They say that you should write often if you want to stay in the habit, even when there's nothing to write about. Right now (no pun intended), that seems to fit the news coming out of St. Louis.
Before I get into the limited Cardinal news, I do want to say a couple of things about the recent CBA that baseball got into. The agreement and its related issues have been broken down many places and much better than I would be able to do, so I'm not going to get into everything. Basically, I just wanted to voice my displeasure at the whole idea of Houston moving to the American League and the daily incursion of interleague play into our lives, plus the whole idea of a second wildcard team.
Bud Selig has been gradually chipping away at the foundation of the game, the idea that there are two leagues, ever since he came into office. So far, he's not made the connection between his disdain for history and the fact that he is one of the least-liked commissioners ever. His first move was to make umpires circle through both leagues during the season, rather than just one. This was a move I could support--any time you have umpires seeing teams less, you reduce the possibilities for personal conflicts influencing the game. In the past, it got so bad between Earl Weaver and Ron Luciano that they stopped assigning Luciano to Oriole games. That's not a good thing to have to deal with, plus it helped standardize strike zones to have umps in both leagues. So I'll give him that one.
He couldn't be happy with just that, though, so he eliminated the positions of American League and National League Presidents. Granted, they were somewhat ceremonial, but they were able to be the first line on punishments and issues in their league. They were in the way of Bud's one-league vision, though, and they had to go.
Now we have gotten to the point where every day is a mix of the two leagues, so that the lines blur even more. A traditional NL team has to swap leagues (instead of Bud's Brewers, who just were an AL team about a decade and a half ago, returning) and there was even talk about getting rid of divisions, though it didn't happen yet. The only thing saving us from one big pot is the NL's refusal to use the designated hitter, and even that may be doomed as well.
And the ironic thing? Bud keeps saying how much he wants the All-Star Game to matter, how he wants players to buy into this league pride thing. Why should they? He has constantly attacked the leagues as a separate entity. Give the leagues some sort of delineation, some sort of character, some sort of meaning and maybe the players would care again, at least more than they do now.
Then we get the wild card bit. I've not been a fan of the wild card ever since it came into being. If you want four teams per league into the playoffs, make four divisions. Adds another pennant race (which is apparently what they want, though they keep acting against it) and it means that you actually have to win something to get in. I know the Cards got in this year that way, but that doesn't mean I have to approve of it, just that they took advantage of the system in place.
So that was bad enough, but to add another one? Really? I mean, you want to have the possibility of a third-place team making it into October and then running the table? We've seen in the past few years how a hot team can shake up everything. I know that the idea is that the two wild cards face each other for a one-game playoff, forcing them to go all out to stay alive. But what if it's a team like the Cards, who are really a talented team, but struggled through part of the year before getting hot. A one-game playoff isn't necessarily going to be an issue for them.
It's flat out ridiculous is what it is. I mean, the whole drama of this year's last night would have been destroyed long ago, because both the Cards and Braves (and the Red Sox and Rays) would have known with a week or so left that they were going. The whole epic story of the Cards storming back to take the wild card would have been minimized because even at the beginning of their run, they'd have been in the lead for the second wild card. September would have been more about winning enough to hold of San Francisco and that's it.
It used to be that the MLB season meant something. You had to win your division and only four of the 28 teams made it to October, so if you were in the postseason, you had a good year. Now, 10 of the 30 teams will be able to say they were a playoff team. When a third of your league is in the postseason, it's hardly exclusive. Plus, with this and some of the changes on compensation picks, the trading deadline will be basically dead. What team will be giving up on their season in July? With that many slots, probably 20 teams (if not more) will be where they can legitimately think that they are going to make it to October.
OK, I didn't really mean to ramble on that long about the CBA, but there really isn't much happening in Cardinal Nation. It looks like Dan McLaughlin may get to keep his Fox Sports Midwest job, which is good. I didn't think that'd be the case when it first happened and I'm still not sure how awkward it is going to be for the viewers (though I can imagine that he'll have a moment to talk directly to them in the first broadcast) but I really liked Dan when I met him and this hopefully will help him keep his life in order.
The Cards got their World Series bonus checks, or at least found out how much they are going to be. I'd take $323,000 as my yearly salary, much less a nice little bonus at the end of the year. (Can you imagine what the players like Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay, those around the MLB minimum of $414,000 are thinking? That's like a bonus year to them!) The players that weren't there at the end of the year got partial shares, which helps alleviate the fact that the team won without them, I expect.
Other than that, it's pretty quiet. Albert Pujols is on vacation in Hawaii and there's a rumor that he will re-sign with the Cards when he returns. Then again, there was a rumor he'd sign before he left, so take that for what it is worth. It seems pretty obvious, though, that the market isn't huge for AP. Some execs say it's a 100% likelihood that he returns to St. Louis and being that the Cards aren't currently raising their offer to him, they probably feel like it's a pretty good chance as well. The Cubs look to be entering the fray, due to the changes in the CBA (told you it wasn't a good thing!) but I think they'd have to overwhelm Albert for him to risk that kind of backlash.
Things will likely be sparse around here for a while. I don't expect to have any more Conversations With C70 until after Christmas, at least, since I have numerous real-life things to do in December. The UCB is still working on their postseason publication, so I'll be sure to let you know when we get it finished. Hopefully I'll be back talking about Albert's new contract soon and you'll hear me this Sunday on Gateway to Baseball Heaven and in two weeks on the UCB Radio Hour. So you won't have to go cold turkey, as much as you might want to!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball