SPORTS MASTERY • Baseball’s opening day is approaching. The Yankees and the Red Sox – who else? – start the season on Thursday morning. And once again we begin to wonder what happened to baseball.
• No sport has changed more in our lives than baseball. And not for the better. Don’t just take our word for it. In 1956, the list of major sports in the United States had only one professional sport. Baseball. No NBA. No NFL. But 65 years later, baseball is nowhere near those, or college football and basketball, in the public interest. He keeps trying to catch up. And failed.
Why is that? A combination of factors, we’re sure. This is partly because audience tastes have changed. Faster, faster events are all the rage. Fine. Baseball will not be able to compete in this area. But the product on the baseball field has also changed. For some reason, the powers that be decided long ago to weed out quirks from the game. It’s a misguided attempt to inject symmetry into a game that for decades thrived on challenging it.
Yes, the field is a diamond. But the stadiums were all different. Until, in the 1960s and 1970s, everyone started building versatile, cookie-cutter monstrosities. This era corresponds with the drop in interest, although this is probably more of a coincidence than a correlation. And yet, even after the people in power woke up and started building unique facilities again – fans love them – they continued to take personality out of the game. With the change to the designated hitter, baseball completed its evolution.
It used to be that baseball had two leagues that hated each other. Now, in reality, there is only one giant entity. Leagues are a calendar construct these days as opposed to separate entities built on the basis of animosity.
There was something special about this separation for a long time. The Dodgers and Yankees met in spring training and the World Series. That was it. Umpires, baseballs, rules. They were all different between the leagues. Diversity was a strength.
But it costs more. And money is everything. Even if, in the long term, such cost reduction has dented the popularity of the game.
It doesn’t come back. If anything, baseball is move towards even more conformity. Over the next decade, expect traditional National and American league builds to drop the ghost, leading to four or eight geographic divisions. They may be labeled “National” or “American”, but this will only be for convenience. And nostalgia. Any resemblance to leagues of the ancient past will be coincidental.
Will this help bring back the game’s long-lost popularity? Nope. It’s a lost cause. But it will save travel cost.
So how will baseball divide its teams? At the regional level, with an eye on maintaining as many rivalries as possible. Two expansion teams will be added, bringing the total number to 32, which is easily divisible by four or eight. And there will be a 16-team playoff leading up to a World Series that’s a shell of his old self.
So how will this work? The playoffs are beyond us, but rest assured, whatever brings in the most media dollars will win. As for the four eight-team divisions, we have some ideas.
West: Seattle; San Francisco; Oakland (or Las Vegas); Los Angeles Dodgers; the Los Angeles Angels; San Diego Padres; Arizona Diamondbacks; and the Colorado Rockies.
The Midwest: Chicago Cubs; the Chicago White Sox; the Minnesota twins; Cincinnati Reds; Cleveland Guardians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
South: Cardinals of St. Louis; Kansas City Royals; Houston Astros; Texas Rangers; the Miami Marlins; Tampa Bay Rays; Atlanta Braves; and Nashville Sounds (extension).
The North-east: Montreal Expos (expansion); Washington nationals; New York Yankees; New York Mets; the Boston Red Sox; Philadelphia Phillies; the Toronto Blue Jays; and the Baltimore Orioles.
There is a major flaw in this plan. (A?) St. Louis and the Cubs have to be in the same division. But that doesn’t seem possible. We would therefore have a designated non-divisional rival for each team.
This way, if each team played the others in their division 12 times and everyone else (except their rival) three, that would leave nine non-division rivalry games. There would still add up to 162 games.
Is it perfect? Nope. But then again, neither does baseball.
WSU: Around the Pac-12 and college football, the quarterback battle is the most fun positional competition to Washington this spring. … Oregon State is setting up a huge video card as part of its Reser stadium renovation. … It was the pro day at Oregon and John Schneider of the Seahawks was there. … A few keys Utah the players decided to return for one more season. … There exists a Colorado running back who stayed in Boulder. … In basketball news, we watched most of the Stanford lost in the NCAA semi-finals in Connecticut. It was like watching worker build a brick wall. Yeah, the cardinal misfired. There will be a new champion this year, either the Huskies or South Carolina. … Oregon lost another player on the portal. … On the men’s side, Duke and North Carolina meet in a semifinal today, with Villanova and Kansas in the other. …Jon Wilner has a mailbag which defines Pac-12 blue bloods.
Gonzaga: the baseball team lost in 11 innings at home on Friday. … Former assistant Tommy Lloyd is the Associated Press Coach of the Year.
Preparations: Dave Nichols has a summary of Friday’s action.
Indians: Spokane County needs to make millions of dollars to upgrade Avista Stadium or baseball will pull the franchise. How does the department pay it? It’s a puzzle facing cities and counties across the country. Colin Tiernan has a story on Spokane County’s latest ideas for funding improvements.
Chiefs: Spokane’s dwindling playoff hopes got a slight boost last night as the Chiefs won at Kamloops 6-5.
Sailors: Larry Stone agrees with us. Julio Rodriguez must be on the list on Thursday. … The the bullpen took another hit yesterday with Ken Giles’ injury. … The young beginners shone again in Friday’s loss.
Kraken: Visiting Las Vegas pinned a 5-2 loss to Seattle.
Sirens: The World Cup draw places the United States in the same group as England (a rival from the 1700s) and Iran (a rival from the 1970s). The final team is yet to be determined. … Seattle returns to MLS play.
• If we were sports czar, we would wear one of those fur hats everywhere. After all, we are the Tsar. And we would go back in time with baseball. Only as far, however, as when the two leagues were actually different. American League umpires should revert to those big balloon chest protectors when calling balls and strikes. And we would make them green, so Fox could promote their upcoming, soon to be canceled shows between locations. How cool would that be? Until later …