Good Morning Generation

Two quick thoughts to start the morning:

-The University of Texas, ESPN, and the Big 12 are teaming up to prove exactly what is wrong with college football this season.  In case you didn’t know yet, ESPN agreed to a mega-deal with UT to create a “Longhorn Network” that will exclusively show Texas sports teams.  The idea is completely ridiculous and this week at the Big 12 media days, other schools in the conference were not afraid to voice their reluctance.  Many coaches chose to snub the Longhorn Network reporters while some, like Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, actually were brave enough to speak out against it. 

No word on whether Big 12 commissioner Dan Bebe has suspended him yet. 

The notion of a school getting its own network is equal parts laughable and absurd.  Texas is going to spend a lot of time and money over the next couple of months trying to prove that this somehow doesn’t give them an edge over their fellow NCAA schools and that this isn’t about money and exposure, and the sad thing is that they’re going to win that battle.  It’s all about the student athlete!  No way is UT interested in being able to brag to recruits that they’ll have their own nationally-broadcasted TV station!  Why would they want to do that?! 

The most hilarious aspect in all of this is that UT is single-handedly holding the Big 12 conference hostage and abusing its status as the best school in the conference.  They realize that the conference crumbles without their participation and they’re going to milk that status for all its worth in the coming years.  It’s sickening for the other schools involved and it’s exactly why Nebraska and Colorado bailed this past offseason while Oklahoma and A&M are likely to leave for the SEC as soon as next year.  But conference commissioner Dan Bebe could care less!  Suck it up and take the money you lesser schools who dare challenge the almighty UT!  This is better for all of us! We promise! 

That a conference commissioner could get paid millions of dollars to represent ten member schools while clearly favoring only the interests of one school is exactly what’s wrong with the NCAA model.  This was never about the athletes, or the schools, or the fans.  This system exists to make millionaires out of idiots like Bebe.

-MLB again finds itself in a controversy this morning, completely erasing any goodwill it had hoped to build up during the NFL lockout this summer.  If you hadn’t heard yet, last night the home plate umpire in an epic 19-inning Pirates/Braves game made a historic “I want this game to end right now, I am in charge, I could care less about honesty and fairness” call that cost the Pirates the game and will be the talk of baseball in the coming weeks.  At a time when we should be debating trades and penant races, the discussion in baseball again shifts to calls for instant replay and whether we actually need umpires (hint: we don’t).

I wrote on this very site last week that I’m actually going to start rooting for more screw ups from the Bud Selig’s of the sports world, so I’m not all that worked up about this.  It’s high comedy if you ask me.  Most especially when later today Bud inevitably comes out and issues a statement that says something to the effect of, “durr MLB takes this very seriously, durrr, but there’s nothing we can do about it durrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” 

It sucks though if your a Pirates fan because the loss dropped them from first to third in the ultra-tight NL Central race and by the end of the year could prove to be the difference between making the playoffs and going home.  I relate to that frustration as a fan.

You don’t want to sit here and make this an issue about the umpires union and baseball not having enough influence, but at some point you’d hope the umpires could see that their extreme defiance and complete abuse of power could ultimately lead to the loss of their existence in the sport.  Jim Joyce’s call on the perfect game last year immediately comes to mind this morning, but at least he was willing to publicly admit he blew it right after the game.  This turd from last night went so far as to say he still thought he made the right call and was only willing to concede that he “may” have made the wrong call.  Just maybe.

I love me some baseball, but this is the kind of petty crap that drives away the casual fan.  The NFL may be a soulless, money-making juggernaut, but another reason it is the king of American sports is that it doesn’t let the little things like stubborn pride and the human element get in the way of the game.

At some point, you’d hope Selig would realize the error in his ways.

Generation Y, where the NFL should pay-per-view the upcoming meeting between Plaxico Burress and Tom Coughlin.

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Bud Selig Hits Two Home Runs In 24 Hours, Will Expand MLB Playoffs To 10 Teams in 2012

Holy baseball!  Bud is going to need to take at least an 8-month vacation to recover from all of this monumental change in the past day’s activities.  The notoriously conservative MLB will likely add another team to each league’s playoff.  From Yahoo:

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig expects the playoffs to expand from eight teams to 10 for the 2012 season.

