You know what you rarely see from a legitimate baseball publication? An article about how to “fix” baseball. This is mostly because baseball folks tend not to think that there’s a ton wrong with the game, and they realize that that which is wrong is complicated enough to justify a dedicated article as opposed to some omnibus baseball-sucks rant. General interest magazines seem to have some baseball dilettante run one every other month, however, and they’re almost uniformly awful, evidencing an almost total misunderstanding of the game’s business and competitive dynamics.
But Matt Taibbi’s offering to that effect in Men’s Journal isn’t so bad! Oh, it’s ignorant — badly misrepresenting baseball’s TV ratings and citing basketball and football as having their business and competitive houses in order when they most certainly do not — but it’s got two awesome things going for it:
1. A hilarious, albeit likely disingenuous mea culpa for writing last year that the Yankees were a “mercenary” team that couldn’t hope to buy itself a world title; and
2. A totally righteous defense of the old school version of Bernie Brewer, and attendant evisceration of new school Bernie Brewer, which may as well have come straight from my brain. It’s Milwaukee: if you’re gonna have a dude wearing lederhosen go down a slide after a home run, he damn well better land in a mug of beer.
Beyond that, Taibbi covers the following:
- Instant replay: Taibbi wants it formalized, I prefer a fifth umpire in a booth who can simply overrule any dunderheaded calls by his colleagues;
- Time controls: Taibbi wants to make pitchers pitch faster and hitters stay in the box. Amen, brother;
- Salary cap: He wants one, I think that making rules to protect poor billionaires from those ruthless millionaires is all rather silly. If team owners are smart enough to make enough money to afford a baseball team they can figure out how to make one profitable on their own or else they shouldn’t have gotten into the business in the first place. If it’s a competitive balance thing there are better ways to do it;
- Salary floor: I’m averse because it could prevent teams from tearing down and rebuilding when they need to. No one liked it when the Marlins cut back to a $14 million payroll, but it probably helped them get better faster than if they had pursued the course the Astros and the Royals have done.
- Expanded rosters: Taibbi wants them. I say no way, because rather than use the extra slots to expand platooning like he wants, most teams would simply add a bunch of scrapheap relief pitchers. He thinks the games are long now, wait until La Russa can make nine pitching changes a game with impunity;
Finally, Taibbi asks: “can we please bring back really gross fat guys with bad facial hair?”
I’m all for that one, actually. Anyone know if Matt Stairs made the Padres roster?
You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.
There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:
I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.
There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.
The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.
In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.
The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.
As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:
An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”
Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.
Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.