Great Moments in Steroids Derp

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This story at ABC News is correct to note that, if it wasn’t for the 2005 PED hearings in Congress, far less attention would’ve been paid to the matter. I mean, yes, Jose Canseco’s book and Ken Caminiti’s comments in interviews really started things, but the Congressional hearings did go a long way in helping form public opinion on the matter.

For worse, I’d argue — baseball had already started its drug testing program at the time, the Congressional hearings were not really in Congress’ bailiwick and the public opinion that has been forged is, almost always, ill-informed and reactionary — but they did have an effect.

But there’s one thing those hearings did not do:

The Baseball Hall of Fame will add six new members to its ranks at this weekend’s ceremony in Cooperstown. Three superstar players and three brilliant managers – all of whom were active and clean of drug allegations during some of baseball’s darkest days – will get their plaques.

Though the now-famous congressional hearings drew criticism at the time, it’s quite possible baseball wouldn’t see a moment like this if not for Congress. The March 2005 session on steroids in baseball served as a wake-up call for baseball to clean itself up, ultimately opening the doors for the players who were clean during a tainted era to gain election to the Hall, according to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian.

If you have an argument that Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame but for the PEDs story becoming a big one, I’d really like to hear it.

Heck, here’s a better argument: if the PED issue had not been blown up and used for so much grandstanding, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro would be in the Hall, as would Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell and Biggio. With those off the ballot, other worthy candidates like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling would have more votes and may be in now already.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?