Selig went public last fall with his support for expanded playoffs, and the matter is subject to collective bargaining with the players’ association.

“I would say we’re moving to expanding the playoffs, but there’s a myriad of details to work out,” Selig said Thursday at his annual meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors. “Ten is a fair number.”

Selig said scheduling is the major issue of discussion, including how many games the new wild-card round will be. The two wild cards in each league would meet, and the winners would advance to the following round against division winners.

“The more we’ve talked about it, I think we’re moving inexorably to that,” he said.

I absolutely support this and would actually advocate that one more team be allowed to make it to make it six playoff teams for each league.

[AP via Yahoo!]

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College Baseball Implements Rules To Encourage Faster Play And Suprise! They Work

Bud Selig is refusing comment and will no doubt set up seven different committees to ultimately conclude that these measures would not in fact help MLB.  From the Wall Street Journal:

One of the most widespread complaints from casual baseball fans centers around the game’s often sleep-inducing pace. College baseball, though, may have just solved the problem.

Ten days into the 2011 college season, new rules designed to speed up play appear to be working—shaving more than 15 minutes off of the average game time. The new regulations, enacted last summer by the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee, limit time between innings and pitches. Breaks between innings are capped at 90 seconds, extended to 108 seconds for televised games. Time between pitches may not exceed 20 seconds, except if runners are on base, when there is no limit. The first time a pitcher violates the rule, he is given a warning. For each subsequent violation, an automatic ball is called. When the batting team is not ready after the allotted time, an automatic strike is called. (The SEC, which piloted the scheme during last year’s conference tournament, uses a scoreboard clock, while other conferences use umpires’ stopwatches.)

Over the first several hundred games of the D-I season, about 76% of contests this year have been completed in three hours or less, compared to 57% during the same span last year. The improvement is more dramatic at the 2:30 threshold: One-third of games this season have been completed in that amount of time, compared to only 14% in 2010.

 The NCAA! Doing something right for a change.

[Wall Street Journal]

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Baseball Writer Lives Up To The Stereotype Of A Baseball Writer

Jeff Passan irked a ton of Rockies fans the other day when he called out the organization and Troy Tulowitzki for the new mega deal that was signed earlier this week.  I disagreed, it bugged me, and so I decided to set out and start reading whatever the dude was putting into print for Yahoo! Sports.  Low and behold his first column since then calls for Bud Selig to not mess with the sanctity of the game and that it’s fine as it currently stands.  I’m not kidding.  When discussing the possibility of adding an additional playoff team to each league Passan writes the following:

Whether it’s the three-game series favored by the majority or the one-game-and-out playoff espoused by some writers – another potential insult to whatever remains of the regular season – the wrongs of expanding baseball’s postseason far outweigh the rights.

Yet here is Selig, preparing this week to brief his hand-picked 14-person panel tasked with improving the game. At the winter meetings in Orlando, Selig will talk with the group, mostly comprised of executives and former players, about more playoffs. It’s distressing. They could focus on so many other issues, so many more pressing ones.

MLB’s postseason isn’t screaming for more teams. Baseball doesn’t need to be the NFL and certainly not the NBA, with its interminable playoff format. It needs to stay true to itself, or at least whatever of itself remains, whatever part hasn’t been cannibalized by a god that’s colored green.”

Nevermind the fact that it is almost universally agreed that the NFL is the only major sport that has perfected their playoff system.  Nevermind the fact that almost every baseball fan unanimously agrees that adding more playoff teams would make the postseason more appealing.  Nevermind the fact that everyone already currently complains that the five-game format of MLB’s first round doesn’t reward good teams.  To Passan, it seems, everything is going swimmingly in baseball in regards to the playoffs.

Although he is correct in pointing out that baseball has other pressing issues that need to be addressed (instant replay anyone?), I think we actually need to applaud Bud Selig for this move.  If I had it my way I’d make it two additional teams from each league and set it up like the NFL.  One of the reasons MLB is losing so much ground to other sports is that because of the length of its season, many fans feel alienated as soon as the all-star break and realize their teams have no shot at playing for a World Series.  That leaves one of two scenarios: 1) shorten the season (no one would disagree with this idea either) or 2) increase the number of teams who make the playoffs.  The motivations behind it are unfortunately based in earning more revenue for MLB, but the results will benefit more baseball fans.

