Open Letter to the New York Mets


Dear New York Mets,

As you probably know, you have a game tonight, a nationally-televised game no less. (I say “probably” because at times this season it seems you are unaware that you’re competing in an actual game.) I write to you because so far this season you’ve done nothing but embarrass yourselves and, in turn, your fan base, while playing on the national stage. Perhaps tonight will be different.

First, let’s recap what you’ve done so far in 2009.

May 2, at Philadelphia Phillies, FOX: Oliver Perez walks six in 2.1 innings and Sean Green walks in the winning run in the tenth. Mets lose, 6-5.

May 17, at San Francisco Giants, ESPN: Mike Pelfrey balked not once, not twice, but THREE times. Two of them led directly to San Fran runs, as the Mets lose 2-0.

June 28, vs New York Yankees, ESPN: More Sunday Night Baseball embarrassment, as Francisco Rodriguez walks Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded in the ninth, giving the Yanks an insurance run they wouldn’t even need as Rivera locked down his 500th career save. Mets lose, 4-2.

There are other bad, nationally-televised losses, but not bad enough to say they were embarrassing. But I think these three should suffice.

In all fairness to you, the New York Mets, you’ve played pretty terribly on regular, locally-televised games too. I mean, that time you dropped the pop-up to lose the game and the time you missed third base to lose the game—neither of those were on national TV. So maybe this is just how you play.

But make no mistake about it: It’s a lot worse when it happens on FOX or ESPN. We Mets fans get enough crap from Yankees fans—we don’t need to hear it via e-mail and text message from Tigers, Red Sox, and Dodgers fans, too.

So maybe tonight you could not embarrass yourselves. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t even have to win. You can lose; that’s fine. Just don’t lose in an absurdly laughable way.

Please.

Sincerely,

New York Mets Fans

P.S. You know what, do whatever you want. I don’t think I’m going to watch.

MLB All-Star Game: Home-Field Advantage, Streaks, and the DH

Last night in St. Louis, the American League defeated the National League 4-3. It was the AL’s fourth straight one-run win, but far more impressive is that it was their twelfth straight All-Star Game victory. The AL has not lost since 1996!

The thing is, the mid-summer classic is known for long winning streaks. The National League won 19 of 20 from 1963-1982, during which they had win streaks of 11 and eight games. The AL won 12 of the first 16 games, starting with the first-ever contest in 1933.

Even with all these long streaks, the overall record is very close, with the senior circuit posting a slightly better record of 40-38-2.

Perhaps it’s the designated hitter, a more talented team, luck, or a combination of all these factors that has led to the American League’s recent dominance. Just don’t be surprised if the NL goes on another long winning streak in the near future.

Speaking of the DH…

Why isn’t there one in every All-Star Game? Does anyone want to see Roy Halladay hit? No, but last night he did since the game was in a National League ballpark. Now I’m not in favor of the DH, but if you’re going to have it, why not use it in the one game it makes perfect sense?

The trend in recent All-Star games is to get as many players into the game as possible, so this would help the managers do that. Fans watch the game to see the star hitters hit and the star pitchers pitch.

I don’t expect Bud Selig to come up with what would be an overwhelming well-received rule change, but perhaps the next commissioner will.

Home Field Advantage?

While the use of the DH is rarely discussed, the debate over whether or not the All-Star Game should determine home-field advantage in the World Series rages on.

I don’t feel strongly about this one way or the other, but if I had to choose I’d say I’m in favor of the current rule. Anything that might make the players take the game more seriously and, in turn, produce a more competitive game, is fine with me. But is it fair that, say, a guy like Heath Bell, last night’s losing pitcher and member of the last-place Padres, contributed to the NL not getting home-field advantage in this year’s Fall Classic?

No it’s not, but is it a big deal? There have been six World Series’ since the All-Star game has been “meaningful,” and while the American League has had home-field advantage in all six, they’ve only been victorious three times. So far, no real advantage.

LeBron James Gets Dunked On: How to Mishandle a Story

Don Canham, the University of Michigan’s Athletic Director from 1968-1988, once told sportswriter John U. Bacon, “Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.”

It’s doubtful that LeBron James, Lynn Merritt, or anyone advising the Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar had ever heard that phrase. Had they been familiar with Canham’s words, countless radio shows, television programs, and internet articles wouldn’t still be focusing on the story.

The story, of course, is that James got dunked on at his own camp by Xavier University’s Jordan Crawford. The moment was caught on film by a credentialed freelance journalist. However—and here’s where it gets interesting—the tape was confiscated by Merritt, a Nike Basketball senior director, and has yet to be released to the public (the whereabouts of the tape are unknown).

