflected off the water on the field, everything on the ground became bright, costing him depth perception.
"That's precious," he said.
Of course, the conditions were poor for both teams.
Upton said that once he got to first, he told himself, "Stay on your feet." He stole second, making sure not to slide past the bag. Then he scored on Pena's single, saying he "tiptoed" around third while taking a wider turn.
Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell, who admitted to difficulty gripping the ball, said he "couldn't believe" that his throw home was on line. Upton, though, slid in safely, prompting one scout to crack, "He's so fast, when he slid, he didn't even get wet."
MANUEL'S GOOD-LUCK CHARM
Before Game 3 of the Series, Mike Clements, the mayor of Buena Vista, Va., called Scott Palmer, the Phillies' director of public affairs. Clements told Palmer that he wanted to personally deliver a good-luck banner that the town had prepared for its favorite son, Charlie Manuel.
Palmer talked Clements out of making the trip, citing the threat of rain, and said they should talk on Sunday before Game 4. Clements did as instructed, calling again on Sunday morning. Only this time he said he was standing outside Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies gave Clements a tour of the ballpark, then hung the 11- foot by 6-foot banner on the lower concourse. The banner included a huge picture of Manuel and said, "Good luck Charlie and Phillies from Buena Vista, Va."
This article originally published on FOXSports.com.
Read more of Ken's columns here.
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