March 2007

A Modest Proposal to MLB: For Preventing Disparity and Eliminating the Abuse of Steroids in Baseball

Probability says that every major league team has the same chance to win the World Series: 1/30.

But history says otherwise.

Some teams have yet to win a title—like the 45-year-old Houston Astros—while others have not tasted glory in nearly a century. And though the days of the dynasty seem gone, parity remains elusive. The last time the Kansas City Royals, for instance, even qualified for the postseason was over 20 years ago; Milwaukee last played in October in 1982; and the former Montreal and current Washington franchise last saw the postseason in 1981. Five other teams have currently gone more than 10 seasons without a playoff appearance, and Baltimore and Tampa Bay have waited nine seasons.

One-third of all MLB teams have not been to the playoffs in nine or more years. Simply put, this utter lack of competitive balance is unacceptable. It is detrimental to the health of the game; it alienates fans; it shrinks revenue for non-playoff teams; and the longer this lack of parity continues, the harder it will be to overcome the perpetual deprivation of competitive balance.

There can be but one solution, then, a simple proposal that will bring not only parity, but also an end to the widespread drug abuse that has long plagued baseball, and the exploitation of youth across the globe, from Little League to the Dominican.

Advances in genetic engineering and cloning technology mean player homogeneity is closer than one might think. If each roster is filled with genetically identical players, with skill sets honed to specific positions, there can be no question of parity on each squad. Of course, some will inevitably be better than others—genetically identical does not equal physically or mentally identical—but mandated rosters of clones will nearly eliminate the type of talent hoarding seen in New York and other large-market cities.

But to prevent a crafty owner from exploiting the system and giving his team an inherent advantage by signing those clones that are inevitably better, every player will be assigned a rating, as assigned by a computer using a mathematical formula, and each rating will correspond to a specific salary. Free agency will be no more; contractual value will be handled systematically. Each team, then, will be allotted a set number of players at each rating, so as to prevent any one team from having too much talent.

Further, each clone will be in service only during his prime years; once one grows too old, a younger clone just entering his peak years will replace him. Minor leagues, then, become obsolete—new players will be handled by MLB’s cloning contractor—allowing teams to focus on the present state of their major league clubs and creating further parity. Dominican academies, a current source of talent for major leagues clubs, would become unnecessary, and the exploitation of young men that often results from them would be eradicated.

MLB’s steroid problem would be immediately eliminated as well, for each clone would be genetically designed to produce excess amounts of testosterone and other hormones vital to muscle growth, making steroids, like the minors, obsolete and irrelevant.

To create further competitive balance, all existing MLB ballparks should be replaced within the decade with indoor, climate-controlled, neutral parks devoid of any advantage to hitter, pitcher or fielder on either team. So as to not give preference to a “home” team, first at-bats will be determined by coin flip prior to the start of each game. Fans will be separated from the field by a transparent, soundproof barrier in order to prevent the crowd from influencing the outcome of the game in any way.

Strict rules for groundskeeping will also be implemented. No more than one rock or dirt particle exceeding two centimeters in size may be found within one square foot of dirt. Grass must be exactly seven centimeters high.

Only one model of bat may be used, and gloves will be standardized based on position. Balls will be used once and then discarded to prevent the introduction of any foreign substance.

Only with the strict implementation of these and other similar reforms can competitive balance truly exist. Only then will the probability of winning truly be 1/30. Only then will the critics who decry the dominance of a small group of teams be finally satisfied.

The result will be a bland game lacking in the personality and aesthetic beauty that fans want and love and, as far as I’m concerned, without that which makes the simple game of bat and ball “baseball.”

Mar. 18, 2007 baseball satire sports

Life, Baseball and Cynicism

I have a condition. If it has a medical name, I don’t know it, nor do I particularly care to. If gets the best of me sometimes, despite my honest attempts to ward it off.

It’s a malignant disease, really, spreading through mind and body a little bit more each year. Though it has been frequently beaten into remission, it always comes back stronger and faster than before.

I call it the fanatically abject syndrome, or fan’s disease for short.

Fan’s disease is a terrible affliction, and anyone who has been let down year after arduous year is at great risk. Whether from home, work, or play, disappointment is the leading cause, and few have not felt the disease’s wrath.

The disease strikes early, usually before the age of 10, when the harsh realities of the world first become evident and crush impossible hopes and dreams. The result is devastation, and fan’s disease firmly grabs hold.

But even after hope and faith are lost, the disease can still be beaten. Good fortune helps stave off the effects, if only for a short time. Joyous events like marriage and the birth of a child beat it into the deepest crevices of the mind, alongside things like birthdays, anniversaries and the collective works of James Joyce.

But fan’s disease can never truly be beaten, even by the greatest of accomplishments; it will always slowly creep back to drain the hope from your soul.

In late 2003, the disease within me was greatly diminished—maybe even close to final subversion, which remains ever elusive.

But then the NLCS happened.

Despair took hold. After so many years, to be so close, but turned away a mere arm’s reach from glory. 2004 rattled the ailment, but by season’s end it was back and unfazed.

It’s still something I struggle with today. I don’t aspire to be negative, but years of disappointment have left me jaded. Some of you took exception to my comments about Mark Prior, and thinking about them now, I wish I hadn’t written them. I’m a fan first and analyst second, and sometimes that fact, when amplified by cynicism, becomes terribly clear. I’ve grown frustrated with Prior, but now thinking with a far clearer and less reactionary mind, I’m not ready to give up hope.

So thanks for keeping my head held high where it belongs, not down in the muck that is fan’s disease.

After all, without a dream to chase, what’s the point of living?

Mar. 6, 2007 baseball cubs slicedlife sports