Covering a World Series game is … different


We covered the baseball action of last night’s game pretty thoroughly already, so now some of the less important stuff.

It was my first ever World Series game and I can’t say I’ve experienced anything like it. Not that it was better than any other baseball game of course — on the merits it wasn’t — but it was definitely a far more intense experience than other games I’ve attended and/or covered.

I’ve talked about the crowd already — amped from beginning until end — but the whole scene is like that, really. The media stuff affected me most directly. So many people cover the World Series. Almost as many as go to the Winter Meetings each year. Except at the Winter Meetings all of those reporters and broadcasters spread out around a gigantic hotel whereas here they are split into a couple of rooms and spaces that are a fraction of the size of the smallest Winter Meetings work space.

There’s a media workroom off a hallway running behind the luxury boxes. It’s not big, but it’s where the reporters who don’t get a spot in the regular press box (which is most of the reporters) set up to write and prepare and whatnot. By the middle of the afternoon there were no chairs left and people spread out onto the floor or stood up and typed at tables. As the game got going many of us moved to the auxiliary press box up in sections 335 and 336 out in left field where there are temporary desktops, WiFi and TV monitors, but many — maybe most — of the press stayed in the workroom.

And I can see why, actually. For one thing it’s warmer. For another, more important thing it may be easier to follow the game action via TV than it is from out there in East Jesus Upper Deck Land.  I perched up there because I wanted to hear the crowd and feel like I was watching a game more than I was covering it, but I bet my colleagues down in the workroom were more on top of what was happening as it happened than I was up in the clouds.  I had some advantages — you can tell more about defensive positioning and the like better from up top — but those are pretty minor things.

Another crowded place: the field during the couple of hours before game time. Camera crews, VIPs, ex-ballpalyers, P.R. people and just about anyone else you can think of, crammed on the track behind home plate and between the dugouts. I did a brief on-field segment for NBC Sports Talk last night — look for me again tonight between 6pm and 7pm Eastern — and it was a battle just to get over to the tiny bit of real estate where my camera crew was set up. I squeezed myself in there and did my little chitchat. A few minutes later my brother called me. He was watching it at home and said that as I was talking Willie Mays was behind me talking to someone else. I had no idea. It’s so crowded and crazy down there that you can miss WILLIE FREAKIN’ MAYS.

I know most of you don’t care about these media things, but the whole experience does have me thinking about game coverage and what it means in the age of 100 TV cameras and the super slo-mo replay. The ballpark is great, but as I walked back to my hotel last night I had this rather unsatisfying feeling that, despite the fact I was there, I missed a whole lot. That I really do see more things — and more things better — at home while watching on TV and following on the Internet than I do in person.

Maybe it’s so big a spectacle that it’s hard to get your bearings after just one game. Maybe it’s just a matter of someone like me having a different kind of focus than other people who are covering the thing. I’m not sure. But just like the Tigers, I’m glad I have more games this series to figure it all out.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.