Saturday, September 25, 2004

Playoffs and Payoffs

Major League Baseball hasn’t done that many things right over the last several years but the playoff system now in place is for the most part a tremendous success. Four teams have already clinched their divisions or a playoff spot while fans in no less than seven other cities are still caught up in the excitement of potential post-season play with little more than a week remaining in the regular season.

I was among the skeptics when the system was first announced and the leagues were restructured accordingly. My chief complaint then and now is that given MLB’s insistence on playing 162 regular-season games and scheduling many of the playoff and most of the World Series games at night, the season extends too deep into October with its iffy weather. Reverting to a shorter regular season, say 154 games, would go a long way toward addressing this problem as well as any lingering issues with records and asterisks. (Ichiro seems destined to break George Sisler’s single season all-time hits record of 257 achieved in eight fewer games. I am already on the record as having said Ichiro is an extraordinary player; therefore, I am surprised the subject of asterisks occurred to me at all. But it did.)

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Tonight ESPN is broadcasting Hustle, a made-for-TV movie about Pete Rose directed by no less than Peter Bogdanovich. I’d sooner watch the TV listings channel. Some people portray Rose as a classic tragic figure celebrated for his many accomplishments as a player but in the end brought down by his gambling while managing the Cincinnati Reds on the very same game that brought him fame and fortune. Had he not spent fifteen years denying the charges everyone including Rose himself knew to be true, i.e., had he been caught up in the addiction not the lie, I might concur. Instead, he is merely a contemptible figure.

The most concise and compelling piece I’ve read in some time on the reasons to maintain the lifetime ban of Pete Rose from baseball can be found at Balls, Sticks, and Stuff. Tonight’s broadcast won’t change these.

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Note to any diehards out there: the Phillies were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs last night following another loss to the lowly Washington nee Montreal Expos.Brett Myers continued to un-impress giving up nine hits and seven runs in three innings of “work.” Myers, who now sports an ERA of 5.60 and a record of 9 – 11, will be counted on heavily next season but the club is clearly concerned about him as he takes two steps back for every one forward.

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