I'm As Mad As Hell......
(In honor of the recently-departed movie director Sidney Lumet, who brought us, among others, the cinematic masterwork “Network”.)
I can feel the bile beginning to bubble to the surface.
Maybe it’s the fact that winter has overstayed its welcome, lingering well past the Vernal Equinox. Granted, we don’t have to grab a shovel here in the Puget Sound region as our Midwest and East Coast brethren frequently do, but the prolonged absence of any meaningful warm air for months (coupled with a five-day forecast of even colder and wetter days ahead) certainly contributes to my cranky condition.
Throw into the mix that last year’s baseball season was the ugliest I’ve ever witnessed.
Our home town nine, the Mariners, were utterly unwatchable and offensively inept, becoming irrelevant in the process.
Early returns for this young season bring the terrifying thought that this year’s team could, somehow, be even worse than last year’s. One look at the lineup makes you wonder where the runs are going to come from. It’s gotten so bad for the M’s that a team sponsor is giving away prizes…..not for the team scoring seven runs in the 7th inning, for instance, or for turning a triple play……but for simply hitting a home run! Given that the team has ‘slugged’ two homers in their first 8 games, chances are the sponsor won’t be going out of business soon.
In the meanwhile, my childhood nemesis, the SF Giants, wound up winning the World Series for the first time since before I started paying attention. Images of Juan Marichal clubbing Johnny Roseboro over the head (twice!) in 1965 were all I could remember as the hated Giants celebrated on the field in Texas.
I have looked forward to baseball less this season than any other year.
And now things have happened in the early going that find me paying more attention to the business aspect of the sport than the game itself.
To begin with, the season started in March. March! Not in April, as has long been the tradition. And not in Cincinnati, home of the first major league team, which over the years has traditionally hosted the season opener, a day ahead of all the other teams.
Not that tradition means a damn thing to Commissioner Bud $elig, who has put a price tag on every single aspect of the sport since he took over in 1992.
From the initial days of Judge Landis, the Office of Commissioner had as a basic principle the duty to act “in the best interests of the Game”. The Commissioner was the third leg of the table (along with the Players and the Owners) who helped the sport keep its balance while recognizing that fans have a vested interest in the proceedings.
When $elig took over, he WAS an owner, so all pretense of balance and fairness were unashamedly abandoned.
The fox was left to guard the henhouse, the scales tipped overwhelmingly in favor of the owners, and we the fans have been paying through the nose ever since.
His offenses against the Game are numerous – several come to mind immediately:
-the cancellation of the 1994 regular and post-seasons (with the now-displaced Montreal Expos on pace to win 105 games, which doubtless would have ingratiated them to a generation of that great city’s baseball fans);
-the head-in-the-sand approach (which turned out to be tacit approval, as they were good for business), to the proliferation of PED’s, which rendered revered baseball statistics irrelevant;
-the selling of the Sport’s soul to Television and its riches, as evidenced by the addition of yet another round of playoffs, which cheapens the importance of the regular season and prolongs post-season play so deep into October (if not November) to render the playing conditions unsuitably cold for the players and paying patrons; and
-the insistence on beginning all World Series games so late in the evening (East Coast time) so as to eliminate from the viewing audience the youngest baseball fans (not to mention your average working stiffs) from the crown jewel of the Game’s competition;
-the complete elimination of that quaint (here’s that word again) ‘tradition’ of the Sunday double-header --- for those young readers, that’s the term for the most glorious of days, when a team plays two games (for the price of one!) on the same day.
One thing history teaches us is that the Game endures, no matter how much the powers-that-be try to screw it up.
The ninety-foot bases, the 60’6” from the mound to the plate, the three outs per inning, and nine inning games, centered around the very basic act of somebody trying to hit a ball with a stick, are as close to perfection as man has conceived.
And not even Bud $elig can mess that up.
There’s no question about it.