ARA: Baseball and the Olympics

Designated runner rule – yuck

Kelly, who’s now been writing over at ForgottenWorlds.net, asked a few questions for Ask Roger Anything.

Should we still be having the Olympics? And if so, is it time to just pick a permanent location for the Summer and Winter Games and stop all this business of Olympic bids and cities and countries spending billions for this stuff?

I had been just having this discussion about the outsized impact of sports on society. Is it social good, exercise, comradery? Is it glorified too much? I know that there are folks around Albany trying to restart youth baseball in a particular neighborhood, not just for sport’s sake but to encourage discipline and teamwork.

On the other hand, I’m rather annoyed by corporate welfare. Specifically, New York State taxpayer money is going towards building a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

Here’s a video about how the Olympics hurt the poor of the host city and add to the militarization of the communities where the games are being held.

Optimally, I would like to see the Olympics, and the Paralympics continue. But the power needs to be ceded to some non-IOC entity that includes athletes. Perhaps they could root out cheating far earlier than what happened with that poor Russian 15-year-old skater this year. The grownups have to do better.

Finding a single country, or two, for the Olympics, will be quite difficult, I’d think. I mean, it can’t be Russia, China, the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, or a bunch of others. One could certainly make the case for Greece for the Summer Olympics, although the 2004 games were a fiscal debacle.

And what of the Winter Games? Politically, I doubt they could have both sets of Games in Europe. I’d love to see them in southern Africa or southern parts of South America. Or Uruguay in the summer and Switzerland in the winter.

Peanuts and Cracker Jack

You can make ONE change to something about Major League Baseball. What is it?

Let’s go with two because I know you already agree with the first. The baseball playoff games and World Series should start by 7 pm Eastern at the LATEST. How are you supposed to generate a new generation of fans when the premier games finish after their bedtime?

The other change is controversial, I imagine. And for a baseball traditionalist like myself, it’s surprising. Allow for a tie after 12 innings. This would only apply to the regular season.

And count the ties as half a win and half a loss. This is why this matters: in a 10-game pretend season, one team could go 6-4 and another 5-3-2, If you ignore the ties altogether, one team would have a .600 record, and the other .625. I don’t want to reward the tie.

Many pro sports have ties: NFL football, NHL hockey, soccer. Chess has the stalemate.

I thought about this because the bizarre thing MLB implemented during COVID, the designated runner rule, may not be dead. It’s that… thing established in 2020 and 2021 to shorten the game. A runner mysteriously is placed on second base in extra innings. I HATE, HATE HATE this rule, WAY more than I dislike the designated hitter.

Totally unrelated, Deep Space Nine Innings: A Star Trek Spinoff’s Unlikely Baseball Obsession.

Sportscaster Bob Costas turns 70

Later

Bob CoastasBob Costas has covered a LOT of sporting events. Hockey, basketball, boxing, golf, football, just to name a few. But most people who have followed his career know that his great, first love is baseball. For years, he carried a Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet. Once, he hosted an interview show called Studio 42 with Bob Costas, 42 being Jackie Robinson’s number.

Costas is also well-known as a host for a dozen Olympics between 1988 and 2016, with a vast knowledge of sports. And other topics, as I discovered when he hosted Later, a late-late talk show (1:30 – 2 a.m.) he hosted on NBC between 1988 and 1994. He won one of his first of about two dozen Emmys for his last season of the program.

Brooks and Marsh describe the show: “Each telecast was devoted to a single guest, whose life was profiled with film clips and who then joined Bob in later’s overstuffed chairs.” I set my VCR to record episodes that interested me, so quite often. The guests were “TV celebrities, sports stars, with a few newsmen and politicians thrown in.” IMDB calls him “a smart interviewer with encyclopedic knowledge and a devilish sense of humor.”

Roots

“His father’s roots are Greek…and his mother is of Irish and German descent.” He was born in Queens, New York City, and grew up in Commack in Suffolk County on Long Island. He worked in Syracuse, NY radio and television even before he graduated in 1974 from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Much has been made over the years of his appearance. “Don Ohlmeyer, who at the time ran the network’s sports division, told 28-year-old Costas he looked like a 14-year-old.” Additionally, at 5’7″ (170 cm), he is a man of modest height.

He has appeared in about two dozen TV programs and movies as Bob Costas, and in Cars and Cars 2 voicing Bob Cutlass. This doesn’t count the hundreds of times he served as a host, guest, or announcer. In 2021, he has a new show on HBO called Back-on-the-record with “interviews with the biggest names in sports, entertainment, and popular culture, which he discussed on the 7 November 2021 episode of CBS Sunday Morning.

His Wikipedia page lists some of his many accolades. I imagine, though, that receiving the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 has to be the highlight.

Baseball’s coming, with some new rules

end of the designated hitter

minor league baseballBaseball’s coming, and I’m happy. Actually, it’s more the absence of the negative. I was less excited by the return of the “National Pastime” than annoyed by its potential suspension.

And there are experimental rules rolling out for the 2022 season in Minor League Baseball. Not for all leagues but usually the majority. “Many experimental rules were first tested on a limited basis in 2021.” Most I think are fine. But one I rather despise.

