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Gary Armida's Blog
Bud's Two Costly ErrorsPosted on September 24, 2012 at 07:54 AM.
Everything seems to be going Bud Selig’s way. While many will look at the Major League Baseball chief as someone who doesn’t know what he is doing, the truth of the matter is that most of his innovations have given fans more to be interested in, the sport more revenue, and the pennant races some dramatic finishes. He was the one who tinkered with the playoff system back in 1995, adding a wildcard and a third division to each league. While that was met with every possible piece of venom a traditionalist could muster, it is difficult to imagine Major League Baseball functioning without it now.
Selig’s latest change is the second wildcard position. Heading into Monday’s action, there are currently five teams within 4.5 games of the second wild card spot. Add in the two teams that hold the second wildcard spot and there are now seven teams that are technically in a pennant race with just a 10 games left in the season. Selig doesn’t have anything remotely close to a perfect commissioner resume, but his playoff tinkering has been nothing but positive.
Throw in that the Yankees and Orioles are simply having an epic finish in the battle for the AL East crown and that the Tigers are within a game of the White Sox for the Central Division title, the final week is shaping up to be better than last season. This should be the time for the commissioner to puff out his chest and boast as to how healthy the sport is. There are no replacement umpires, the playoff races are exciting, and new teams are in those pennant races.
But, Selig has made two very crucial errors in judgment that will ultimately take away any positivity that he may have built up.
Before getting into that, let’s just first say that Bud Selig is not a perfect Commissioner, but his criticism is exaggerated. He is not inept and most of his decisions have made millions upon millions for Major League Baseball. Under his watch, MLB Advanced Media has created the best online experience of any of the major sports. Selig has tinkered with the alignment of leagues, tinkered with the playoff system, and has bucked tradition in many of his ideas. All of it has created more revenue for the sport and more interest. His All-Star game idea is a bit misguided, but it has created enough buzz and has gained the sport even more attention. His backing of the World Baseball Classic has allowed the sport to grow in numerous ways. The Opening Days in Japan are also quite successful.
Has he made his flawed decisions? Sure. But, he is not inept; Major League Baseball has grown under his watch. Despite presiding over the most difficult era in the sport’s history, Selig has grown the game.
But, his two most recent decisions are truly puzzling, somewhat negating the positives that he has brought. The first is the scheduling of the playoffs. Selig made the correct call to make the Wild Card round a winner-take-all game. There isn’t enough time for that round to be a series and the one game elimination makes for great drama. It also places more emphasis on winning the division. But, Selig blew it when it comes to the Division Round. The one game Wild Card playoff was meant to put the Wild Card winner at a disadvantage heading into the Division Round. But, that isn’t the case.
From the Official Press Release:
“For the 2012 Postseason only, the five-game Division Series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for higher seeds. This one-year change, which eliminates a travel day prior to a decisive Game Five of the Division Series, was necessary because the 2012 regular season schedule was established before the agreement on the new Postseason format was reached. Next year, the Division Series will return to the 2-2-1 format used in previous years.”
So, the Wild Card team will have two games at home to begin the series while the team with the best record in the League will have to wait for the Wild Card game to finish before knowing where to travel to for their series? That hardly sounds like an advantage. And, let’s say that the home team of the Wild Card wins the game. They get to sit home and wait for the number one seed to travel to them. Then, they get two straight games at home before heading for a three game series at the number one seed’s park.
Home field advantage can be wildly overrated, but the toll of travelling, the first two games played after travelling, and then having to travel again, seems like an awfully big disadvantage for having the best record in the league. The extra travel day for a game five wouldn’t have made the postseason any longer than a day. There is no reason to ruin the integrity of winning the division for one year because of one day less of travelling. The benefit of having the teams there for a decisive game five is far outweighed by the possible disadvantage of playing two road games to begin a series.
Selig had the correct idea of placing the premium on winning the division. But for this year, he takes that idea away. Furthermore, they know it’s a bad idea because the made sure to mention that they would return to the regular format next year. If the integrity of winning the division is that important--which it is--then, the Commissioner should’ve waited a year for adding the second wild card. At least the system would’ve been in place.
The far more egregious error came just days after Selig promised that he wouldn’t do anything to prevent Melky Cabrera from winning the batting title. Cabrera, suspended for a failed drug test, is currently leading the National League in hitting and will wind up with enough at bats to qualify for the title. Selig said that there wasn’t much to do in this area. He mentioned that stripping a batting title, not even an award, is going down a dangerous path.
He should’ve stayed off the path because just days later, Major League Baseball and the Players Association announced an agreement that will take Melky Cabrera out of the batting title race. It was an idea that Cabrera approached the Union about and then the negotiations began.
From the press release:
“After giving this matter the consideration it deserves, I have decided that Major League Baseball will comply with Mr. Cabrera’s request,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “I respect his gesture as a sign of his regret and his desire to move forward, and I believe that, under these circumstances, the outcome is appropriate, particularly for Mr. Cabrera’s peers who are contending for the batting crown.”
Melky Cabrera isn’t giving anything up. A player doesn’t receive money or anything for a batting title. His gesture is more of a PR move than about giving anything up. But, even if the move was about actually giving something up, it was the incorrect move for Selig to make. Cabrera does have the highest average in the National League. He did win the MVP award at the All-Star game. All of those things happened; changing an interpretation of the rule doesn’t erase it, just like when the NCAA strips a school of wins. We saw those games. Erasing them from the books doesn’t change the reality that they took place. Cabrera likely made this request to avoid the embarrassment of having his story told every time a batting champion was discussed.
But, there’s a more dangerous problem.
He can talk all he wants about this being the player’s request, but this does open up way too many things. What’s next? Hey, maybe we can restore Hank Aaron’s record. While we are at it, Roger Maris can have his record too. Then, maybe we could build a case to strip Roger Clemens of his wins so that he isn’t a 300 game winner anymore. The possibilities are endless.
Those possibilities didn’t exist until last Friday. Selig was correct when he stated that it wasn’t a good move to strip Cabrera of the batting title. But, then he went ahead and did it. The Players Union is equally at fault. As an organization that is is meant to protect players, this one can potentially cause more damage. We already have witch hunts when it comes to the Hall of Fame voting. Players just suspected of something are kept out. Jeff Bagwell is one of those players. Roger Clemens was found not guilty, but he doesn’t have a chance of being enshrined.
Now there is a precedent set; statistics can be altered, removed, or in this case, ignored. It starts here. It starts with changing a rule during the season.
Rule 10.22(a): “The individual batting, slugging or on-base percentage champion shall be the player with the highest batting average, slugging percentage or on-base percentage, as the case may be, provided the player is credited with as many or more total appearances at the plate in league championship games as the number of games scheduled for each club in his club’s league that season, multiplied by 3.1 in the case of a Major League player. Total appearances at the plate shall include official times at bat, plus bases on balls, times hit by pitcher, sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies and times awarded first base because of interference or obstruction. Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement of minimum appearances at the plate, any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest, if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting, slugging or on-base percentage championship, as the case may be.”
The bold part is the part that the MLBPA and MLB agreed to change when it comes to players suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. Everyone may feel that this is justice or that Cabrera is allowing someone more deserving to win a batting title. But, this really just makes Major League Baseball look like foolish. And, it allows for more changes of this nature.
This is only the beginning.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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