“If We Win our Games, We’ll be All Right” A Poem about Derek Jeter

So, I wrote this poem for Derek Jeter about a month before he retired.  The title comes from a small quote he made in a New York Times article about a month before his retirement.  I figured I’d print it here, where no one will see it, instead of just having it lay around on my computer, where also no one will see it.  Side Note: I was fortunate enough to attend his final home game, and consider my top sports experience of my young life.

“If We Win our Games, We’ll be All Right”

Dark blue and Summer night’
World Series and Game seven frights
The man in Pin from Kalamazoo
Has a work method tried and true
Glides through the field like a gallivant gazelle
Pandemonium in the stands, raising Hell
Always shown with a smile so bright
If we Win our Games, We’ll be All Right

The Beauty of Imperfection

As the old and quite well worn platitude goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”  I am, of course, referring to Major League Baseball’s replay system.  A system that has plagued Baseball games with one thing that is assuredly something we need less of, standing around.  I could go into the data, but that doesn’t prove anything. Since the times that MLB records as replay stoppage time isn’t real, all what MLB records is the time it takes the umpires in New York City to deliberate on a call. It is not the actual stoppage time that the fan endures, which is likely twice as long, if not longer.  This is not good.  If there is something that MLB needs less of, it’s time standing around doing nothing.

There is a lot of time in Baseball where there isn’t “action”, at least in the typical sports sense.  This doesn’t mean though that nothing is occurring.  In fact there is plenty happening.  The mind games being played with the pitcher and the batter.  The cogitation between the battery on pitch selection.  The fact that every moment in Baseball something can happen.  This though does not exist during the purgatory, or maybe it’s hell, like state that is instant replay.  Nothing is happening.  If I were able to create an embodiment of what nothing is, it is replay.  Replay is the manifestation of nothingness.  That thing that Sartre was, probably, talking about in Being and Nothingness, this is it(1).  Alert the philosophers!  We have found nothingness.  And it is not good.

I want to enjoy the game of Baseball.  I want to see the mind games.  I want to have that feeling of anticipation, and so do a few million other people.  What I don’t want to experience is mind numbing boredom.  I’m watching Baseball to escape that ever pervading feeling of nothingness in the world, which is exactly what I am feeling during the abominable replay.  Why are we doing this to ourselves?

In America, and probably other nations too, we have this fascination with being right.  If something happens and it is wrong, it should be amended, and we should take every avenue necessary in order to fix it.  Where does this stop?  If a single in the fourth inning is reviewed should the umpire take as long as necessary to get the call “right”?  Should he take 5 minutes? 10 minutes?  30?  Now obviously after a few minutes, in an ambiguous situation, the umpires will just say that the “true” result is inconclusive and let the play stand, so basically in the same position we were in before the initiated replay.  Where does this logical slippery slope end?  Should we install censors on the bases and in the fielders gloves so we can determine within a nanosecond who was truly safe?  Should we have the strike zone we see on TV call the balls and strikes and remove the home plate umpire entirely?  Whatever normative solution you want to propose we can see that they all arrive at the same end.  Removal of the human element.

I don’t even want to get into the mess of removing the human judicious element of the game.  Should we just supply last years stats into a win predictor and, with regression models of course, run a few thousand simulations and see who wins?  We know there is no such thing as infallibility when humans are around.  We even have a phrase with our species in it, “only human”, to imply fallibility.  We establish a bond within the stadium complaining about incorrect calls and we boo he who erred.  Umpires are a people we love to hate.  We even create social media pages at ones we especially abhor (2).  What is imperative is to never lose this.  To always cherish.  And to never waver in our eternal battle against machine, even if this means an incorrect call…or two.

Baseball is beautiful, Baseball is magnificent.  Baseball is also perfectly imperfect.  So what if one call every few games is incorrect?  Baseball is the only popularly played sport where each stadium’s on field dimensions are different.  Baseball is the only “American” sport where the defense dares to control the ball and pace of play.  Baseball is a diamond in a rectangularly dominated world.

Our Baseball brethren, the Japanese, have a concept in their culture called wabi-sabi.  Wabi-sabi is concerned with precisely the title of this post, the beauty in imperfection(3).  Maybe this is why we have a shared affinity for Baseball.  We see that not everything must be perfect and from imperfection we can find true beauty in an already imperfect world.  Let us stop this nonsense of absolute certainty and love what is already perfect about the game, that it isn’t.

I’ll see you at the (imperfect) Ballpark.

Sources/Notes

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_and_Nothingness

(2) https://www.facebook.com/pages/MLB-Needs-To-Fire-CB-Bucknor/109294615775792

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi

Further Reading/Viewing

http://www.sbnation.com/2015/6/22/8818545/mlb-instant-replay-system-changes-needed

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=13171145

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/03/baseballs-fancy-new-instant-replay-system-is-useless/359915/

http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2015/06/05/mlb-replay-system-is-still-failing-miserably/

Abolish Interleague Play

Abolish Interleague play.  Demolish it.  Disfigure it.  Then burn it’s decrepit carcass.  Interleague play is ruining baseball.

