Monthly Archives: November 2013

Baseball’s opportunity to make up for 28 years of blown calls

The year was 1985… The St. Louis Cardinals were up 3 games to 2 on the Kansas City Royals with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 6 of the World Series… Rookie closer Todd Worrell was on the mound and Jorge Orta was at the plate… Orta hit a high chopper to the right side of the infield that first baseman Jack Clark fielded then tossed to Worrell covering first… Don Denkinger, the 1st base umpire ruled Orta safe… The Royals went on to score 2 runs in the inning to beat the Cardinals in game 6, then rode that momentum to a game 7 blowout of the Red Birds the next night…

I just watched the replay multiple times on You Tube… With Orta charging down the line, Clark moving in and far to his right to get to the ball, and Worrell pulling off a Texas two step over at first base to get his foot on the bag, there was a lot going on to say the least… Watching it in real speed I could not definitively tell you whether or not Orta was safe or out… Then, take into account Denkinger’s awkward positioning and it is very easy to see how and why the call was missed… Yet, with just one replay from a different angle than Denkinger had, there was no doubt that the toss from Clark had beaten Orta to first base and Worrell did keep his foot on the bag… The blown call changed baseball history…

The amazing thing is that the replay was actually available and easily accessible 28 years ago…  Just seconds after Denkinger blew the call, the video footage and legendary play by play man Al Michaels alerted the entire country of the mistake… Of course Major League Baseball knew that the wrong call cost the St. Louis Cardinals the World Series… Of course MLB also knew that the technology was and has been available to prevent another such disaster… Since 1985, every other major professional sport in the United States, as well as several collegiate sports, have all managed to adopt some form of replay… Yet, for years Major League Baseball buried their head in the sand while technological capabilities continued to improve the overall integrity of every other sport but their own… It was not until 2008 (the same year Little League baseball introduced a replay system) that MLB hopped on board, sort of… They installed a review system that included questionable home run calls ONLY,  but still nothing that would have righted Denkinger’s wrong that fateful night in Kansas City…

Opponents to having a replay system have long argued that it would increase the length of a game that is already too long… They have also defended the “human” element and have not wanted to alter a game which is historically very rich in tradition… The matter of fact is that life is about changing and adapting to an ever evolving world… Over time, we as a society have been constantly challenged… Through the years, we have answered many of those challenges both socially and economically…  In my opinion though, what our generation will long be remembered for are the technological advancements that continue to push the envelope on a daily basis and shape the world that we live in…  We are generation “NOW”… This is the “that was so 10 minutes ago” day and age… We all have a choice, including MLB,  to either embrace it or get left behind… That’s just who we have become as a whole… Therefore, instant feedback, response and correction are all part of what people living in the 21st century have come to demand and expect… Major League Baseball has finally made the decision to conform next season… Replay will officially be expanded and as of now everything with the exception of balls and strikes could potentially be up for review…

So long as actual people continue to play the game the “human” element will always be there… For those of you sickos who actually like the “human” element of umpiring, need not worry, just watch the NFL and realize you will still have plenty of opportunities to chastise the men in blue with or without a replay system in place… When it comes to the concerns of the potential lengthening of the game, this should not be an issue… In a trial run in the Arizona fall league this month the average review time was 1 minute and 40 seconds… Compare that to an epic Earl Weaver or Lou Pinella tirade that often times lasted over 3 minutes and I can make an argument that replay will actually shorten games… Going to miss those classic melt downs by hot head managers? I don’t blame you but don’t fret… Just ask A’s manager Bob Melvin how easy Angel Hernandez can blow a call on the field and then screw it up again in the video room…

So now that Major League Baseball has so kindly joined the rest of the sporting world in modern times, the question becomes what is the best way to implement the review system? Being late to the party could actually benefit baseball, they should be able to learn from all of the other sports replay successes and failures… Although the official rules are not set, it appears that managers will probably have two challenges… If they win a challenge, they will not lose a challenge opportunity… In my opinion, regardless of how MLB wants to set it up, the only thing they should be concerned with is making sure they get EVERY call right… I don’t care if the challenge comes from either one of the managers, a member of the umpiring crew, a player or some dude sitting in a box 3,000 miles away… ALL questionable calls should be looked at whether the score is 0-0 or 10-0 in the 1st inning or the 9th…

