Fun_People Archive
21 Feb
Tom's baseball fantasy

Date: Tue, 21 Feb 95 19:27:21 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Tom's baseball fantasy 

From: (Tom Parmenter)

 DESPERADO, Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack


 I'm almost a good baseball fan.  I discovered I needed glasses at age
 7 squinting to see the scoreboard at Pendleton Park, where the
 Valdosta Dodgers competed in the Class D Georgia-Florida League.
 There was some pitcher named Bledsoe from Macon that I actively
 hated.  For myself, I played many a sandlot game at right field (the
 traditional four-eyes position).  I even played softball quite a few
 years and once averted a riot by suggesting that two unruly mobs (my
 pals and some other bunch of pals) should play each other rather than
 fight for the one ball field.  I've seen the Indianapolis Clowns and
 Al Schacht and the King and his Court.  I go to see the Red Sox a few
 times every year, often enough to have seen them pull off a double
 steal and a suicide squeeze (rarities in the friendly confines of
 Fenway with the lumber-heavy, foot-heavy Red Sox).  I hate Larry
 Barnett (and the puling phony Ed Armbrister).  And yet there is a
 long gap in my record between the time the Dodgers betrayed me by
 leaving Brooklyn (and Vero Beach, only one state away) and the time
 my number-one son was old enough to demand to be taken to games.  In
 that period, to my shame, I lived for a time only three blocks away
 from Wrigley Field and never saw a game.  This despite the fact I was
 working nights and the Cubbies played only days, and also the fact
 that I could have had a free ticket any time I liked since I worked
 for a newspaper.  But I still felt betrayed by the Dodgers and I
 wasn't having any.

 My credentials are imperfect.  I rarely keep a score card, even
 though it adds so much, and I never look at a box score.  I'm a
 casual fan.  I contemn most of of the changes since the Dodgers did
 the dirty deed.  I like the tighter uniforms.  The old ones were
 just a little too goofy.  I like free agency, but I can't see the
 anti-trust exemption.  But I don't like:  

        The designated hitter - It's a game of matchups and everyone
        ought to play it.  The most exciting single scene in baseball,
        to my taste, is a pitcher reaching second and shrugging on his
        warmup jacket.  I treasure the memory of Luis Tiant standing
        on second in Fenway in the greatest World Series ever.  And I
        cringe when I think of Orlando Cepeda galumphing down to
        first, past all baseball except the hitting.

        Turf - I like billiards, but I like shortstops better and I
        don't like those mechanical basepaths and the skittering ball
        and the accursed *seam*.  I much prefer the wily groundskeeper.

        The playoffs - the idea that the two number-four teams could
        meet in a world series is absolute anathema.  Let basketball
        and hockey play a season of exhibition games followed by an
        interminable big-money payoff, but give me a long season
        followed by a good series between the two best teams.  

        Replacements - At big league rates, these guys are going to
        be paid close to what they're worth, although it's a fact
        that none of them can pull down even minor-league wages.
        They're the ball players who are left *after* all the major
        leaguers and minor leaguers are subtracted.  The hypocrisy of
        this exercise is brilliantly displayed in a piece by Steve
        Fainuru in the Boston Sunday Globe.  Joe Klein, general
        manager of the Detroit Tigers is talking to 500 hopefuls who
        have come for a tryout:  "I want to tell you that we will
        treat you with the same respect that we treat the game of
        baseball."  Having issued himself the perfect setup line,
        Klein proceeded to show his respect for the game of baseball
        by admitting to Fainuru that none of these folks had a chance
        of making even the replacement team.  Fainuru objects.  Klein
        answers, "I think you miss the point entirely.  It's the
        exposure it gives them, the opportunity to touch the game and
        put on the uniform . . . That's the beauty of it, in their
        own minds they do have a chance."  Klein neglected to add,

 I have no sympathy for baseball as it is, so if the owners want to
 tear it apart, they may continue.  But it's time to float an idea of
 what baseball could be as it goes into its third (calendar) century.
 There are two changes I'd like to see that would make every game
 more thrilling and bring a new character to the old game that is
 entirely fitting with its past.  

 First, adopt the plan of English football whereby the bottom two
 teams in the majors each year are replaced by the top two teams from
 the minors.

 Second, break up the National and American Leagues and replace them
 with three (or four) regional leagues of eight teams each.

 Think of it:

 Eastern League             Central League        Western League        
 1 Baltimore Orioles	    Chicago White Sox     California Angels     
 2 Boston Red Sox	    Chicago Cubs          Los Angeles Dodgers   
 3 New York Yankees	    Detroit Tigers        San Diego Padres      
 4 Montreal Expos	    Minnesota Twins       San Francisco Giants  
 5 New York Mets	    Kansas City Royals    Colorado Rockies      
 6 Philadelphia Phillies    St. Louis Cardinals   Oakland A's           
 7 Pittsburgh Pirates	    Cincinnati Reds       Seattle Mariners      
 8 Toronto Blue Jays	    Cleveland Indians     Portland Skidders
   Atlanta Braves	    Houston Astros        Honolulu Ukeleles
   Florida Marlins	    Milwaukee Brewers     Los Mayas de Ciudad Mexico
   Habana Reyes de Sucre    Texas Rangers         Nippon Ham Fighters

 If we can get excited about the Graperuit League in years when
 there's a legitimate spring training season, imagine the frisson we'd
 get from the New York championship, the Chicago championship, the
 California championship, the Texas championship, the Canadian (!)

 These leagues aren't perfect.  I couldn't really choose which eastern
 team to drop so I decided to give the hit to my former home, Atlanta.
 It's a team that's skipped town twice looking for money and also
 displaced the Atlanta Crackers, so there.  Too many teams clutter the
 Central League  (maybe there should be a Southwest League too), and
 there are too few in the Western League, but forget the details and
 think of a three-way World Series.  The current fake "Championship
 Series" is not half a patch on that.  And there would be no
 meaningless games if the bottom teams were in danger of falling down
 a league.  And what would it mean to Memphis and Pawtucket, Boise and
 Ottawa to have a crack at the big time?  No more playing for average
 if you could move your whole team up a grade.  But no more license
 to print money for team owners either.  Imagine the world-wide
 thrill if the Havana Sugar Kings came into the bigs as the New York
 Yankees slipped down to Triple-A.  The thrill would be smaller, but
 the same, when Valdosta suddenly found itself playing against
 Raleigh instead of Thomasville.
 That's not to mention all the debates about the many small
 differences that would arise between the leagues.  I'm sure the DH
 would survive in the sensation-hungry Western League, but how about
 three league's worth of rumors about rabbit balls and high strike
 zones and "You know, Biff, they just don't come down as hard on
 spitballers in the Southwestern League" and "The reigning Canadian
 champion has never beaten the reigning New York champion" and the
 annual swing each league would take at the other two some time
 around midseason and the incredible growth of nuance and interest
 all around. 
 There might even be player leagues, or at least, player owned
 teams, municipally owned (and isn't that better than building
 edifices for others?), or even cooperatives.

 Something's got to be done to snap the grand old game out of its
 dark ages.  This is the seventh strike in 20 years.  Let's toss it
 all up in the air and see what comes down.

		    Copyright 1995, Tom Parmenter

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []