SAST 17

You Know Who has never been subtle, but even by his standards, the paired assault on the Post Office and on mail-in ballots is crude and obvious.

Fortunately, the counter move is just as obvious. To misquote Pogo, vote early and vote widely.

Fill your ballot out as soon as you get it*–you know who you’re voting for–and get it in the mail immediately. Better yet, if your state offers a way to drop off ballots in person in the days or weeks preceding Election Day (California does; I’m sure others do as well), use one. They generally have a shorter wait than actually voting, and they often keep longer hours than polling places. Best of all, they avoid the Post Office completely.

* And if it hasn’t shown up within a couple of days of the mail-out date, use whatever process your state has for dealing with lost ballots. Don’t wait around, hoping it’ll show up.

And vote in every contest on the ballot. And vote Democrat. This is not the time for a protest vote, much less a no-vote protest. It’s not the time for voting for a third party candidate. Anyone who runs as a Republican is automatically complicit with You Know Who. Defeat ’em all.

Moving on.

Watching baseball on TV doesn’t feel quite real.

It’s not the fake crowd noise–or fake crowds–though those don’t help. Nor is it the omnipresent threat of a sudden end to the season. It’s not even the universal DH or the fake baserunners in extra innings.

What it really is, is the contrast with everything going on outside the stadiums. Defined beginnings and endings. Rules known to everyone and largely accepted, however grudgingly. Even, Goddess help us, leaders–team captains, coaches, managers–who lead.

Still, I don’t let the fantastic aspects stop me from watching. Heck, I write fantasy; I can deal with a universe totally unlike the real world.

Aspirational? Sure. Achievable? Probably not–but we can dream.

And moving on again.

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Google announced their latest phone, going head to head with Apple’s announcement of a few new models of computers.

I’ve been trying to get excited about any of the forthcoming gadgets, but it’s touch. None of them, Apple or Google, is radically new. They’ve all got minor advancements over the previous generation, but nothing to make anyone want to rush out and buy one.

Which seems weirdly appropriate for today’s universe.

Apple is nominally targeting the Back-to-School audience, but with so many schools being virtual, there’s not much scope for the usual implied message of “be the envy of your peers”.

Google, on the other hand, seems to have announced the Pixel 4a solely because it was already developed and in production. Might as well push it out there, collect a few news stories, and prepare the way for the Pixel 5, possibly as soon as a couple of months from now.

Maybe if Microsoft ever gets around to releasing their dual-screen Android phone, we’ll have something to get excited about. Right now, though? Gadgets: boring.

2020 Foresight

If it does nothing else, this weird season has at least given us a year away from reminders that “the MLB season is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Of course, robbed of their favorite truism, broadcasters are now continually reminding each other–and us–that this season is a sprint. Can’t win ’em all.

It’s also given us a heck of a lot of complaining that the new playoff scheme will result in large numbers of teams with losing records making the playoffs.

I beg to differ.

Had this season’s rules been in effect last year, only one sub-.500 team would have made the playoffs: the Texas Rangers. That’s hardly a flood, and only mildly annoying.

I also checked to see who would have made the playoffs had the season ended at about 60 games. (I say “about” because off-days and rainouts mean that not every team has played the same number of games on any given date.)

In this case, had the season ended on June 5, no teams with losing records would have made the playoffs. Even the Rangers started off well: after sixtyish games, they were at .525.

Granted, two teams–the Athletics and the Padres–were at exactly .500, but I’d have been fine with that.

Additional food for thought for anyone who thinks adding teams to the playoffs will increase competition: of the sixteen teams that would have made the playoffs had 2019 ended after 60 games, only three would have dropped out with the full 162 game schedule. The Phillies, Rockies, and Padres all started strong, but faded later, and would have been replaced in the playoffs by the Mets, Diamondbacks, and–amusingly enough–the Nationals.

I don’t know about you, but I think if the playoff lineup is more than 80% determined a third of the way through the season, increased competition down the stretch isn’t going to have much impact.

Moving on to this season, I’m going to modify my normal prognosticatory technique. Since the season is a sprint–sorry–I’m just going to go with the run differential and won/lost records as they stood at the end of the day Tuesday and use them to predict the playoff teams and the eventual World Series champions.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that the full sixty game season will be played, as will all the playoff games. That’s seeming wildly optimistic, but it wouldn’t be much fun to declare the season a washout this soon.

