With the institution of the universal DH, MLB has officially killed off National League Baseball. As such, the only real difference between the two leagues is their names. One just happens to be the American League, and the other just happens to be the National. Why are we even bothering anymore?
It’s not like changing up divisions and leagues is unheard of in this sport. Tom Seaver led the Mets to the first ever NL East title in 1969. Prior to that, there were no divisions in either league. Fast forward to 1994, and the Montreal Expos would have won the division led by players like Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, and Pedro Martinez. Of course, that season didn’t reach completion because of the strike.
As a result, the first World Series with a Wild Card in the postseason was won by the Atlanta Braves with Tom Glavine taking home World Series MVP honors. The Braves would win the NL East as part of their journey. An interesting fact here is the Braves won the first ever NL West title, and they actually played the Mets in the inaugural NLCS.
Baseball has moved and changed teams and divisional structures as they have seen fit. When baseball expanded in 1998 to include the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Milwaukee Brewers were moved from the AL Central to the NL Central. In 2013, the Houston Astros, who were an expansion team the same season as the Mets, were switched from the NL Central to the AL West because baseball wanted six five team divisions.
Things change according to the random whims of the commissioner. We see that has happened with the institution of the universal DH, and we are likely going to see it again with MLB trying to increase the amount of postseason teams from the current five per league to seven per league. That is again completely radical, and it cries for the need for another correlative move.
Before delving further, one of the reasons for the push for an expanded postseason is increased revenues. It should also be noted the reason for revenue sharing and compensation systems is to address the (laughable) assertions owning an MLB franchise isn’t profitable and costs need to be reduced. One major cost which can be cut is travel fees.
To do that, you can more geographically align the divisions of baseball like it is done in the NBA and NHL. After all, we see MLB trying to more align their sport like those, so why not take a look at what that would look like:
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Washington Nationals
- Atlanta Braves
- Cincinnati Reds
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Texas Rangers
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Guardians
- Detroit Tigers
- Kansas City Royals
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Minnesota Twins
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Colorado Rockies
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Oakland Athletics
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- Seattle Mariners
Yes, this does call for the inclusion of two expansion teams. Let’s face it. It is well past time for MLB to expand. If the NHL can support 32 teams, MLB certainly can. There are markets in the United States and Canada which have been relatively untapped, and to a certain extent, the minor league retraction has created a void in many communities for baseball. At least geographically, the southeast with cities like Raleigh and Nashville makes sense, but MLB can look elsewhere and align differently if it makes more financial sense.
As for the blowing up of some rivalries, well, that’s a consequence. That said, it wasn’t a concern when the Brewers and Astros changed leagues. There is also the important consideration the geographical rivalries will be off the charts, and there will certainly be the development of new rivalries.
Now, the next step is especially radical, but then again, so was the death of National League baseball. Before delving further, we first need to acknowledge baseball’s crown jewel is the World Series. Baseball needs to do all it can endeavor to create the best possible World Series matchups to generate more fan interest. The best way to do that is to actually set up the best possible match-ups in the World Series.
For that, just eliminate the AL and NL in its entirety. Instead, just have the four divisions. If you want to keep an AL and NL for nostalgia stake and create new names for the other two divisions, fine. That said, the World Series should abandon the concept of the AL against the NL. Instead, it should be the two best postseason teams.
This is where MLB can borrow a bit from the NHL. Since MLB wants an expanded postseason, they can have the top three teams in each division make the postseason. After that, the next eight non-automatic qualifying teams, regardless of division and division rank, can play a one game Wild Card Game to qualify for the Division Series. The World Series will instantly become increasingly more interesting.
The potential match-ups can radically change. For example, one year, the Mets and Cardinals could meet in the World Series, and the next, they could meet in the Championship Series. As a bit of added intrigue, under this format, MLB could get their biggest dream to come true with a Yankees-Red Sox World Series. The ratings and revenues from that may set records never before seen.
Overall, MLB has been forever changed with the death of National League baseball. As a result, instead of trying to hold onto some vestiges of the NL, it is time to just let it go away entirely and focus on what would create the most interesting and exciting baseball. Creating a four league format would be refreshing, and it would create the best possible postseasons. From there, genuine interest (and associated revenues) would grow putting baseball in the best footing it has been in a century.
I had the privilege of appearing on the Simply Amazin’ podcast with the great Tim Ryder. During the podcast, names discussed include but are not limited to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Rick Porcello, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Davis, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Valentine, David Wright, Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, Alex Cora, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, J.T. Realmuto, James Paxton, Trevor Rosenthal, Aaron Loup, Mike Piazza, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Jose Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, James Loney, Moises Alou, John Olerud, Davey Johnson, Pete Alonso, Wilson Ramos, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Corey Oswalt, Luis Rojas, Jeremy Hefner, Jim Eisenreich, Alex Fernandez, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Darryl Strawberry, Albert Almora, and more
Please take a listen.
— Simply Amazin' (@SimplyAmazinPod) February 15, 2021
Today, the Mets are introducing Luis Rojas as the newest manager of the New York Mets. It’s going to be a complete afterthought because it is also the day Eli Manning is formally announcing his retirement.
