White Sox and Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Arizona this week. Other players will follow soon. It will be warm there. We will be jealous.
And we’ll be excited initially because it’s baseball. But later we’ll be aggravated when we realize that almost as bad as no baseball is the prolonged agony of fake baseball.
In the end, spring training is like six weeks of drunken foreplay: we’re looking forward to where things are leading, but it’s hard not to pass out during the run-up.
So let’s talk about something besides things like who is showing up to camp in the best shape of his career.
Like here’s something that happened this offseason that kind of flew under the radar: as part of America’s quest to suck the humanity out of everything, baseball is going to instant replay!
Here’s how it’s going to work: Each manager can request one video replay of a reviewable call (not including balls and strikes). This will involve headset communication from the on-the-field Crew Chief to a facility in New York staffed by umpires called the “Replay Command Center.” This’ll be like any hi-tech command center I’d expect, except with more munchies and Lou Piniella voodoo dolls strewn about.
If the skipper is proven wise and the call is overturned then he gets another replay. But that’s it dammit! Well, maybe not. After the seventh inning, the Crew Chief has the right to review any call (stil not balls and strikes) he’s thinkin’ doesn’t waft right, up to infinity!
So get ready fellow baseball enthusiasts, the games that used to last two-and-a-half hours in the 70s, and have crept up to near three hours over the last decade, are now sure to reach durations that would make a Mayan ruin blush.
“I tell you the fans will love it,” said baseball Commissioner and true man-of-the-people Bud Selig, after instant replay was passed unanimously by MLB owners in January. “It’s another in a long list of changes that will make this sport better than it already is.”
Sure Bud. But it’s weird that as the game keeps getting better, the owners keep getting richer. I’m sure it’s just a wacky coincidence.
And it’s probably a coincidence that instant replay will mean a few more commercials, and a little more advertising revenue, during game broadcasts. That would matter only if team owners also owned the television stations. Oh wait, they do! (Together Reinsdorf and Ricketts own 60% of CSN Chicago).
And when baseball games offer more in potential advertising dollars, this is reflected in the mega-deals cut by MLB and its teams with national and local media networks.
I know you’re thinking I’m a paranoid loon, and that MLB owners–the thirty of them together worth more than a small island nation–wouldn’t do all this to make a few extra bucks in TV money. But let’s not forget that we’re dealing with a pretty miserly bunch here.
Just this week MLB owners voted to eliminate pensions for non-uniformed employees (or the people not making millions playing baseball). Apparently times are tough for the league that earned more than $8 billion in revenue last year, up from $1.4 billion in 1995.
Also this week, some minor league ballplayers filed a lawsuit against MLB (which pays minor league players) seeking damages for “minimum wage and overtime violations, recordkeeping requirements, state wage and hour violations, payday requirements, waiting time penalties, itemized wage statement violations, unfair business practices and quantum meruit.” I think that last part is Latin for “being stingy assholes.”
For MLB ownership, these are not isolated cases of short-changing personnel, but a trend. In recent years, owners have been dealing with more claims and settlement payments related to cases of wage theft. And a memo from Commissioner Bud’s office to all 30 major league teams last September called improper pay practices “endemic to our industry.”
Like I always say, rich people didn’t get all that money by giving it up easy!
But it’s a good thing we build stadiums like cathedrals for these guys and throw in millions in tax breaks to boot, because what would we do without them?!
Well, maybe we’d have more decent jobs and bosses.
And baseball games that lasted only two-and-a-half hours.
Note: This rant was originally posted at The Third City.