The NFL has had replay since 1986 and still continues to puke all over themselves on a weekly basis… Major League Baseball has a very unique opportunity to nail it the first time around, but in order for them to do so they must realize the more we use our “human” ability to embrace technology the better off we will be as a society and the better off baseball will be as a sport… Personally, I am obviously thrilled that MLB has finally decided to expand replay and it is no doubt a step in the right direction toward ROBO UMPS that I look forward to seeing in the near future… Unfortunately though, for Don Denkinger and the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, the review system was put into place 28 years too late…

Welcome to AT&T Park… Home of the San Francisco Giants & Oakland Athletics

I can sense panic about to take place within the San Francisco Bay Area… After years of endless pot shots and adolescent type bickering over territorial rights, it is my feeling that it is now time for the two Bay Area baseball franchises to begin cohabiting for the eventual betterment of both teams as well as for the greater good of Major League Baseball… Several years after Bud Selig apparently appointed a blue ribbon committee that was supposed to figure out some sort of solution in finding the A’s a new home, we finally have movement… No thanks to the committee that some people have questioned even exists… The issue that may finally force some sort of action is the Coliseum Authority’s demands for a new 5-8 year lease from the A’s and some absurd restructuring of concession profits which the A’s currently manage and financially benefit from… Not exactly sure how or why anyone representing the Coliseum would think that they have any sort of leverage or bargaining power after two major sewage spills making the already outdated stadium the laughing stock of the professional sports world…

Its similar to when my toilet clogged in college, the landlord didn’t fix it for a month then tried to raise the rent… I laughed and then told him to go eat the turds that were still marinating in the can… I am guessing something pretty similar to what the A’s have told the Coliseum Authority… Believe it or not, word on the street is that MLB has finally stepped in and actually threatened to move the A’s across the bay to AT&T Park if a lease agreement cannot be reached… I can hear both Giants and A’s fans bitching right now as I type… Giants fans not wanting anything or anyone “East Bay” near their crown jewel stadium, and crazed Oakland fanatics cringing at the thought of having to deal with the “yuppies” by the bay… 

Lets put emotions and name calling aside for a minute and think about the reality of the situation… The A’s need to move and them continuing to play in a city that seems either  unwilling or unable to properly and adequately provide for a Major League franchise is bringing absolutely zero urgency to the situation… Oakland would obviously benefit playing at AT&T based on the posh luxurious accommodations and more than likely increased attendance …. Most importantly though, is that the first step toward moving into your new home is moving out of your old one.

What’s in it for the Giants? A lot… Ultimately nothing gets done without their approval, they own the stadium… Therefore they can write up the lease agreement however they choose, setting the term of the contract, monetary compensation and any sort of other provisions they deem necessary ( i.e. A’s to San Jose never happening) Conservatively, lets say that AT&T Park rents out for $250,000 a day for 81 Oakland A’s home games … That would leave the Giants with an extra $20,250,000 each year they share occupancy… This would now put San Francisco in a position to become much more aggressive players on the free agent market… How would Jacoby Ellsbury and his 52 stolen bases or Shin Soo Choo and his .423 on base percentage look in a Giants uniform? Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is said to be every bit as good as Yu Darvish, he finished this season in Japan 24-0 with a 1.27 era and will be by far the most sought after pitcher this off season… Between the posting fee and Tanaka’s contract, the gigantic price tag will almost immediately eliminate nearly 25 teams including the Giants… Interested in that lease option yet Giants fans? The Dodgers have already proved they will spare no cost when it comes to fielding the best possible team money can buy… As of now, the Giants cannot fiscally compete with the Dodgers and their borderline reckless spending on the open market, but rather they must continue to find creative ways to get better… Development of the farm system, signing undervalued free agents and renting your stadium to your cross bay rivals all seem like very good solutions to me…

