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The Baseball Report Volume IV Issue 8

From The Editor,

Hey all! Finally, The Baseball Report has returned after a brief hiatus. Now more than ever before, each issue will be packed interesting views and insights on the sport we all love.

Now, before you read the issue, I'd just like to remind you all to forward TBR to anyone who you think may be interested, as the more people that read, the better.

As always, the staff of The Baseball Report encourages and welcomes feedback, so if you have an opinion or a comment on the issue, drop me a line. Similarly, if you'd like to advertise in TBR or on the website, email baseballreport@aol.com.

We have a new question and answer section at the end of the issue, so start sending in your questions!


Now, onto the issue...

Michael Frankel
Editor-in-Chief

Point to Ponder: The only thing suprising to Roger Clemens about hitting Mike Piazza in the head is that Piazza failed to get out of the way.

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Down With Divisions by Josh Murphy

Major league Baseball is at a bind once again as to what to do with the current divisional format. Commissioner Bud Selig has proposed an alternative to the current format in which the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who cannot veto a switch between leagues, swap places. Arizona joins the AL West and the Texas Rangers moves to the AL Central. The Devil Rays would form a new division, the NL South, with Atlanta, Houston, and Florida. This would create four divisions in the NL and eliminate the wild card in this league.

Many problems arise with this divisional proposal. First, the AL would have three divisions and a wild card and the NL would have four divisions and no wild card. The two leagues have always been similar in their divisional setup and, based on precedent, they should remain that way. Next, the AL's divisions will be severely unbalanced, with the Central having six teams and the East and West only having four teams. Finally, how would interleague play, which Selig favors, exist in this format?

In fact, the only benefit to this would be stronger regional rivalries, which is what Selig had in mind with this proposal. However, the problems in this setup greatly outweigh this single benefit, and it probably would not benefit the sport in any other way.

Many other proposals have been thrown around as well, including expansion, contraction, moving other teams to different divisions and/or leagues, etc. But the real problem is not how divisions should be set up, but rather that divisions exist at all.

A good idea would be to completely eliminate divisions overall, similar to the format prior to 1969. Then, the top four teams in each league would play in the first round of the playoffs. The top team in the league would play the fourth-best team, and the second-best and third-best teams would play, for the right to advance to the League Championship Series.

The main benefit of this would be that, for sure, the four best teams in each league would advance to the postseason. With the divisional format, this has not always happened. For instance, in 1994 at the time when the players' strike ended the season, the Texas Rangers were leading the AL West, even though their record was well below .500. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles were well above .500 and in third place in the AL East. Obviously, the Orioles were the better team, but they probably would not have made the postseason, even though a sub-.500 team would have. In the aforementioned non-divisional format, only the best four teams could advance to postseason play.

The one big problem with this format would be the scheduling. First off, balance the schedule. Every team should play an equal amount of games against every other team in the league. This way, there will be an undisputed league champion, instead of a team who played more games against sub-.500 opponents than most other teams.

Next, extend the schedule from 162 to 165 games. This has multiple benefits. This schedule allows every NL team to play each other 11 times. That equals four series a year, three three-game sets and a two-game set, and teams alternate every year on which team gets the two-game set.

For instance, say the Giants and the Phillies were to play each other next year in this format. They would play two three-game sets at Veterans' Stadium and a three-game series and a two-game series at Pacific Bell Park this year, and next year they would have two three-game sets at Pacific Bell Park and a three-game and a two-game set at Veterans' Stadium. The schedule would just alternate annually.

The AL schedule would be a little trickier. Each team will have to play nine opponents 13 times and four opponents 12 times. This would not hurt the balance of the league too severely, and the league office can just rotate opponents on a biennial basis. There would be three three-game sets and a four-game series against the teams you play 13 games with, rotating the four-game series between teams similar to the example shown above, and four three-game sets against teams you only play 12 games against.

One might ask how the other three games can fit into the schedule. There are multitudes of ways to go about this. The season could be extended a few days at the beginning or the end of the season. If that cannot work, doubleheaders can be scheduled as well. This way, the three extra games do not interfere with travel dates or other days off.