It is a shame for Rojas, who worked his entire life to reach this point only to have it completely overshadowed by a legend. To a certain extent, being the son of Felipe Alou, the brother of Moises Alou, and the cousin of Mel Rojas, he’s accustomed to it.
The same could be said about Eli. After all, he is the son of Archie Manning and younger brother of Peyton Manning. Eli rose above it and built his own Hall of Fame career, and in what is a historically crowded New York landscape, he is one of the true legends.
Eli arguably is part of the greatest play in NFL history with the “Helmet Catch,” and a few years later, he arguably threw the greatest pass to Manningham. Both took increased importance not just because they happened in the Super Bowl, but also because it took out a Patriots dynasty.
There’s so much more to his great Hall of Fame career, and anything Eli does is automatically the biggest story in New York. In fact, it’s even bigger news right now than Derek Jeter being voted into the Hall of Fame.
This day and his level of fame and accompanying adoration may not have been contemplated when Eli was a kid or even when he was the first overall pick in the draft. And yet, today he outshines them all.
That’s certainly instructive for Rojas. The Mets might’ve overlooked him when they hired Carlos Beltran. Everyone is going to overlook him today.
But make no mistake, if Rojas is a big winner in New York, he’s going to be a legend, and no one will be overlooking him no matter how crowded the New York landscape is.
Today is about Eli, and he both deserves this day and the adoration of Giants fans. Tomorrow and the next is up for grabs. For the Mets sake, let’s hope Rojas inserts himself into the discussion and is one day overshadowing a future New York great.
Rojas has been a minor league manager in the Mets system for seven years, and he was the quality control manager this past season. He has the respect of everyone in the organization, the deepest of roots in the game, and he has had a hand in the success of the core of this Mets roster.
He’s also managed prospects like Andres Gimenez who could debut this upcoming season. Overall, this speaks not just to Rojas’ knowledge of the personnel, but also his ability to get the most out of these players.
This is why it’s being widely reported this is a very popular hire in the Mets clubhouse. It should be a popular hire with everyone.
This is a manager from the Alou family tree. That’s important with his father Felipe Alou being a longtime manager, and his brother, Moises Alou, having played for the Mets. With them, he not only had someone to lean on in terms of managing a team, but also, on the unique challenges of New York. Of course, Rojas can lean on his own experiences for that as well.
As the Quality Control Coach, he’s well versed in analytics, and he’s had communication with the front office about using them, and also, what the front office expectations are. He’s also spent the past year further developing and strengthening relations with everyone in the clubhouse, and really, the entire organization.
Lost in the shuffle last year was Rojas working with McNeil to become an everyday outfielder. In 2019, McNeil was an All-Star, and he had a 2 DRS in the outfield.
When you break it down, this is a hard working individual who is able to get the most out of the players on this team. With his being bilingual, he can talk baseball in any language. No matter what angle you look at this from, Rojas was the perfect hire for this team. That goes double when you consider he’s one of the few holdovers from Callaway’s staff at a time the Mets desperately need some continuity.
Overall, the Mets took a terrible situation, and they made the most of it hiring the person who very likely should have been hired in November. Rojas is the best man for this job, and the 2020 Mets will be better for having him at the helm.
In the very near future, the New York Mets will be meeting to discuss whether Mickey Callaway will return as the manager in 2020. There are reasons to both keep and fire Callaway, and in making the decision, the Mets will need to determine who is the best person to lead the Mets to their first World Series since 1986.
Like any other decision, there needs to be a balance of the present and the future. Both considerations should include what to do with Luis Rojas.
The Mets thought so much of Rojas they promoted him from the team’s Double-A manager to their Quality Control Coach. He was more than that. He also served a role working with the outfielders. Of note, he helped Jeff McNeil get up to speed in the outfield during Spring Training. During the year, McNeil would have a 2 DRS in 671.0 innings split between right and left.
Rojas’ working with McNeil is not the only impact he has had on this current club. As noted, he was previously a minor league manager. As a result, Rojas has had a hand in the development of many of the players on the Mets roster including Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith. When you have that type of an impact, it is no wonder the Mets see him as a potential future manager.
In fact, as Mike Puma of the New York Post noted, the team views Rojas as a “rising star.”
The question is whether the team views the 38 year old as ready to assume control of the team. While he has managed many of the players on the team, he would have to also be managing players who are, in terms of age, peers to him. These players include Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos.
While it is fair to say he’s not ready from that standpoint, the Mets have to determine if they want to give him the role before he is not yet ready and have him grow into the role, or if they are willing to lose him.
At the moment, we do not know if any of the teams looking to hire a manager would have an interest in Rojas. The chances are they don’t. However, they may look to him as an option to join their new coaching staff. On that note, the San Diego Padres are interested in hiring Moises Alou as their manager. If Alou were to get the job, you do wonder if he would want his brother who is very good at working with young players and has a sharp analytical mind on his own coaching staff.
Really, when you look at it that way, you wonder why the Mets wouldn’t want that themselves. On the front, if they are truly grooming Rojas to be the next manager, they should be taking a proactive step in that direction. What that step is anyone’s guess.