[Yahoo! Sports]

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An Examination Of Ozzie Guillen’s Comments On The State Of Latino Baseball Players

Last week on the site we pointed your attention towards an article that Time had recently writtenregarding the status of baseball player development within the Dominican Republic.  It was a great piece which featured extensive digging into the somewhat shocking culture that exists in that country, one where young boys are groomed to be Major League Baseball players.  We didn’t get a chance then to express our thoughts, but when Ozzie Guillen chimed in yesterday with his own ideas on the issue, we had our opening. 

Let’s get started by giving you some background on the Dominican Republic.  According to Time, “Aside from the U.S., more Major League Baseball (MLB) players are born in the Dominican Republic, a nation of 9.7 million, with a per capita GDP of $8,300, than any other country on the globe. Of the 833 major league players on opening-day rosters, 86 of them, more than 10%, hailed from the D.R.”  It goes on to state that “Baseball, which has been played in the D.R. since the late 19th century, glorifies the rags-to-riches tales of many Dominicans who make it to the majors. But buried beneath these charming yarns are the often cruel, sometimes criminal, ways in which all that Dominican talent gets curated.”  To sum it up, I guess I would just ask you to use your imagination.  Picture everything horrible you would presume to exist in a culture where the only chance to pull your family out of poverty is through sports.  Now imagine the setting of that story is a highly destitute country with corruption and shady business practices—where everyone is looking to get their piece of the action.  Got it?  Well you pretty much just constructed the backdrop of baseball development in the Dominican Republic (confession: the more I wrote in the last paragraph, the more I thought I was writing about basketball within impoverished areas throughout the United States…weird). 

Perhaps Time described it best though, “The D.R. is baseball’s puppy mill.”

If you’ve listened to talk radio or tuned into ESPN in the last day or two you’ve no doubt heard that Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sounded off yesterday on what he perceives to be a lack of accountability on the part of MLB to aid the efforts of Latino players trying to make it to the big leagues.  Here are the two main highlights as perceived from the people who analyze sports (via ESPN):

Guillen blasted MLB for a lack of equality when it comes to the treatment of foreign players.  He claims Asian players receive better treatment than their Latino counterparts.  “Don’t take this wrong, but they take advantage of us. We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kid (and say), ‘(Blank) you, you go to the minor leagues, good luck. And it’s always going to be like that. It’s never going to change. But that’s the way it is.”

Guillen also knocked MLB for a lack of PED education and prevention within the Latino countries that MLB scours for talent.  “”I’m the only one to teach the Latinos about not to use.  I’m the only one and Major League Baseball doesn’t [care]. All they care about — how many times I argue with the umpires, what I say to the media. But I’m the only one in baseball to come up to the Latino kids and say not to use this and I don’t get any credit for that.”

From the beginning, everyone has unanimously dismissed his first rant that Latino players aren’t afforded the opportunity of a translator upon making it to the big leagues.    They universally cited that because the Asian players are usually established veterans before they come over, players from Asia require a much larger investment of resources than a player from say, the D.R.  The other presumption I keep hearing is that there are enough Latino players scattered throughout the clubhouses in MLB that a translator isn’t necessary (because teammates will no doubt translate for a rookie every opportunity he needs it).

I concede point number one.  We have witnessed the lengths at which teams like the Red Sox have gone to sign players such as Daisuke Matsuzaka—paying $51 million just for the right to negotiate with the Japanese pitcher.  Teams can be forgiven when they do everything possible to ensure an investment of Dice-K’s magnitude is afforded every possible chance to succeed, even if that means giving him twelve translators, speech coaches, and cultural trainers as part of his traveling crew. 