In the NL, our playoff teams–determined by run differential, not record–are Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, LA, San Diego, Colorado, and Cincinnati.

Over in the AL, we’re looking at Tampa Bay, Toronto, Minnesota, Cleveland, Houston, LA, Oakland, and Kansas City.

For what it’s worth, the last team in each league has a DIFF of -1. Clearly, while run differential is indicative of victories, it’s not a one-to-one relationship. But we knew that.

Anyway, once we get into the playoffs, actual victories are more critical. In the NL, the Cubs and Padres sport identical 4-1 records. While Chicago has scored more total runs, they’ve also allowed their opponents to score more; their run ratio is a hair under 1.5. The Padres, on the other hand, have scored more than twice as many runs as their opponents. Accordingly, I’m calling the Padres the probable NL World Series representatives.

Turning to the junior circuit, the Rays and the Possibly-Soon-To-Be-Nameless-Team-From-Cleveland are also sitting at 4-1. Again looking at the run ratio, the Cleveland PSTBNs (that’s a mouthful. I’m going to call them the Postbins.) have outscored their opponents by exactly two to one. That puts them comfortably ahead of Tampa Bay and their 1.7 ratio.

Postbins versus Padres in the World Series. And won’t that set a lot of prognosticators’ teeth on edge?

The winner? Based on run ration, it would be San Diego. But 2.0 versus 2.1 is awfully close, and could easily be overcome by moderating factors such as home field advantage or even pure luck. Even allowing for the Padres having scored more runs than Cleveland (26-21), it still seems close.

Let’s look at the historical record. San Diego has made it to the World Series twice and lost both times. Cleveland’s been in the Series six times and won twice. History is on the side of the Postbins.

But. They haven’t won since 1948. And people like round numbers and multiples of five. Cleveland’s best chance for a World Series victory isn’t until the seventy-fifth anniversary of their last one. That’s 2023.

I’m calling 2020 now. Padres over Postbins four games to two.

Continuing a Theme

And, speaking of balls in the air in a somewhat less metaphorical sense…

Yes, today is Opening Day in what will–for however long it lasts–be the strangest season in MLB’s modern history.

I have to say I feel sorry for the poor folks tasked with putting together the schedule. One would have thought the best way to kick the season off with a bang would be to have everyone playing–especially given the need to squeeze 60 games into 66 calendar days. But, no. Somebody decided the way to go was with a major East Coast match and a major West Coast game.

Giants/Dodgers makes sense. A long, storied rivalry involving both ends of California. Okay, so it’s the disease center of the US right now, but what can you do?

But over at the far end of the country, the schedulers had a major dilemma. They didn’t have much choice about including the Nationals. They won the World Series last year (though, to be honest, that feels so long ago, I had to double-check to be sure I was remembering correctly). But who to pair them with?

The best choice from a rivalry perspective would be the Orioles, but nobody’s going to schedule a team that lost 108 games last year for a “big bang” opener.

Rematch of the World Series? Sorry, nope. Houston is in the AL West; the only way they’ll play against Washington this year is if they meet in the World Series again.

How about Atlanta? There are plenty of reasons to dislike them, dating back at least as far as Ted Turner’s heyday. Even if you can’t get behind rooting for the Nationals, you can root against the Braves. But given the current socio-political climate and the team’s adamant refusal to even consider a name change, that must have been too much hate for MLB’s liking in an Opening Day matchup.

So the schedule makers went with the default choice. If you don’t root for the Yankees, you passionately detest them. Unlike Atlanta’s case, though, it’s just because they’re the Yankees. It’s sanctioned hate. There’s no real rivalry, but it’ll work for MLB’s needs. And if New York is currently the national virus runner-up, well…the game is in Washington. Good enough.

Rivalries or no, virus or no, we’re finally getting what MLB insists we call “meaningful baseball”. As though games that don’t count in the standings–or, worse yet, where the players don’t get paid–are meaningless. But I digress.

It’ll be a strange season, no matter what happens. But it is a touch of the familiar, and perhaps more importantly, something we can use to set one day apart from the day before and the day after.

See you next week, when I’ll share my usual predictions for the post-season.

SAST 16

Apparently someone at MLB.TV is reading this blog. Less than a week after I noted that nobody’s been talking about MLB.TV subscriptions, they decided to prove me wrong.

I said that I doubted we’d get a prorated refund. Surprise!