On the front, the minimum the Mets should be considering is moving him up the ladder to be the Mets next bench coach replacing Jim Riggleman, who did not appear to have any real impact this year. If nothing else, Rojas on the bench would prepare him all the more to be the Mets next manager. In fact, you could argue that is what the Mets should do.
The Mets could keep Callaway and have Rojas waiting to take over for him. If nothing else, this would further prepare Rojas to be the manager the Mets want him to be. It would also prevent them from hiring another novice who could potentially hire the next Callaway.
In the end, no matter what the Mets do, they should be making a decision from the perspective of what they want to do with Rojas more than what they want to do with Callaway.
On the one hand, the Mets took two out of three, which is a good result against the Nationals as they push for a Wild Card. On the other hand, there was an absolutely brutal loss in that mix making this result feel worse than anticipated:
1. It is high time Mickey Callaway gets credit for keeping this team together. There have been a number of absolutely brutal losses and each time the team picks itself up and surprises us. There are a number of things you can point to that you don’t like with Callaway. However, the way he manages that clubhouse appears to be truly special.
2. Getting back to that bullpen meltdown, that was arguably the worst regular season loss between games 1 – 161 in team history. The least said about it the better. Honestly, if you want to dwell on it, you can go here or here, but there needs to be no more focus on that.
3. Robinson Cano showed no ill effects of the hamstring going 3-for-4 with a walk, homer, and two RBI. The Mets need him to be just like this, which coincidentally is just how Moises Alou was in 2007.
4. Just to outline the job Brodie Van Wagenen did this past offseason, Edwin Diaz has allowed more homers (13) than Cano has hit this year (11).
5. On that front, the Mets have still gotten nothing from Jed Lowrie, who has requested to continue his rehab assignment, one which has not gone well at all. After playing seven innings in the field on August 31, he has DHed twice, had a day off, and played just five innings in the field. This is shaping up to be one of the worst signings in Mets history.
6. Brandon Nimmo is not only back, but he is in mid-season form drawing six walks in 12 plate appearances. He also has a double and a homer. This is exactly what he did last year when he was the second best hitter in the National League. It may be time to put him back atop the lineup.
8. Pete Alonso‘s 45 homers are the most in a player’s first season. Of note, Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge had cups of coffee previous to their full first season. On the subject of Alonso and Judge, Alonso is on pace to tie his 52 homer mark.
9. There were two completely shocking things from Juan Lagares yesterday – an error and a homer to dead center.
11. After struggling since his return from the IL, Jeff McNeil has been himself again going 5-f0r-14 in the series with two homers and seven RBI.
12. There is something special when you watch a player like Zack Wheeler struggle so much on the mound only to allow one run over five innings. The way he fought when the Mets needed him to fight like that to get the team back on the winning track.
13. Jeurys Familia has been horrible his past two outings presenting what is probably the low point of his season, which is truly saying something. The only thing worse than Familia is the Mets other right-handed relief options not named Seth Lugo in the bullpen.
14. Lugo continues to be great, and he bailed the Mets out by going two innings a game after he pitched. It’s scary to think where this team would be without him.
15. At the moment, Lugo, Justin Wilson, and Luis Avilan are about the only reliable arms in the bullpen. In terms of Lugo and Wilson, they both have elbow issues, and the Mets need to be careful with them. In case there is a postseason, they need to keep them fresh. They also need to keep them healthy for 2020.
16. We see Asdrubal Cabrera still has that clutch gene going 4-f0r-12 in this series with a double, homer, and four RBI. The Mets did well getting Joe Panik, but you wonder how things would have been different had Van Wagenen not decided to sign his own former client who has not played a game this year.
17. Mets are 10 games over .500 at home, and 17 of their final 23 games are at home. Their six road games come against the Rockies and Reds. Looking at this schedule, there is the potential for a lot of wins on the schedule.
18. In order for the Mets to get into the postseason, they are going to have to have no more missteps, and they are going to have to beat the Dodgers and Braves at home. Keep in mind, if the Mets do have the luck to make it to the postseason, they are going to have to do this in October as well.
19. Robert Gsellman is trying to get back this year from a torn lat by throwing yesterday. With no real opportunity for a rehab assignment, you do have to wonder just how much of a chance he is going to get to come back. That said, given the state of the bullpen, you might as well throw him out there when he’s finally ready.
20. All told, somehow the Mets are still alive even with the chances being fleeting. Lets just enjoy this ride for as long as it lasts, and who knows, maybe they will pull it out.
When Jim Riggleman was hired as the bench coach this past offseason, the running joke was the Mets hired their interim manager. With the Mets faltering, Mickey Callaway‘s seat grows hotter by the day, and it would appear this is less of a joke than it is becoming a reality. Or is it?
Not only is Rojas a rising star, baseball runs through his veins. From the moment he was born, baseball encapsulated his entire life. This is the way things are when you grow up in country like the Dominican Republic. It’s also that way when your father is famed player and manager Felipe Alou, and your brother is Moises Alou. Taking a look at the bloodlines, you could almost see being a Major League manager as Rojas’ destiny.
