It’s Father’s Day weekend, and that can only mean one thing: The US Open. This is a great weekend for dads and sports fans everywhere. From Miami where the Heat will try to take the lead in the NBA Finals, to Stony Brook’s Cinderella trip to Omaha for the College World Series, and out to San Francisco, where a new US Open champion (who may or may not be named Tiger Woods) will be crowned on Sunday evening, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Whatever your plans are this weekend, I hope you make it a great one!
Until next week, TGIF!
—Shelby (@TheShelbinator1, ESLS President)
April is coming to a close, which means it’s time for the NFL Draft, and NHL and NBA Playoffs. There’s lots to look forward to this weekend if you’re a sports fan.
It’s also my first time doing the Weekend Outlook. As ESLS President for 2012-2013, I’m looking forward to continuing the tradition and coming up with new and exciting ways for our members and friends to interact.
Check out what our friends on Twitter are following this weekend. (Click on any photo to visit that person’s Twitter page).
Have a great weekend!
The ongoing and chaotic situation involving the state of the LA Dodgers took another surprising, yet not unexpected twist. The LA Dodger’s filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. This was not outside of the realm of possibilities as the Dodgers were unable to pay their June 30th payroll, but just added more fuel to the already smoldering fire of the rapid decline of the storied franchise.
The story began nearly two years ago, on October 14, 2009, with the separation of Frank and Jamie McCourt, both of whom declared ownership of the team. The dispute over ownership of the team hinged on a 2004 marital property agreement signed by both parties. Two copies were made. One suggested Frank had sole ownership, the other implied the ownership joint and to be shared by both. On December 7, 2010, a day that will live in infamy, the judge found in favor of Jamie and the turmoil continued. Jamie wished to sell the team, but Frank’s desire was to maintain ownership at all costs.
The next chapter begins when Bud Selig and the MLB decided that it was time to get involved. The Dodgers were struggling with their finances. Their balance sheet looked to be fine, more assets than liabilities, yet many of these assets were illiquid and, thus, the team was hard pressed to pay its employees.
The final straw was pulled when a fight broke out during a Dodgers Giants game early in the season. Selig thought this the perfect opportunity to show that the Dodgers were in real trouble from financial to game-day activities and the MLB took control of day-to-day operations. The divorce continued to grow messier, the finances more curious, and Frank McCourt more desperate. It is clear that the storied LA Dodgers are in big trouble, but Frank refuses to let go.
Currently, players such as Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Raphael Furcal, and Hiroki Kuroda are owed up to $21 million, additional teams, such as the Chicago White Sox, broadcasters, such as Vin Scully, and corporations, such as Continental Airlines, are also owed significant amounts of money. In order to gain more liquid capital, Frank McCourt was set to make a deal with Fox Sports worth nearly $2.7 billion; however, he was to use $150 million to settle divorce issues with Jamie. Bud Selig declined to let this deal through due to the $150 million for non-baseball related purposes. Frank then said he would use the entire $2.7 billion on the Dodgers, but Selig still refused.
Now, the battle is between Bud Selig and the courts. Last year, the courts sided with the Texas Rangers on their bankruptcy issues, but the team was ultimately put up for auction and sold to Nolan Ryan, among other buyers. The fate of the Dodgers seems to in the balance, much like that of the Rangers last season. The team is a very attractive buy, as it is one of the most storied franchises dating back to its days in Brooklyn. Some big names such as Mark Cuban, who came close to a deal with the Rangers last year, have been thrown out as potential buyers. For now, however, Bud Selig is firing away fastballs, curve balls, and change ups trying to strike out Frank McCourt, while McCourt is fouling off pitch after pitch trying to retain ownership and stay alive. The court, meanwhile, is behind that plate calling balls and strikes, and will be the party that determines the fate of one of the most storied franchises in professional sports.
