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Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Fixing Baseball Schedules and Playoffs

Baseball’s schedule and playoff structure work against each other.

In each league, there are three divisions, each of which has one winner, leading to three playoff teams. At the same time, each league is awarded a “wild card“, a slot for a non-division-winning team with the best record in the league. In theory, that’s a great idea. In practice, it turns out to be inequitable. This is because of the schedule.

In the current reality, baseball teams play in-division teams significantly more often than out-of-division teams. That means a very good teams (like the Toronto Blue Jays) are consistently shut out of the playoffs because they are playing in the very difficult division and are more likely to lose. Meanwhile, a team in a weaker division (like the Diamondbacks) have an easier time accumulating a good record. The result is that the value of a win is not constant.

Add to that the absurd wrinkle of interleague play, where teams play an essentially arbitrary non-league opponent, and we have an extremely unbalanced (and unequitable) schedule.

Baseball, here is my plan to solve the problems of inequity:

  1. Eliminate interleague play. It doesn’t actually help determine the best team in the league. I should note that stats indicating that interleague is more successful at drawing fans are skewed by the fact that interleague games are mostly scheduled around weekends in June.
  2. Eliminate the unbalanced schedule. If that means the Red Sox, Yankees, Devil Rays, and Blue Jays have the best records in the AL, so be it. In fact…
  3. Eliminate Divisions. This is probably my most controversial position. Divisions are cute but unnecessary. We’re all global, wired people. We still have two leagues, and it would be great if the four best teams in both leagues were to make up every year’s playoffs. I have no doubt that at least one of the four top teams would come from all the divisions, except the NL Central. In fact…
  4. Move a team back to the AL. More teams are competing for the same limited number of spots in the NL Central, and that’s inequitable. Moreover, it’s “easiest” to win the AL West, which is also inequitable. I know MLB wants every team playing on some nights, but it is possible, using 3- and 4-game series, to schedule staggered days off so that no more than one team is off on any given day/night. (Hint: every team gets a day off every 15 days, at most.)
  5. Make the All-Star game a true exhibition, in a warm-weather city, during the winter. It would be great to see a November baseball game, played in Hawaii, where the best players have less to worry about injury, and aren’t in the middle of trying to compete. How awesome would it be to award the Cy Young Award, MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc, at this event? This, I’m most negotiable on…
  6. Add two more teams to the playoffs. Instead of four from each league, six. Six out of 15? 12 out of 30? That’s still a small number of playoff teams. Seeds 3-6 play the first round, with the top two teams get a 1st-round series bye.

Here’s how it would work…

  • Regular Season: With 14 opponents in each league, and a balanced schedule, we have a natural 154-game regular season (11 games per opponent). Yes, a reduced regular-season makes sense.
  • “The Wildcard Series”: Teams 1 and 2 get a bye on the 1st round of the playoffs. Team 3 plays team 6, and teams 4 and 5 duke it out in the Wildcard Series. This is a high-pressure best-of-three operation, played immediately after the season (no rest).
  • “Division Series”: The Wildcard winners play teams 1 and 2 based on seed. This remains a 5-game series. This series should be renamed.
  • League Championship Series: Winner take on each other in a seven-game series.
  • World Series: League champions battle.

With the reduction of the regular season by eight games, there is enough room to make the Wildcard Series a 5-game series, and the Division Series a 7-game affair (currently, the maximum number of games a team plays is 181, and the maximum number the new scheme would have is 180).

PROS: This allows more teams in the playoffs, selling expensive tickets, and create more buildup to the World Series. Simultaneously, the increased TV revenue of longer playoffs, coupled with the best teams in baseball actually playing each other. Fans of mid-market and mid-tier teams have more incentive to root for their teams, because chances of making the playoffs has increased by 50%. Speaking in terms of revenue, the loss of games from the regular season schedule is more than made up for (in my mind) by the increased competitiveness of teams during the season, and the increased amount of playoff revenue.