For his part, Rojas believed this upbringing has influenced not just his career choice but also his views. Rojas would tell Anthony Dicomo of MLB.com, “Growing up in that environment was very impactful, very influential in my baseball growth. Just being born in a baseball atmosphere, right away opening my eyes on baseball from the beginning of my understanding was just really helpful. Right away, I wanted to follow my brothers’ steps. I wanted to follow the family’s steps.”
Obviously, Rojas was never the baseball player he brother was. From 1999 – 2005, he was a part of the Orioles, Marlins, and eventually Expos farm systems. He’d play 37 games for the Expos Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2004 hitting .240/.315/.352. Two years later, Rojas would begin his managerial career for the Expos Dominican Summer League team.
After that one season, the Mets jumped on Rojas, and they made him their DSL Manager for one season. The team then brought him stateside to serve as a coach for two years in the Gulf Coast League. Finally, in 2011, at the age of 29, Rojas would be named the manager of that same affiliate. From that point until this year, Rojas has been a manager in the Mets farm system.
During his time as a manager in the Mets system, he has managed a number of Mets prospects including current Mets Pete Alonso, Tyler Bashlor, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Drew Gagnon, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, and Daniel Zamora. Put another way, Rojas has helped develop the current Mets core become not just Major League players, but in some instances, All-Star caliber players.
He’s certainly left an impression on each of these players. When hired, Alonso shared a story about Rojas’ enthusiasm for his players saying, “He was jumping up and down, arms waving in the air. I honestly think Luis was happier than [Nick Sergakis].”
But it’s more than enthusiasm and relationships, Rojas can coach. It’s one of the reasons why the Mets see him as a rising star and why they were so enthusiastic to name him the team’s first ever quality control coach. In addition to those duties, he is also the team’s outfield coach.
We are seeing his impact as an outfield coach right now. Entering this season, McNeil had played all of 26.1 innings in left field over a six year span. It was up to Rojas to get McNeil up to speed. As he explained, Rojas’ plan was to begin “with the basics: pre-pitch, stance, route, reads off the bat and we progress into other things that we are taking here into camp and then some of the drills that we bring in with some of the outfielders.” (NY Post).
With Rojas coaching McNeil, McNeil has quickly become good in the outfield with a 2 DRS, which is sixth best in the league. It’s also important to note when Conforto was drafted, the knock on him was his defense. He worked with Rojas on his defense, and he has been really good out there. Now that he’s reunited with Rojas, Conforto has a 3 DRS which is good for sixth best in the majors.Credit is due to the players, but they got to that point because they are working with an excellent coach.
Rojas is not just a coach who is able to connect with this players, he is also comfortable not just with analyzing advanced data, but also putting it in terms which are useful to the players. As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, it is Rojas’ responsibility to streamline the data to the players.
While comparisons of this nature tend to be unfairly lofty, in some ways Rojas does remind you of Alex Cora. Rojas has shown the ability to understand not just the fundamental aspects of the game, but he is also well versed and comfortable handling analytical data. He is an excellent communicator and coach. He loves the game, and he loves his players.
Whenever the time comes, Rojas should prove to be a good manager for the Mets. He is everything an organization and its players want in a manager. Being the communicator he is, he should also be able to handle the press well. Hopefully, another team doesn’t realize what the Mets have in Rojas and grab him before the time the Mets have a chance to elevate him into the manager’s role he was destined to be seemingly since the day he was born.
In the offseason, the Mets traded over five prospects. Why? They were all-in.
The Mets opted to forego a year of control over Pete Alonso by having him start the year on the Opening Day roster. Why? The Mets we’re all-in.
The Mets opted to go with just four MLB caliber starting pitchers in their organization because that’s apparently being all-in as well.
On the bright side Flexen was throwing 96 MPH. On the downside was everything else.
Flexen got through the first unscathed, but the wheels would come off starting with a Wilson Ramos passed ball allowing Jose Martinez to score. During that at-bat, Miles Mikolas would deliver with a two RBI single giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
That was it. Game over.
Mikolas was cruising, and one pitcher after another couldn’t get out of their own way. Here are their disappointing but not unexpected final lines:
- Chris Flexen 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
- Luis Avilan 1.1 IP, H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 2 K
- Jacob Rhame 1.1 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 0 K
- Paul Sewald 1.0 IP, H, R, ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Against a team the Mets are likely going to fight for a Wild Card spot, the Mets threw Flexen, Avilan, Rhame, and Sewald. They did it because they came into the season with no depth, and by mid-April, it’s already become an issue.
We also the Mets play continued shoddy defense. We also saw their offense begin to regress to the mean meaning it wasn’t there this time to bail out the pitching or defense.
Other fun notes include the Mets opting not to have deGrom undergo an MRI despite him having an elbow injury significant enough to put him on the IL. Alonso was hit on the hand with x-rays fortunately being negative.
Mostly, the Mets have been outscored by 17 runs this year, and they’ve allowed over 10 runs five times. It’s still early, but we’re starting to see very real problems with this team, and the way Van Wagenen built it, you legitimately have to ask how fixable they are.