Imagine a world in which you had a job and your main goal was to be the best in your group in order to get a prize. Your group had six people in it. Sound pretty simple. You only have to beat five other people to be the best. However, there is not only one group; there are three. Out of these three groups, four people get the price. Three people will be the best, and the runner up out of the three groups who does the best also gets the prize. Sounds even better, now you do not have to be the best in your group, you can also get the prize if you are the second best in your group, but also better than the second best in the other two groups. Lastly, the other groups only have five people in each, while your group has six. Wait a second; this is not fair. Why do I have a one in six chance (16.7%) to be the best in my group while people in the other two groups have a one in five chance (20%)? This is the problem that Major League Baseball (MLB) currently faces, and the reason why realignment is currently being debated.
Currently, there are thirty teams in the MLB, two leagues, and six divisions. It makes sense that each league would have fifteen teams, and each division would have five. This, however, is not the case. The American League (AL) West has only four teams, while the National League (NL) Central has six. There is a clear imbalance. The MLB is attempting to solve this imbalance, but there are a number of issues.
The main question is, “which team do we take from the NL to put in the AL?” This does not necessarily have to be a NL Central team to the AL West. You can theoretically move an NL East team in the AL East, an NL Central team in the NL East, an AL East team to the AL Central, then an AL Central team to the AL West. This would be a hard and confusing way to make the shift, but it is possible. The two main things to consider is 1) having teams in the AL West all near the west coast and 2) keeping long standing divisional rivalries in tact. For instance, it would make no sense to put the Philadelphia Phillies in the AL West because they would have to travel to the west coast for a majority of their games and they have current, long-standing divisional rivalries with other NL East teams.
Next, AL teams have Designated Hitters (DHs), while NL teams do not. This will be another hurdle. A teams going from the NL to AL may see this as unfair as they were not built for a DH. Furthermore, with an odds number of teams (fifteen) in each league, the teams cannot possibly play within their league ever. Every day, there will be at least one interleague game. This may cause additional scheduling problems for the league. A last hurdle is that the league likes to separate teams from the same state into opposite leagues. For instance, the Yankess and the Mets, the Cubs and the White Sox, the Astros and the Rangers, the Marlins and the Rays, the Giants and the A’s, the Nationals and the Orioles, are all in different leagues due to this locational issue.
To solve these problems, the MLB is considered a number of options. First, getting rid of the divisions and just having the two leagues. This will go back to the days of pennant races. Teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles will think this is more fair because they are in a historically “hard” division, which decreases their chances of making the playoffs, just like having a division with more teams than the rest. Every year they must compete against the Yankees and Red Sox instead of the Rockies and Giants in order to win their division. This is nearly impossible for them, when being in another division would not be. Therefore, if the MLB chooses the fairest route, two leagues of fifteen teams would be the most impartial. However, divisional races are extremely popular and rivalries extremely important to the league making this option very unlikely.
The league will balance fairness and business when making this decision. In the end, business will win out. I expect there will be two leagues of fifteen teams each, and six divisions with five teams each within the next few years. Then, the MLB is also considering adding a fifth or sixth playoff team from each league. This will not only increase the amount of playoff games, but will also keep more fans interested in the end of the regular season and make the playoffs more exciting. It will also give division winners an even greater advantage by getting a BYE week in the playoffs and having the wild cards team battle out an extra series, while the division winners do not.
Adding divisions was the first change that took place in the string of events that led up to where we are today, and it was a great business move. Next, adding a wild card team to the playoff race was another business move that made it a little fairer for teams stuck in a “hard” division to make the playoffs. But, more importantly, it was also a rational business decision to increase fan interest and overall profits in the playoffs. Lastly, interleague play was another great business move for the MLB without which we would not even be discussion this MLB realignment, which will feature an interleague game every day. Now with all of their pieces in place, the MLB can make this last transition and it won’t be seen as too out of the ordinary, but rather necessary and balanced. It will increase fairness, competition, and profits, which is why MLB realignment will be a great success.
The family of Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan brutally attacked on Opening Day, is suing the Los Angeles Dodgers. The family is seeking damages for future medical costs and economic damage to Stow and his two children. The family’s attorney will have to prove that the lack of security led to the attack.
Here we go again. The NBA players filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board today. The players union is claiming that the owners are bargaining in bad faith by proposing salary cuts and other elements to a new CBA that the players will surely reject.