According to the email I received, we do get prorated refunds. We can have them credited to back to the cards we used to pay, or we can credit them against next year’s subscription.

That’s a no-brainer. I see no reason to give MLB half a year of interest on my money. More to the point, though, after the example of this year’s negotiations between the owners and players, I’m not the only person wondering if there will be a season next year.

Refunds will be issued around the end of July. I presume this is so they won’t have to go through the refund process twice if the 60 game season gets scrapped entirely–something that seems increasingly likely in the light of the ongoing problems with testing.

On a semi-related note, team schedules are now available online. You can subscribe to them with your Google, Apple, or Windows calendar.

If, that is, you’re willing to give an unidentified third party access to all of your calendars. At least, that’s the case in Google-land.

Maybe it’s different for those of you using Outlook or iCal; I suggest you check the permissions that come along with any calendar requests very carefully.

Moving on.

Douglas Adams was wrong. It’s not time that’s the illusion. Dates are illusions.

These days, I’m far from the only person who can’t tell whether it’s a Wednesday in July or a Tuesday in November without looking at a phone (or calendar for those of us who still use paper). I think we all know it’s still 2020, but I’m certain enough to bet money on it.

It’s not just the lack of stimulation, with our limited ability to spend time with friends, or the sameness of our personal schedules–especially for those working at home. It’s the sense of futility that comes from not having an endgame in sight. Nobody knows when life will return to normal–whatever that is or will be–and, worse yet, nobody knows when we’ll know when.

We’re just marking time. Seconds, minutes, hours. But not days. They’re just too big to grasp.

Moving on–in a limited way.

Along with the retreat from “reopening,” we’re getting a return of one of the most noxious notions from the days of “Shelter in Place.” You know the one I mean: “Look at all the free time you have. You can finally do those things you’ve been putting off!”

Poisonous.

Maybe it works for you. I’ll admit it worked for me early on. I wrapped up the third draft of Demirep and put it in the hands of my beta readers (and thanks to all of you!). But after that?

My usual practice is to start the next novel while the beta readers are reading. This time, nope. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I do. But actually doing anything with them? Not happening.

And the last thing I need is somebody guilting me about it.

Same goes for you. If you’re not capable of working on one of your projects–whether it’s something artistic or practical–you’ve got my permission to not do it and to not feel guilty or defeated. We’re all different, and we all react to events differently.

If someone tells you that you have to work on something, feel free to politely tell them to get stuffed. And if they gloat about how much they’ve accomplished under lock-down, feel free to deliver them to your local taxidermist for stuffing.

On a related note, I will assault the next person I hear saying “Man, being a professional athlete is the worst job these days.” (Yes, people really are saying that. If you haven’t heard it–presumably because you’re being a responsible adult and socially isolating and being a smart adult and staying off social media–I envy you.)

You know what really sucks? Working in a field where you don’t have a choice about going to work every day, where your employer doesn’t pay for tests and won’t pay you if you get sick. Or not working because your former employer is out of business.

We’re all having to learn new ways to do our jobs–it’s not just ballplayers who have to figure out how to get the work done safely. And very few of us have the same safety nets they do. Well-funded unions that actually look out for their members, affordable health insurance, and well-off senior members of our professions who look out for their juniors* are increasingly scarce.

* Major kudos for the various MLB stars who’ve been chipping in money to help out the minor league players who aren’t getting paid at all now that the MiLB seasons have been cancelled.

Moving on.

Well, maybe. One of these days.Sometime.

Here We Go Again

Of course I’m excited for the return of baseball.

If it happens, naturally.

Despite the downsides.

I mean, I hate rewarding the owners for turning a global pandemic into a preview of the negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement. But.

Come to that, during the entire stretch from March through June, I never saw anything about those of us who ponied up for MLB.TV subscriptions. I’m guessing that if there isn’t a season at all, we’d be entitled to refunds–but I’m also betting that we won’t get a pro-rated refund (sixty-three percent!) for a shortened season. Even if it’s only one game, and then MLB shuts down again, I’m quite sure the owners will keep our money.

That’s not really a major consideration, though. The MLB.TV subscription this year was less than we’re paying for a week of groceries, what with the supermarket price hikes we’ve seen over the past few months. And it’s a sunk cost, anyway.

As for the rule changes, well, they’re a mixed bag.

I’m not thrilled about the universal DH, but I’m not horrified, either. I’d rather see pitchers hit, if only because of the joy they generate on the rare occasions when they make solid contact. But I can live without all those weak grounders and wimpy pop-ups.

