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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Republican ElephantLast year in Connecticut, a bill sponsored by Governor Dannel Malloy (D) repealing the state’s death penalty passed both houses of the general assembly and was signed into law.  Though I personally believe in the death penalty, one thing about the terms of the law is that there would be a grandfather clause affecting the eleven men currently on death row—they could still be put to death depending on how their appeals are handled.

About a year later, one of the elite eleven, as it were, is going to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that this implementation is unconstitutional and that the appeal process should be stopped and their sentences commuted to life sentences. 

Does anyone study the Constitution anymore?  When I was in third grade, I was taught the ex-post facto clause of the Constitution.  For example, if they pass a law on Tuesday making it illegal to ride a bicycle on Elm Street on Sundays, and you rode a bicycle on Elm Street last Sunday, you cannot be arrested or charged with a crime or misdemeanor because it was not yet law of the land when you did it.  The death penalty was the law of the land when the afore mentioned elite eleven were convicted and sentenced; there is no reason to stop their executions.  They still have to go through the same appeal process back when it was the law of the land and which was virtually unlimited appeals.  Had they not repealed the death penalty and limited the appeal process to say, seven year maximum, the elite eleven would still have unlimited appeals.

Unfortunately, the ex-post facto clause sometimes works against us.  Michael Skakel, a Greenwich, Connecticut resident and cousin of the Kennedys, murdered his girlfriend with a golf club in 1975.  The laws allowing minors to be tried as adults went into effect in 1977 so he could get off on that technicality.  He may have waived that right as he waived his right to a speedy trial (he was tried in 1991).  But if he did get off by virtue of ex-post facto, it would have been an exceptional situation based on the fact that nothing is perfect on Earth, and that we have to wait until we are in thy Kingdom to see perfect justice.  The benefits of ex-post facto outweigh the negatives. 

There is definitely no reason to not execute any member of that elite eleven if there is no reason not to after the respective appeal processes have reached practical equilibrium.  Let’s not throw more kerosene on an already intense fire.

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FlagBaseballI took the time to read and follow someone else’s blog (Beyond the Score Card) where I read an article about the inevitability of the National League adopting the designated hitter (DH).  With the new alignment (Houston Astros switching from NL Central to AL West) fostering two fifteen-club leagues, there is guaranteed to be one interleague game played whenever MLB is playing a full schedule.  Logic would dictate the need for both leagues to play by the same rules.  Since 1973, the American League has fostered a DH while the National League continues to have the pitchers hit.  Prior to 1973, pitchers hit in both leagues.  Before 1997, there was no interleague play—all teams played 162 games in their own league on the road to the World Series.

You may have figured out by now there are two methods of standardization.  One way is for the NL to adopt the DH and the other way is to have the AL abolish it.  The former is the path of least resistance because the Players Association strongly supports the DH, at least in the AL, because, as a union, they are obligated to protect jobs, and many AL teams sign aging veterans who can no longer run fast on the bases or hustle in the field, but can still hit home runs, thus prolonging their careers.  The latter method will require bargaining with the Players Asso. and the younger generation of fans has no appreciation for strategy and wants more offense.  And Commissioner Selig or his successor will pull the trigger and make the change if the powers that be in the sports television business request it.  Once the NL gets the DH, there is no turning back—that is the way baseball will be played until the coming of Christ or any messiah you believe in, because there will be no one left alive that remembers baseball before the DH.  But there is a window of opportunity open right now and therefore, I want to present my case for traditional baseball with pitchers in the batting order and no DH.

  • There are a lot more NL games played in less than three hours time than in the AL.  This is because, with the possible exception of bringing the closer in, in the top of the ninth inning, pitching changes are made on the mound and the incoming pitcher tosses eight warm-ups in a time out.  In the NL, many pitchers are lifted for a pinch hitter to get that extra run in and the new pitcher comes in when the inning changes sides and warms up while the infielders and outfielders are throwing the ball around for 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
  • Our national pastime is two events in one: it is a sport for athletes with talent in the respective areas, and it is a thinking man’s game of strategy.  Both of those things together distinguish it from all other sports and games Americans play and watch for entertainment and give it the dubious honor of being America’s national pastime.  In the NL, a manager may have to make a critical decision: you may be down by just one run and with the exception of that one run, your pitcher is pitching a good game.  You can let him bat and make the best of it or pinch hit and increase your chances of scoring that tying or go-ahead run, requiring a pitching change next inning regardless of your pitcher’s performance.  AL buffs claim in the DH game, the managers are off the hook making such a decision and can never be second guessed.  What the heck is a big league manager being paid to do?
  • The DH means more offense and more runs scored.  That is what the younger fan is looking for.  I can tell you from experience, to really appreciate baseball for what it is, you have to armchair manage a game and have fun with strategy.  Make decisions like double switch, double steal, hit and run, sacrifice bunt and suicide squeeze.  I guess I am a relic from before computer games when one of my favorite activities when I was not doing something active outdoors was to play Strat-O-Matic or Sports Illustrated All Time All Star Baseball and manage a team of cardboard cards with their records and playing abilities standardized to yield results according the roll of the dice.  I was pretty good, albeit managing cardboard cards that play predictably according to the roll of the dice does not in any qualify me to manage a team of humans who are not always perfect.  I still believe you cannot call yourself a real fan until you armchair manage a game and the same opportunities do not exist in a DH game.
  • NL pitchers do no throw at batter’s head anywhere near as often as AL pitchers do.  Makes sense because if you are pitching, you will think twice about throwing at a head if the other team can potentially retaliate when it is your turn to bat.  In the AL where you don’t bat, you get away with it scott-free.  The best example is Pedro Martinez: look how many heads he hunted when he was with the Red Sox compared to when he pitched for the Mets.
  • Pitchers, especially fastball pitchers do not burn themselves out in the NL the way they do in the AL.  With a DH you face nine bonafide hitters and get no breaks from throwing your 90 MPH plus.  In the NL you can throw a fastball in the eighties when you are pitching to the opposing pitcher sparing the arm.  The Founding Fathers of baseball had a reason why they did not propose a DH at the turn of the twentieth century.
  • I see absolutely no connection between television ratings and the DH.  Every year the announce the ratings for the World Series circa November 1 and they are always either a record low or not anywhere where MLB would like to see them.  Explain to me why World Series ratings were better back in the days when the DH didn’t exist and the games were played at one o’clock in the afternoon.