I take issue with point number two of the rebuttal to Guillen’s argument though.  It’s surprisingly ignorant that analysts would be willing to take the leap that there are “enough” players who speak Spanish throughout MLB so as to justify it as a reason why major league teams shouldn’t employ translators, speech coaches, and cultural trainers.  Although the assumption could hold true (in that every roster in MLB no doubt has a plethora of Spanish-speaking players), the Latinos employed throughout baseball are not required by their contracts to look after one another, nor are they required to help rookies integrate properly into American life, tax brackets, cultural norms, behavior, etc.  It is simply too much of a burden for players who have their own families and lives to maintain. 

The issue Ozzie has seems to stem from a recent trip he took to watch his son Oney play down in Class-A ball.  From ESPN, “Guillen, who is from Venezuela, said when he went to see his son, Oney, in Class-A, the team had a translator for a Korean prospect who ‘made more money than the players.  And we had 17 Latinos and you know who the interpreter was? Oney. Why is that? Because we have Latino coaches? Because here he is? Why? I don’t have the answer,’ Guillen said. ‘We’re in the United States, we don’t have to bring any coaches that speak Spanish to help anybody. You choose to come to this country and you better speak English.’” 

Described in both the Time article, and from the mouth of Guillen, MLB organizations are playing a betting game with Latino prospects, throwing small amounts of money at players like they are the numbers on a Roulette table, hoping to hit the rare 00. 

Teams can be excused for providing more security to bigger investments like the Dice-K’s of the world, especially if that is how they are going to view their players: as investments.  But at what point does that line of reasoning extend to Latino players?  Although they are doing it on a much smaller scale, teams are still making investments in them.  Time reported that, “Last year, teams signed 396 Dominican players; their average signing bonus was $94,023.”  So why wouldn’t MLB teams want to ensure that those investments succeed as well, even if the insurance occurs on a much smaller scale?  It makes no sense how organizations would want to blindly throw money at Latino players and hope that they pan out.   They could give these kids a better chance to succeed by removing a number of the minor difficulties that come from the culture shock of being supplanted from home and thrown into the United States of America. 

A proactive measure by MLB to require at least one translator per team at every level of an organization would surely go a long way.  It is absurd to think the teams around the league couldn’t afford it either when, “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators earned an estimated average yearly salary of $43,130 in 2008.”  So why not do this?  Guillen is 100% right on this issue and although he can prove to be a nutcase on other occasions, we shouldn’t take his words lightly.  Everyone stands to benefit from it.  Organizations would be demonstrating proactive stewardship, while players are given a better chance to succeed, meaning we might get to see four or five more superstars make in the big leagues every year.

But the deeper issue that Guillen addresses is the extent of the abuse of PEDs within Latin American baseball prospects.  The players are brought up in a culture (via Time) with, “huge economic incentives to cheat. Age fraud and performance-enhancing drugs, which in the Dominican Republic can be bought like candy, are rampant. The families of these players see the sport as the only way out of abject poverty.”  Guillen himself describes it like this (via ESPN), “If you tell me, you take this … you’re going to be Vladimir Guerrero, you’re going to be Miguel Cabrera, you’re going to be this guy … I’ll do it. Because I have seven brothers that sleep in the same room. I have to take care of my mother, my dad. … Out of this I’m going to make money to make them better.”  The pressures are deepened by a system in which young players sign with agent figures known as “buscones” who look after the boys with the expectation that if they make it big, they will hand over 25-50% of their signing bonus. A pimp with his prostitutes, if you will.  Within the past two years, MLB has taken few measures to curtail this, but the effects have yet to be seen.

After Ozzie’s rant, MLB came out with an immediate response through their spokesman Rich Levin, “We spend more time and effort educating our Latin players about PED use than we do our domestic players in the United States. We test extensively in the Dominican and Venezuelan leagues, and we’ve increased the testing every year.  We also have Sandy Alderson down in the Dominican Republic on a full-time basis and he’s dealing with a lot of these issues as well.”

I found it semi-hilarious that Levin cited Sandy Alderson as a reason why we need not be worried about PEDs being abused in Latino countries.  It was reminiscent of cigarette companies informing the American public that their product was currently being studied by the smartest scientist in the whole world, and that users need not worry about its effects.  It’s not difficult to envision Bud Selig actually believing that one man can figure this all out after he ignored his own steroid problem at the big league level for the better part of a decade.