Three batter rule? Pros and cons again. Fewer commercials on TV and fewer inane distractions in the ballpark is unquestionably a win. And I disagree with those who say it removes an element of managerial strategy–it just requires a different strategy. On the downside, it means we’re in for months of complaints about the change.

Ejecting anyone who comes within six feet of an umpire while arguing a call sucks. It’s necessary, but it does rather kill the drama of a spirited argument. On the other hand, I’m firmly behind the new “no spitting” rule.

Really, there’s only one rule change I consider a negative. I bitched about putting runners on base to start extra innings three years ago. I’ve matured since then, and my feelings have changed. I’m no longer dubious; I’m not even revolted. I unreservedly loathe the notion. Unlike the three batter rule, it does reduce managerial choice. It makes a mockery of the grand traditions of the game. And–most importantly–it won’t do a thing to solve the problem it’s supposedly designed to address. It’s supposed to shorten games by making it easier to score in extra innings. But it’ll give that same run-scoring advantage to both teams. The only thing I look forward to with this rule is seeing Commissioner Manfred’s (ptui!) face as he tries to excuse the first game to go thirteen innings with both teams scoring in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth innings before the home team wins in the thirteenth with a bases loaded walk.

Still, if the new rules and restrictions are bringing us sorrow–and I realize that others feel more strongly negative than I do about the universal DH and the three batter rule–they also bring us great joy.

Consider the Oakland As recently announced “Foul Ball Zone”. Fans can’t go to games in person, but they can attend by proxy. For a mere $129–with the proceeds going to local food banks, youth development centers, and other worthy causes–a fan’s photo can attend all thirty home games this season. Even better, if a foul ball hits the fan’s proxy photo, Coliseum staff will send them the ball.* I’m looking forward to the legal scramble for the first ball that bounces off of three or four photo cutouts before coming to rest. Does it go to the first one it hit? The last one?

* I presume they’ll sanitize it first–or ship it UPS, which should guarantee that any viruses on the ball will die of old age long before the package arrives at the fan’s home.

Also high on my list of re-pre-season amusements: MLB soundly rejected “Spring Training 2.0” in favor of the more easily licensed “Summer Camp”. In case you missed the announcement, Summer Camp is sponsored by Camping World. Mind you, I don’t believe they paid anything for the rights–they were already the official sponsors of Spring Training, and this probably just represents MLB’s legal requirement to give them full value for their money.

As players–those who aren’t opting out, anyway–report to camp today, I look forward to the video tours of the tents (set up in the outfield, no doubt) for the rookies and minimum salary players and the cabins–repurposed luxury boxes–reserved for the veterans with multi-million dollar contracts.

Play ball, y’all!

Darn Near Homeopathy

One has to give strat-o-matic points for trying to help.

Need that MLB fix to get you through these days of social distancing? If you go to http://www.strat-o-matic.com/2020-season-simulation/ you’ll find the 2020 MLB season being played out.

Well, sorta.

It’s all simulated, of course. Which means we’re not going to get the wild surprises that come from real baseball. Players are going to perform at their career norms plus or minus an algorithmically-defined range. Teams will play at their cumulative skill level, more or less. How well will the algorithms replicate particularly bad managerial blunders, umpires’ missed calls, and Mother Nature’s interjections? I’m betting we can forget about unexpected player synergies and random callups that miraculously work out.

Still, it’s baseball of a sort. Just not, unfortunately, a helpful sort for me.

I mean, it’s great to see that the Mariners finally won a game Monday. (As I write this after Tuesday’s games are in the books, the Ms are 1-5. Nor are the other teams I follow doing much better. The Giants are 0-5. The Mets and Orioles are both 2-3.)

But I’d be saying the same thing if all of those records were reversed.

Stats and box scores don’t engage me emotionally. I need to hear the sounds of the game. See what’s happening. Sure, I can see in the box score or recap that Joe Schlabotnik went 0-4 again. But I can’t really appreciate the agony unless I see him complete the golden sombrero by swinging at a pitch a foot over his head.

Just the way my brain works.

I can’t watch delayed games either. I’m thankful to the various broadcasters for replaying classic games, but they don’t scratch that baseball itch for me. If I know my cheering isn’t going to affect the outcome, I don’t get engaged.

