Monday, October 1, 2007

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

I get the east coast bias. I get the desire for Major League Baseball to have the Yankees and Red Sox in the post-season together, preferably playing each other to go to the World Series. I get that without one or both of those teams in the playoffs Bud Selig is looking at a playoff ratings nightmare. But something has to be said when the "schedule-makers" begin manipulating the regular season schedule in an attempt to do everything it can to get the Yanks and Sox into the post-season.

Can someone explain to me why the Yankees and Red Sox don't play each other on the final weekend of the regular season? Since 1999 the Red Sox and Yankees have only met once on the final weekend of the season. In 2005, one year after the infamous Yankee post-season collapse that sent the ghost of Babe momentarily diving headfirst into the Charles River, the Yanks and Red Sox played on that final weekend, for the division, in what must have been a ratings bonanza. However, it also most likely sent shivers down the spine of MLB's head offices as one of those teams could have been "needlessly" bounced from post-season contention. While the Evil Empire and Evil Empire 1a were playing for the division title and a wild card spot, respectively, the Indians were only one game out of the wild card race and looking to leapfrog over one of those AL East giants for a post-season berth.

Now consider this. Since 1998 the Yankees and Red Sox have finished one and two in the division every year with the exception of 2006 when the Blue Jays finished second in front of the Red Sox-by one game. Conversely, from 2002 to 2006 the Angels and the Oakland A's have finished one-two in the AL West and have played each other on the final weekend of the season 3 years straight. There is no doubt that Bud Selig's office recognizes the rivalry that has developed between these two teams and has seen to it that they play at the end in case there is a division on the line. I don't think even the Red Sox and Yankees have a disdain for each other they way the Angels and A's clearly do once they step inside the lines. But they are not afforded the same "respect" as the teams back east. Why? Aside from the typical "east coast bias" argument what else is there to argue other than to say that the Baseball Gods, also known as Network Television, push for a Yankees-Red Sox post-season the way my 4 year old son pushes me towards the Toys Section at Target.

There is no place in this argument for a word like "history." That implies that the Sox and Yanks get the respect simply because they have been around longer. Up until most recently the Red Sox were probably one of the most poorly run franchises in baseball. They also held the distinction of being the last team in baseball to have a black player don their uniform. Yes, they've been around for a long time, but so have the Athletics. Being from Los Angeles we are constantly bombarded with Dodger "history" even though most of it is from their time in Brooklyn. The Athletics franchise has been around since 1901. They also boasted one of the greatest teams in baseball history from 1972 to 1974. When baseball purists talk about baseball greats they certainly talk about the 27' Yankees, but somewhere in there are those early 70s Oakland A's teams. They were monstrous!

Heck, the Angels have a history that long pre-dates their introduction as the American League representative for Los Angeles in 1961. And while most baseball fans may have heard the tale about the deaf mute that inspired the "signals" that became a part of the way a baseball game is called, few may know that the player was 41-year-old William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy and he played for the 1903 Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. There is plenty of history to go 'round, baseball has simply chosen to ignore it for the quick fix. Think of it this way, a good marketing campaign should always be looking for the next big thing. The Red Sox fan base has grown exponentially since they won the World Series in 2004. But as their team roster grows older they may be come less relevant and the aforementioned Baseball Gods will be stuck with their "marquee" matchup.

And before anyone starts talking about how it's what the country wants to see it's important to note that people like baseball when it's compelling. Period. It is true that the Red Sox and Yankees have played some dramatic games and those games have been defined by their post-season hook-ups. Just like MTV forces terrible music onto 15 year olds, baseball can be "sold" to the nation. If they chose to show more Angels-A's matchups and afforded them the same "respect" in making the schedule we might see an ALCS of the Angels and A's. Consider that these two teams have played more one-run games than Vlad has illegitimate children and it is easy to envision what a great show the Angels and A's could put on come October.
Love to hear what you think!


Hoy said...

To learn more about Dummy Hoy. go to this site,
Dummy Hoy had played for the Los Angeles Angeles back in 1903 and played 211 games and that is more than today's professional games. They have won the pennant at that time.

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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