Gods Bless

Mind you, the “God Bless America” fiasco could have been avoided if MLB hadn’t made it part of the seventh inning stretch ceremonies after 9/11.

Now that it’s become an issue, though, how’s this for an idea: drop the song completely.

The break between innings has been made shorter this season as part of the commissioner’s pace of play fetish. Between that song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (which has a much longer tradition behind it), the ever-popular DanceCam/KissCam, and the various staged races (presidents, dots, sausages, etc., etc., etc.), that pause between halves of the seventh inning is getting increasingly crowded.

This is a great opportunity to drop “God Bless America” and return to the status quo ante.

Not going to happen, though. Any attempt to remove the song will be spun as an attack on Christianity, just like the non-existent, so-called “War on Christmas”. Or, for that matter, the protests against restoring the Pledge of Allegiance to its original wording by removing “under God”.

Which is, of course, the whole problem in a nutshell.

Keeping the song offends those of us who think the proper place for deities at sporting events is in the stands, like all the other spectators*. That its presence is also offensive to non-Christians is merely the raspberry buttercream on the chocolate cake.

* Let’s be blunt here: a baseball player’s five tools are hitting for average and power, fielding, throwing, and baserunning. Nothing on that list about praying or otherwise getting God to work a few miracles on behalf of his team.

Removing it offends team owners’ wallets. Or, at least that’s what they think. “A highly visible boycott? Heaven forfend!”

Did you know, by the way, that baseball attendance has not been in decline? For all the fuss the commissioner has made about needing new fans, the total annual attendance across all MLB stadiums since 2000 has consistently been right around 72.5 million. (Which does, by the way, suggest that “God Bless America” has neither helped nor hurt baseball.)

The disruption to tradition hasn’t been in support of rescuing a dying fanbase. It’s about increasing profits, now that ticket prices have reached the point where any further increase would lower demand.

Not that that should surprise anybody.

God Bless Baseball. Some god. Any volunteers? Let’s not always see the same hands…

Admirable

Strictly speaking, I should be writing something about Jackie Robinson today. It is, after all, his day in MLB. Everyone is wearing his number and his name is on everyone’s lips.

And maybe that’s part of my problem–and I emphasize “my” here. Yes, I have strong contrarian tendencies, but that’s not in play here. I wouldn’t not write about Mr. Robinson solely because everyone else is. That would be a form of disrespect for the man and his accomplishments. I try to be better than that.

In truth, the other Jackie said it best: “What Can You Say About Jackie Robinson that Hasn’t Been Said?” She found something, as she so often does. It’s good to be reminded that the Jackie Robinson story didn’t begin in Brooklyn in 1947, or Montreal in 1946, or even Kansas City in 1945. Go read her piece.

I, on the other hand, don’t have anything new to contribute. So, rather than rehash what everyone else is saying about Jackie Robinson, I’d like to say a few words about a different player. A current player.

He’s not going to be remembered as long or as fondly as #42. Or, if he is, it won’t be for the right reasons.

If you follow the sport, you’ve probably already guessed I’m talking about Chris Davis.

I have a sneaking admiration for Mr. Davis.

In 2016, he struck out 219 times. The all-time record for strikeouts in a season is 223, set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Certainly, baseball has become more accepting of strikeouts since the turn of the century. The highest strikeout total before 2000 was 189 (Bobby Bonds in 1970–and he also had 187 in 1969. Ouch.)

Two hundred nineteen is an impressive record of futility, but it’s not what Chris Davis will be remembered for. Because Chris Davis does hold an MLB record.

Fifty-four consecutive at-bats without a hit. For what it’s worth, 54 is the number worn by Goose Gossage throughout his major league career, including the 1977 season when he struck out 151 batters. Imagine the result if Davis faced Gossage.

Both of them in their respective primes, I mean. Today, Gossage is 67 and he’s probably lost a bit of velocity since ’77 (though history suggests he could still strike Davis out.) And in ’77, Davis wouldn’t have been much of a hitting threat, seeing as how he was still a decade away from being born. Talk about your awkward silences if he’d been announced as the next hitter. And pace of game? Forget it.

But I digress.

I said I admire Davis. Not for his hitting prowess, though to be fair, when he does hit, he hits well. No, I admire his persistence and his ability to put the pressure of the slump aside.