Unfortunately, the downside of this is that there is no room for interleague play in the schedule. But games against an opponent outside the league should not count in the league standings anyways. Interleague play has caught on with fans but baseball can and will survive without interleague play. Let interleague games be exhibitions, like games that are played late in spring training for the benefit of the fans and the teams.

Overall, baseball will benefit greatly from a non-divisional setup. There will be equality in the schedule, between teams, and between leagues. Every team will have an equal opportunity, and the fans will be able to see each opponent in their ballpark. The best teams would advance to the postseason undisputedly. This is the best option around, and it will solve the scheduling and divisional format for years to come and possibly forever.

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The Call That Never Is by Emily Liner

On Saturday, June 24, 2000, a very rare and unusual call was made in the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. That call was the catcher's balk.

In the official rules of Major League Baseball, rule 4.03a states: "The catcher shall station himself directly back of the plate. He may leave his position at any time to catch a pitch or make a play except that when the batter is being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within the lines of the catcher's box until the ball leaves the pitcher's hand. Penalty: balk." This balk, known as the catcher's balk, is charged to the pitcher.

The Brewers' manager, Davey Lopes, knows his baseball rules well. During the game on Friday night he had noticed that Braves' catcher Javy Lopez had his foot outside of the box and complained to the umpires about it. Said Lopes, "All I asked was that they enforce the rule. You can't be set up a full foot outside the line."

After the game, the umpires measured the width of the catcher's box. It was four inches wider than regulation allows, which is forty-three inches. The next day the catcher's box width was altered to the correct width. WTBS, the cable network airing June 24th's game, showed pictures during the game of the catcher's box from Friday and Saturday. The difference was quite noticeable.

In the top of the first inning during Saturday's game, Brewers' centerfielder Marquis Grissom was at bat. On the 0-2 pitch, home plate umpire John Shulock noticed that Braves' catcher Fernando Lunar's foot was outside of the catcher's box. Shulock called a catcher's balk on Lunar. Braves' manager Bobby Cox got in a heated argument with Shulock and was ejected. Greg Maddux, the Braves' starting pitcher, was charged with the balk.

Now why is this call so unusual? Just about every catcher, major league or not, sets up outside of the catcher's box, some with their foot on the line and some with their foot several inches outside, because it is believed that setting up outside of the box increases the chance of an outside pitch being called a strike.

Even Lopes said, "That's not unknown to happen." Since catchers are so often outside of the box, one would only think that the catcher's balk would be called more often, but it is not. Most umpires concentrate on other things. For instance, the home plate umpire is watching the pitch, and the first base or third base umpire, depending on whether the pitcher is left or right handed, is watching to see if the pitcher, not the catcher, commits a balk.

Basically this call is only made when it is brought to an umpire's attention. Lopes made a smart move when alerting the umpires about it. But now that umpires are aware of it, why is it still so rare? After this incident, one would think, the umpires would be looking for the catcher to set up outside. And now that Cox knows about it, should not he be alerting umpires when he sees the catcher of the opposing team setting up outside? After all, Cox knows all too well how the balk, whether called on the pitcher or catcher, can alter the outcome of a game. Unfortunately, it has not been so.

The umpires are still oblivious to the catcher's position and most managers are not making a conscious effort to see if the catcher is indeed outside. Is this fair? Not really. But that is how it is. Unless more umpires become aware of a catcher's moving feet, nothing will be done, and the catcher's balk will remain being the call that never is.

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Point

Is The All-Star Game Really All Stars? by Lance Kaminsky

Does a .239 hitter with 13 home runs and 43 RBI's deserves to start in the all-star game? With these numbers, this player should be playing in the minor leagues. Well, this player is none other than Cal Ripken Jr. and if he were not injured, he would be the starting 3rd baseman for the American league in today's All Star Game.

The only reason why a player with less than extraordinary stats made the All Star team is due to fan voting. Fan voting for players in the All Star game has been around for a long time, and sometimes the people chosen do not deserve to play.

A few recent examples of this include Ken Caminiti, who a few years ago was the NL MVP. The next year, however, Caminiti batted around .240 with 12 homeruns before the break. Yet, he was voted in the team just due to name recognition.