If there are any lessons to be heeded from Ozzie’s comments, I believe the first one is that MLB can be far more aggressive in how it deals with issues concerning Latin American players.  Yes they have taken the initial steps necessary to fix many of the prevalent concerns of guys like Ozzie Guillen, but those steps alone are not sufficient.  I firmly believe that the “Latin American” issue in baseball could become the equivalent of the NFL’s concussion issue.  Bud Selig would be wise to not let things spin out of his control by taking the necessary actions now.  Steroids destroyed the credibility of his sport. Now a generation of players are going to have to suffer the consequences as the Hall of Fame, writers, and fans are left to speculate amongst themselves as to who was actually using and who didn’t.  Why he would even let PEDs pop up into the conversation again is beyond me.  He should be out there campaigning in those Latino countries that love his sport, warning about the dangers and long-term effects of steroids.  You have to imagine there is a line of current and former Latino players waiting to support him, should he ever choose to take the necessary steps.

A sit down meeting with Guillen and other Latin American baseball leaders would be a great start. [Time][ESPN][collegeboard.com]

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Feinstein: “More Replay—Competently Managed–Is Needed In The Game”

Any chance to further blast Bud Selig will happily be posted on the site.  We support Feinstein’s take whole-heartedly.  Selig is a commissioner who just doesn’t get it anymore.  You see this in how he refuses to allow MLB replays to be shown on YouTube (which is going to alienate him to the new generation of sports fans who grew up in this technological age…mark my words, the NBA will reap HUGE long-term rewards from letting their content be displayed there), as well as how he is trying to blackball any owners except the Nolan Ryan group from buying the Texas Rangers.  Refusing instant replay in a world with our incredible technology doesn’t make sense.   Dude just doesn’t have a clue anymore. [Feinstein On The Brink]

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Rangers Franchise in Jeopardy?

by Matt Corder

I’ve been pretty confused about the sale of the Texas Rangers franchise up to this point.  I had been rooting for the Nolan Ryan-led group to win and, well, I’m not really sure why I was rooting for them.  I finally got it all cleared up thanks to this piece over at Sports by Brooks which does a great job explaining what’s going on.  Apparently Selig wants the team to be sold to the Ryan group because they aren’t an ownership team that is going to spend top-dollar all the time like the Yankees.  It sounds crazy right?  Why wouldn’t MLB want to have teams that spend more money?  Well it appears that Selig is running an OPEC-like operation that is looking to control all the market forces involved with MLB.  Remember how Cuban didn’t win the bidding for the Cubs last year, despite having the highest offer?  The same reasoning is being applied with the Rangers now.  Selig wants owners who can’t afford to spend a lot of money, because he believes that other teams in MLB will no longer be able to compete when high payrolls begin popping up all over MLB with new ownership groups.  I couldn’t disagree with his line of reasoning more and I think this is exhibit #23412370 why Selig is well past his time as commissioner.  Sure the Yankees forced teams to spend a little more money back when Steinbrenner started throwing cash around like he was in a rap video, but the Yankees strategy also forced other teams to learn different ways to compete (see: Rays, Tampa Bay).  Teams like the Rockies and the Twins learned they could duplicate the on-field success of higher payroll teams by investing in great farm systems, grooming home-grown talent, and paying low salaries to younger players who could compete at an all-star level.  Selig is so intent on keeping money-spending owners out of MLB that he threatened to dismantle the Rangers franchise if a bankruptcy judge doesn’t approve the sale to the Ryan group.  Here’s the quote from the story, “One of Selig’s lawyers vowed profanely in a conference call that if the judge did not approve the team’s prepackaged bankruptcy plan, which would have sped approval of the Greenberg-Ryan bid, M.L.B. would terminate the franchise, according to a person on the call.”  I hope this just turns out to be an empty threat.  The judge is only refusing to give the team to the Ryan group because they can’t pay back the creditors who are owed hundreds of millions for Tom Hicks’ disastrous run.  God forbid they get paid!  I couldn’t imagine life without the Rangers, they’re the only Dallas-based team I can bear to root for. [Sports by Brooks]

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