Tuesday, October 28, 2008
True Confessions: Baseball is the greatest game ever invented but its popularity is waning because all its components move in slow motion in a jet-age culture. The hierarchy of Major League Baseball is the biggest offender: Last to tackle steroids and performance enhancing drugs; Reluctant to enact rule changes to speed up the game; Last to install the most innovative technological changes reviewing home run calls on instant replay; pawns of television networks, and blind stubbornness to hold its showcase, the World Series, in warm weather or domed stadiums. And, they wonder why they are losing television ratings. The damned games don't start until 9 p.m. EST and rarely end before 1 a.m. Children, the most important element to grow fan support, are or should be asleep before a Series game reaches the second inning. Too often the Series is played in weather unfit for a Polar bear as was the case Monday night when the Phillies-Rays game was called in the 6th inning tied at 2-2. Commissioner Bud Selig said the game will resume in Philadelphia even if it takes until Thanksgiving. That could occur as long as it doesn't interfere with Fox's regular television programming schedule. One Series already has played into November. That's ridiculous and an insult to the integrity of the game itself. Baseball is a fair weather game, played best in late spring, through the dog days of August and into the first week of fall. Last season, because of television scheduling and sweeping the two playoff series, the National League champion Colorado Rockies waited 11 days to play the Series opener in Boston. Rusty for lack of games, the Rockies lost their timing and momentum succumbing in four to the Red Sox in the frigid Rocky Mountain air. That wasn't baseball. It was a hockey game played with a round ice puck. The two and one-half games played in Philly were cold, windy and muddy. Baseball should play the Series in domed or warm weather stadiums: Seattle, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Miami, Tampa Bay, Arlington, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix. The Series should be a 2-3-2 schedule with one day off between travel dates. One park would be selected for National League home games and another for the American League home games. It is a format the National Football League has followed for more than 43 years in scheduling the Super Bowl. If that's uneconomical and inconvenient for fans of World Series teams, then hold the best of seven games in one park alternating the 2-3-2 and off-day schedules between home and visiting clubs. At least we'll be entitled to watch baseball the way it was designed to be played. And, what's wrong with playing day games? My memory stretches back many years to the 1946 Red Sox-Cardinals Series on radio; Thompson's historic home run to beat the Dodgers in the 1951 playoffs, and Larsen's perfect game against Brooklyn. Furthermore, I remember where I was on those momentous occasions. They were the forces that drove my love for the game that continues to this day. The fervor rises and falls slightly if my favorite team is in the Series. That's happened twice with the 1984 and 1996 versions of the San Diego Padres. Even that's better than Cubs fans who have waited impatiently more than a century.