As I sit here, on my couch, watching the Phillies host the Rangers in the final game of their 3 game series, I begin to think about how this could have been last years World Series matchup, and may potentially be this year’s as well. My thoughts drifted even further watching the scores on the bottom line and seeing strange matchups like the Twins vs. Diamondbacks, Cubs vs. Red Sox, Braves vs. Angels, and Astros vs. Blue Jays. These series all looked a little off and unusual. Other series made a little more sense, but were still odd such as the Mets vs. Yankees, Rays vs. Marlins, Nationals vs. Orioles, and Indians vs. Reds. As I brought my attention back from the bottom line to the actual game, I then started to think about the days before interleague play and realized that it wasn’t too long ago that these teams never played against each other. Then I asked myself a simple question that has a simple answer. The simple question – “Why did the MLB institute interleague play?” – and the simple answer – “Well… why not?”
The MLB introduced interleague play to baseball in 1997, before which the AL and NL teams did not play each other during the regular season. The idea was talked about in the 1930’s, then officially proposed by Hank Greenberg in the 1950’s with a detailed plan of when it should start and how it would work, but never fully developed until the approximately 45 years later. Why did the MLB wait so long to institute this idea? No one really knows. Why did they institute it in 1997? Some people felt that it was the MLB’s attempt at renewing fans’ interest in baseball following the 1994 player’s strike, which cost the league many fans and public attention. So far, the strategy has gone according to plan as attendance and revenues are up. According to a study conducted by the MLB in 2009, interleague play has drawn 12 percent more fans than intraleague games, and averaged 33,260 fans per game, compared to the intraleague average of 29,706 during the same span, while simultaneously increasing revenues by 10 percent.
Today, any team from the AL can play any team from the NL regardless of division. This is a recent development, however, as at first, only the teams from similar division in the AL and NL (East, Central, and West) could play each other. This created some “natural rivalries,” even though some teams were playing each other for the first time and rarely saw each other thereafter, but due to their proximity, they were rivalries nonetheless. Nicknames such as the Subway Series between the Mets and Yanks, the Lone Star Series for the Astros-Rangers, the Citrus Series for the Marlins-Rays, and the Cross-Town Classic between the Cubs and White Sox emerged. While these series and interleague play as a whole has shown an increase in attendance, this is still a topic of much debate.
Many people argue that the attendance increase is due to the scheduling and timing of the games. They are typically night and weekend games, and they are typically in June, which is one of the months that attracts the most fans. Another negative aspect is that the “rivalry” matchups actually create a strength of schedule problem as yearly powerhouses like the Cardinals and Yankees get to play typically weaker teams such as the Royals and Mets 6 times per year. Additionally, some of these series are seen as interesting and exciting but many others are just strange and bizarre such as the Diamondback vs. Twins and Astros vs. Blue Jays. Some people even argue that forcing pitchers from the AL to hit could be dangerous and against their contracts, and that it creates tremendous scheduling problems because the NL has 2 more teams than the AL. While there are some negative aspects, there are positives as well.
The main arguments for interleague play start with the fact that the idea, as a whole, has created more intrigue than disinterest. In the end, people like watching NL teams have a DH and AL pitchers attempting to hit. Fans enjoy seeing (and players like playing) players and teams that they have never seen before, or would not have gotten the chance to see otherwise. Additionally, teams get a chance to prove which conference is stronger and how their team stacks up against all the teams instead of just half. In the end, the numbers don’t lie, and the fans have spoken through increased attendance, interest, and spending.
It seems that the pros outweigh the cons and interleague play, which took over 65 years to take effect, is here to stay. After watching a few games, reading some articles, and writing this blog post, I only have one more question – “If interleague play attracts more fans, excitement, and revenues for the MLB, then why not have more of it?” That is another matter of much debate for another day, but I feel that adding more interleague games could be a negative for the league, as it would dilute the intensity of intraleague games, and, more importantly, the excitement of interleague games, which was the reason for the attendance increase in the first place. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see that a change was made in a sport that is notorious for following tradition and hesitant to make any changes, and that change proved to be successful. It goes to show that, although baseball is America’s game and the MLB will do anything to preserve its traditions, in the end, the MLB is a business and some changes, such as interleague play, make perfect business sense.