Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Too Easy

An old article from our good friend, Murray Chass (and by good friend, I mean douchebag):

Rays Feeling A Red Sox Rush
By Murray Chass

I love that on a blog entitled "Murray Chass On Baseball," Murray feels it necessary to add a byline to his posts, even though he's the only one who writes for his OWN blog.

By now, you should realize that the Red Sox are going to win the American League East title and finish in first place for a second successive season for the first time since 1916.

Yes, of course--I'm sure you're right.

Or not.

Let me be fair. The main point of this post is not to point out a prediction that Chass got wrong in an article written two weeks ago (though that is fun). There is some other garbage in the article, too. We'll get to that. I am, however, going to make fun of his prediction a little more.

The Tampa Bay Rays have waged a scrappy, valiant fight for first, occupying the top spot since June 28 except for five days around the All-Star break and only one day when they played a game. It would be nice to have them rewarded for a surprising, stupendous season, but even after beating the Red Sox twice this week they seem to be ready to have Boston overtake them.

For fuck's sake--what a shitty sentence. "...occupying the top spot since June 28 except for five days around the All-Star break and only one day when they played a game." It's like a five year-old trying to make an argument: "...mom said I could go outside and get some ice cream and climb on a ladder and go over to Harold's house and look at his dad's dirty magazines and watch reruns of Bosom Buddies and then come home and have a cookie."

Okay, maybe it's an argument for someone a little older than five. Maybe six.
And what the fuck does "they seem ready to have Boston overtake them" mean? At the time, the Rays were holding their own against the Red Sox. Perhaps this is what Chass imagined:
Rays clubhouse after a game. Manager Joe Maddon has called his team in for a meeting.
Maddon: "Guys, we've done a great job all year. Our pitching's been great, we've had enough hitting to win games, the younger players have done very well. Now I think we're ready to take that next step--to have Boston overtake us in the standings. We've been waiting for just the right moment, and since we've been in first place since June 28 except for five days around the All-Star break and only one day when we've played a game, I think now is the time. We're ready."
B.J. Upton: "But coach, shouldn't we keep trying to win?"
Maddon: "No, we're ready to have Boston overtake us. That means we have to start losing."
Carlos Pena: "We just beat Boston. We're still in first. We can actually win the division!"
Maddon: "You guys don't get it. We're not just playing for us; we're playing for Murray Chass. And he says we're ready to have Boston overtake us. He's right--we weren't ready in August when we had the big lead. NOW we're ready. So stop winning."
(Maddon leaves room, goes to his office to look at dirty magazines).

By now, you should also realize that the Yankees aren’t going to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, their 13-year American League record run going down in flames. Unlike the Red Sox, the Yankees haven’t stayed close enough to the Rays to overtake them for the wild card.

No, because the Yankees would have had to overtake the Red Sox for the wild card, not the Rays. The Rays were ahead of the Red Sox at the time.

Chass got it right about the Yankees, but even Anne Frank could see that by the time this article was written.

As the Red Sox and the Yankees have shown, a team can make up a 5½-game deficit in the last month of the season (see 1978).

Fuck the heck? Are you kidding me? We need to go all the way back to 1978 to see an example of a team making up a 5 1/2-game deficit in the final month??? Just because it was the Yankees overtaking the Red Sox? Is that the only fucking time this has happened? Gosh, I can't think of any other time--oh, wait--last goddamn year it happened twice: the Phillies erased a 7-game deficit to overtake the Mets in the final 17 days, while the Rockies won something like 1463 games in a row at the end of the season to make the playoffs (note: I may be exaggerating the number of games the Rockies won in a row, but I'm sure I'm within 1450 of the actual number).

Again, do we really have to go back 30 years for the best example? How about 1987, when the Blue Jays lost seven in a row in the final week to lose the division to the Tigers? How about 1995, when the Angels blew a 9 game division lead and an 11 game lead in the wild card over the final five weeks of the season?

Why does Chass use 1978? Because it involved the Red Sox and Yankees, so therefore it was more meaningful than the other collapses. Presumably, every one cares about the AL East and the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry more than anything else regarding baseball.

I'm using Chass as the example, but he's hardly alone here. Most of the national media ram the Boston/New York thing down our throats all season. When the Red Sox and Yankees play, forget seeing anybody else on Sunday Night Baseball--in fact, the first series they play in a season, ESPN usually shows two out of three games, with the Saturday game being the national game on FOX (assuming it's a weekend series).

This was never more evident than last Sunday night's Yankee Stadium Lovefest on ESPN. Despite neither team being in playoff contention, ESPN chose to air the final game at Yankee Stadium (Yanks/Orioles) rather than a game with playoff implications. Obviously, the network chose to do this because it was the last regular season game at the Stadium. I suppose that makes sense. However, ESPN went way over the top with it. It's true--because of all the championships and the legendary players (Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio), Yankee Stadium does have the richest history of any ballpark. It's closing is a huge story. But on a night after a full day of NFL games and some good pennant-race baseball matchups, the lead on SportsCenter was the closing of Yankee Stadium! This, right after the game had aired for 4 hours on the channel! As much as I appreciate baseball history (which is quite a bit), this was unwarranted given the other sports news that happened Sunday.

I get that the Yankees and Red Sox get higher ratings on ESPN, so we'll see them more often. I understand the business of it and the myopic view TV programmers get when making decisions. The one thing that ESPN programmers don't factor in to their decisions is that some of the higher rating for the Red Sox/Yankees is inflated because that's all ESPN ever shows. If ESPN would do a better job of exposing some of the other teams in baseball on a regular basis, that would help fans in other areas of the country get to know those teams. Of course, that doesn't mean that ESPN should show a game between two last place teams just to get them on the air. But a Tampa Bay/Minnesota matchup would have been very appropriate this year, given that they were both at or near the top of their respective divisions all year. However, ESPN is on the east coast, and they want the short term ratings boost. So no small-market teams, and more Yankees/Red Sox.

The rest of the Chass article (yes, I was critiquing an article, remember?) is just a poorly-written look at why Boston would end up in first place. For an article that mentions the Rays in the headline, he hardly talks about them at all. But he does go on to write more about the Yankees, even though the headline seems to indicate the article isn't about them.

It seems that Chass, like many others who cover baseball, just can't see past the Red Sox and Yankees--even when the story of the year is standing right in front him.

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