Yes, I’m aware that when I scream “Come on, Joe, get into one!” at the TV, he can’t hear me. But I’m firmly convinced that it helps his performance, nevertheless.

None of this is to say that rebroadcasts don’t have their uses. I sometimes turn them on while I’m writing; as I’ve said before, the rhythms of the game help me get into the flow and turn out better prose. (As it happens, I’ve got a replay of the Mariners/Red Sox game from last March 31 playing as I write this.) I sometimes put a game on while I’m reading in bed: I turned on a repeat of the 2012 World Series Sunday afternoon and let it run while Lefty warmed my shins.

In either case, though, I don’t watch the game. I just let the sounds fill the room. It makes the itch tolerable, without actually curing it.

Sooner or later, games will resume. Maybe next month, perhaps mid-summer, or surely by next spring. Whenever that is, it’ll be about damn time.

Understand, I’m not calling for a resumption of play before it’s safe. I’m just saying that placebos only get you so far. Sometimes you need actual medicine.

(Update after Wednesday’s results came in: The Mariners have now lost two games to the Twins by a combined score of 20-0. The Mets have fallen to 2-4. The Giants are no longer winless. And the Orioles have made it to .500! How long has it been since we could say that this late in the season?

It’s interesting. Amusing, even. Maybe it would help if the results weren’t all posted at once. As long as you’re simulating the season, simulating the schedule shouldn’t be a big stretch. Better yet, put up the results inning by inning so we can follow the games as they unfold. The added realism would go a long way to enhancing my emotional involvement.)

Just In Time

Lefty’s incorporation into the family–and indoctrination into the family obsessions–continues. Just in time for the most important element to be put on hold for a couple of weeks.

A few days ago, he joined me on the bed for a while. I was watching the Mariners beat the Padres, and Lefty seemed to be watching the action with curiosity and perhaps even a hint of approval. I took advantage of the opportunity to let him get a closer acquaintance with The Game.

13-1

He was intrigued and gave the ball a good sniff, but declined to demonstrate whatever pitching prowess he might have.

And, as soon as the game ended, he pointed out that there are–at least in his estimation–some things more important.

13-2

Subtle, he’s not.

I got the point, however, and began preparing the feline’s evening repast.

Meaningless?

Here we are a week into the preseason and I have yet to watch a complete game. Not by choice, I might add. It’s been a combination of my work schedule, broadcasts having technical difficulties, and poor timing.

I also have yet to watch any Mariners baseball. The blame there is solely on Mother Nature: the only televised game so far was rained out.

“So?” I hear someone saying. “They’re only meaningless games.”

Ah, but they’re not. It’s time we got rid of that phrase, because there isn’t any such critter as a meaningless game.

Even leaving aside their meaning to those of us who have been bereft since November, preseason games have plenty of purpose and masses of meaning.

(And that’s true of any sport, not just baseball.)

Sure, preseason games don’t count in the standings. They have no impact on the playoffs and championships. Except…

Except that those games are where we–fans, managers, and players–begin to see how our team is shaping up. Who’s the early surprise, good or bad? Who needs more seasoning in the minors (or in certain other sports, who never should have left college early?) Who’s going to make the team, who’s starting the season in Triple A (or in those other sports, who’s getting cut and starting the season in their backup profession?)

Then there are those other “meaningless games”. You know: the ones late in the season between two teams who were eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago.

Still some meaning there. The teams’ records may be dismal, but individual players have personal records to pursue. A late season surge might mean a starting job next season–or a trade to a team that has a chance to contend. A poor showing in those “meaningless” games could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary arbitration. And that’s not even considering the teams’ draft positions.

Plenty of meaning, wouldn’t you say?

What else? I’m not going to argue with the people who thinks all sportsball games are meaningless. That opinion can’t be altered through logic. Leave them in their atheistic hell.

And besides, nobody holding to that position is doing commentary for games or reporting on them in the media. Those are the folks we need to convince. Next time your local newscaster talks about a meaningless game or your broadcaster mumbles something about “playing out the string”, shoot ’em a note of protest.

There are no meaningless games. Just meaningless phrases.

A Test of Character

The universe just keeps getting stranger.

Latest oddity? Reports accumulating that Alex Rodriguez wants to buy the New York Mets.

Yes, those Mets. The ones he never played for, but reportedly grew up rooting for.

Yes, that A-Rod. The one who played for the Mets’ crosstown rivals.