Relax Giants fan… Deep breath…  There is no need to replace Willie Mays’ statue with Rickey Henderson or rename McCovey Cove “Jackson’s Corner”… For now, the Giants are merely letting an old buddy (acquaintance is probably more appropriate) from across the bay shack up until he can get back on his feet… No need for the A’s to take the pictures of the Giants’ kids off the walls and replace them with their own just yet…  The stay will most likely will be short lived… Although it does seem to me like the perfect time to unveil a Vida Blue statue and put him in one of those half Giants half A’s hats…

Before you start casting stones at me realize that the Lakers and the Clippers share an arena in Los Angeles, the Jets and the Giants call the same stadium home in New Jersey and now a large majority of MLB teams share spring training complex’s… The idea is not nearly as far fetched as you think… Lets not forget the Raiders are essentially in the same situation as the A’s,  I just wonder when the NFL will step in and how will the 49ers respond if they are asked to share their new mega home? Here in the Bay Area, I feel as if we are way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to being environmentally and economically conscience… This is just another way to prove our incredible resourcefulness in the region… I understand I am in the minority, but I would take pride in AT&T Park becoming the mecca of the baseball world by proudly being the only venue to play home to two teams… Just think, they could have a Bonds, McGwire and Conseco shrine on a makeshift Alcatraz Island set up in McCovey Cove or Jackson’s Corner. (Whichever you prefer) How cool would a Rollie Fingers handlebar mustache statue look mirroring Juan Marichal’s flying leg kick?

I grew up a die hard Giants fan and I played the first 7 years of my professional baseball career with the Oakland A’s organization… To say I am “fair and balanced” when it comes to my Giants and A’s allegiance is an extremely accurate accessment… My door swings both ways on the territorial rights debate… I 100% get how and why the A’s would flourish with a move to San Jose but I also believe the Giants have legitimate concerns regarding the potential impact on corporate advertising, luxury box sales and a Giants heavy South Bay fan base.

Lets not forget the Giants were in a very similar situation nearly 20 years ago with an aging Candlestick Park… Thankfully a group of local investors came in and saved the franchise from moving to Tampa Bay… They did so by throwing their balls on the line and privately financing a stadium, which was essentially unheard of at the time… Many say the only reason why the Giants were given the South Bay territorial rights by the Haas family was in hopes that the Giants would at the very least move 40 miles further away from Oakland or better yet completely out of the Bay Area altogether… The A’s then had visions of dominating the northern peninsula and San Francisco market simply based on geographical proximity… Another reason the A’s were so accommodating was that the Silicon Valley was still in its infant stages and had yet to become the holy grail of the technological world… How were they to know that Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Cisco Systems would become just a few of the mom and pop companies that would dominate the area and serve as obvious potential big money advertisement dollars and luxury suite occupants…

The A’s took a gamble and it backfired… They since have begged and pleaded to MLB to get approval to move to San Jose which so far has fallen on deaf ears… It seems obvious that the move is not going to happen without the Giants approval which I imagine would only come with extreme financial compensation… When I was with the A’s in the early 2000’s they had an opportunity to essentially build their own gem of a stadium near Jack London Square on the Oakland waterfront… Jerry Brown, the mayor of Oakland at the time and now the governor of California, helped nix the project which would have required a decent percentage of public money, in favor of a large scale low income housing project that since has turned out to be a colossal failure… Ever since then, the A’s have flirted with Fremont and several other East Bay locations but in reality cannot take their eyes off the hot momma in the south land, the ever seductive San Jose.

At this point of  “A Turd Runs Through it” something has to give… That is why MLB has finally imposed its will in negotiations with the Coliseum Authority and has essentially  implemented their “for the greater good of the game” policy which just may include an A’s move to AT&T Park… Most importantly though, after years of a seemingly fictitious blue ribbon panel, Major League Baseball seems willing and ready to take some sort of real progressive action toward finding a plausible solution to the A’s shitty situation. (literally)

EB