Friday, July 10, 2009

Random Ramblings

I had some fun with yesterday's game in an after-game post, however, that 5-run eighth fired me up. It was exciting to see the team explode like that at the plate. I'm sure out there somewhere are pessimists who will bemoan the Cardinals scoring in only 2 of their last 18 innings in Milwaukee, as if there's some requirement to not only win but to score in more innings than the opponent. That's crazy. They got 4 in the 4th on Wednesday and 5 in the 8th yesterday, and with a little bit better pitching from Todd Wellemeyer they win both games. And since won/loss record is how we measure success in this game, winning is important. So who cares in how many innings runs are scored.

Back to the point. I don't get swept up in the moment much anymore with the Cardinals. But I did in that eighth inning. It took some self-control not to start yelling when Ludwick's ball left the yard. That was awesome.

Momentum from the 10-1 win over Cincinnati carried over into Milwaukee. Let's hope momentum from yesterday's win will carry over into Chicago.

Steroids. Rick Hummel interviewed Bud Selig, I guess yesterday, about a variety of topics, and steroids came up again, as it always seems to when Selig talks to the media. The excerpt from that interview is here. A couple of thoughts on the article.

1. Bud talks about how much progress has been made in steroids testing. Well, yes, there's been progress. But when you start from no program at all, any program you put in place is progress. So I don't think all the glad-handing baseball does on this is warranted. The problem was willfully ignored by baseball for years, then callously fought by the union. The problem will never go away, because from now on what used to be called 'career years' by players will be accompanied by the 'how did he do it' whispers (see the Ibanez controversy earlier this season). Selig should be reminded of that fact from time to time.

2. Selig talked about the higher standard baseball is held to, when compared to other sports. That is true. I don't believe there's a rational reason for it either. Lots of talking heads discuss which sport is America's Pastime, and at this stage most agree football holds the public's attention more so than baseball. However baseball is so exalted in our culture any event that tarnishes it is met with an emotional response. Think about how many different ways baseball terminology is used every day. Can't get the pretty girl at the bar to talk to you? You tell your friends "I struck out." Succeed beyond expectations on a work project? Your boss might tell you "You knocked that one out of the park, Larry." Boss changes direction on a project without warning? "Thanks for the curveball, George." And so on.

Baseball occupies this high place largely because of its rich history, because we can connect players from different eras by statistical analysis and argument. Rob Neyer posted his "all-time All Star team yesterday" for the NL, and will post his AL team today. Who he included on the team becomes largely irrelevant. The fact he created a team at all allows fans to argue about whether or not he's right, and to suggest players that should have been there instead. For instance, he left Bob Gibson off the team, a glaring omission in my opinion.

The basic rules of baseball haven't changed in over 100 years, making these kinds of arguments possible. The way football is played has changed so radically since the 1930s (see today's emphasis on the short passing game) the same arguments can't be made; what was an important statistic in days gone by might not be so today. Also, the schedule for football continues to grow - it was 12 games when I was a kid, and might become 17 now, which is a 42% growth in the number of games; that would be equivalent to adding two months to the baseball schedule. This schedule growth waters down the statistics. For example, when the season was 10 games, rushing for 1000 yards was quite the accomplishment; in a 16 game season, more guys can reach the mark because they have more opportunities to play.

Is it fair to hold baseball to a higher standard? No. But it is what it is. And Selig was right when he said it wasn't fair. Since he understands it, and has since 1971, he should have been much more proactive in protecting the game from the cheats and drug users. And must be more proactive going forward.

Because at some point, guys like me will no longer get excited about games like yesterday's. When that happens, the game is dead. We'll all be watching football.

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