we have baseball!

I am delighted that the baseball impasse is behind us. I wasn’t sure what I would have done for diversion and escape from all the ills of the world after the NCAA Women’s tournament had ended. Go Stanford women! (Who are the #1 seed in the Spokane region.) But we will have baseball after all. That is a Good Thing.

Some of the coming changes, however, I am not sure that I like. Bob Nightingale, who writes about baseball for USA Today, wrote on Twitter:

Traditional baseball is also back:
No more ghost runners in extra innings.
No more 7-inning doubleheaders

He’s right about the two specifics, but I’m not sure that I agree with him that traditional baseball is back.

baseballFirst, we now have the designated hitter in the National League. Please, no. Say it ain’t so, Joe. But there it is. The DH makes the game simpler and eliminates a lot of the strategy that has long made the National League game more interesting than its American League counterpart. But then it also provides employment for aging hitters who are no longer as agile on defense as they once were.

There will now be twelve teams in the playoffs. I’m indifferent to that.

Ads are allowed on jerseys and helmets. Not a good thing.

One more rule change: A player can be optioned to the minors only five times during the season. Beyond that they would have to clear waivers. That makes sense. Last year the Dodgers made so many roster moves that they could have set up a regularly scheduled shuttle back and forth to their Triple A affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Bigger changes are possible for 2023. A committee made up of four active players, six members appointed by MLB, and one umpire will consider several changes. (Which means, effectively, that MLB can impose any of the changes since they have a majority on the committee.) Changes under consideration include:

  • Larger base size. I don’t believe I like that. It will probably mean more runs in a game and fewer outs on close plays. But then again, it could increase stolen base attempts, which would be fun.
  • A pitch clock. I definitely don’t like that. I have seen it in women’s college softball and I find it distracting.
  • Eliminating the shift. Having the third baseman on the grass between first and second base just isn’t right. So yeah, I think I like that change.
  • An electronic balls and strikes system. Are you kidding me?

Of course, there has always been change in baseball. The designated hitter was not instituted until 1973. The late, superb Oakland Athletics broadcaster Bill King once mentioned that there was a time in the late 1800s when the third base coach could tackle a runner to get him to hold at third.

What’s important, details aside, is that baseball is back. That means a lot.

baseball has (in my opinion) crossed a line

baseballBaseball teams exist to make a profit. They always have. I get that. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the Giants to San Francisco in 1958 it was about heading to wide open markets without competition. Legendary San Francisco Giants play-by-play broadcaster Hank Greenwald published a memoir entitled This Copyrighted Broadcast in 1999, near the end of his career. In it he laments the increasing commercialization of the sport, saying that it was coming close to the point where announcers would have to say, “This next pitch is brought to you by…” Beginning last year the Nike swoosh started appearing on all major league baseball uniforms. All of that.

Recently, however, Major League Baseball entered into an agreement that I find troubling. They developed a marketing arrangement with a company known as FTX. The firm is a cryptocurrency exchange, facilitating transactions in tender such as Bitcoin. Starting with the All Star game this year all umpires are wearing an FTX patch on their uniforms.

I have a couple of problems with this. First, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are on the fringes of legality. They’re not illegal, but the federal government hasn’t figured out how to regulate them. Traders use cryptocurrencies in questionable activities and in transactions where those involved want to keep their identities secret. It’s not something that baseball should involve itself with, particularly when the television viewer can clearly see the patch on the umpire’s shirt throughout the game.

My other problem is that umpires are supposed to be the very model of objectivity. Commercializing their uniforms is damages their credibility.

This is almost enough to get me to stop watching baseball. Not quite, but almost.

“Doesn’t anyone know how this game is played?”

I heard Giants broadcaster Jon Miller ask that question in a frustrated tone of voice after an odd play that invoked an obscure baseball rule. Miller didn’t like how the official scorer scored the play, and, as I recall, he may have been unhappy with the call on the field by the umpire as well.

I ask that question about some less obscure aspects of baseball these days. I’ve learned to accept the designated hitter in the National League during this COVID-19-shortened season, being grateful just to have baseball.

The one thing that does irk me, however, is the concept of the “opener” as opposed to a proper starting pitcher. That’s someone who pitches only an inning or two at the start of the game.

For example, in the final game of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, the Dodgers started Dustin May, who pitched only a single inning. He was followed by two more pitchers who each picked up two innings, and then by Brusdar Graterol who pitched a single inning. Finally, Julio Urías pitched the last three.

That’s not the baseball I grew up with. I was going to blame Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who played in a more traditional era, but Houston Mitchell wrote in the Dodgers newsletter:

quoteKeep in mind that Dave Roberts doesn’t decide who is going to start. He has input, yes, but the front office looks at all their flow charts, their crystal balls, their sabermetrics, their Tarot cards, their performance metrics, their Magic 8 Ball and decides who will start.

OK, Dave is off the hook.

And the Dodgers are in the World Series. We actually have a World Series this year, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles.

That’s something to be thankful for in these crazy days.

that’s not how the game is played

(…except that it is)

As I’ve noted before, I have loved and followed baseball since I was five years old. And like many, I have a purist streak. I can tolerate the designated hitter in the American League, but please do not ever bring it to the National League.

baseballSo there are some recent trends that annoy me. One is position players pitching an inning near the end of a game where the outcome has been deemed to be not consequential. It’s bad enough to see other teams do it, but to have catcher Russell Martin of the Dodgers pitch an inning is aggravating. I’m not a big football fan, but I know enough about it to follow a game when I choose to watch (which is not often). I know that only certain players are eligible to receive a pass, and that their uniform number must be within a certain range. Baseball needs a similar rule.

