Gammons' Beefs
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My take on Peter Gammons' 25 Problems with Baseball

Peter Gammons of ESPN & The Boston Globe wrote a column of 25 gripes he has about baseball - or matters where the game is stuck in tradition. A baseball friend passed it along. (Click below to read his beefs.)


These beg debate, so here is my point of view:


Intro: Rotaries are actually far more efficient than traffic lights for traffic flow. I don't know what the stats are on safety. I would think they are safer, too.


1. Public relations dictating policy: I totally agree with Gammons on this. The Phillies' signing of David Bell for 17 million over four years is a good example of this idiocy. He can't be worth that - especially in 2006. Bell is 30 already. Interestingly, he's nowhere near as outstanding as his dad, nor I would say his grandpa. Yet, he is making in millions probably about what his dad made in hundreds of thousands and what his grandfather made in tens of thousands.


2. Need for a "closer": Yup. It's a myth. These first two "problems" are the two I agree with the most vehemently. However, particularly with this one, I don't think it will significantly improve baseball's popularity, if they are addressed.


3. No-trade clauses: I like trades, but you can't blame the players for feeling strongly about these. The feelings against them are more indicative of "traditional" baseball values than the more touchy-feely concerns we have for our families nowadays.


4. Bunting: Yes, it's overused statistically, but it's not causing baseball's declining popularity at all.


5. September call-ups: I disagree. It makes the last month of the season more interesting for the fans of the teams which are "out of it". They aren't that much worse than the marginal players they are replacing.


6. Play-off roster rules: Disagree again. I thought K-Rod was the most exciting thing about the entire play-offs.


7. Sliding into first: Yes, it's dumb - or so the rationalists have told us. It probably is, but I've never heard anyone actually prove it is less efficient. This is not anything that is hurting baseball, either. It's fun to watch.


8. Baseball's running the Expos: I don't think they've done anything that any team in their position in the standings wouldn't have done. The point being made here isn't very clear, so whatever it is, I think I disagree.


9. Meaningless steals of third: With two outs, that would be annoying. However, if the situation warrants it, basestealing is an enjoyable part of the game. I need more info.


10. Empty dugouts during close games: Huh? I have no idea what this is about. I've never seen an empty dugout during a game unless there is a fight.


11. Tie games: I don't know what happened between the Giants and Braves, but ties are OK by me. Hockey and football fans don't seem to mind them that much. It would be very Canadian, don't you think? Adding the completion of one game before the start of the next throws the players, the stadium, the TV station, and the fans off schedule. I would leave this dog sleeping.


12. best-of-five series: I agree it was outrageous to eliminate the Yankees in five. Believe me, they are still the best team. The Angels had a better month. Wait till the league figures out Lackey & Rodriguez. However, it sure made the rest of the post season more interesting. For the sake of excitement at the cost of fairness, I wouldn't cry if they brought the League Series back down to best-of-five instead of making the Division Series fall in line. Yes, hockey and basketball adopted baseball's best-of-seven format for all rounds, making that a sacred number in sports. Due to the use of pitching rotations, it really makes more sense for baseball than the other sports. Eventually, I think the Division Series will be best-of-seven, so they can drown us with talk about more records being set.


13. I remember during Denny McLain's prime, Whitey Ford saying that McLain probably wouldn't have a long lasting career, because he wasn't tall enough. Ford's comment was extraordinary coming from a long lasting 5'10" Hall-of-Fame shoo-in who was known as a carouser. McLain was listed as 6'1", but was right-handed. Ford was lefty. McLain also didn't take care of his health, and was mentally unstable, but Ford didn't mention that. McLain went on to win his second Cy Young Award at 25, then was pretty much washed-up, thereafter. Perhaps, modern conditioning techniques have changed this accepted wisdom about short righties.


14. Drafting high school kids: True. Percentage-wise this is a bad bet - especially for pitchers. Your chances are also greater of getting players who can handle success with a broader life experience of college than as a baseball player.


15. Lack of attention to scouting and development: I'll take Gammons' word for it, that this is a problem. It sounds likely, although, I don't think it has much effect on the game's popularity.


16. Gold Gloves for 3 outfielders as one position: The argument is that outfielders are more interchangeable. Maybe that is not a very good argument, but it does not bother me that the awards are made this way.


17. Sure, the better the fielding, the more enjoyable the baseball. Perhaps, some managers feel the players need a break. Perhaps, some players don't think it will help them. Let each team decide its own policy - and may the best team win.


18. Yes, it seems there ought to be some changes made in the arbitration process, but I haven't lost any sleep wondering those changes should be.


19. When Eckstein gets his arm broken, we won't fell sorry for him. I don't have any problem with protective body armour. Anyone who disagrees with me should try standing in a batter's box against some slightly wild 95 mph hurler.


20. Speed vs. OBA for lead-off batters: Yes, I have been a proponent of the latter all my Scoresheet years and long before. It is just pure coincidence that I've always happened to have a Robbie Alomar, Chuck Knoblauch, or Derek Jeter to get things started for me in A.L. Robinson. John Olerud was my lead-off batter most recently in AL Brett. Living by the single, walk, and a homer may be strategically superior, but makes for a more boring game of baseball.


The three run inning might be overrated, too. Sometimes it is more important to generate a single run than to take your riskier chances for a bigger inning. I remember back when I still cared about the Tigers, they had Fielder, Trammell, Whitaker, Phillips, Tettleton, Deer, plus whoever they could find to fill in at center, left, and dh. This was a tremendous OBA and home run line-up, but they still couldn't win, because they lacked the speed to get that run when they needed it most.


21. Walking the eighth hitter to finish the inning against the 9th. Maybe so, I haven't analyzed it.


22. Rating pitchers by their arm speed. I'm not so sure this is overrated. Yes, we've had more success from control pitchers recently than mitt burners. Over the years, however, hard throwers have had long lasting success than finesse pitchers - even though they sometimes end up as finesse pitchers by the end of their career.


23. Uniforms should be uniform: I wouldn't want the Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, or Cardinals to change their home uniforms. Otherwise, I don't care what anyone wears or how many different uniforms they have as long as it looks good. It seems I was the only baseball fan who thought those Astro sunsets were kind of cool. The Mariners had a stunningly handsome away uniform a few years ago. What happened to them?


24. Intentional walks: Tell me Bonds isn't having a major impact on the game. I never recall anyone complain about the intentional walk before - except in regard to the time it takes. It was suggested a couple decades ago that we just give the guy a free pass and dispense with the four pitches. Taking the bat out of the best hitter's hands at the most crucial moments is a legitimate problem. I'd be cautious about such a radical change as increasing the penalty. At least, experiment with it in the minors or elsewhere before adapting it in the majors.


However, maybe the time has come. If all runners advanced a base on any walk, there would be less plate painting, fewer walks, more balls in play, and a much faster game - with less reliance on the homer. What's wrong with that!?!


25. Range and arm vs. positioning and precision for shortstops: OK, I'll go along with this. You can enjoy precision as well as range and arm, but positioning is very subtle. This is another idea which might improve your chances of winning, if you are running a real life baseball team, but will not help much in the battle to win back fans in this computer age.


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