As you all know, I am a lifelong baseball fan, and always will be. I will always support the Red Sox in the American League, and the Mets in the National League. Baseball is my favorite sport, and always will be. But there are a few things now in the game that I really don't like, and over the last few days, I've been thinking about putting together a post about those things. So if you will now indulge me, I will list, in no particular order, those things in baseball I really don't care for. (Obvious things like the Yankees and Barry Bonds are omitted from the list.) So here we go:
1. Players standing at home plate watching balls go out of the park. I agree with fans and players who believe that those players who stand and watch balls that are about to leave the yard are showing up the pitchers. I think it is affront to the game to do this. It began with the godfather of the Home Run Pose, Reggie Jackson, who did it at the 1971 All-Star Game for the first time with a monsterous blast he hit off the light tower in Detroit off Dock Ellis. (Ellis never forgave Jackson for doing it. When Ellis was on the Yankees and Jackson in Baltimore in 1976, they faced each other for the first time in five years, and Ellis knocked him on his ass.) Baseball's worst offenders are Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr, Albert Pujols, and many others, including two guys who play for the Red Sox, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. (Bonds once did it in a playoff game back in the early 1990s while with the Pirates and only ended up with a double after the ball hit the wall, and the Pirates lost to the Braves by one run.) It's a trend that kids emulate, and definitely not a good one.
2. Players who wear their uniform pants down to the bottoms of their shoes. I believe George Hendrick started this back in the 1970s, and remember he was laughed at for doing it. Now it seems 95% of the players wear their uniform pants this way, and it makes them look like they're wearing pajama bottoms. I have always been a fan of high socks, which are worn by players like Jason Varitek, Mike Timlin, and Kevin Millar. And I especially like those players who wear the old-fashioned stirrups, like Jose Cruz Jr. and Anthony Reyes of the Cardinals (love those stripes at the tops of his socks, like the old Cards used to wear). The long pants just make too many players look like unmade beds these days.
3. Pitchers and catchers talking into their gloves during mound conferences. Come on, do they honestly believe their are lip readers in the opposing dugouts and on the field? It's really silly. So, if they are so paranoid about the other team knowing what they are saying, why don't pitching coaches, when they go out to talk to pitchers, cover their mouths with their hands or hats when they talk to them?
4. Starting World Series games later than 8 PM ET. We are raising a generation that has never seen the finish to a World Series game in the Eastern United States. October games routinely throw the first pitch after 8:30 ET, and rarely do games get done the month before midnight. Fox of course, has to have more time in-between innings to promote their very lame upcoming TV season (oh, what a coincidence, the stars of those shows just happen to be here tonight, in great seats!), so MLB allows more time in-between innings. The first pitch should be thrown no later than 8 ET, and I simply don't care if it starts at 5 on the West Coast. Let them rush home from work to see it. As my buddy Steve has said on many occasion, and is very correct: "Fox ruins baseball!" (And as for the All-Star Game, Fox is having some kind of "Red Carpet" show that starts at 7 PM on July 10, but the game's first pitch won't happen until around 8:45 PM. Terrific.)
5. Letting Chris Berman go anywhere near an MLB broadcast booth. Chris ("You're With Me, Leather") Berman is absolutely the worst play-by-play broadcaster doing any nationally televised MLB game today. I'll never know why ESPN shoves him down our throats as much as they do. He insists on doing those absolutely clownish and inspid nicknames, his claim to national fame on ESPN. He's another jerk who feels he must be part of the game, and bring attention to himself. His references are so dated, and I detest his smartass "attitude."On the other hand, I've had the pleasure to listen to Vin Scully do the Dodgers games on the MLB package lately, and he's a joy to listen to. Stylish, classy and never makes himself part of the game. Something that is sadly lacking in many broadcast booths today.
6. Interleague games. Supposedly, MLB took polls in the mid-1990s that fans were "clamoring" for AL teams to play NL teams in the regular season. I honestly couldn't find one person who really wanted to see it happen. It has now been happening for 10 years and many fans are tired of it and want to get rid of it, including me. It plays havoc with team schedules and creates an inequity in schedules as well. It creates artificial "natural rivalries" (the Braves are the Red Sox "rivals" and have to play them six times a year because they once played in Boston?), and in many places is driven by greed. (The Mets and Yankees play six times a year ONLY because it means six guaranteed sellouts.) It's time has come and gone. For the good of the schedules, throw it out and have teams play more games inside their own division and league, as it means more to the division and wild card races.
7. Inequitable ticket prices. This absolutely awful ticket price program began a few years ago. Teams come up with fancy names for it, but it's nothing more than price-gouging. Teams are charging more money for the same tickets because the teams or players are more attractive than others. For example, the Mets did it with the Giants games at Shea, because they figured Barry Bonds would put more fannies in the seats when he showed up. But what if he doesn't play that day, or is injured? Anything to squeeze the last buck out of a gullible fan base. If that wasn't bad enough, the prices to postseason games are completely and totally ludicrous. Why should fans have to pay double or triple the price of a ticket just because they are postseason games? Price-gouging at its obscene worst.
8. No scheduled doubleheaders. I miss regularly scheduled doubleheaders. Teams would play at least 10 DHs a year when I was young (almost all scheduled), and now they are only played (and very reluctantly) to make up rainouts, and it is always that odious "day-night" variety. Every team should be forced to schedule at least two or three per year, just to throw a bone to its fans (and it would also give teams a few extra off days). I know, it would never fly because owners simply would never let two or three single games off the schedule when they could make more money off them.
9. Artificial turf. One of the best things about the emergence of the new stadiums that have been built over the past dozen years is that every one of them have come with real grass, and now artificial turf stadiums are now down to just three places: Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Toronto. Artificial turf changed the game, and not for the better. It caused too many injuries when it became fashionable in the 1970s, but thankfully it is going the way of pet rocks and CB radios. Many have yelled and screamed about the designated hitter (I'm actually one who likes it), but I've always felt that phony turf was a bigger scourge. As Dick Allen once astutely observed, "If a horse won't eat it, I won't play on it."
10. Sportswriters (or at least some). I am convinced that most writers in this country are frustrated, wanted-to-be jocks who enjoy ripping down the athletes they cover. They see them making the big money, wish they were in that position, and do their best to make a name for themselves by writing the worst crap imaginable. There are many I respect, like Gordon Edes, Steve Buckley, Thomas Boswell and Mike Vaccaro. But there are others who come to the table with hidden agendas (Filip Bondy), do others' bidding (Dan Shaughnessy), or are just plain hypocrites (George King). And I love the paranoia some have shown over the emergence of the sports blogging world (CHB again). I'm proud to say: we're here to stay boys. Get used to it.