Oh, yes, and also the one who was suspended for more than an entire season for his role in the BALCO scandal.

Yes, that scandal. The one involving widespread cheating in the form of performance enhancing drugs.

Why is such a purchase even a possibility?

At the very least, it smacks of tone deafness, with MLB currently mired in sign-stealing scandals–it’s not going to end with the Astros, after all, and most likely not with the Red Sox either.

Of course, tone deafness seems to be Commissioner Manfred’s go-to position: from calling the World Series trophy a mere hunk of metal, through declaring that doing away with minor league teams is good for baseball while simultaneously fighting every attempt to pay minor league players a salary that isn’t an insult, and going back to his insistence that “pace of play” is baseball’s only problem.

It’s an interesting break with tradition for a sport that’s historically been concerned with its image–Black Sox Scandal, anyone? How about Pete Rose? Or even the Hall of Fame rules around “character, integrity, and sportsmanship”?

Barring a surprise return to the playing field, A-Rod will be on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2022. And he’ll almost certainly wind up in the same limbo as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. In a just world, his bid to buy the Mets would also limbo down.

Has anyone at MLB headquarters pointed out that the Astros’ self-inflicted miseries are the result of a team culture that encouraged cheating*. A-Rod received significant discipline for his own venture into cheating.

* Yes, stealing signs is a legal, expected part of the game. But using mechanical or electronic assistance is specifically against the rules of baseball. Breaking the rules to gain an advantage is, by definition, cheating. Whether or not “everyone is doing it.”

Maybe he is a changed man and would never countenance cheating of any sort on his team. But is there any solid evidence of that? Certainly he hasn’t become a tireless crusader for integrity in baseball. I don’t even recall seeing a statement from him taking a position on sign-stealing.

By not takeing a public position on the possibility of A-Rod buying the Mets, MLB as a whole and the individual team owners–who will vote on whether to approve a Mets sale–are coming across as solely concerned with the dollar value of their franchises. More money grubbing from the same folks who just proposed to expand the playoffs.

Erosion

Winter is officially over: pitchers and catchers begin reporting for Spring Training today. The first games are a mere week away.

And, of course, we’ve got our usual controversies over possible changes to the game.

Earlier this week, we heard that MLB is considering expanding the playoffs to fourteen teams. I’m dubious–it seems like a clear money grab, rather than a way to increase “excitement”.

And really, do we need four teams who’ve been hovering around .500 to make the playoffs? If the system had been in place last year, the final four teams in the playoffs would have been Cleveland (.574), Boston (.519), the Mets (.531), and Arizona (.525). In 2018, we’d have gotten Tampa Bay and Seattle–giving us every AL team over .500 in the playoffs–and St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Let us not forget that the Pirates finished the 2018 season at 82-79, barely respectable.

Reports that MLB will be using “robot umpires” to call balls and strikes in Spring Training are apparently overblown. A few games will have the technology in place, but only for hardware and software testing. And a good thing, too. It’s clear from the results of last season’s extended trial run in the Atlantic League that there are still plenty of problems to deal with before it can be considered ready for the majors.

Even when–and it is when, not if; the commissioner has made that crystal clear–MLB decided robo-umps are ready for their call-up, I expect an approach similar to what we’re seeing with the pitch clock: a couple of years of use in the minors, accompanied by intense negotiations with the players’ union.

It’s a shame, really, that the idea is even being considered. It’s just a further erosion of the umpires’ authority.

I blame TV.

Nobody ever expected to change an umpire’s call in the fifties. They might admit to having made a mistake, but the call would stand, regardless. Bad calls were expected and good teams overcame them.

Nobody ever thought umpires were perfect, but instant replay proved just how fallible they were. That MLB held out against using instant replay to review calls as long as they did is to their credit.

But then they screwed up and moved the review off the field. This is one place where the NFL got it right: reviews are done on the field by the same arbiters who made the initial call. That keeps the responsibility and the authority in one place.

Baseball needs umpires. Without someone on the spot, enforcing the rules, baseball isn’t a sport. At best it’s a game, and at worst, it’s a bunch of guys throwing a ball around.

Someone who’s only present to act as a mouthpiece for decisions made somewhere else isn’t an umpire. That’s called a figurehead, and baseball doesn’t need figureheads, no matter what Commissioner Manfred thinks.

Next time you go to a game, spare a few seconds to appreciate those guys in blue while you still can.

And remember: We Are Umpire.