I Can Change, I Can Change, if it Helps You Fall in Love

Change is not the enemy. Remember that. It’s going to be hard, but you must keep that in mind.

Change in sports, as in all things, is often for the best. It’s human instinct to resist change, but without it, we wouldn’t have the 3-point shot, baseball gloves bigger than a human hand, the forward pass, or soulless automatons announcing World Series games. Well, most of those changes are positive anyway. We need evolution in our sports, and if we hate changes just because they represent something new, that makes us sad old misers like Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly. While something in our brains demands that things be the way they were in our hazily remembered youths, the good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.

If you think I’m feeling older and missing my younger days…

So if it seems that I am raging against the concept of change, I am not. I understand the need for change even in a sport as inherently traditional and nostalgic as baseball.

But change needs to happen organically, to address deficiencies or changing times. When change is forced because of stupidity, egotism or greed, it has the potential to be destructive. And that’s what’s happening now on the American sports landscape.

Major League Baseball

A new collective bargaining agreement passed yesterday, and that was much back-slapping and knob polishing all around. Now, given the disaster currently unfolding in the NBA, perhaps we should just be thankful (on Thanksgiving!) for labor peace, and that the overlords of this sport aren’t ruining an entire season the way David Stern is.

Fuck that noise.

The new CBA contains elements that are going to cause legitimate harm to baseball…elements that were utterly superfluous to the bargaining process:

1) Additional playoff teams

Only Bud Selig could watch the most exciting month of his entire tenure, and perhaps in the sport’s history, and proclaim, “Well that was fun. Let’s make sure it never happens again.”

Selig won’t be satisfied until baseball is a watered-down, less popular version of the NFL. He has a classic inferiority complex. He sees that the NFL makes more money than MLB, gets overcome with jealousy, and tries to mimic the sport he views as superior to his own. But the more baseball tries to be like football, the less successful it will be. Baseball is a slow-moving sport — that’s just its basic nature, and you can’t change your basic nature. Seasons and games both unfold at a leisurely pace, and the whole idea of a 162-game season is to try to crown the best teams. The regular season simply matters much more in baseball than it does in other sports.

At least it used to.

Now a full one-third of teams will make the playoffs. And the trend we’ve seen the past decade of mediocre teams winning the World Series will intensify. The baseball playoffs are not to designed to be the NFL playoffs, with their “any given Sunday” motif. In baseball, the best teams are supposed to win. They already don’t win enough. Now they’ll win less. There are many flaws with Selig’s asinine one-game Wild Card system, and Christina Kahrl explains one:

Instead, this new scheme creates a new, genuinely unhappy spectacle: Some especially crummy teams getting wild-card bids for glory. Say the Red Sox and Yankees go toe-to-toe for the AL East crown next season, all the way until their final series against one another. Say the two are tied with 99 wins on October 3, the Yankees lose, having used CC Sabathia to gun for the wild-card “round” bye, so they get squared off against … an 85-win White Sox team that was cruising comfortably with the fifth-best record in the league, and with their rotation queued up to toss their best starter in this must-win game. The Yankees get punished for trying to win, while the White Sox just need one game to advance after six months of mediocrity. How does that scenario make sense?

We’re also going to see a flood of legitimately bad teams in the playoffs: teams that make the 2006 World Champion 83-win Cardinals look like a juggernaut. Pennant races will be even more diluted. Taking this year as a case study, both the Red Sox and Braves would have advanced to the playoffs under the new rules, so all that final-day drama would have evaporated. Selig is incapable of leaving well enough alone; he’s so intent on leaving his stamp on the sport that he’s crushing its windpipe. Also, his “stamp” will always be “World Series Cancelled Under Selig’s Watch,” no matter what the fuck else he does with the rest of his misbegotten life.

2) Draft Slotting

Here’s where Bud really fucked it up. He’s so intent on appeasing his small-market ownership cronies that he pushed into a place a system that will actually hurt the small-revenue teams. Beginning next year, franchises will be required to pay significant luxury tax and lose future draft picks if they spend more money than the new slotting system allows on signing draft picks. Similar penalties apply to international signings. Selig thought this would prevent the Yankees and Red Sox from drafting Gerritt Cole-type signability projects late in the draft and then writing them blank checks. But, as Jonah Keri points out:

The Pittsburgh Pirates could never hope to compete on the open free-agent market for Albert Pujols’ services, with the asking price likely topping $200 million. But the Bucs could land multiple potential stars in the draft by going over slot to reel in the best prospects…The rest of these penalties will make it much tougher for small-revenue teams like the Pirates to do what everyone always tells them to do to keep up with the big boys: scout, draft, and develop superior talent.

The new CBA has unintentionally taken away the one advantage that small-market teams had, and all because Selig was bloodthirsty for a “win” against the players association, so he focused on an issue that current players had little reason to care about. Again, this is change for change’s sake, and it’s fucking stupid.

3) Realignment

Moving the Houston Astros to the American League isn’t a sport-ruining move, but it’s pointless and arbitrary. Selig moved the Astros because he could, because they happened to be the team for sale while the CBA was being negotiated. Because he could bully their new owner (the awful Jim Crane) under threat of not approving the sale.

With this move, Selig has destroyed whatever cache interleague play had left, because interleague games will now happen every day of the season with an uneven number of teams in each league. Moreover, he once again exposed his own hypocrisy. Selig pushed through a move to the National League for the Brewers prior to the 1998 season, ostensibly to ensure that the number of teams in each league would be even — but really because the National League was viewed as more profitable for the Brewers (then still in the Selig family). Now, he’s forcing the poor Astros out despite their half century of National League tradition.

In case you weren’t aware by now, Bud Selig is a monster.

The NCAA

The NCAA is a joke. Always has been, always will be. It’s a corrupt, hypocritical, self-serving institution that should have been disbanded years ago. Its greed and stubbornness have long since rendered college football irrelevant — no playoff system, no fair scheduling, no legitimate champion. (We’re not even going to get into recruiting issues, unfair suspensions, and other forms of real and imagined cheating.)

So fine…college football is dead to us. But now it’s taking college basketball down with it.

The conference realignment that is currently underway is an unmitigated disaster for both NCAA football and basketball. Colleges and universities are quickly being divvied up according to the haves and the have-nots, the 1 percenters and the Occupy Wall Streeters. If your school isn’t in the Pac 10, Big 10, ACC or SEC by 2014 (or whatever the fuck we’re calling those conferences now), you’re fucked.

The new super-conferences are killing what made college sports unique: regional rivalries. Nebraska vs. Purdue? Colorado vs. Oregon St.? Syracuse vs. Florida St.? Who fucking cares. Meanwhile, longstanding conferences with years of tradition like The Big 12 and The Big East are getting savaged. The bigwigs at universities are unwilling and unable to turn down the quickest dollar available to them, no matter how much it may hurt their school or an entire sport in the long run.

Again, I’m fine if college football wants to do more damage to itself than its already done. This is a sport whose headlines are dominated by Jerry Sandusky, Lane Kiffin and the unnamed cigar-chomping villains at NCAA headquarters in the godforsaken town of Indianapolis. But college basketball’s scheduling, conferences and even the beloved NCAA tournament will all be impacted by the changes that are being driven by football. (Hmmm…the changes for the worse in both baseball and college hoops are being instigated directly or indirectly by football. Is football the great monolithic American villain of the 21st century?)

In basketball, great rivalries like Georgetown-Syracuse and Texas-Texas A&M will cease. Mid-major conferences, soon to be gutted financially, will fold. The whole system is collapsing in on itself. And it’s only going to get worse.

NBA

Yeah….um. So.

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Filed under Sports Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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