The Veteran’s Committee, which has been re-branded as the Today’s Game Era Committee, somehow elected former commissioner Bud Selig into the Baseball Hall of Fame. With that, Selig becomes one of the worst choices for the Hall of Fame in baseball history.
Sure, his proponents will point to his achievements. Under Selig, we got the Wild Card and Interleague play, which arguably helped baseball achieve higher ratings and revenues. Furthermore, Selig was in charge when MLB Advanced Media (MLB AM) was established. The establishment of the internet media company was visionary and has provided a huge boost to MLB. Under Selig’s stewardship, we have seen labor peace for the first time and incrementally improving steroid testing. These are all achievements to be sure, but they overshadow what has been a largely negative tenure in baseball for Selig.
Selig first became an owner in 1970 when he purchased the Seattle Pilots, and he moved them to Milwaukee after the Pilots inaugural season. Selig was then one of the owners who colluded in the 1980s to suppress players salary and movement between teams. At this time, future Hall of Famers like Carlton Fisk, Phil Niekro, and Andre Dawson were having a difficult time just getting a free agent offer. This was a pattern that continued throughout the decade, and eventually, it led to union filing grievances against the owners. Eventually, this led to owners having to agree to a $280 million settlement to the MLBPA.
It has been alleged Selig was one of the leaders of the owner’s collusion to improperly restrict player movement and to suppress player salaries. It just so happens that a small market team like the Brewers were beneficiaries of the policy with the team being able to hold onto future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount for much longer than they probably would have had the system not been improperly rigged. This collusion set the stage for the disastrous 1994 player strike.
Ascension to Power
As Commissioner, Fay Vincent would make two “mistakes” that would lead to the end of his tenure. The first was he treated players like an equal part in the business of baseball. The second was he chastised the owners for collusion saying, “The single biggest reality you guys have to face up to is collusion. You stole $280 million from the players, and the players are unified to a man around that issue, because you got caught and many of you are still involved.” (metsmerizedonline.com).
This along with many other reasons designed to help his franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers, was a catalyst for Selig organizing the owners to remove Vincent from power. Ultimately, the owners made an 18-9 no confidence vote, and a humiliated Vincent would resign from his office. This led to Selig’s rise to power.
Cancellation of the 1994 World Series
One of the singular owners responsible for collusion and the deep distrust between the players and owners was now in charge of baseball. With his newfound power, he wanted to usher in a complete change in economics and relationship with the players. In effect, he wanted to normalize the collusion practices of the 1980s by trying to impose a hard cap on the players. He and the owners tried this despite having full knowledge this was a non-starter for a union the owners never broke in negotiations.
The method Selig sought to try to break the union was to wrongfully withhold a payment to the players’ pension and benefits plan. This singular action was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and it all but forced the union to set a strike date. After the strike was in effect, and after mediation proved ineffective, Selig, as acting commissioner, set forth a deadline of September 9th. If there was no deal in place, the baseball season would be over.
On September 8th, the players set forth a deal with some concessions. However it should be noted those concessions fell far short of all the demands of the owners, including but not limited to a salary cap. The owners never presented a counter-offer. Rather, on September 14th, the World Series was officially cancelled despite there presumably being sufficient time left on the calendar to get a deal done and have a postseason.
Unfair Labor Practices
With the strike dragging on and there being no hopes of new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the owners, led by their acting commissioner, Selig, enacted the salary cap they wanted in the first place. Undaunted, the owners announced a plan to go forward with the 1995 season using replacement players if the major league players on strike could not capitulate to the new labor rules the owners were trying to force upon them. Like with owner’s collusion attempts, this would have near disastrous consequences.
First, the issue of the owners colluding once again went before an arbitrator. The arbitrator found in favor of the players to the tune of $10 million. Next, Congress nearly revoked baseball’s anti-trust exemption. Lastly, the owners were found to have committed unfair labor practices. As a result, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction against the owner’s improper salary cap, and ordered that the players could return to work under the guise of the recently expired collective bargaining agreement.
In effect, the owner’s action, under the guidance of Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, led to the loss of the World Series and $10 million dollars. Moreover, it led to fan anger, and it deeply hurt some franchises. For all of that, the owners accomplished nothing.
Death of Baseball in Montreal and Municipally Funded Ballparks
At the time of the strike, the Expos were the best team in baseball with a 74-40 record. It looked like the beginning of a promising run for the Expos because not only did they have the lowest payroll in the majors, they had some exciting young stars in Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, and John Wetteland. For a Canadian franchise that just saw its fellow Canadian franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays, win back-to-back World Series, it appeared as if it was finally the Expos turn.
It would never happen.
After the costly strike, the Expos were forced to trade away almost all of its players. As the Expos owners at the time put it, they could not afford to keep the team together, especially without the revenues that could’ve been generated by a long postseason run. Between the anger with the strike and with the Expos getting rid of all their best players, there simply was no reason for fans to come to the ballpark anymore. Ultimately, the Expos attendance figures would continuously decline until they actually drew under one million people in 1998.
