Gregg Doyel won't let facts get in the way of a good rant

8 Comments

CBS Sports.com’s Gregg Doyel has never been one for subtlety, but in his latest column — in which he rips the MLBPA for having the audacity to defend one of its members — he shows his contempt for facts, reason and perspective as well:

The MLB players union has gone too far. Finally,
inarguably, the union has gone too far, and this money-seeking,
drug-allowing, behavior-excusing juggernaut must be stopped.

And it must be stopped by the New York Mets.

…Only, the rumors out of New York are that the players union would
fight the Mets should the team try to void K-Rod’s contract. To which I
say: Fight the union, Mets. Major advances in labor strife often revolve
around one person. Baseball has Curt Flood, the father of free agency.
He’s a hero to players.

K-Rod could be an antihero to the rest of us, those of us who are
tired of paying up to $500 for tickets, parking and concessions at a
single baseball game because the team’s payroll is $94 million and the
cleanup hitter earns $18 million and the fourth outfielder makes $6
million and all of those chumps look like they’ve used steroids, and
some of them no doubt have, and the union has been the hammer the
players have swung to make all of that happen.

Enough is enough.

The union must go down. Not all unions, just this one. This union,
this MLB players union that has run amok for too long, must go down.
Who’s K-Rod? He’s nobody, really. Just the captain of the ship.

I realize people don’t much care for unions, but Doyel’s screed is totally out to lunch. He blames the union for the Mets’ initial agreement to limit K-Rod’s suspension for two games, as if the team had no choice in the matter as to how to proceed with him.  He says that due process is a concept that “while it has its place” doesn’t apply to K-Rod because, well, I don’t know why.  He repeats the flat wrong canard that player salaries are to blame for high ticket prices.  He’s just eighteen shades of wrong here separate and apart from his opinion, to which he’s obviously entitled.

I love me some rabble rousing, but this is dumb “players are too rich and the union is evil!” rabble rousing.  I understand that such appeals draw in eyeballs and get a lot of “you go girls!” from the masses, but I’d like to believe that at some point all clicks aren’t created equal and ignorant, emotional appeals such as Doyel’s won’t continue to be rewarded.

But maybe like Doyel, my desire to believe something won’t make it actually come to pass.

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
Getty Images
12 Comments

MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.