As we head into that dreaded portion of the year known as the Second Half, the stomach is churning at the thought of things like Back to School retail sales, football training camps and the way too early expectation of short days and darker evenings. Fortunately, we have the All Star Game and the Home Run Derby to get us into the habit of enduring overly hyped events that mostly yield disappointments. I tell myself that if it were Spring all of the time, then Spring wouldn’t be so sweet.
It is also the time of the baseball season when all know it all pundits are expected to engage in monotonous speculation concerning which teams are within range of the now expanded post season playoffs to see if they can make it to the World Series. These teams shall henceforth be referred to as Buyers. Conversely, there are now 18 teams that will not be invited to the October festivities, and those will be at least potentially designated as Sellers. There is very little, in fact almost zero, speculation that a team that is currently losing more than it wins will reverse itself after August 2 and get hot or that a team that is currently among the 12 that will qualify for playoffs will suddenly lose its Mojo and start looking like the 1962 Mets. Admittedly, that’s more logical than what we used to hear back when everybody knew who Howdy Doody and Milton Berle was, such as”Well fans , the Sox are 19 games behind the Yankees here on July 4, but if Sherman Lollar and Jim Rivera break out of their slumps and Jack Harshman and Dick Donovan start pitching like we know they can, they could still give the Yankees a run for the money.”
These days all of the yack yack has to do with Juan Soto and whether or not the Nationals want to keep making him richer and richer or whether or not the all take and no give owner of the Oakland Athletics has anyone left to peddle to a contender in exchange for players making Minimum Baseball Wage. It’s all a bit crass and undignified, like the hawking of those embarrassing “City Connect” uniforms everybody has been adopting. So far, the San Diego Padres edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for ugly apparel in that regard, but back to our story. As usual, I have a proposal. If I were a negotiator for the players’ association, I would begin to take steps to get even for that idiotic lockout before the season began. What I would push hard for is a simple solution to all of the mid season and between seasons bullshit that players and fans have been putting up with for far too long. Here it is: the Universal no trade clause. I know, I know, I hear you, these guys are all millionaires (remember when a million was a really big deal before billion took its place?). Curt Flood, however, was correct. A well paid slave is still a slave. Under my rule change, if Soto wanted to remain in Washington, he could. Or, if a young prospect like Oneil Cruz chose not to help a team like the Phillies so that Pittsburgh could obtain Bryce Harper in exchange, he could say no. Chances are that most players would go along with any deal, but the way it is now only players who have already earned that specific right after several seasons can refuse. The good that would come of it is that rosters would attain relative stability, younger players would be compensated better, fans like those in Oakland would be more able to avoid feeling used, and more players could relax and play ball. Plus, a lot of excess noise on the airways would be supplanted. Again, these players are now very well compensated but how many highly skilled people do you know who can be suddenly jerked away from their homes without warning just because they are “owned”? And, if you really don’t mind, or one of the owners agrees to “sweeten the pot”, then it’s no problem.
The other mid season issues have mostly to do with rule changes that owners lackey Rob Manfred is considering. Bear in mind that change can be good and often is, but the results can also sometimes not be what was anticipated. For instance, replay review. Get it right , we all said. No more lousy calls, we all hoped. Well, what we did not anticipate was the length of time that everybody would stand around waiting for someone miles away to get it right. I personally have come full circle and would prefer extended times out while someone like Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella goes berserk. More entertaining and, come on, we are all human. Pitch clock? It seems inevitable, but it is only fair that, if speed is the issue, we also cut down on time between half innings that has become excessive so that bad hamburgers and beer can be sold to viewers who don’t need them. The hideous short ads while the game is going on won’t go away but perhaps they could be replaced with health tips (not from Tony Fauci) concerning obesity and the dangers of gambling. Which reminds me, this is not a rule change but a change in scruples: all of the ads urging people to throw their money away betting on games and variations thereof are disgusting and hypocritical. Banning defensive shifts? I’d much prefer training on how to beat them. Lastly, the Oaf Manfred rule about extra innings is an abomination, so it will likely be etched in stone like the designated sitter. My feelings about both are similarly etched. Have you noticed how much better the National League games are this year? Neither have I.
We will have a fun second half I am sure. I promise to get all warm and cuddly, especially if the Mariners keep winning.