The declining attendance figures helped Selig come up with his next ploy that would not only help the Brewers, but would also anger fans in other cities – contraction. In the 2001 offseason, the owners voted to have the ability to contract as many as two major league franchises. The teams cited for contraction were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos, and Minnesota Twins. Effectively, this created a game of musical chairs and the ability to help coerce cities to fund ballparks.
First, the Marlins owners were part of a group of owners that purchased the Boston Red Sox. With the Marlins needing ownership, the Jeffrey Loria, a man who had claimed almost full ownership of the Expos, was then approved as the purchaser of the Florida Marlins. With an ownership void, baseball took the unprecedented act of purchasing the Expos.
It should be noted smaller market clubs like the Pirates and the Brewers were not among those mentioned in contraction talks despite their claims of their operating in the red. The main reason is those cities had already agreed to build those teams a new ballpark. Eventually, the cities of Minneapolis and Miami would agree to financially support owners to build a new ballpark. With the hopes of building a new ballpark in Montreal dashed, baseball eventually moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. who had agreed to take on the funding of a new ballpark for the team.
Between the strike and contraction threats, Selig helped kill baseball in Montreal. He did it as part of his mission to get municipalities to fund and build ballparks for teams. Overall, he has been largely successful on that front, but there are still issues in Tampa (lease) and Oakland.
As an aside, it should be noted that the Expos were one of the few teams to lose a superstar during the collusion practices of the 1980s. Basically, the practices Selig either led or helped promote had an enduring effect of harming baseball in Montreal.
The Oakland Athletics Limbo
O.co Coliseum is largely seen as an antiquated ballpark. Moreover, it is widely assumed the Athletics need to build a new ballpark to help create new revenue streams in order to be able to compete financially. Many assume the Athletics need to move out of Oakland in order to get the type of ballpark and market needed to compete. On both fronts, the Athletics found a willing partner with the City of San Jose.
There is just on problem – the San Francisco Giants have the rights to that city. Under somewhat antiquated rules, the San Francisco Giants have the rights to San Jose meaning only the Giants have the right to move there. This decision was in place despite the cities of San Francisco and Oakland being part of the larger metropolitan area known as the Bay Area. Notably, San Jose is also part of that area.
To put things in perspective, the distance between the two ballparks is 15.3 miles. Citi Field and Yankee Stadium are similarly apart in that the two ballparks are 9.7 miles apart. Similar to Oakland and San Francisco, you need either use public transportation or cross a bridge to get to the other ballpark. Keeping those distances in mind, the Giants having control over San Jose would be like the Yankees having control over Northern New Jersey, thereby preventing the Mets from building a ballpark in the Meadowlands next to Metropolitan Stadium even though the team is moving within the same metropolitan area.
Note, this could never happen because the Mets and Yankees do not have separate territorial rights. Yet, somehow the Giants and Athletics do, and with baseball’s anti-trust exemption, the Athletics franchise has been in limbo.
Despite the limbo, the declining revenues, and attendance, Selig refused to help address the issue despite San Jose’s pleas. Selig had an opportunity to show leadership, and help all of the major league franchises. Instead, he demurred while bemoaning how the Athletics current situation is irreconcilable. With Selig’s retirement, he has left the mess for the new commissioner, Bob Manfred.
The Steroids Era
To say baseball didn’t benefit from the Steroids Era would be a lie. Back in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing down Roger Maris‘ single season home run record, and fans angered at the strike were coming back to the game. At the time, Selig would say, “This is a renaissance.” (Howard Bryant, ESPN.com).
However, to hear Selig tell it now, he tried to get to the bottom of what was happening. As he recently told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, “They gave me a whole bunch of reasons. And I kept asking about steroids.” Selig would go on to say in the interview, “You know, I’ve thought about it a hundred times, because I’m pretty tough on myself. And I honestly don’t know what else I could have done. That’s my answer.”
Now, to be fair to Selig, as the commissioner, he could not unilaterally impose sanctions on players who used steroids. Additionally, he could not impose testing. It should also be noted Selig did have broad discretion to do this with the minor leagues, and he did in fact do it. To that end, he does deserve some credit.
With that said, it is noticeable Selig did not use his pulpit as commissioner to try to impose steroids testing or suspensions. As seen above, when it came to the financial aspect of baseball, Selig tried to obtain unprecedented power. In the wake of the costly collusion lawsuit, he helped oust a sitting commissioner to become an acting commissioner. During the 1994 strike, he led the owners in the implementation of a salary cap. When it came to helping owners and getting new ballparks, he got the approval from the owners to contract two major league franchises. However, suddenly, with steroids, Selig was not only silent, he has also acted as someone who had little power to address the issue.
Fact is Selig didn’t address the issue because there were growing attendance and revenues stemming from the Steroids Era. It helped heal some of the wounds of the strike, and it led to larger and larger television contracts. At best, Selig turned a blind eye to steroids use because it was helping the game. At worst, he was a willing participant who cared not for the sanctity of baseball’s sacred records.
Whatever you believe, the Steroids Era is an indelible part of his history. And yet, with his induction into the Hall of Fame, he now appears to be the only person untainted by the era.