PITCH TIMER: “On-field timers will be used… to enforce regulations designed to create a crisp pace of play, with batters required to be ready to hit and pitchers required to deliver the pitch within allotted periods of time. With runners on base, pitchers will have additional allotted time for each pitch but will risk automatic baserunner advancement if a third pick-off attempt or step-off within the same plate appearance is made without recording an out.”

This is a really good idea. Pitchers and batters take too much time fussing. A half dozen throws by the pitcher to keep the runner close is BORING.

LARGER BASES: “The size of first, second, and third base will be increased from 15 inches square to 18 inches square… to reduce player injuries.”

This may minimize collisions at first between the fielder and the batter. And the change appears to modestly increase stolen bases, which is a fine thing.

AUTOMATED BALL-STRIKE (“ABS”): “In select games…, ABS technology will be used to call balls and strikes.”

While the purist in me is mildly unsettled, seeing so many umpires have their “own” strike zones, and worse, inconsistent ones, allows me not to hate this.

On the other hand

DEFENSIVE POSITIONING: “…the defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base. These restrictions on defensive positioning are intended to allow infielders to better showcase their athleticism, to increase batting average on balls in play, and to restore a more traditional set of aesthetics and outcomes on batted balls.”

Yeah, it’ll almost certainly increase batting averages. But the solution to the shift (three fielders on one side or the other of second base, is to “hit it where they ain’t.” I’m not happy with this.

On the Major League level, the new contract has finally brought the end to no designated hitter in the National League. I’m no fan of the DH. But when MLB ended up with 15 teams in each league, requiring at least one interleague game every day of the season, I knew that pitchers who bat would soon be gone. Unless they’re really good at both.

Meanwhile, see the ball attendants snag some foul balls. 

March rambling: Believe in Freedom

Have a little heart.

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes!

h/t to Dan VR

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Kelly Sedinger, fka Jaquandor, has been blogging for 20 years!

Wordle cartoon
Wordle 263 4/6

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Infinity cartoon

RIP

William Hurt (Broadcast News,  The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, Altered States, The Incredible Hulk)

Tim Considine (My Three Sons, Spin and Marty)

Johnny Brown (Good Times, Laugh-In)

Alan Ladd Jr. (greenlit Star Wars, produced Braveheart)

Conrad Janis (Mork and Mindy, trombonist

Farrah Forke (Wings)

Sally Kellerman (Hot Lips Houlihan in MAS*H movie)

Emilio Delgado (Luis on Sesame Street)

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Boston Globe culture columnist, Jeneé Osterheldt, created this to celebrate and center Black Joy and Black lives and the lives of other folks of color, too. Mental health resources compiled by Jeneé:

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The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation -Mental Wellness Support Program

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Invitation
Friends & Foundation of APL National Library Week Luncheon
 April 5, 2022, at 12pm
The Kitchen Table | 300 Delaware Ave | Albany, NY

Join us on Tuesday, April 5th to gather with friends old and new. 
We will celebrate our past president, Holly McKenna, and wish her the best of luck in her next endeavors.
And we will remember our dear Friends, Paul Hacker and David Colchamiro, who passed away last year.

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The watching sports report

Week 18?

watching sportsI grew up loving watching sports on television. Not just baseball and football, either. I grew up with the Wide World of Sports. Not so much in 2021.

Oh, I caught some innings of a few baseball games, but almost nothing from beginning to end. Yet I would READ the box scores and stories about the previous night’s games. I was particularly fascinated with Shohei Ohtani, who GQ profiled. “Not since the days of Babe Ruth has one of baseball’s greatest hitters also been one of its finest pitchers.”

Maybe it was the fate of the New York Mets, who looked as though they might get to the World Series but ended up not even getting to the playoffs. Or the New York Yankees who were streakily great, followed by being terrible and were eliminated after one playoff game.

Perhaps it’s my antipathy for some of the teams. Both the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox were nicked by a cheating scandal. The Astros also yanked their team affiliation from our local Tri-City Valley Cats. More parochially, the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1963 World Series; I hold a long grudge.

Gridiron

As usual, I didn’t watch the NFL before Thanksgiving. I saw bits of one of those Turkey Day games, then nothing else in 2021 unless the CBS game ran late, delaying 60 Minutes.

But then there was week 18. Week 18? There used to be 17 weeks in which the teams each played 16 games, with one week off. Now there is a 17th game. And, perhaps related to the expansion of the eligible playoff teams to 14, it seemed that almost every team that didn’t play their home games in New Jersey still had a chance.

Such as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chuck Miller described what happened. But that Raiders-Chargers game that ended in the final minute of overtime was edge-of-my-seat exciting. The following week there were a couple of close games which I saw. However, I will acknowledge that I watched almost the entire Buffalo Bills beating of the New England Patriots, 47-17. Seven touchdowns in seven possessions!

Soured

Only one of the annoying things about COVID is that sports figures who you felt neutral or mildly positive about managed to act in a disappointing manner. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers spread some malarkey about his vaccine status.

More irritating, though, was Novak Djokovic, the tennis star who got booted out of the Australian Open because that country actually wants to take the disease seriously. Then the Serbian president blasted Australia. Now, Djokovic may not be able to play in the French Open in May if he isn’t vaccinated. I had no strong opinion about Novak, beyond admiring his considerable talent, but now he’s rather ticked me off.

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