By all reports, he stayed calm as his hitless streak reached historic levels. As George Harrison said, in a slightly different context, “All Things Must Pass“. He didn’t rant and rave, he didn’t bemoan his fate to the media. Equanimity. Grace under pressure. And persistence.

On Saturday, Davis broke the streak in classic fashion, collecting three hits and four RBIs. Mind you, he went 0-4 Sunday and as I write this on Monday morning, he’s 0-1. But the gorilla is off his back. After lugging the five hundred forty pound ape around, a fifty pound chimp is no big deal.

Persistence. He’s still up there swinging. He could be dogging it, playing out his contract–$17 million a year through 2022 and about $40 million over the next fifteen years–or even retiring. But that’s not Chris Davis. And sure, $100 million pays for a lot of patience. Therapy, too, if necessary.

Heck, pay me half of what Chris Davis is making this year, and I’ll go 0-600 on the season with a smile on my face.

But I wouldn’t be getting paid to hit. Chris Davis is. He knows the Orioles’ management is considering their options for getting rid of him. But he still goes out there every day and does what he does.

And that’s why I admire Chris Davis. In his position, I’d have blown up long ago.

That Brightness Ain’t the Sunrise

Yes, I know yesterday’s post was a bit dark. For the record, no I’m not particularly depressed. No need to alert Facebook’s algorithms.

And, speaking of records, the Mariners did set that record–15 games at the beginning of the season with at least one home run–they did win yesterday in a very thrilling come-from-behind fashion, and they now return home bearing the best record in baseball and a four game division lead over the Astros. Who are, coincidentally, the team they’ll be playing for the next three days and who, historically speaking, the Mariners have always had trouble beating. As I said before, it can’t last. But it’s a great ride while it does.

Anyway, how about something cheerful as an antidote to yesterday’s doom and gloom?

12-1

Hang on, let me enhance that a little. Or at least brighten it up a bit.

12-2

Why, look! It’s Lefty, out of the room he shares with Rufus!

Yes, we’ve begun giving him opportunities to explore the upstairs hall. He’s been very cautious about it, not spending much time off his familiar turf, and certainly not letting us close (hence the low resolution of the pictures–they were cropped out of shots taken from halfway across the house).

But he’s taking steps in the right direction. Not only is he broadening his horizons, but he’s also had a couple of opportunities to exchange less-than-flattering personal observations with ‘Nuki.

Now that is a rite of passage!

Finally, lest you think I’ve merely exchanged dark words for dark pictures, here’s something bright and cheerful.

12-3

It’s not often we see these three hanging out together. Enjoy.

Disaster Looms

“It can’t last.”

Any Seattle sportsball fan will know exactly what you mean.

We don’t use the sentence lightly. No, the Mariners aren’t going to win 160 games this season. They’re not even going to win 137 games, which is what their current record projects to. Obviously; not worth mentioning.

Let’s get real. Eighteen years ago today, the best Mariners team in history–by one crude measure, the best team in MLB history–was 6-2. The unspoken assumption in Seattle was that the Ms were one series away from a .500 record. That they kept winning can’t be laid solely at the feats of Ichiro, but he sure contributed mightily. Worth remembering, in this, his final season.

Nobody expects this year’s Mariners to win 116 games.

Good things come in waves, and so do bad things. That doesn’t mean they balance out. A little bad gives the good more savor. A little good gives the bad more intensity. Some clouds have a tin foil lining. Some roses smell as sweet as what comes out of the back end of a cow.

The latest predictions give the Mariners 81 wins and a 13.7% chance of making the playoffs. Before the season, they were expected to win 75, with only a 2.3% chance of playing into October.

Seattleites don’t expect a .500 season. They say “It can’t last” and “The original prediction sounds more accurate.”

Starting the season with thirteen straight games with at least one home run? “It can’t last.”

Seattle lost a major league, former champion hockey team and a major league, former champion basketball team. Lost an epically bad major league baseball team after one season. After going 116-46, the record-setting Mariners lost the ALCS to the Yankees; the next year they finished 93-69 and missed the playoffs by 6 games.

Failure isn’t a way of life. It’s the way of life.

I’m writing this post Wednesday, shortly before the Mariners take the field against the Kansas City Royals. They’re looking to win the series, go 12-2, and tie the record for games with a home run to start the season*.