Then there’s the “opener,” as opposed to starting pitcher. The opener only pitches an inning or two before being replaced by a pitcher in long relief. A team may announce that a certain left-handed pitcher is starting a game so as to influence the opposing team’s starting lineup. Except the opposing manager is frequently on to this ruse so it is often ineffective. The Angels did this the other day. Again, aggravating.

Then there’s the fact that intentional walks are now signaled by the manager, rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches off the plate. Not’s not how the game should be played.

OK. End of rant. Back to enjoying baseball.

Hank Greenwald

Terry was surfing on her iPhone one evening last week when she showed me an item conveying news of the passing of long-time San Francisco Giants broadcaster Hank Greenwald.

You perhaps know that I grew up a Dodgers fan and I am today a Dodgers fan. But there was an interim period when Terry and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area that I was a Giants fan. Hank Greenwald had everything to do with that.

Hank GreenwaldTerry and I had rented a house in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The house had a lot of foliage that needed attention. I don’t mind doing yard work, in fact I rather enjoy it. At the same time I need something to listen to when I’m doing yard work. The nice thing about the Giants broadcast station KNBR is that it has a strong, clear signal and baseball is a great companion for yard work.

I immediately loved Hank’s wry witty style. He not only called the game, but he had great stories and his wry humor was a delight. My engagement with Hank developed into a full-fledged Giants fanship until Terry and I moved south and childhood loyalties won the day.

Hank brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and he will be greatly missed.

post-season baseball

The Dodgers have had an up and down year. They have had key players on the disabled list and have had a long list of starting pitchers. At one point near the end of the season they were in sole possession of first place in the National League West. They lost that lead, but swept the Giants in San Francisco and ended the season tied with the Rockies for first in the NL West. They beat the Rockies in the NL West tie-breaker, which means they go straight to the Division Series against Atlanta in Los Angeles on Thursday. They avoided having to deal with the whole wildcard thing.

We have a couple of days to catch our breath, and whatever happens from here on out, it was an enjoyable season.

watching baseball

The Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958. I was four years old when the season started. I have been following baseball from that point on. I know a little bit about the game.

In those early days and for many years after that the Dodgers were on the radio on KFI (50,000 watt clear channel station, Earl C. Anthony Incorporated). Wherever you were in the West or the Southwest you could hear KFI and the Dodger games. And, of course, we had Vin Scully. Who better to teach us the game.

Today we have almost every game on TV. Joe Davis is a competent play-by-play guy and Orel Hershiser is a good color man, though he could stand to talk less. On the radio we have Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday, an enjoyable team. But the day of the single broadcaster calling the game on his own is over. Vin was the last of those.

Which is my point here. Too much chatter and too much information these days. Call the game and describe it, but skip the excess commentary. The Angels games (as well as ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and the games on Fox) outline the strike zone for you on the screen. Stop it. Please! I have been following baseball since I was four. (I said that, didn’t I?) I know the strike zone, even if it has shifted a bit over time. And as for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, they seem at times to forget that there is a game on the field that they are supposed to be describing.

But it is still baseball. And I still love watching it.

guess I did say that

Last baseball season we didn’t have the Dodgers on TV as we had Frontier Communications. I wrote that we didn’t need the Dodgers on television as we had the MLB at Bat app and could listen to the radio broadcast with Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday.

That was then. This is now. And I have to admit to at least a bit of sour grapes. Because now we have Spectrum and we get the Dodgers on television. I like having the Dodgers on television. Joe Davis is not as bad as I made out. He’s a pretty decent game caller. He’s not Vin Scully, but nobody is except for Vin.

Charlie and Rick are an excellent broadcast team in the finest baseball tradition, and there’s a great baseball tradition in radio broadcasts, but yeah, really, it’s nice to be able to see the Dodgers on TV.

making a change

A year ago at this time I wrote that I was happy with Frontier Communications because at the end of my two year term I got a lower rate and more channels. This year that’s not the case.

What turned out to be a two-year term was only one year. When I asked them for some kind of rate accommodation I was told nothing was possible. That was it. It was time for a change.

I had been thinking about changing to Spectrum for a while. They have the Dodgers on TV and they have the Weather Channel. Frontier has neither. This, and Frontier’s inflexibility with respect to our rate, prompted me to make the change.

We did drop to a lower tier of service without the movie channels, but on the streaming side we have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and movie services via our Roku.

We don’t get Cooking Channel, but we have Food Network. And I have Genius Kitchen on the Roku, which comes from the Food Network folks. I don’t get Decades with its Dick Cavett reruns, but I still have PBS Create.

Our savings is $60 a month. That doesn’t take into account the rate when our Frontier $30 a month loyalty discount was to expire.

And most importantly we get the Dodgers. We get to have the Dodgers on TV. That goes for a lot. We’re going to thoroughly enjoy that.

baseball returns

baseballI wrote on Valentine’s Day that it was also Ash Wednesday and that the Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first workout after reporting the day before. The full squad is now in camp (actually I read that most of the position players showed up with the pitchers and catchers), and the first spring training game was on Friday.

We have baseball. With all the issues and concerns in our world today, having baseball back is a Good Thing.