Yes, it is a different panel of voters that voted for Selig than had the opportunity to vote for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. However, it should be noted that this same panel had the opportunity to elect McGwire into the Hall of Fame as the same time as Selig, and yet, McGwire fell far short of the votes needed for induction to the Hall of Fame. This seems odd, especially when you consider the Mitchell Report, which was commissioned by Selig, found Selig partially culpable for the Steroids Era:
Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades – Commissioners, club officials, the Players
Association, and players – shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era. There
was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a
result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.
Mitchell Report, p. SR-36.
Despite the Mitchell Report, the Hall of Fame has decided to take two very separate and distinct stances on McGwire. With respect to the steroids usage, the Hall of Fame is now asserting that any player who benefited from the use of steroids should be barred from the Hall of Fame. However, any executive or owner who not only shared the benefits of McGwire’s steroids use, but also helped promote a culture of steroids use across baseball could reap the benefits thereof. Overall, the Hall of Fame has decided that Selig can benefit from the wrong actions of players he did little to nothing to stop. It is really difficult to make sense of two very different positions.
No matter how you look at it, Selig’s enduring legacy is going to be: (1) he was the commissioner who cancelled a World Series; (2) he was the commissioner that presided over the Steroids Era; and (3) he is the commissioner that introduce Interleague Play and the Wild Card.
As seen above, Selig’s is a complicated legacy, and that is before you get into relatively minor decisions like not letting the New York Mets wear the first responder’s caps on 9/11 to honor those people who died during the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil, forcing the McCourts to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, or his empowering the Wilpons to continue ownership of the Mets despite their financial difficulties resulting from the Madoff Scandal.
Maybe it is too soon to judge Selig’s overall legacy. On the positive, he has grown the sport financially, and he has introduced some aspects to the game that are currently seen as positives. No one should overlook those accomplishments.
However, Selig was an owner who helped build distrust between the owners and players than helped create the 1994 strike and the cancellation of the World Series. His actions and inactions as commissioner caused him to be called before a Congress who continuously threatened to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption. Selig presided over the end of baseball in Montreal, and he also has helped put the Athletics in limbo. He has twice been a part of the sport being embarrassed with the owners twice being found to have committed unfair labor practices. The actions cost the owners nearly $300 million not including whatever revenues were lost during the 1994 season.
Overall, it is fair to say Selig’s has damaged baseball as both an owner and a commissioner. At a minimum, his negatives should have called for more time to judge his legacy. Instead, we now have someone in the Hall of Fame who:
- Helped collude to restrict player movement and salaries;
- Helped facilitate the 1994 strike;
- Cancelled the World Series;
- Was part of a collection of owners twice found to have committed unfair labor practices;
- Oversaw the end of baseball in Montreal; and
- Was partially culpable for the Steroids Era.
It is hard to find a person in baseball who has had as negative an effect upon the game of baseball. However, all of this was overlooked, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame presumably because he made a lot of decision makers a lot of money.
When your team is not in the World Series, the one thing you really want is a memorable World Series. Even if a team you hates wins the World Series, you want to be rewarded for the time you invest watching the World Series. In my lifetime, here are some of the World Series I found to be absolutely riveting:
1991 World Series
As for as World Series go, this one could very well be the gold standard. Five of the seven games were decided by one run. Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7. With Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Kevin Tapani, and of course Jack Morris, there was great pitching that led to tense innings and rallies. In six of the seven games, both teams scored five runs or less. However, what truly made this series great was two all time games to close out the series.
In Game 6, Kirby Puckett put the Twins on his back. He made that leaping catch snatching Ron Gant‘s home run from clearing that plexiglass, and then he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning that included a classic call:
Then in Game 7, Morris went the distance in a 1-0 10 inning game that featured rookie Chuck Knoblauch deking 13 year veteran Lonnie Smith from scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning that probably would have been the game winner. Then in the 10th inning Gene Larkin became the unlikeliest of heroes by getting the World Series walk-off single.
1993 World Series
Generally speaking, this would have been an average World Series as most six game World Series are. However, there was a lot in this World Series.
Lenny Dykstra turned into Babe Ruth during the series. Roberto Alomar hit .480 in the series, and he wasn’t even the best hitter. That honor goes to Paul Molitor who hit .500 in the series. Game 4 saw the Blue Jays mount a frantic eighth inning come from behind rally to win by a score of 15-14. And as if this wasn’t enough, in Game 6 Joe Carter did something only Bill Mazeroski had done:
1997 World Series
This series wasn’t particularly memorable despite a couple of slugfests in Games 3 and 5. No, what made this series was an epic Game 7. The Indians were seeking to win their first World Series since 1948. They had their closer Jose Mesa on the mound and a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Marlins first scratched in a run in the bottom of the ninth with a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly scoring Moises Alou. The Marlins started the game winning rally in the bottom of the 11th with a Bobby Bonillia single off Charles Nagy. Eventually, the Marlins loaded the bases with one out. Devon White, who won the World Series with the aforementioned Blue Jays, grounded into a force play with Tony Fernandez nailing Bonilla at the plate. Then with two outs, rookie Edgar Renteria singled home Counsell to win the World Series.