* Yes, including those games in Japan. Just because they don’t feel real doesn’t mean MLB won’t count them.

I expect them to lose. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them get shut out and start a ten game losing streak.

Because it can’t last.

But it’s sure fun while it does. See you at the ballpark.

(Post-Game Update: The Mariners won the game and hit a home run. No doubt the expected shutout and losing streak will start tomorrow. Won’t stop me from watching.)

2019 Prognostication

Once again, it’s time for me to peer into the future, using Science! and Mathematics! to predict the results of the MLB pennant chases and playoffs. As I did last year, I’m combining the two predictions into a single post, because it just works out better that way.

To refresh your memories, the playoff teams are those with the largest margin of victory in their first games, and the playoff predictions are based on the teams’ run differential over the first week of the season.

Unlike last year, when two games were rescheduled, all of the Opening Day games were played. Hooray for a cooperative Mother Nature! The gotcha–there’s always some complication–is that darn overseas “Opening Series” between the Mariners and Athletics. As I said a couple of weeks ago, I find it difficult to accept those games as part of the regular season. The conditions are just too different from the other 160 those teams will play. And, let’s be honest here, I don’t want to have to account for the fact that the Ms and the As didn’t play each other on the real Opening Day. I can’t figure out a way to handle that without doing at least one of the four teams involved a serious misjustice. So as far as my predictions go, March 20 and 21 Didn’t Happen.

Once again, the American League team won the World Series; consequently, they’ll be leading off.

  • East – Regrettably, there’s no competition here. By virtue of their status as the only team to win their first game, the Yankees will be the AL East champions.
  • Central – What a mess. Three of the five teams won their games by a two run margin. Even worse, two of those three games finished 2-0. My devout thanks to the Royals for scoring five runs and breaking the tie. They’ll be this year’s AL Central winners.
  • West – Would you believe it’s the Mariners? The team widely predicted to finish dead last in the division? Can’t argue with their 12-4 pounding of the World Champs, though. The numbers say this is the year the Mariners break their playoff drought.
  • Wild Cards – We’ve got another tie here. The Astros and As both racked up victories by four runs, they’ll be our AL Wild Card teams. Houston wins the tie-breaker, five runs to Oakland’s four, so they’ll get the home field advantage in the Wild Card Game.

Turning our attention to the National League, matters are much less complicated.

  • East – The Phillies 10-4 victory is the weakest of any of the NL division winners, but any Philadelphia fan will cheerfully assure you that the important thing is to make the playoffs.
  • Central – Cubs fans, on the other hand, will point to their +8 run differential and loudly proclaim themselves to be the class of the league.
  • West – And the Dodgers’ fans will tie their brains in knots trying to figure out a way to justify claiming a +7 result is better than a +8. Good luck with that.
  • Wild Cards – The Rockies fans will breathe a sigh of relief at learning their three run victory on Opening Day earns them the first NL Wild Card slot. The Mets, Reds, and Padres provide the NL’s only real playoff drama, all claiming two run victories. As in the AL Central, two of the games finished 2-0, allowing the Reds to grab the second Wild Card by virtue of a 5-3 Opening Day victory.

There you have it. Get your bets down now, seeing as how sports betting is no longer a federal crime.

Parenthetically, our long-suffering (last year must have felt like at least three seasons) friends in Baltimore may get some relief this year. While the Orioles lost their first game, and their run differential is currently negative one, they’ve still managed to put together a 4-2 record. Keep that up all season, and they’ll finish with 108 wins. Not good enough for the playoffs, unfortunately, but still a nice turnaround from last year’s dismal 47-115 record.

Oh, you want to get a World Series bet down as well? No problem.

Here’s the information for our ten playoff teams after a week of play. Again, the Mariners’ two games in Japan are not included.

