I once shared an apartment with two other guys on Manning Avenue in Toronto. Whenever our landlord Mr. Camarada had a problem with us, he would storm angrily up to the Second Floor where we lived, gutturally proclaiming a single word:
I begin – I am certain not for the last time – with that same word, infused with the same “Camaradian” disgust:
I am thinking about the World Series.
(Note: This post was composed considerably before the 2014 World Series, so no specific team names will be included. If I were to name the teams that ended up in the World Series weeks before the World Series took place, that would be, in the words of iconic sitcom director Jim Burrows, wee-id. Okay, the Orioles and the Dodgers. I took a shot. Or the Nationals. A shot and a half. Or maybe the Tigers. Though the Angels have a good chance as well. And you can never rule out the Cardinals. I think I am pretty much covered. Though watch out for the Royals, the A’s, the Giants and the Pirates.)
The World Series is an annual first-to-four-wins competition between two teams, whose winner is anointed the champion of baseball for that season. The World Series is baseball’s Super Bowl. The NBA Finals. The Stanley Cup.
With one difference.
Unlike those other engagements for sportorial predominance, the World Series is treated by the proprietors of the game in whose hands it resides…
Two points. That is all it takes to indict these nincompoops.
Point Number One:
“The World Series is played almost a month too late.”
A little background:
Once, Major League Baseball was comprised of a National League consisting of eight teams and an American League consisting of eight teams, and at the end of the season, the teams with the best record in each league would play each other in the World Series. The World Series was played from late September to early October. (Invariably during Yom Kippur. We had to race outside from synagogue, to check the scores on transistor radios.)
Today, rather than sixteen teams, Major League Baseball consists of thirty teams. As a result of this expansion, the leagues play more regular season games, and instead of teams advancing directly to the World Series, there are now three tiers of preliminary playoffs.
The ultimate result these extra games:
The World Series is pushed back. By close to a month.
One: Nobody cares. (Baseball is like a slow-leaving houseguest moving furtively about the house. It’s like “Are you still here?”)
Two: It’s cold. A consequence of the lateness of the date, an inclemency augmented by baseball’s insistence on playing all World Series contests at night. (What do you expect? It’s almost November!)
Two B (an Addendum): When it’s cold…
The bat stings the batters’ hands when they make contact. And the pitchers have a greater difficulty gripping the ball. True, it’s the same for both teams, but that should not detract from the reality that in the most important contest of the year, both teams are trying to execute under the least advantageous playing conditions imaginable.
So there’s that. Baseball’s “Marquee Matchup” is played in not anything at all like “baseball weather.” (Disclaimer: If this year’s World Series winds up being the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Los Angeles Angels, please ignore “Point Number One.”)
But not “Point Number Two”:
Baseball’s rules are the same in both leagues, with the exception of one rule: The “Designated Hitter Rule.”
In 1973, in order to inject more offense into the game – because pitchers are (overall) notoriously terrible hitters – the American League instituted the “Designated Hitter Rule”, allowing another player (whose sole purpose it is) to bat for the pitcher. By contrast, in National League games, the pitcher is still required to bat for himself.
Enter: The World Series. How is this discrepancy going to be handled?
In the World Series, it was decided that, when they play in an American League park, the “Designated Hitter Rule” would be in force, even though the National League teams did not employ a “Designated Hitter” all season. (Except for rare inter-league “away” games played in American League venues.)
Conversely, when the games are played in a National League park, all pitchers are required to bat for themselves. (Even though an American League pitcher was unlikely to have batted all season, and possibly – which happened in a recent World Series – has never batted at all during his entire professional career.
And these are the most important games of the year!!!
American League Pitcher Batting For The First Time (possibly ever): “I know I’m a professional athlete and I am expected to maintain a positive attitude about things. But I really do not know what I’m doing up here. And I have a not entirely unrealistic fear of being killed.”
Summary: Baseball’s “Showcase Presentation” is played in characteristically inappropriate weather, using – unlike in any other sport- rules that are different from the rules the teams have played under the entire season.
And the “Powers That Be” won’t do anything to change that.
Why then complain about something that is not going to change? (Other than “That is traditionally what I do”?)
On the Supreme Court, they have these “dissents”, in which a Justice on the losing side gets to explain for the record why they voted contrary to the majority’s decision. A subsequent revisiting of those “dissents” – which is not uncommon – has inspired ameliorative reversals of those decisions down the line.
I am not a Supreme Court Justice. I am not a baseball executive. I am not a person of consequence.
I am simply this guy. Who, when it comes to baseball’s handing of the World Series, would like to today go on the record as saying,
I wholeheartedly dissent.