Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftover

Thanksgiving and I haven't always gotten along. In the late 1990's I choked on a Thanksgiving turkey in front of my entire immediately family, a fact that I was reminded of for the next seven Thanksgivings. Nonetheless, I am appreciative of the idea of the holiday: to show our gratitude to friends and family by telling them as much and to eat as much as humanly possible. So in the spirit of Turkey Day I would like to babble about certain aspects of Baseball that I am thankful for.

Jose Reyes and David Wright

I admittedly took these two guys for granted going into the 2009 season. Watching them play day in and day out makes you see every aspect of their game, including their faults; I in fact probably valued Reyes and Wright less than if I were a fan of another team. (Reyes can get pouty and is too sensitive, Wright will over or under throw a routine ball to first more often than he should, etc.) But after this past season featured an injured Jose Reyes watching most of the games from the dugout and a David Wright losing his home run power I'm making an effort not to forget they are in their mid 20's and are usually considered among the game's elite. I'm glad that Reyes should be stretching out doubles into triples and triples into inside-the-park home runs for years to come, and that David Wright is contractually obligated to straddle the aww shucks/smug line for the Mets for at least the next few seasons.

Derek Jeter,Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada

It's important to know the enemy, and we've all gotten to know the triumvirate of pure evil that is Jeter, Rivera and Posada. While not being a catchy law firm name, Jeter Rivera Posada have been around since it first became cool to hate the Yankees back in 1996. JR&P were also heavily involved during the threepeat of 1998-2000 which made hating the Yankees a cliche, and they were all members of the 2009 championship team that made hating the Yankees cool again. It isn't as interesting, "fair", or fun to feel hatred for players like Mark Teixiera and CC Sabathia. They didn't know any better! The Yankees hadn't won a World Series in eight entire years! But Jeter Rivera Posada knew better. They stuck around just so they can get back at all of the haters who thought they had won. And while one could speculate that those three men deserve some credit for hanging around as long as they did - for showing pride in not just what they do but for who they do it for - it just makes you hate them even more for making you think such positive things.

The Instant Replay Debate

I'm thankful for the arguments back and forth between instituting full-fledged instant replay, because there aren't many "don't get me started!" issues with the actual game of baseball. OTHER sports might add shootouts or move their three-point line, but baseball wouldn't need to ever make a change like that. The rules have always been the same for over one hundred years. That's why the instant replay debate is so fascinating: people are always so scared of change in the game. Even though in the worst case scenario instant replay would make a game three minutes longer than usual and might hurt an umpire's feelings, some people are very adamant against this. Why? I think it's because we aren't used to change. What's interesting is that replay for specifically the home run ball controversies was instituted in the middle of the 2008 season. And the world didn't end! And the system worked the way it should. Selig was actually accidentally brilliant in his reflexive decision to implement it in that way: pen-wielding dinosaurs didn't have enough time to write thirty thousand opinion pieces saying how wrong it was and getting malleable yahoos to begin to echo their archaic garbage. Unfortunately the debate on whether to extrapolate the replay system to all controversial plays has already gone on for too long. I wrote "unfortunately" because the anti-replay people have gotten their say and raised their sheep, but I could have also wrote "fortunately", because the issue is somewhat entertaining to talk about, and I like telling people they are wrong.

MLB Network

Oh MLB Network I may have taken you for granted most of all. I actually talk about the NFL Network more than the MLB Network, because I don't have the NFL Network. I want what I can't have and it's driving me mad: Time Warner and Cablevision don't broadcast the football channel through its cable boxes. The reasons for this are basically because two corporations that have an astronomical amount of money don't agree on how much richer one or the other should get, which draws ire from those that realize this, myself included. This makes the NFL Network more a part of the public discourse than the MLB Network, which is of course ridiculously unfair. Major League Baseball actually made sure it didn't make the same mistakes the NFL Network made before they launched and ensured that they reached most of the cable audience around the country by their debut in January. Because of that we already take the channel for granted.

But I will try not to any longer! I loved their programming over the Thanksgiving weekend: it was nothing but All-Star Games. I particularly got a kick out of the 1981 Mid-Summer Classic. For one thing I found out that Rod Carew played the majority of his career at first base. (I never found out why he did exactly.) For a second thing, Bob Hope, the MLB Commissioner at the time Bowie Kuhn and Vice President at the time George H.W. Bush sat next to each other behind home plate. During the third inning a woman ran onto the field to attempt to kiss one of the players, provoking Joe Garagiola to comment that Bob Hope must had just come up with seven one-liners. Sure enough, NBC's cameras returned to the area behind home plate to show that Hope was pointing and laughing and talking to anyone who would listen, while Kuhn and Bush remain stonefaced. An inning later Bryant Gumbel was dispatched to go down to talk to VP Bush, and he didn't bother to talk to Hope! Ridiculous. No wonder why NBC is in the shitter 28 years later! It was a lot of fun to watch. Definitely a lot more fun than looking at a "Yankees Classic" from the 70's when Dave Righetti almost broke the strike out record or a "Mets Classic" when David Cone did the same in 1991. It's good to see that for not-so-instant replay at least, baseball got it right.

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