Won/Loss

Run Differential

Yankees

2-4

20-20 (0)
Royals

2-3

26-27 (-1)
Mariners

5-1

42-28 (+14)
Astros

2-5

15-22 (-7)
Athletics

5-3

31-23 (+8)

Won/Loss

Run Differential

Phillies

4-1

39-22 (+17)
Cubs

1-4

32-37 (-5)
Dodgers

5-2

55-34 (+21)
Rockies

3-4

17-25 (-8)
Padres

4-3

23-24 (-1)

Clearly, the Mariners will have no problem making it to their first ever World Series. The As will beat the Astros, then be eliminated by the Mariners. The Yankees’ offensive/defensive equivalence will get them past the Royals, but be no match for the Mariners.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers will stroll past the Wild Card winning Padres. The Phillies won’t even break a sweat when they face the Cubs, but will go down to a hard fought defeat against LA.

So both World Series teams will be from the West Coast. Nevertheless, their fans will miss the beginnings of every game of the series, as MLB will insist on 5pm starts, ensuring empty seats and unwatched televisions until everyone gets through the rush hour traffic, along about the third inning.

That said, the imbalance in the teams’ run differentials suggests we won’t be getting a full suite of seven games. The Dodgers should win three of the first five, and wrap up the title in Game Six.

Disappointing for the Mariners, certainly, but greed is bad. Breaking the longest current playoff drought, making the World Series for the first time, and winning the Series in the same year? Definitely a bit too grabby.

There you go. Good luck in Vegas.

Right on the Edge

There is one small fringe benefit to the Mariners having gone to Japan for that pseudo-Opening Day.

In a normal preseason, Seattle plays San Diego about five hundred times. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. While it feels like five hundred, the actual number is closer to four hundred.

Anyway, the over-Padreization is due to a combination of factors. Most importantly, the Mariners and Padres share a training facility, so it’s convenient for them to play each other. And then there’s MLB’s late, unlamented effort to force every team into a “natural*” rivalry with a team in the other league.

* The problem, of course, is that not everyone has a natural rival. Prior to Houston switching from the NL to the AL, they were an obvious rival for the Rangers. Similarly, Angels versus Dodgers and Giants versus Athletics made perfect sense. Seattle got stuck with San Diego because they were the Wests’ leftovers. After Houston moved, it got even worse. Houston got saddled with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Seattle and Texas shared the Padres and the Colorado Rockies. Thankfully, MLB has mostly abandoned the whole concept.

But I digress.

Thanks to the Japanese excursion, the Padres and Mariners only play three preseason games this year–more like two and three-quarters, actually, since the March 5 game was a split-squad matchup* for San Diego.

* A split-squad game is where half the team plays in one game and half in another. This is often done in the early stages of Spring Training when a large chunk of the minor league players are still in camp. The idea is to give them a chance to show what they can do in something that resembles a real game without shorting the playing time of the guys who are either already slotted for the big league club or in competition for a spot.

The Mariners tied the split-squad game, lost resoundingly last night, and will play again this afternoon with a chance to finish the preseason 1-1-1 against their unnatural rivals. Tomorrow will be an day off for everyone, and then the season starts for real on Thursday.

Nobody puts in much effort in the last preseason game. The roster is largely set and getting hurt right before the season starts would be awful, personally and professionally. So everyone gets a little in-game action, goes at about three-quarters of their ability, and calls it a day. It’s generally a relaxed affair, and–benefits to the players aside–a good way for the fans to wrap up their own Spring Training.

None of which is to say that the last few games are devoid of excitement, good and bad. Boston pitcher Rick Porcello took a line drive off the side of his head yesterday. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured–I presume he’s been getting follow-up medical exams since he came out of the game, though the news media aren’t saying anything about it–but it’s not the way anybody wants to wrap up their preparations for the season.

While the Mariners and Padres are facing off for the third time, the Red Sox and Cubs will be playing for the second time this year. Wednesday’s off day will be a travel day for both: the Cubs will start the season in Texas and the Red Sox–with Rick Porcello–are heading cross-country to Seattle.

Regrettably, I won’t be able to watch the real Opening Day festivities this year. I’ll be at work when the Mariners and Red Sox take the field. Oddly, my request to take the day off as a religious holiday was denied*. But I can listen to the middle innings on my way home and watch the end of the game. Hopefully the Ms can stretch their lead over the rest of the AL West.

* No, not really. But I did consider asking.

(Guess what: it’s still early enough for everyone to be optimistic. Yes, even fans of the basement-dwelling Oakland As.)

See y’all at the park.

Too Soon?

The season has started. At least, that’s what MLB is saying. I’m having trouble believing them.

