A Really Bad Idea

Sports Illustrated reports that major league baseball is considering a rule change that would apply only to extra-inning games.  Under the proposed rule, starting in the 10th inning, every team coming up to bat would begin their inning with a runner already on second base.

If the source were anything other than SI — which is presumptively authoritative on all things involving sports and women’s swimwear — I’d think this proposal was a prank, but apparently it’s legitimate.  This year, starting with the World Baseball Classic and then in two of the minor leagues, baseball is going to test the proposed rule.  Why?  Because it’s another way to “speed up the game” and avoid long extra-inning games where pitching staffs get blown out and a utility infielder ends up pitching the 19th inning.

posed_slideHow often does that happen, really?  Isn’t the rule change addressing a pretty rare situation — and in a way that radically alters the game?

Leave aside exactly how this would work.  (So, the next guy up doesn’t get to bat, and just trots out to second?  Too bad for your team if that’s your power hitter and he’s on a hot streak!  And how would this be accounted for in, say, calculating the ERA of the unlucky pitcher who didn’t give up a hit but now has to deal with a guy hugging second?)  In baseball, getting a player to second base — in what is called “scoring position” — is a huge part of the strategy of the game.  How do you move that guy who worked the pitcher for a walk or hit that sharp single to right field from first to second?  Do you have him try to steal, or bunt him over?  It’s a key part of the building tension that makes baseball so much fun to watch, and it gives fans endless opportunities to second-guess the manager.  But under this proposal, all of that strategery gets thrown out the window, and there’s just a guy at second for no apparent reason.  John McGraw must be turning over in his grave.

Can’t they just let baseball be baseball?  It’s not as fast-moving as the NFL or the NBA — okay, we get that.  But a big part of the joy of baseball is watching the same game that our grandfathers watched (let’s not talk about the designated hitter, okay?), played on the same fields, with the same distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate and the same horsehide and the same kinds of wooden bats.  When you start to mess with the basics and not even require a team to do anything to get a guy to second base, you’re striking at the very core of the game.

This isn’t Nintendo, it’s baseball.  Let baseball be baseball, I say.

The Jinx Is Alive And Well

Before this season began, Sports Illustrated apparently picked the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. Every true fan of the Tribe immediately reacted as if they had been stung by every worker in a colony of colossal poisonous wasps.  There was no need to even read the article, because we knew that disaster lurked dead ahead.

We know what happens when Sports Illustrated picks you.  To be blunt, and somewhat vulgar, it means you’re irretrievably cursed and you’re going to suck.  And that has exactly what has happened with the Tribe this year.  They’ve blown chunks, and in particular they’ve been humiliated and beaten like a rug by their big purported rival the Detroit Tigers.  Some rivalry!  The Tigers beat the snot out of the Indians, and the Indians go home with covered with shame and embarrassment.  Hell, the Indians have even been thumped by the Chicago White Sox.  What could be more embarrassing than that?

Sports Illustrated, thanks a lot!  April isn’t even over, and already the Indians have shown beyond dispute that they aren’t a contender and haven’t a chance.  So what are we supposed to watch between now and football season?  Golf?  Soccer, for God’s sake?

Newsweek No More

A few days ago, Newsweek announced that it will be ending its print edition, effective December 31, 2012.  The newsmagazine will go to an on-line format in early 2013.

I’m not surprised by Newsweek‘s demise, and I suspect I’m not alone.  When was the last time you subscribed to Newsweek or bought one at a newsstand?  We subscribed to Newsweek, as well as Time, Sports Illustrated, Sport, Life, Look, and other magazines when I was a kid, but Kish and I haven’t subscribed to any newsmagazine in years.  (The only periodicals we get these days are the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and by Kish’s edict we’ll get them until the 12th of Never.)  I can’t remember the last time I bought, or even read, Newsweek.

When I pass newsstands in airports and give a quick glance to the magazine rack, Newsweek always seems to feature some bold, intentionally controversial headline about some social or political issue.  It’s as if the magazine is consciously designed to try to entice passersby into plunking down their money to see whether the article is really as provocative as the cover indicates.  It’s somewhat pathetic, and it is a far cry from the sober, objective, we-cover-the-important-issues-of-the-world-in-depth approach that newsmagazines took during the ’60s and ’70s.

The print media is dying; the internet is killing it.  Weekly magazines can’t compete with on-line content that is delivered immediately and without the costs of paper, delivery postage, and so forth.  Even if you subscribe to on-line content providers — and I typically don’t — you are paying less and getting more, more quickly, than magazines or newspapers can provide.  There’s no way print can compete unless it moves into a niche that the web doesn’t provide.  General reporting on national and world affairs, such as Newsweek used to provide, isn’t such a niche.