Today, we conclude our series on The State of the Game. In the previous installment, we discussed interleague play and a suggestion for the DH, and on Monday, we meandered through the polarizing issue of playoff expansion. In Part III, we’ll discuss performance enhancement drugs (PEDs), regional television networks and instant replay.
For the last decade, I have wrestled with my thoughts on PEDs. Of course steroids and human growth hormones are bad for the game. There is no debating that, however my problem is that the sport of baseball has been handcuffed and held hostage by this issue since rumors began circulating about mysterious substances in Mark McGwire‘s locker during his 70 home run season of 1998, and Barry Bonds‘ ever-growing head.
Baseball has gained popularity in the past decade, but it seems that every step the sport takes forward, some report is leaked that this player or that player is on a “list.” Here in Detroit, we haven’t really had any big named athletes suspended for usage for PEDs, however Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was linked as a user in Jose Canseco‘s book “Juiced,” and Jhonny Peralta has been linked to Anthony Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic.
In each case, both were rumored to have taken substances banned by baseball, but had never actually failed a test. This is the problem with the steroid-era in baseball. A lot of accusations have been thrown around with few actual admissions or failed tests. That is not to say that a player won’t lie to cover his behind, but, on the other hand, it’s silly to think that every time someone points a finger that it’s the truth.
Baseball has done a great job at introducing screenings during and after the season to catch “cheaters.” If the test shows a player taking a banned substance, then by all means, he is guilty. However, I find it hard to always put my faith in these reports, lists, and heresay. Give me hard evidence before you indict a guy.
Until MLB Network, ESPN, Fox and other television partners start ignoring these reports and say, “okay test these guys before we pass judgement,” we will be doomed to have to endure a “steroid scandal” every couple of years.
I find it hypocritical that cheaters in the NFL are never presumed guilty like they are in baseball. Shawne Merriman got suspended for testing positive for steroids, yet was selected by the fans for the Pro Bowl the same year. Even with Lance Armstrong, most believed him at every denial along the way. If the media treated MLB equally, we, as fans, wouldn’t have to constantly defend our sport to non-fans.
One solution that could rectify players appearing on these lists is to have MLB-certified trainers. Allow players select a trainer from this select group only.
Regional TV Networks
Next up, regional television networks. Alarm bells have been going off for many in baseball with the announcement that the Dodgers will soon be launching the most lucrative television network in baseball history. The Dodgers Network will follow the trail blazed by the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, and others, to have an entire channel devoted to their franchise to the tune of 25 years, $7 billion.
The Dodgers are in a unique situation. Their previous ownership drove the club into bankruptcy and because of this, MLB agreed to a fair market value set at $84 million per year for any future television deals. While Los Angeles is subject to revenue sharing, they would only have to share one-third of the rights fees–with the one-third set at the former fair market value of $84 million annually. They get to keep everything else–making small market clubs more fearful of the divide between the haves and have nots.
MLB is still reviewing the transaction and could drag the Dodgers back into bankruptcy court to spar over that $84 million figure. Still it seems this is a sign of the times for big market franchises. Perhaps this deal could pave the way for more of an NFL-type TV structure. While it would be impossible to totally implement their structure (where there is no televised games exclusive to the local market–every game is a national or regional broadcast), perhaps they could even further push revenue sharing for television. After all, the Dodgers could never truly benefit from their mega-network if they didn’t have another team to play against or a stadium to play in away from Dodger Stadium.
This issue is ever-evolving, so stay tuned.
Baseball is a funny sport. They never have a problem with bucking certain traditions (expanded playoffs, interleague play), but have problems fully stepping into the 21st Century (fully implementing the DH, expanding instant replay).
The argument against additional replay is that it would slow down the game. I get that and understand it, however to get calls right, I don’t think hard core fans would have a problem with an added 10 minutes to each game.
Refine the current system so the umpires don’t have to physically leave the field. Have a buzzer or blue tooth on the crew chief to be able to communicate with an additional umpire in the press box who is viewing the television replays on home runs, fan interference, close plays on the bases and whether or not a ball was trapped by an outfielder. No replays should be allowed on balls and strikes.
Managers shouldn’t be allowed to call for replays, as is mostly the case in the NFL–instead it should be more of an NCAA football rule where all close plays that are reviewable can be looked at again.
To conserve time in other areas, limit the amount of times a catcher visits the mound, much like if a manager or pitching coach visits the mound more than once in an inning, the pitcher must be replaced. Also, no longer let managers come out of the dugout on tirades about a blown call–that should be an immediate ejection under any new replay rules. Another great idea would be to reduce commercial breaks–but we all know that won’t happen.
A decade ago, a replay system was probably not possible, but now that most teams show every game on TV (and if they don’t, chances are the team they are playing does), it is possible to have several camera angles for proper replay usage.
I have never bought the “keep the human element” in the game. Tell that to Armando Galarraga, tell that to fans of the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, tell that to the members of the 2012 Atlanta Braves. To have one defining lifetime moment ruined, or a long successful season spoiled by blown calls in the name of an antiquated notion is not something that people can be comforted by.
This concludes my three-part “manifesto” on the State of the Game. Agree with anything? Disagree with everything? I’d like to hear from you!
As baseball fans, we all have our own opinions on the game we love. No one is right and no one is wrong, but it is awfully fun to debate!