Not in a “The Mariners have the best record in baseball‽” way. (The complementary observation that “The As have the worst record in baseball!” has to be pleasant for fans of the Orioles and Royals: they now know it’ll be at least another week before their teams fall into the AL basement.*) Nor does it have anything to do with the games having been played in Japan in a stadium few of the players know. It doesn’t even have anything to do with my inability to watch those two games** because they’re played in the middle of the night***.

* Actually, since the MLB scoreboard sorts teams with the same record alphabetically by location, Baltimore is currently on top in the AL East. Not bad for a team that finished last year with a historically bad record. May this be a sign of things to come.)

** To be strictly accurate, I did manage to catch the radio broadcast of the last inning of the second game. Twelve innings stretched the game just long enough for me to hear the Ms break the tie.

*** Yeah, there’s a bit of East Coast envy happening. A 5:30 AM game would be a little easier to deal with than 2:30 AM.

I don’t get to watch the first few Mariners games in most seasons. For reasons known only to MLB’s schedulers, the As and Mariners often open the season against each other. Since I’m in the As’ broadcast territory, the games are blacked out on MLB.TV. Sure, I could watch the local broadcast on real TV, but how awkward and uncomfortable would that be, especially if the Mariners lost? So I content myself with radio–which isn’t blacked out–and wait for the second series of the year.

But I digress.

The truth is, an overseas Opening Series is just Too Damn Early.

There’s a rhythm to the seasons, whether you’re talking Earth-around-the-Sun or baseball. Shifting a few days, as has been done recently to keep the playoffs from running into November, is a little uncomfortable, but no worse than switching from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. You feel disoriented for a few hours–a day at most–but then your brain and body catch up.

But this year, MLB is trying to convince us that two games played a week and a half early are real. That’s more like a serious case of jet lag. The kind you get flying from, say, Arizona to Japan. It takes several days to get yourself back in sync with the rest of the world.

It’s nice that MLB wants to give us an opportunity to see what things are like from the players’ perspective. I suppose handing out VR headsets with a batter’s-perspective video of an Aroldis Chapman sinker* with every MLB.TV subscription would be prohibitively expensive.

* Or, to be fair, a pitcher’s perspective video of a Giancarlo Stanton comeback line drive.

It’s a well-known fact that some players need a longer spring training than others. Position players are generally ready before pitchers, even though the latter report to camp first.

But it’s also true that fans need a certain amount of time to be season-ready. We need to fine-tune our attention. Toughen up our throats and palms for maximum volume cheers and boos. And yes, even get a sufficient look at the minor league players who won’t be making the majors this year, but might feature prominently in our “Wait’ll next year!” fantasies.

So we’re a bit off center. Maybe next year MLB will give us that week and hold off the games that count until the last week of March or the first week of April.

As for this year, it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re not quite ready. Remember, there are millions of us in the same position.

Close your eyes, picture an outfield filled with summer sunlight. Think late September, a one game division lead, and the shade of Ernie Banks saying “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…Let’s play two!”

That’s the goal. We’ll get there.

Tiny Ball

Hey, remember last season, when I said I hoped the Mariners would be better on the field than in their commercials? Oy.

If the same thing happens this year, the Ms are going to give the Orioles some competition for the title of Most Painful Team to Watch.

At least there are only four this year. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can watch them here. Or you can just read on and let me save you the effort.

Let’s start with the worst and save the–well, not the best, but the least bad–for last.

The only question about “Hanimal Fanimal” is whether it’s the bottom of the barrel or the leaky septic tank under the barrel. A couple of seconds of Mitch Haniger in actual game footage bookends this paen to clueless bandwagon fandom. Unfortunately, all the joy of the spectacular catch is sucked away by the relentless idiocy of the spokesperson for the folks sitting in the bleachers. If he’s the sort of person the Mariners’ front office want to attract to games, I’m glad I’ll be watching on TV. Maybe there’s supposed to be an unspoken message here–that Mitch is too nice a guy to shove the moron away and get back to the game. But if so, it’s as poorly thought out as the rest of the ad. Leo Durocher may not have said “Nice guys finish last,” but there’s some truth to the sentiment. At the very least, the game comes first.

