Thursday, April 12, 2012

Opening Day

How many Opening Days are there? Is it still Opening Day? I've been making way too much use of my subscription over the last week. I swear every day, somebody tries to call it "Opening Day." I'm confused. And angry. As I understand, the Mariners and A's "opened" the season on Wednesday, March 28 in Japan. The following Wednesday, the Marlins "opened" the season by hosting the St. Louis Cardinals. Bummed that I couldn't watch it because nationally televised games are blacked out on, I decided to see what else was available. Guess what! The Oakland A's were now playing a spring training game against the Giants. After they had played regular season games. Then on Thursday, most teams played their first games. But still not all of them. The rest waited for Friday. By my count, that's four opening days.

But wait, there's more. Some people refer to a home opener as "Opening Day" too. There may be a few of those left, too, but I think by this weekend we've safely reached the normal weekend/weekday series pattern. I've made the most of the bizarre schedule with lots of day games- and being between jobs - to watch way too much baseball. Yesterday, my day of baseball began with Johan Santana laboring yet somehow not giving up that many runs. Nearly ten hours later, Joe Nathan blew a save throwing a bunch of junk instead of his fastball.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Clubhouse Guys

On Friday night, I watched the Marlins play the Nationals. I have noticed a few sources praising the Nationals and suggesting that they are contender in the NL East. One in particular contrasted them with the Marlins. The basic premise was that the Nationals improved more in the offseason and had a better year last year.

For Friday's game, only the Nationals had a broadcast crew, so I listened to their announcers. They interviewed the general manager during the game. Both the announcers and GM repeatedly described various players as good "character" or "clubhouse" guys to have on the team. Meanwhile, the Marlins brought in Ozzie Guillen as manager and they're banking on the enigmatic Hanley at third base. Does this sound familiar? The Twins had plenty of clubhouse guys over the last decade. The White Sox weren't quite as fan friendly. The Sox won something that counts. This is exactly why I like the Marlins.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

WIld Cards

Apparently baseball has decided to add an additional wild card in each league. Somehow, they claim this will make playoffs more exciting, or pennant races more exciting, or rewards division winners, or includes more teams, or something. I say, let's call a spade a spade. The real reason is obvious. This new rule change all but guarantees that both the Yankees and Red Sox will qualify for the playoffs every year. That greatly increases the likelihood of the Yankees playing the Red Sox in the playoffs. I took a look at the past ten seasons. The Yankees and Red Sox would have combined to take half of the additional wild card spots. In the other five seasons, both of them legitimately qualified. Of those seasons, there would have been only one postseason which did not include both teams.

I actually like that baseball has a few franchises which are always among the best in the league. Despite all the grumblings about the elite teams, a variety of teams actually win the World Series in any given season. One of the biggest drawbacks of such a playoff system is that it fails to distinguish the difference between say the 2011 Red Sox and the 2004 Red Sox. Last season's incarnation had a terrible start to the season, climbed to be a near lock for the Wild Card, and finished a collapse on the last day of the season. The 2004 Red Sox won 6 more games than the West and Central Division champions, beat one of them in the division series, and recovered from a 3-0 hole against their division rival. Ultimately, they won the World Series.

Such a team deserves the championship. That's how a playoff system should be designed. The current format is actually pretty good for that. If you want to make the playoffs, you have to win your division. One team that has a really good year without winning the division gets in. I can't remember any recent champions who were not deserving nor were any deserving teams excluded. I still prefer the old two division format. Mainly, it makes September games more meaningful. Alas, it's harder to take MLB seriously with the new format. I'll just have to settle for what interesting event may happen during any given game.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Popular Demand

Apparently my reader wonders when I'll start posting again. In that case, I'll just start musing.

A few days ago, I was navigating to see how pathetic the Twins roster is. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the words "Zambrano" and "Marlins" in the same headline. (Recall that I do not follow the offseason too closely because you can catch up in 5 minutes before the first pitch). I was pretty excited about that. If the goal is to pick the unTwins, I have succeeded. The Marlins may be great. They may be terrible. They'll probably be both.

The Twins already seem remarkably different when they're just another team. They have basically the same team as last year. All that's changed is that Young, Thome, Kubel, and Cuddyer have left. Meanwhile, they added that guy from the A's, that injury prone reliever from the Tigers, and Maddie Bisanz. In particular the starting pitching has not changed. Even if the Monstars return Mauer and Morneau's talent there's not much there.

By contrast, the Marlins also should expect two key players- Hanley and JJ- to return from injuries. They have added experience to the starting rotation. Jose Reyes is a proven performer. Then they have the nucleus of players like Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez, and Logan Morrison hitting their primes. I'd certainly think Ozzie should be a good manager for this group. They've taken a few risks but that's way better than patronizing their fans the way others might.