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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Bud's Final Solution!

It was a great week to be a Sox fan.  In seven short days we were treated to the spectacle of the wailing and gnashing of teeth by Cubs fans everywhere over the snubbing of Ryne Sandberg in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.  Then, just as that tempest in a teapot seemed to be dying down, who should come along but Commissioner Budlight with an idiotic plan to bring back interest in the All-Star Game.   

Former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg failed to get fifty percent of the writers to vote for him in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.  It takes votes from seventy-five percent to be elected.  Getting that percentage is far from a disgrace, but the way it sounded on sports-talk radio last week, you’d have sworn that Sandberg had been shut out of the voting. 

The arguments on both sides were utterly ridiculous.  On the pro-Sandberg side, The Score’s Mike Murphy called newly elected candidate Eddie Murray “a marginal Hall of Famer” whose stats were based entirely on longevity.  Of course Murphy failed to mention that in his twenty-one year career, Murray managed 3,255 hits (twelfth all-time), 504 home runs (seventeenth all-time), 1,917 RBI (eight all-time), 560 doubles (seventeenth all-time), and managed to bat .287.  If those are the statistics of a “marginal Hall of Famer,” I’d love to see what Murphy thinks are genuine Hall-of-Fame statistics. 

On the other side there was columnist Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune who managed to make an even bigger fool of himself than Murphy.  Taking an anti-Sandberg position, Morrissey likened the position of second base in the major leagues as being the equivalent of playing right field in little league.   

Right field, of course, is where the kid who gets chosen last plays in pickup games.  I played a lot of right field in my day.  Of course all a second baseman has to do is go to his left to cover the hole, cover short popups between the short right-field foul line and center field, go to his right on balls hit up the middle, and make the pivot on the double play.  Managers are quite willing to let a weak batter who possesses these defensive skills to a high degree play as their everyday second baseman.   

Morrissey thinks that because Sandberg could do all of this and hit, too, he is “an anomaly.”  Others would say this makes him a star.  Sandberg’s offensive skills were and still are rare for a second baseman.  His six years with over 500 assists say that he was a rare second baseman indeed.  A great fielder who could hit.  Somehow Morrissey turns this against Sandberg.  How I don’t know. 

Perhaps his logic is similar to that of the fan who called the show arguing that if Sandberg had stayed at third base, his offensive numbers would not have stood out.  Of course Sandberg did not stay at third base.  He could cover more ground than the average third baseman.  He could go to his right, something third basemen don’t have to do very much.  So according to this caller, Sandberg should be penalized for being a good-hitting second baseman because if he had played third base he wouldn’t have stood out.  Such arguments boggle the mind. 

Then just as all of this was dying down, along comes Commissioner Budlight.  You may remember The Commissioner from his recent appearance at the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, the one where the two managers managed to clear both their bullpens and their benches in a world-class lack of foresight.  It was Commissioner Budlight who then had the announcement made that if no one scored, the game would be declared a tie, leading fans in his own hometown to boo him. 

The fact is that television ratings for the All-Star Game are dropping precipitously.  The decision to declare the game a tie just showed how little anyone cared whether or not either league’s team wins these games. It has become little more than an incentive clause in players’ contracts, and the fans have figured that out.  The declaration of a tie last year when the benches were empty just confirmed it for them.

I guess something needs to be done if baseball wants to keep up the TV ratings, but the Budlight plan isn’t the solution.  Consider what this plan does.  It states home field advantage in the series that will determine the championship team in baseball will go to the league’s team that wins an exhibition game, played in stadiums that alternate between leagues each year.  The starting players in the exhibition game are selected by fans, many of whom stuff the ballot boxes for their own home team players.  Each year the selection of those players by the fans comes under criticism.   

The teams are managed by the league champions from the previous year, which often means their teams will be in contention that year.  Surely none of these managers will be tempted to use a pitcher for another contending team for an extra inning to help win home field advantage in the World Series, while having the selfish side-benefit of perhaps throwing off that pitchers return to the rotation following the All-Star break. 

Of course if a league ever runs into a losing streak like the American League did between 1963 and 1987 where they went 3-22, then the rule would have to be change again.  Imagine getting home field advantage three times in twenty-five years.  How much interest would the fans have then? 

Then there is the little problem of the DH rule.  The DH is used only in games played in American League parks.  I’m sure that each league would have a problem with the DH rule if one league gets home field advantage a lot more frequently than the others.  Fans would start complaining how one league is treated unfairly, and either the home-field-advantage rule would have to be changed or the DH rule dropped in the AL, a move the Players Association might not look kindly on. 

Leave it to Budlight to come up with a cure that is worse than the disease.  Of course some would say that it is The Commissioner himself who is the disease.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

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