“Moving Target” isn’t bad. It’s just cliched, repetitive, and forgettable. Okay, Mallex Smith is fast. We get it. Couldn’t you find some way to show that without falling back on the quick cut? And there’s poor Kyle Seager forced into being the deadpan straight man again, just like in last year’s “Flip”. At least this year, he’s not clueless. But can’t somebody give him a decent punchline?

Next is “SpeeDee”. It’s cliched and forgettable, but at least it’s not repetitive. Okay, Dee Gordon is fast. We get it. Yeah, they really went with “he’s fast” in half of the commercials this year. I rank this one slightly ahead of “Moving Target” only because of the parachute. Having it pop open before Dee crosses the finish lineplate is the only real spark of creativity in either of the “fast” commercials. I’ll admit, that got a small chuckle out of me.

Finally–and not a moment too soon–we’ve got “Arts & Crafty”. Props for a decent pun and for giving Felix a decent punchline. The moving stadium roof makes me laugh, even on repeated viewings–I love the implication that Yusei Kikuchi knows the King is about to rain on his hard work. Unfortunately, the “It’s crafty” line just doesn’t quite work, leaving the ad about two-thirds of a joke short of brilliance. “Craft” does have additional meanings that could have been worked in to send the bit in a whole different direction. “It’s not just craft, it’s witchcraft.” Eh, maybe not. Have the stadium transform into a boat, thus alluding to both watercraft and Mariners. Better. Not perfect, but better. Seriously, with months to think about it, this commercial could have been fixed.

Call the tally a triple, a sacrifice bunt, a weak pop-up, and a three pitch, no swing strikeout. In the right order, that’s one run anyway.

May this be the year the Ms play betters the standard set by their commercials. Because if it’s not, this will be a long season–and not in the good way.

It’s Time

We’re a week into pre-season games, and I’ve yet to watch more than a couple of innings. Not by choice, of course. Merely an artifact of MLB’s preference for playing games with no effect on the standings* in the early afternoon. It makes sense from a player preparedness perspective, but it can be aggravating for those of us with other commitments.

* I’m not going to call them “meaningless.” They may not matter to MLB executives, but they’ve got plenty of meaning for fans waking from their winter nightmares of no baseball. One imagines they have at least a little meaning to the players, especially the minor league invitees hoping to score a place on the big league club.

But, barring another rainout, I should be able to catch the whole Mariners/Rangers game today and tomorrow’s Mariners/Indians game as well. That should improve my outlook on life and–given baseball’s usual effect on my writing–speed me through several chapters’ worth of Demirep‘s second draft.

Speaking of the Cleveland Indians, the “Chief Wahoo” logo will no longer appear on their uniforms. As was widely reported last year, the team will continue to sell a limited number of souvenir items bearing the logo in order to maintain control of the trademark. As I said when the move was announced, that’s somewhat inside out and backward, but it’s better than the nothing we continue to see coming out of the Washington D.C. football team.

As for those minor league players I mentioned a moment ago, let’s not forget that they’re playing–and training–without pay. They don’t start earning those spectacular salaries until next this time next month. In case you missed it, “spectacular” should be read as sarcasm. According to MLB’s own figures, the average player at the lowest A level gets $1,300 a month. (Hint: that’s about what I make working part time.) And that’s the average. Unless they’re all getting the same amount–they’re not–that means some players are making less than $250 a week for a more-than-full-time job. It’s a decent rate for a side gig. It’s not enough to live on, much less support a family, in most of the US.

Pay is somewhat better as players move up in the ranks. MLB says the average AAA player makes $10,000 a month. That’s about $60,000 a year (remember, they only get paid for six months). By way of comparison, according to Glassdoor, the average school teacher makes about $48,000 a year. So, yeah, the hypothetical average AAA player is doing slightly better than the person who taught him how to do math.

You can live on 60K, even get married and have a kid. In most of the country, anyway. Again, that’s the average. I’d love to see the distribution–how many players are making more than ten grand, and by how much, and how many are making less.

And, don’t forget, players move up and down the minor league ranks during the course of the season. It’s great to say you’re getting ten thousand a month in AAA, but if you were in AA from March to August, you’re not going to see a heck of a lot of benefit from that princely wage.