Even though the video would have lived forever on the internet, I can’t imagine that had the footage been released it would’ve been more than a one-day story. The dunk most likely would’ve been shown on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” and maybe some bloggers would’ve covered it.

But would the King’s legacy have been tarnished?

Would people stop buying Nike basketball shoes?

Would anyone—yet alone the national media—still be talking about it a week after the fact?

I highly doubt it. After all, one could compose a video that made Michael Jordan look like the worst dunker in NBA history (in fact, search “Michael Jordan bloopers” on YouTube and you’ll find that someone has done just that). It’s not like LeBron hasn’t been dunked on before; every NBA player has at some point.

In other words, nobody would have thought less of LeBron if the video was released.

But people will think less of him since it wasn’t.

After he stormed off the court without shaking hands or speaking to the media following the Cavs’ elimination from the Eastern Conference Finals, this incident will only strengthen the argument that LeBron is a sore loser.

LeBron and his advisers have already mishandled this and allowed a one-day story to turn into a one-week story. I still think it would be wise to release the tape if it still exists—better later than never, right?

But make no mistake, this has hurt LeBron’s image (and perhaps Nike’s, too). This is proof that even something as commonplace as the video of a dunk can turn into a media frenzy if not handled properly.

Update, July 23: The video has surfaced! Watch it on ebaum’s, not TMZ, as that is the far superior video as far as quality. As expected, the dunk was nothing special, proving that had it been released immediately nobody would’ve cared.

Interleague Play: Time for MLB to Make Changes

I was at the first Mets-Yankees game back in 1997 at Yankee Stadium. There was excitement in the week leading up to the games as sports talk radio, local television, and newspapers hyped the match-up, dubbing it the “Subway Series.” That anticipation led to a louder-than-usual crowd at the Stadium, as over 56,000 witnessed Dave Mlicki pitch a shutout and lead the Mets to a 6-0 victory.

Flash forward to 2009 and nobody cares anymore.

Sorry if that’s as startling as a Gary Sheffield foul ball into the third base seats, but it’s true.

Simply put, the Subway Series, and interleague play in general, has run its course. It’s time to get back to a more traditional schedule, or at least reduce the frequency of tired “rivalry” series’.

Here are three ways to do this:

1. Get rid of all interleague games

…and shorten the season. The baseball season is too long. This year, the regular season goes all the way until October 4th. Game One of the World Series is scheduled for October 28th. A potential Game Seven would be November 5th.

You thought last year’s Fall Classic was cold and wet? Imagine if the Twins reach the World Series once their new outdoor stadium is completed next season. There’s nothing like Minneapolis in November! They have a humidor for the baseballs in Colorado; they’d need a de-icer for Minnesota.

By cutting the season to somewhere between 147-154 games, the playoffs won’t go into late October and each regular season game will become just a little bit more meaningful.

Of course, a shorter season means fewer tickets to sell, and owners won’t go for making less money.

Likelihood of this Occurring: 1/10

2. Get rid of all interleague games…

…but replace them with intra-league match-ups, preferably divisional games. So instead of Cubs-Royals, you get an extra Cubs-Cardinals series. Instead of Phillies-Blue Jays, you get Phils-Mets.

This doesn’t shorten the season but at least interleague play disappears. Attendance would presumably rise as fans care more about intra-divisional rivalries than seeing a mediocre team from the other league.

It would also make the schedule a lot fairer within the divisions. Look at the Mets: Is it fair that they have to not only play the Yankees every year, but they have to play them SIX times?

This year, the East divisions were matched up against each other, so it was only three extra games. But in other years, it means the Mets have to play a franchise which, since interleague play began, has always fielded a very strong team. Instead of a series apiece against say, the Royals and Indians, the Mets get two against the Yanks.

No big deal over the course of such a long season though, right? Tell that to Mets fans, who’ve watched their team miss out on the playoffs by one game each of the last two seasons.

Likelihood of this Occurring: 3/10

3. Reduce the number of interleague games

Not ideal, but owners would be more likely to compromise and go along with this. There is a general assumption amongst MLB fans that interleague play is extremely popular, but attendance at these games is skewed.

Eric Rosen of Beyond the Box Score did some analysis that shows interleague play draws only about a .4% increase in attendance, or roughly 100 tickets per game.

His research factored in that interleague games were often played on weekends and during prime baseball months (June and July). This is how interleague play gets its attendance advantage; not through legitimate fan interest.

Perhaps owners will soon realize that fans are no longer captivated by the 12-year-old gimmick and eliminate, or at least reduce, the number of interleague games. Maybe the true rivalry series’ could be reduced to one series per year.

I don’t know when some form of these changes will take place, but I’d be shocked if interleague play looks the same in five years as it does now.

Likelihood of this Occurring: 6/10

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