In my B&C column this week, I wrote that as a true baseball fan, I really wanted MLB to have a magical post-season. I wanted the former national pastime, now clearly surpassed by football, to push past the steroid cloud and the umpiring woes and have a playoffs season that captured America’s attention.
And when Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay opened the playoffs with a no-hitter – only the second time one has been thrown in the postseason, an astounding statistic – we were off and running.
And that magic lasted all of one game.
Fast forward to Friday morning, and ESPN Radio’s signature show, Mike & Mike, had to spend virtually its entire first hour talking not about a series of wonderful pitching performances and road teams winning big games – but about MLB’s pathetic umpiring blowing big calls in virtually every game since the Halladay no-no.
Now let’s get something out of the way right away – this author is a known fan of the Minnesota Twins, who were victimized by one of the bad calls Thursday night. But this is not sour grapes – as the Yankees are the better team in that series, and themselves were victimized by a blown call in Game One that absolutely could have changed the outcome of that game in Minnesota’s favor.
This is about the fact that despite the first two days of the MLB playoffs producing a series of beautiful pitching performances, major sports outlets on Friday are talking about the umps. In a post-game interview, a San Francisco Giants player — who was the beneficiary of a blown call allowing him to eventually score the only run in the game – came out and said he was thankful there is no instant replay right now (because he knew he was out on a play at second base before later scoring).
And as a big baseball fan, that makes me sick. And sick and tired.
We all know in sports there are always going to be blown calls. But the timing of this buffoonery for baseball is about as bad as if another player got busted for steroids right now.
Baseball has a black eye as a sport, and it just got punched there about four more times in the last two days. And it won’t put its damned guard up.
One of the ESPN radio hosts noted this isn’t MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s fault. They would be wrong.
Selig has allowed this perception to continue. Baseball needs a commissioner right now who comes across as the ultimate in fan friendly. Who comes out and says between the umps and the steroids, he as a baseball fan is pissed off.
If MLB really wants to recapture its role as America’s Pastime, it has to become a sport of the fans once again – not of the unions, both players and umpires. Baseball needs a Dana White or a Mark Cuban type, someone who comes across as a fan of their own product first and foremost, and fans believe will do anything to make their product better.
If tomorrow Bud Selig came out and said he is putting in instant replay, making umpires more accountable and for good measure adding asterisks to the home run records of every player busted for steroids, suddenly baseball would be on the road to new popularity just like that. Literally. Imagine the positive PR. With three quick and easy moves, fans would see a leader and a sport run how they would run it.
Don’t get me wrong — Fox Sports execs have to be feeling pretty good today, as a Yankees-Phillies World Series — which will make them tens of millions of dollars more than say a Twins-Reds matchup would have – looks very promising.
But they – and everyone else with an MLB TV contract – should absolutely be getting concerned, as baseball continues to come across as a sport with problems and an organization that won’t make any bold moves to fix it.
Again, don’t listen to a Twins fan. Listen to a major national media outlet devoting an entire first hour of its show to umpires affecting the outcomes of games – instead of talking about a series of dominating pitching performances from hurlers young and old.
Somewhere, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is smiling this morning. Bud Selig: it’s up to you to do something about it.