In this year's All Star game, there are quite a few people that will be starting in the All Star game with less than stellar numbers, or at least would be if not for injury, but do not deserve to be starting. A few examples include Ken Griffey Jr. (.238 with 28HR and 72 RBI's) vs. Jim Edmonds (.341 with 25 HR and 59 RBI's), Mark Mcgwire (.303 with 30HR and 69RBI) vs Todd Helton (.383 with 21HR and 70RBI), and Sammy Sosa (.305 with 23HR and 74RBI) vs. Vladimir Guerrero (.369 with 23HR and 76RBI). Granted, the first person chosen probably does deserve to make the team, but the second choices have just as good if not better stats than the first player, yet they are either reserves or not playing.

Fan voting is directly related to name recognition. If the common fan hears a name of someone known a few years ago, odds are this fan will name that player this year. A striking example of this is Rey Ordonez. Rey missed the past two months due to injury and he will not be able to play the rest of the season. Nevertheless, Rey was nearly voted to start the All Star game, missing the first place vote way to closely for an injured player.

Fan voting must be reorganized in such a way as to eliminate these irregularities. Name recognition is good for fans that want to see their favorite players bat or pitch, but for it to truly be considered an All-Star game, real all stars need to start.

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CounterPoint

What the All-Star Game Should Be by Michael Frankel

Every year the second Tuesday of July comes and with it comes Major League Baseball's traditional All-Star Game. With that, perennially, comes complaints of players that did not make the team, and cries of how the fans "mis-vote" every year by electing players with names rather than players with the numbers that season.

Well, it is time for that to stop. The All-Star Game used to be played with as much intensity as game seven of the World Series (see Pete Rose sliding into home) but lately has become nothing more than showcase of the game's best players. With that change then must come a change in people's attitudes towards the game.

The All-Star Game is the one game every year in which the fans get to decide eight of the players on each team, eight of a roster of 32. If the fans would like to see certain players, regardless of the player's numbers, then they have every right to vote for that player. If the manager of each team cannot find a way to accommodate the statistically deserving players with the other 24 roster spots, then that is a problem that expanding the rosters can solve.

The All-Star Game's function is to display to the world the sports best. The game is not for the players but rather the fans, the people who truly make the game what it is. As such, who can better determine whom people want to see than the fans. After all, they watch the games every day and if they would like to see more of Cal Ripken Jr., or Ken Griffey Jr. as opposed to Mike Bordick and Jim Edmonds than they possess that right.

The bottom line is that the All-Star Game is what the fans make of it. To criticize fans for doing so, or claim they should not vote because they do not vote objectively is also unfair. If fans choose to ignore statistics and vote for guys they want to see, then that is okay because it is their game. They should choose who plays in it.

In the end, baseball is a sport that should be ruled by the fans. Unfortunately, we live in an era when money, agents, greed, and pretty much everything else other than baseball run the game. There is just one day of the year when fans can decide who they want to see, and if those fans choose to see the aging slugger, the has been superstar, or simply the one year wonder from a few years ago, then they have the right because the All-Star should be the fans game, not the statistics game. After all, a star is only a star if he is recognized as such by the fans.

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Questions
   &
Answers

Q: Why should a pitcher not get charged with earned runs, if his error led to the runs scoring?
A: This question is a lot easier to answer if we first look at the statistic in question - earned run average. Earned run average is often misunderstood, or at least, thought of incorrectly. E.R.A. is not a measure of a pitcher against opposing hitters. Rather, E.R.A. measures runs earned by opposing hitters off a pitcher. Thus, regardless of who made the error, the opposing hitters did not earn the run.

Q: Why are the seats in centerfield in Yankees Stadium black, and how come nobody ever sits there?
A: The seats in centerfield are black because they are the background for the hitters' eyes when at bat. Black seats make the white ball easier to see and easier to hit. Nobody sits there for the same reason. A solid backdrop is much easier to see a ball against than a moving group of white shirts.

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Email baseballreport@aol.com with any comments, suggestions, or opinions you may have.

That's all for this issue.

Till next time,

Michael Frankel
Editor-in-Chief

Feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone.

copyright 2000 The Baseball Report