I’m not saying that minor league players should be earning six figure salaries. I’m not even suggesting every player should get as much as an elementary school teacher. But MLB’s protests of poverty and the collapse of the game if they paid enough to live on at all levels of the minors rings a bit hollow. After all, the minimum salary for a major league player is about $550,000 a year. That’s a pretty spectacular pay disparity.

If memory serves, the typical major league team has about 250 minor league players on their payroll. A little simple math suggests that putting in a set salary scale starting at, say, thirty thousand a year–five thousand a month during the season–and going up to that sixty thousand dollar level they’re currently paying in AAA wouldn’t cost a team even as much as a single decent free agent.

And with one less thing to worry about, the quality of play in the minors would go up. Better minor league players, better major league players. Simple math.

(This post was edited 3/11/19: Glassdoor asked that I add I link to their salary data.)

Room to Disagree

Reasonable people can disagree. (So can unreasonable people, but that tends to get too contentious for daily life. Anyway.)

Not everyone will agree with my assessment of the various proposals being passed back and forth between the MLB Players Association and the league management. But I’m willing to accept the validity of their views, and I’d hope they’ll do likewise in return.

Because, see, I’ve got a few proposals of my own that I think would go a long way to improving baseball. What do you think of these ideas?

    1. Expand the MLBPA to cover the minor leagues. Many of baseball’s problems can be traced to the minors. Currently, there’s no unified voice that can speak for players without major league contracts. As a result, the players are unquestionably underpaid–well below the federal minimum wage–with no ability to negotiate better deals and they have far fewer opportunities to develop themselves off the field. For all its faults, the MLBPA could give them that voice. And, as an added bonus, including minor league players in the collective bargaining agreements would give them a say in the deployment of new rules (i.e. their working conditions), something that’s currently the sole province of the major league owners.
    2. Expand the major leagues. Specifically, add one team each to the AL and NL. That would give sixteen teams in each league, greatly simplifying scheduling and potentially allow a return to the earlier practice of having everyone in interleague play at the same time, something that was popular with the fans; certainly more popular than the current arrangement which has one interleague game every day. For reasons I’ll discuss in the next point, I’d like to see the new teams in Vancouver and Las Vegas (although Portland would be an acceptable alternative).
    3. Realign. Sixteen teams across three divisions isn’t going to work. Better to have four divisions of four teams in each league. In order to maximize the value of geographic rivalries, and better balance the amount each team must travel over the course of the season, I’d suggest that the divisions break from the current time zone orientation and go to the compass points instead:
      AL East NL East
      Baltimore Washington
      Boston Philadelphia
      NY Yankees NY Mets
      Toronto Pittsburgh
      AL West NL West
      Anaheim Los Angeles
      Vancouver (or Portland) Arizona
      Oakland San Francisco
      Seattle San Diego
      AL South NL South
      Texas Atlanta
      Houston Las Vegas
      Kansas City St. Louis
      Miami Tampa
      AL North NL North
      Chicago Sox Chicago Cubs
      Cleveland Cincinnati
      Detroit Colorado
      Minnesota Milwaukee

      Vancouver would not only give a local rival for Seattle, but also a Canadian cross-country rival to the Blue Jays, who’ve had the Land of the Maple Leaf to themselves since the Expos abandoned Montreal. Portland, on the other hand, would mean even less travel for the AL West teams, while still providing the Mariners with local arch-villains. That’s certainly working well in soccer, where Portland and Seattle have one of the league’s great rivalries.

      Las Vegas, of course, is a natural, given their current expansionistic ways in sports. Perhaps they’re a little too far west for maximum convenience in the South–and there are a few other geographical compromises in my proposed alignments–but certainly there’s nothing worse than the current arrangement, which has two Texas teams in the AL West.

    4. Shorten the season. Not much. Just enough to sneak a few more rest days into the calendar. Along with the above expansion and realignment, schedules could break down like this:
      • 13 games against each division rival
      • 5 games against each of the other teams in their league
      • 5 games against each team in the same division of the opposite league (i.e. AL North vs. NL North)
      • 3 games against each of the other other-league teams (home one season, on the road the next so we don’t have one game road trips)

      That would be 155 games, hearkening back to the pre-expansion 154-game season. With proper timing, and perhaps an occasional double-header, that could allow for six or seven more days off scattered throughout the year.

Agree? Disagree? Can we at least be reasonable?