Red Sox

McAdam at the World Series: Rangers-Giants demonstrate baseball's parity

191542.jpg

McAdam at the World Series: Rangers-Giants demonstrate baseball's parity

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Executives at Fox might bemoan the absence of ratings titans such as the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies from the World Series, which begins Wednesday night, but for Major League Baseball the matchup between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants couldn't be more perfect.

Baseball is less than 14 months out from an expiring collective bargaining agreement, the highlight of which has been increased revenue sharing and consequently, improved parity.

The elimination of the Yankees last Friday night at the hands of the Rangers means that baseball will once again not have a repeat champion. (The Yankees themselves were the last team to win back-to-back titles, in 1999-2000.) And because the Rangers have never won a championship and the Giants haven't won since moving West to San Francisco in 1958, baseball is assured of having its ninth different team win the Series in the last 10 years.

This World Series, in fact, is evidence of how the game has shifted away from dominance by a handful of teams. If one begins the current decade with the 2001 season, 14 different teams -- or, one team shy of exactly half of the 30 clubs which make up MLB -- have reached the World Series.

An additional five teams have gone so far as to reach the League Championship Series, meaning almost two-thirds have either reached the pinnacle series or fallen just a win or two short.

And tellingly, the three teams which reached the NLCS but couldn't clear the final hurdle to get to the World Series represent the National League's three biggest markets: New York (Mets), Chicago (Cubs) and Los Angeles (Dodgers). That would seem to indicate that while resources are a useful tool, they do not guarantee dominance in the sport, as some have alleged.

The presence of the Giants and Rangers also means that of the last six series, 11 different teams have claimed the 12 available spots; only the Phillies have been to the Series more than once (winning in 2008 and losing in 2009).

(In contrast, the NFL, whose supporters like to claim that the league offers more parity and opportunity because of its salary cap, has not had a Super Bowl in any of its last seven seasons which hasn't featured either the Patriots, Indianapolis Colts or Pittsburgh Steelers. Ditto, the NBA, which, with few recent exceptions, is dominated by the Celtics or Los Angeles.)

Part of the rotating cast of champions (or participants) surely can be attributed to the demanding nature of its postseason. Teams must survive three rounds and win 11 games over a postseason, which now lasts more than a month.

While some general managers such as Billy Beane and Theo Epstein often cite the "randomness'' of playoff results, the truth is, baseball's postseason, by dint of its demands and length, following an already draining 162-game season, is nearly immune to fluky champions. World Series titles are earned, not lucked into.

Moreover, baseball is said to be considering an expanded postseason format after the current CBA expires at the end of 2011, one which could expand the current Division Series format from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven, and requiring 12 wins instead of 11.

Then again, the presence of the Rangers and Giants could be nothing more than yet one more example of the importance of pitching. Had the Yankees' starting rotation performed as well it did a year ago, they surely would have provided a more formidable opponent for the Rangers.

As it is, Game One will feature a dream matchup of Tim Lincecum, winner of the last two National League Cy Young awards, and Cliff Lee, who is merely establishing himself as the most dominant October mound force since Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax.

Either way, regardless of the outcome, baseball will welcome relative newbies to its biggest stage. And while Fox frets about declining numbers and the absence of bigger brand names, baseball can puff out its chest and point to a playing field than has never seemed more level.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

cincinnati-reds-joe-morgan-hall-of-fame.jpg

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

mlb_rob_manfred_081414.jpg

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.