Or at the very least partially responsible. Contrary to the thoughts of those younger then 25, regular season interleague play is a fairly recent phenomenon.  Not having been established until 1997, as a result of the owners and Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig trying to renew the public’s interest in Baseball.  The leagues up until 1999 even had their own individual Presidents, operating as quasi-individual entities.  Now the only difference separating the leagues is the Designated Hitter rule in the American League.

Interleague play used to be a treat, only reserved for the most sacred of events, the All Star Game and the World Series.  Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle faced off in the 1963 World Series for 3 at bats, and once in the 1963 All Star Game by my estimation, their only match-ups in their illustrious careers.  Koufax registering 3 strike outs by the way (Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb9nEdBskXg).  To compare to a modern day match-up, Clayton Kershaw v. Mike Trout, they have already faced-off 5 times, 3 in the regular season and twice in All-Star Games, and this in only 4 years of Trout’s career.

With the fairly recent advent of interleague play, the All-Star Game and World Series have become less sacrosanct.  These cherished match-ups, like Kershaw and Trout, will become rote, irrelevant and more or less inconsequential.  Ratings for the sacred events have shown this irrelevance.  The All-Star game had 18 Million viewers in 1998.  In 2015 we have fallen to an all-time low of 10.9 Million(1).  The World Series is in a similar squalid state of affairs.  In 1998 registering over 20 Million viewers, in 2014 dropping to 13.8 Million (3).  In 2015 we also had the dubious distinction of having the lowest viewed Game 1 in the history of the sport, with about 12.2 Million viewers (4).  Obviously there are other factors effecting baseball viewership; such as demographics change, length and lack of youth involvement, but surely Interleague play is not helping, and in all likelihood hurting.

This year each team will play 20 games of interleague play, with on average of 1 to 3 games per day (4).  For the most part, every day we will have an interleague match-up.  How did this come about?  Before 2013, the National League had 16 teams and the American League had 14, to even up the leagues the league asked, or more like told, the Houston Astros to move to the American League.  Since 15 is an uneven number, and because of how Baseball is played, everyday, interleague play became a necessity.

Currently Baseball is ruminating on adding 2 more teams to the already fairly large fold.  Potential candidates include Las Vegas, Northern New Jersey and Montreal, Canada among others (5).  I’ll go into my thoughts on this in a later post, but the only way I would support yet another league expansion (6), and diluting the already diluted supply of above replacement players is if, and only if, it involved the abolition of interleague play and the reinstatement of league pride.  Remember that little phenomenon?  League pride?  Remember when former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and lifetime Yankee season ticket holder/fan, said in 2007, during the Red Sox v. Rockies World Series, that he would be rooting for the Red Sox because he was a fan of the American League? (7)  You know the Red Sox and Yankees have a little rivalry right?

Since the league and owners primary motive is to make money, they would be reluctant to get rid of the inter-regional match ups, such as Mets v. Yankees, Giants v. Athletics etc, as these are great sources of ticket sales and TV viewership.  I can acquiesce and allow, because I am in the position of being arbiter in this situation, for a once year four game series between the teams, with two games played in each home stadium respectively.  This is the maximum I would be willing to relent, as self-appointed arbiter,  in terms of interleague play in a 32 team environment.  And if expansion doesn’t appeal to the owners, and let’s be honest it probably will, we can always consider those dreaded combination of words…league contraction, I know it’s terrifying, at least in the eyes and wallets of the owners.  If we reduce the amount of teams to 28, 14 in either league, we solve that elusive odd number quagmire.  If you allow me to go into even more horrifying thoughts, we could shorten the schedule to 154 games so we can have less of those hated and boring divisional match-ups.  Can you sense the sarcasm? I’ll stop before I scare the owners bank accounts into the 9 digits, like they’re reading this anyway.

To reiterate my previously stated point.  Abolish interleague play.  Abolish it now.

I’ll see you at the Ballpark.

Sources/Notes

(1) http://www.baseball-almanac.com/asgbox/asgtv.shtml

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Series_television_ratings

(3) http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2014/10/22/2014-world-series-game-1-blowout-by-giants-hurts-television-ratings/

(4) http://www.si.com/mlb/2014/09/08/2015-mlb-season-schedule-world-series-interleague

(5) http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/13256319/rob-manfred-sees-expansion-mlb-future

(6) http://www.infoplease.com/ipsa/A0112350.html

(7) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/25/nyregion/25rudy.html?_r=0

What this blog is. What it isn’t.

Hello.  My name is Jake and…I love Baseball.  I love Baseball to the near point of frightful obsession.  I love the pace, the history, the team mentality combined with individuality: but, we’ll get into all this later.  What I just want to say in this first post is what this blog will be(I hope) and what it will not.  This blog was created to talk and contemplate about the greatest game ever conceived by man, and probably extra-terrestrial.  I hope to discuss all facets of the game and all the game’s facets.

What I don’t want to do is be a stats blogger.  I have no special expertise in the field of Sabermetrics nor do I especially care to.  I know what FIP, WHIP and all the others mean, but I don’t intend for this blog to go into the minutiae of Troy Tulowitzki’s UZR rating, although it does appear to be below average this season.  All what I can hope for with this blog is that I enjoy writing it, and maybe a couple people enjoy reading it (Hi Mom).  So how about enough of the opening pitch, and let’s get on with the game.

I’ll see you at the Ballpark.