CONS: You can never have all teams playing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. An odd number of teams forces at least one team not playing a day. Division rivalries are weakened (note: I don’t care about this, but some might). This can be obviated by expansion of two more teams, which I do not think the market can support.

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Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Culture, , , ,

Where’s Vijtable?

Readers, apologies for my silence. I am still alive and well. In fact, the past three or so months have been extremely busy and interesting to me.

My job had become quite busy, and baseball season has started. To those of you disinterested in baseball, this fact means the energy I devote to outrage is split between outrage and fanatical devotion to the Boston Red Sox. Nevertheless, my outrage abounds, especially with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions (campaign finance, endangered species, free speech, and faith-based initiatives). Serious miscarriages of justice abound.

I recently subscribed to The Nation magazine, and have been reading Foreign Affairs with interest. All this is to say, my interest and involvement have become more consumptive and contemplative than productive.

NOTE: links will be added soon. Also will be posting a couple things, one on a movement (radical democracy), another on Pew research statistics.

Words I’m linking: Democrat and democracy, radical and practical, labor and education and oppression.

EDIT: Links

Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Culture, Philosophy, Politics

Boston Globe: Fire Dan Shaugnessy

It’s not often that I write about the Boston Red Sox, but this story is too crazy to be let alone…

Loudmouth Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling started his own blog (powered by WordPress!). NB: I do not generally agree with Schilling’s non-baseball opinions, but he has proved to be a very smart thinker in baseball, very dedicated to charities (especially medical research foundations), and generally reasonable. It’s also interesting to note that he is a self-described geek – he started his own videogame company that he wants to compete with the big boys.

Among the things diehard fans of the Red Sox know about Schilling is the fact that he doesn’t like Dan Shaugnessy, a columnist for the Boston Globe Sports section. Which is fine, because we don’t either. check out the Sons of Sam Horn message board to see what the fans say about him (NB: he is typically noted as CHB in the forums).

Schilling has been clear about his dislike for Shaugnessy, and now Shaugnessy has returned the favor with an attack piece worthy of Dick Cheney or Fox News. This is apparently a parody piece.

I have never called for Shaugnessy’s dismissal because he littered supposedly-factual pieces with opinion and personal spin. But today I do, because his piece was simply self-serving anti-Schilling drivel. Simply put, it was a pedestal from which CHB could opine that Schilling was arrogant and that he didn’t like the pitcher. Not only was it short on content, it completely lacked any useful information of sports news. Worse still, CHB never actually noted that his piece was parody, nor did he contextualize in terms of his ongoing (and on-growing) conflict with Schilling. This is not only bad form, and it’s not only bad journalism, it’s irresponsible journalism.

And that’s not the worst part of all: precious inches of a newspaper could have been better served discussing important issues like the war, the erosion of our civil liberties, global warming, the death of the Pakistani cricket coach and, heck, even news about ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandals in sports. Instead, the Boston Globe forced upon readers a personal attack from someone who happened to have a pulpit.

Schilling responded, punnily enough, curtly

The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.

“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win”

Putting his inherent ‘toolness’ on display for all the world to see did far more than I could ever hope to do by trying to explain what a dope he is.

Boston Globe editors (and the NY Times owners): Putting up with a poor-but-entertaining journalist is one thing, but when that person takes a personal fight and uses your space as his soapbox to complain that he doesn’t personally like someone, it only makes the paper look bad. The fact that this is a long-time columnist doesn’t help. Shaugnessy is a waste of your money. I implore you, fire Dan Shaugnessy, and hire a thoughtful commentator on sports, like Lawrence Eagle-Tribune columnist Rob Bradford.

Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Culture, Politics

Previews: Ubuntu, Net Neutrality, iPod, Stem Cells, MLB CBA, Iraq, TV…

I haven’t put a lot of time into the blog recently, due to circumstances beyond my control. However, I have a lot on the stove – here are previews of what’s coming up…

1) Ubuntu is Bad: Ubuntu (a Linux OS) messed with my system without telling me it’s going to. It rewrote my master boot record without asking my permission. Since Windows was still my main OS, this bothered me – it defaulted to Ubuntu and changed the default boot loader. It took considerable effort to restore it. If that’s mumbo-jumbo to you, don’t worry – Ubuntu pulled a Microsoft and changed my computer big time.

2) Net Neutrality: Speaking of mumbo-jumbo… The National Cable and Telecom Association has a new ad out on how net neutrality is bad. It’s classic political propaganda, an attack ad light on facts and heavy on mischaracterization and dismissiveness. Indeed, net neutrality is quite complicated and possibly very good.

3) iPod: The device that revolutionized the music industry turned five. The RIAA is still fighting against it, in its own ways. My thoughts on the revolution and where it’s going. Possibly, this’ll be tied to net neutrality.

4) Stem Cells: The new celebrity smackdown. Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Deborah, actress Patricia Heaton, has chosen her side, squarely against Michael J. Fox, famous actor and Parkinson’s-sufferer who strongly supports all stem cell research. To quote Ray, “Deborah!” No doubt a controversial issue, I come down on the side you all expect me to, but I have good reasons.

5) FYI MLB CBA: Major League Baseball and the players’ union have agreed to a new 5-year collective-bargaining agreement. Among the more interesting facts is draft-tiering, which hurts minor league players’ ability to negotiate a contract with the team that signs them. Other interesting points include a continuation of the luxury “tax” scheme and no threatened or actual lockout.

6) Iraq: This is a little analysis of military expenditures, death, and equipment.

7) Seinfeld, Society: I saw a repeat today, which got me thinking about the state of affairs we have in our country with respect to religion. The episode was the one where Elaine discovers Puddy is religious. I don’t think the networks would allow the episode to air in this day and age, even though it is really hilarious.

8) Studio 60, NBC Budget: Studio 60 is slowly dying. Good show, but not getting the audience it needs. Time slot issue? NBC also recently announced budget cuts to TV production.

There’s more floating around, but those are currently top-of-mind.

Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Culture, Gadgets, Philosophy, Politics, Science, Tech

Nibblets…

Unfortunately, it’s a busy time for me here chez Idealink. Luckily, the intensity ends on Saturday, and there will be more time to devote to posting. I am looking into getting another to join me in posting here, but at this point, creative control is important. I think option B is to create a news aggregator with minimal commentary, and stick with Idealink as, at the very least, edited by me. Either way, the wheels are turning.

Clinton: Overlooked by several in the Clinton Vs. Fox News is the fact that he was doing nothing unusual for recent or current presidents. Part 1. Part 2. What shocks me is that when Bush goes on a little tirade against a reporter, nothing is made of it except on the Daily Show. When Clinton does it, the entire gaggle erupts. Of course, these were different situations.

Chavez: Clearly an influential man. The Chomsky book he cited is #1 at Amazon as of this writing. He may be rude, and he may be confrontational, but two things that do not describe him are dumb or miserly. While US oil companies are raking in record profits on gas and crude oil (see below), he has ordered the Venezuelan state oil company, through its American subsidiary Citgo, to sell heavily-discounted home heating oil to low-income families throughout America during the winter months. Leftism may have “big-government” faults, but Chavez lives up to one of its ideals – “From each according to his means, to each according to his needs.”

Sports: An example of bad journalism gone worse. I don’t know what to say except it’s slanderous, inflammatory journalism meant to incite… Angry muckraking at its worst. To respond: Manny Ramirez has been enjoying a statistically better year than his career average, in most categories. He has, to date, played in more games since 2003 than his star counterparts on the Red Sox, namely Varitek, Nixon, Ortiz, and Damon (including Damon’s current Yankee year). Gordon Edes, I’m disappointed in you.
Other nibblets…

Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Culture, Politics, Tech

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