Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Baseball babbling below. Don't say I didn't warn ya.

As of today, the Yankees are a half-game behind Boston, and a game and a half out of the wild card race. Which seems weird to me. That they have a better chance of taking first in their division than being the second-best team in their league.

This is one area I gotta admit the old-timers are right about baseball being better back in the day.

My dad and I used to argue about that. All the classic generation-gap bickering. He said that there were only 16 teams the whole first half of the century. So baseball got the very best players, as opposed to this expansion era, with 30 team rosters to fill out. I reminded him that in his caveman days there were half the people in the country. Since he was a kid, man invented fire, the wheel, the polio vaccine, suburban tract housing and now there’s more than twice the population in the U.S., hence plenty of players to scout for new franchises. And today, the “World Series” is at least a more appropriate term than back in his provincial horse-and-buggy era. All those players from Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Cuba, and of course, the Dominican Republic. Weren’t no Japanese or Korean guys on the Washington Senators. Hell, when Pops was in short pants, blacks weren’t even allowed on the field.

We’d continue the arguments about:

• how guys like Babe Ruth or Alex Rodriguez would do in each others’ era (I think talented players would excel in any era, but added that today’s superior fitness training gives players the edge, which only led our disagreements into the inevitable ‘roid rage),

• whether pitchers today are wimps with their 4- or 5-man rotation, closers, middle relievers, pitch counts, etc., or if the division of labor on the mound creates tougher defense, and

• free agency merits (the end of indentured servitude, mobility of talent) and drawbacks (inflated salaries, who the hell does so-and-so play for this year?).

I think he was just being a classic contrary old codger (not entirely like in this editorial), but… when he complained about the whole wild card situation and this modern 3-divisions-per-league set-up, I had to pause at some strange observations:

As much I love Bernie Williams, calling him the player with the best offensive stats in the post-season needs qualification. Mickey Mantle’s Yankees only had to win 4 games in the post season. Bernie’s Yankees have to win 11.

And now the Yanks can win one game and be in first place, but only to be the third best team in the league. Seem weird? How about when the San Diego Padres are in first place, even though they’re barely playing .500 ball, while there’s 4 other teams in the National League with better records who aren’t even guaranteed post-season action. There’s something very wrong here.

And I hate it when the old man is right.


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