(Edit: Since this is a Nocturne, I suggest that all readers listen to Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 whilst reading along...)
I'm sorry, but the entirety of my thesis did not fit in the title box on Blogger. BLAST YOU GOOGLE INC.!
Baseball is the most important sport in history. As I allow that hyperbole to settle in, let me prove it. Baseball currently ranks second in the most popular team sports worldwide, topped only by football (the European flavor, that is). Baseball, however, is a much better and more important game, due entirely to the superior uniforms and the fact that it was invented in the United States rather than Great Britain. That its roots trace to bat and ball games played during the American Revolutionary War (wherein the United States annihilated the most powerful Empire on Planet Earth by hiding in trees and wearing subdued colors while their opponents marched in single file as gentlemen wearing lobster-red coats and powdered wigs) bears testament to its superiority to anything produced by a tea-obsessed monarchy.
Baseball traces its roots to the similar, but decidedly more English, sport of cricket - except that cricket is played on an oval rather than a diamond, participants have "tea" rather than a seventh inning stretch, players are given the ridiculously named field positions of "silly mid-off," bowlers (not pitchers) are allowed to bean the batsman to try and injure him, and it is not uncommon for a test cricket match to last three days... although it does seem that the current trend will see baseball games lasting three whole days in just a few years.
Why, you may ask? The answer: MERCHANDISING!
In the 1990s, baseball suffered from one of its worst decades of popularity. I attribute this to three main factors:
1.) Players became exceptionally greedy and demanded more money.
2.) Owners became exceptionally greedy.
3.) Canadian teams dominated the 1992, 1993 and the shortened 1994 season.
This third observation seems an exercise in xenophobia (which I here deny, being that I am a firm supporter of the Sovereign Dominion of Canada), but when you examine the facts (the Toronto Blue Jays winning the World Series in '92 and '93 and the 1994 Montréal Expos proclaiming that they were "Meilleure Équipe du Baseball" due entirely to their having the best record before the cursed strike) maybe we need to (dare I say) BLAME CANADA! Speaking of the Strike: World War II did not stop the World Series from being played, but money sure did in 1994. It would not be until the steroid-soaked home run hitting monsters of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa squared off in a battle royale to challenge Roger Maris's single season home run record that baseball would lick its '90s wounds. The resurgence in popularity also coincided with the steroid-fueled Yankees winning a million World Series and the completely forgotten Atlanta Braves (aptly named the Team of the '90s, though they only won the 1995 World Series) owning the National League (pennants in '91, '92, '95, '96 and '99; division titles in every year of the decade but '90 and '94). But at what price did this popularity come?
Specialization has ruined the pace of baseball. Game 5 of the 1969 World Series ended when Davey Johnson (ironically future skipper of the champion '86 Mets) popped up to Cleon Jones, just 2 hours and 14 minutes after the first pitch. Anyone who's attended a ballgame with me knows how much I LOVE short games. They usually indicate pitching duels and just enough scoring to keep the game flowing. In stark contrast, the most recent (miserable) World Series saw Yankees crowned again after a THREE HOUR AND FIFTY TWO MINUTE struggle. I've walked out of shorter operas (Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa)! Why? Take a good look at the pitching statistics for these games:
Game 5 of the 1969 World Series
Game 6 of the 2009 World Series
The Orioles and Mets combined sent three pitchers to the mound 40 years ago.
The Phillies and Yankees offered TEN.
It has gotten to a point where managers put a single pitcher in to face a single batter based on what hand he throws with. Pitching changes are an opportunity for networks to show MORE COMMERCIALS! Is it any wonder that the baseball postseason now ends in November? The '69 season ended some 2 weeks sooner than did the 2009. A whole extra month of slow-paced games featuring only 8 teams? That's a recipe for disgruntlement. Postseason games are also strategically spaced to air the games at prime time (often meaning games will not end until past 11:00 pm), whereas World Series games were often played in the daytime just a few decades ago. You had the entire rest of the afternoon and evening to celebrate your team's victory - a moment well described in Thomas Oliphant's Praying for Gil Hodges, when an entire borough celebrated together. There's something Amazin' about watching the last out of the '69 Series in the daytime. The sun adds to the joy of the moment.
And finally, one man has single-handedly destroyed postseason baseball.
October 16, 1941. One of the most mediocre baseball personalities was born. James Timothy McCarver was selected as an All-Star twice and twice won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals. His boring curriculum vitae and overall baseball ineptitude meant that he could never manage a team... perhaps also due to his disgusting Southern drawl. Listening to Tim McCarver call a baseball game is almost as bad as sitting in a family style restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania having an old man take 8 minutes to spit out the question, "Son, is Long Island part of Fire Island?" His obnoxious burbling only worsens his atrociously nonsensical observations on the game of baseball. A colleague said he is someone who, "when you ask him the time, will tell you how a watch works." His subpar baseball calling and confusion of rules leaves one wondering - why the FUCK do networks insist on having him call postseason baseball games? Perhaps as a Mets fan I am spoiled. My booth is filled with two Ivy League graduates and two former Mets whose combined curricula amount to 6 All-Star selections, 12 Gold Glove Awards, and 2 Silver Slugger Awards. Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen amount to the most talented and entertaining team of baseball analysts in baseball today. It makes one wonder how a hack like Tim McCarver gets such a job. Enjoy a wikipedia entry on the various criticisms of McCarver.
So how do we fix the postseason? I offer the following recipe:
- Bring back day games. Some of us have to sleep at night and besides, we all have the means to record it and watch it again later.
- Adhere to strict time limits in warmups and between innings.
- Fewer days between postseason games. At least TRY to confine "October Baseball" to October.
- Always provide a playoff berth for the New York Mets.
- Fire Tim McCarver... or at least ship him off to call cricket games, as his knowledge of baseball's British counterpart probably isn't too far removed from his baseball knowledge.
- Make me, The Rev. Dr. Mayor William C. Olsen-Hoek, Esq. into Commissioner The Rev. Dr. Mayor William C. Olsen-Hoek, Esq.. I imagine my name with full title regalia would look marvelous stamped on all official league baseballs! In fact, let's see what it would look like using sophisticated computer technology!
An enormous thank you to Greg for his outstanding work in imagining what baseballs will look like under my Commissionership.
Next Time! Oscar the Grouch: TIME LORD.