Note, this would’ve been rated much higher if not for the MVP mysteriously being given to Livan Hernandez (5.27 ERA) over Alou, and for Bonilla having such a huge Game 7.
2001 World Series
This World Series had it all. Curt Schilling did the old fashioned 1-4-7 you want your ace to do in the biggest series of the year. Randy Johnson was better than that shutting out the Yankees in Game 2, shutting them down in Game 6, and pitching on no days rest to keep the Yankees at bay in Game 7.
Game 7 was an epic back-and-forth matchup. Alfonso Soriano broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth to set the stage for the great Mariano Rivera who is the greatest postseaon closer, if not pitcher, of all time. This would be the one World Series blown save in his career. He was uncharacteristically frazzled making an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Still, he recovered, and the Yankees got the forceout at third on the next bunt attempt. Tony Womack would then shock everyone by hitting a game tying double. After Counsell (him again) was hit by a pitch, Luis Gonzalez would bloop a walk-off World Series winning single over the head of Derek Jeter.
However, that World Series was not memorable for Game 7. It was memorable because those games were played post-9/11, and they were memorable due to what happened at Yankee Stadium. Before Game 3, President Bush threw a curveball for a strike off the mound before a hard fought Yankees win. In Game 4, the Yankees were on the verge of falling behind 3-1 in the series before Tino Martinez hit an improbably two out home run off Byung-hyun Kim to tie the game, and Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th to become “Mr. November.” In Game 5, the Yankees were again down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Scott Brosius who did the impossible hitting a game tying two run home run to send the game into extras with Soriano getting the walk-off hit in the 12th.
Overall, baseball does not get better than that three game set in the Bronx, especially in the backdrop those games were played.
2002 World Series
That Rally Monkey was all the more prevalent in Game 6. In that game, Baker made the fateful decision to lift Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead, two on, and one out in the seventh inning. Scott Spiezio greeted Felix Rodriguez with a three run homer. Darin Erstad then led off the seventh inning with a solo shot off Todd Worrell. Worrell made matters worse by allowing back-to-back singles thereby putting closer Robb Nen in a precarious situation. Nen would allow a go-ahead two run double to World Series MVP Troy Glaus giving the Angels a 6-5 win. In Game 7, rookie John Lackey took care of business and shut down a Giants team that should have won the World Series in Game 6.
2011 World Series
For the most part, this was a well played if not memorable World Series through the first five games. In the seventh inning, Adrian Beltre broke a 4-4 tie that sparked a three run inning that seemingly was going to deliver the first ever World Series title to the Rangers franchise. The World Series title was going to be even sweeter for a Rangers team that had their doors blown off in the 2010 World Series.
In the eighth, Allen Craig hit a solo shot to draw the Cardinals within two. There was still a large enough lead for the excellent Rangers closer, Neftali Feliz to put the game to rest. The game was there to win even after a Albert Pujols double and a Lance Berkman walk. Then with two outs, David Freese unleashed a two RBI game tying double to keep the World Series alive. If that wasn’t painful enough, the Rangers were in for more pain.
Josh Hamilton would hit a two run homer in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers the lead. At this point, victory was almost assured. The Cardinals were undeterred putting the first two on against Darren Oliver. After a sacrifice bunt, Ryan Theriot plated a run with an RBI groundout, and Berkman brought home the tying run with an RBI single.
The Rangers would have no response in either Game 6 or Game 7. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese, the World Series MVP, would hit a walk-off home run that not only sealed Game 6, but also demoralized a Rangers team heading into Game 7.
2014 World Series
Of note, five of the first six games were terrible. Absolutely terrible. Through the first six games, the average margin of victory was six runs per game, and that includes a one run game in Game 3. Taking aside Game 3, the average margin of victory was seven runs per game. This is really the type of series you expect with some truly terrible starting pitching on both sides. In fact, the only starter who was actually good was Madison Bumgarner.
That’s an understatement. Bumgarner made Morris look like a Little Leaguer with his World Series performance. In his World Series MVP performance, he appeared in three games going 2-0 with one save, a 0.43 ERA and a 0.476 WHIP. He came out of the bullpen in the fifth inning in Game 7 with the Giants having a 3-2 lead. Watching him pitch on two days rest, you kept waiting for him to falter, and then this happened:
Alex Gordon‘s two out single almost became a Little League home run with Gregor Blanco letting the ball bounce past him and Juan Perez nearly booting the ball away. The debate would rage for days as to whether he should have gone home (he shouldn’t have) with Bumgarner being Bumgarner. Those that believed he should have gone only intensified their arguments when Salvador Perez fouled out to Pablo Sandoval to end the World Series.
2017 World Series
There is enough here for a classic World Series with two great teams, and two great storylines. Honestly, the Indians fans deserve this more as they are far more tortured than the Cubs fan. Ideally, this series goes seven with the Indians pulling it out in classic fashion. Hopefully, a majority of the games are close. No matter what happens, all we need is one or two games or moments to make this a series for the ages. That’s all we can realistically hope to get.
Things are already off to a good start with Dexter Fowler being the first ever black man to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.