The AL owners have already intimated they would consider sacrificing the DH if in return they could have an expansion of the roster so they can carry twelve pitchers to accommodate the way the game is played today.  Currently, MLB rosters are 25 players wide except in September.  To expand to 27 is the equivalent of 2.4 expansion teams which would further dilute the talent pool but if they would compromise on 26, it wouldn’t be so bad because the twenty-sixth man would most-likely be the twelfth pitcher.  Let’s do right by the game of baseball while we still have a chance; abolish the DH, and play baseball the way God intended it to be played!

P.S. The Great Babe Ruth began his career as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 1914.  If they had the DH in 1914, Babe Ruth never would have picked up a bat!

FlagBaseballThe 2013 baseball season has begun.  The Mets are 1-0 albeit it is unlikely they will have a winning season this year.  But there is nothing like an April afternoon with the sun shining and new green grass on the field and those urban flowers known as baseball box scores are once again in bloom.  There is one big difference that made this opening day very different than in the past.

This is the first MLB season with an odd number of teams (15) in each league.  That means instead of pockets of the season allocated for interleague play, there is one interleague game going on all season long along with seven league games.  It does not damper the enthusiasm of opening day and the start of another pennant race, but it does diminish the meaning of MLB being a circuit of two distinct leagues, the National League and the American League.

For many years, the NFL (National Football League) and NBA (National Basketball Association) have been operated as single-league circuits with two conferences. The conferences are used for post-season affixation and the balance of the schedule (who plays who the most) are determined by conference alignment.  What made baseball what is was through the entirety of the twentieth century has been the tradition of two distinct leagues, and until 1997 did not even play each other in regular season games, and the diversity of the two leagues.  Although I never liked the designated hitter, there were a lot of other distinctions that identified the two leagues.  The National League was the first league to require an ear flap on the batting helmets while the American League was the first league to require wearing the hard had when running the bases.  The National League was the first league to provide inside-the-chest protectors to home plate umpires, resulting in a higher strike zone in the American League while their umpires continued to look over that big shield to make the call.  New York once had three teams with two out of three in the NL (New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers) resulting in a rivalry that was once even bigger than Yankees-Red Sox.  The irony is the designated hitter is the only thing left that distinguishes the leagues.

The NL and AL are still leagues in title, but there are no more league offices or presidents; only the Office of the Commissioner remains.  The same umpires work games in both leagues equally and each team with play twenty-two interleague games; the DH or absence thereof determined by the home park.  You can call them leagues just like the former Soviet Union called themselves the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the individual Soviet states were not republics; they were not even sovereign in their own rights—they were under the control of the Kremlin based in Moscow, Russia.  The National and American leagues of Major League Baseball are leagues in title, but are now conferences in practice.

They wanted both leagues to have three five-team divisions for scheduling and post season probability equity.  From 1998 – 2012, the National League Central with six clubs and the American League West with four were exceptions to the rule.  In theory, it is harder to win a division six teams wide than five teams wide and easier in one that is only four teams wide.  I thought the second wild card was supposed to be the equalizer.

Well, as far as watching the game on the field is concerned, it is still baseball, the greatest game ever invented.  There are still strikeouts and home runs, runs, hits, and errors, sluggers and pitchers, swinging away and suicide squeeze bunts.  I was born in 1962, the same year the Mets became one of the first National League expansion teams, healing the wounds during the departure of the Giants and Dodgers after the 1957 season.  So Take Me Out to the Ball Game—One, Two, Three Strikes—You’re Out!  Let’s get down to business and play ball!