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Tuesday, August 23, 2005


What Exactly Does This Guy Want?

At a time when baseball pundits seem to have lost their zeal for publishing wrongheaded baseball opinion pieces, Mike Celizic thankfully summoned all the power of his jaunty fedora to make one of the most idiotic arguments about this year's playoff races. The article's title?

"Baseball's stretch run is going to be boring"

You are truly a poet for the ages, Mike Celizic.

He begins:

"If it weren’t for those damn Yankees, this would be a pretty good stretch run for Major League Baseball. A neck-and-neck battle in the AL West, a jam-packed NL East, scads of teams fighting for the wild cards, with no real favorite.

Instead, I find myself looking at the standings and the teams at the top of the eight playoff races and thinking that there isn’t a great team among them and hoping that no one asks me for a World Series pick, because there just isn’t a clear-cut favorite."

Umm, what? Let me see if I have this right. The playoffs are going to be boring for these three reasons.

1) There are too many teams with a shot at the playoffs (currently about 16).
2) The winner of the World Series is not a foregone conclusion.
3) The Yankees, a team that has made the playoffs for the last 10 seasons, might not make it, even though they are in a three way tie for the AL wild card.

Isn't this the opposite of a boring stretch run? Or does boring mean that over half the teams in the major leagues are going to be busting their asses for the next 50 games to make it to the playoffs, where literally any of them can win?

"I could say the Cardinals [are the favorite], but they have some serious injury issues, and the memory of their collapse in last year’s World Series is too fresh to think of them as prohibitive favorites."

As opposed to the Yankees? Didn't they have something of a collapse last year? It was so long ago I can barely remember!

"There are the White Sox, but this is a team that just showed it can go a week without winning...Besides, they’re the White Sox, who haven’t won a World Series since 1917, and when you’ve gone that long without a title, you can’t be a favorite to win any tournament."

First of all, the length of time since a team's last championship has no bearing on their chances this year. Secondly, isn't this article about why the stretch run is going to be boring? Wouldn't a team with a chance of winning their first title in 88 years make their run less boring? Have I forgotten what boring means?

"Even the wild-card race is tainted by the Yankees. They’re not supposed to be fighting to just slip into the playoffs. And they’re definitely not supposed to be worried about being passed by Oakland and Cleveland.

It’s guilt by association. If the Yankees aren’t great, then nobody else can be, either."

I think I just swallowed my tongue. I am deadly serious when I ask: how can a journalist seriously make this claim and not immediately be fired?

"Baseball is moving in the same direction [as the NFL], the dampers on team payrolls and the additional two playoff spots slowly leveling the playing field and bringing more teams into contention."

The New York Yankees set a record this year with a payroll in excess of 200 million dollars. Only two other teams have payrolls over 100 million dollars. More than half of all baseball teams have payrolls less than 70 million dollars.

"We’ve become so used to having the Yankees as baseball’s all-powerful monster that it’s hard to think of the regular season as a fair fight. Instead of appreciating what we have, we’re consumed by what we don’t have. And we keep imagining that the real Yankees — like the real Mike Tyson — will suddenly emerge and give us the thrill of the massacre again."

Wouldn't most people (and I include many Yankee fans I know in this group) argue that when one team is allowed to spend three times more than most of the other teams in the league, it makes the game less interesting? Yes, it is fun when David beats Goliath, but only because Goliath has spent the better part of a decade kicking David's ass and signing every awesome free agent. And that is not fun to watch.

"Would the Red Sox’s victory last year have been as sweet and memorable if they had not had to go through the Yanks? Would the Angels’ first world title? Would Arizona and Florida have celebrated with the same gusto if they had beaten Cleveland instead of New York."

1) Yes. 2) Yes. 3) Yes (even though there was no question mark at the end of that question).

You could make a case that the Sox title would have been less awesome if they hadn't beat the Yankees, but I think that's only because of the circumstances of their historic comeback in that series. If they had swept the Yanks or beat the Twins in 5, I'm still pretty sure Boston fans would have lost their shit just as hard when they won it all.

"It’s possible that my view of things is warped by being too close to the gravitational field of Yankee Stadium."

It's either that or the fedora. Your guess is as good as mine.

"Elsewhere in America, baseball fans may well be consumed by what their teams might accomplish rather than by what the Yankees might not."

I don't know. I know a lot of Phillies fans who have barely noticed that they're currently in the middle of a dogfight for the NL Wild Card because they just can't take their eyes off this past Yanks-Jays series.

"They’re not a good team anymore, and still they dominate the way we view 30 teams and six months of competition. These are good races we’re watching. But without the damn Yankees leading the way, it’s hard to see them that way. If the Yankees aren’t great, nobody’s great."

I'm going to dispense with the sarcasm and vitriol here for a second, if I may, and make this heartfelt and sincere entreaty to Mike Celizic:

Go fuck yourself.

posted by Murbles  # 10:20 AM
Reader Dubbin writes in with the following:

"This line in particular:

"Would Arizona and Florida have celebrated with the same gusto if they had beaten Cleveland instead of New York?"

It's too bad that there's no empirical way to know the answer to this question. Like, say, a world series where Florida played Cleveland instead of New York, and won that world series, and thus generated a celebration whose "gusto" could be measured.

Jesus, it's like he's so intent on using "Cleveland" as the archetypal boring city that he doesn't even bother to remember that they WERE IN THE WORLD SERIES AGAINST FLORIDA IN 1997. Or to recall that the series went seven games, the last of which went thirteen incredibly exciting innings. Or to mention the fact that people came down on the Marlins so hard for the '98 fire sale precisely because the '97 team was so good, and played so well together, and made a notoriously fickle South Florida audience fill an 80,000-seat football stadium for the duration of the playoffs. Or to express any knowledge that the Marlins' nemesis at that time was not the Yankees (huh?), but the Braves, whom they defeated in an electric six-game NLCS that included Livan Hernandez striking out 15 batters during a game that still makes me sort of misty when I think about it.

Then there's the ensuing celebration, which in 1997 included a mere three parades, Bobby Bonilla starting a car dealership, and my mother very nearly leaving my family for Craig Counsell. Of course, I only had season tickets and attended every home playoff game, so it's possible that I couldn't actually see how boring it all was without Mike Celizic's magic lens of watertight objective sports journalism."
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