Monday, October 20, 2008

ALCS Musings

All right, so it's now finally time for me to become an impartial observer on the world of baseball. The Angels are out, the Red Sox are vanquished, and all that's left are two teams which I like more for who they beat on their trip to the Series than who they are themselves. The Phillies spared me from Dodger fans, and the Rays ended the Red Sox's season in a humiliating, painful way, guaranteeing a quiet winter from the pink-hatters out here in Boston.

For the next week or so, I get to watch baseball without caring who wins. It's a nice feeling.

That said, I hope the assholes at ESPN and other national media outlets have learned something from what is sure to be a poorly rated World Series. From the first day of the season, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs got countless more hours of footage, analysis, and hype than any other team. The networks played off the success of Fever Pitch and quite literally marketed a team to the general public while ignoring perfectly capable ball clubs on both coasts and towards the middle of the country.

Now, they reap what they've sown.

Two unheralded teams are going to play for baseball's biggest trophy, and neither of these teams saw half the analysis on ESPN as the Red Sox. Hell, Manny Ramirez was a bigger topic of conversation than either the Rays or the Phillies for the second half of the season. One player. Over two teams playing for the World Series.

I want to believe that the networks have learned something from this. Maybe they've learned that it makes more sense to cover teams that are playing well, regardless of their clubhouse makeup or past success. The Yankees were irrelevant for months before the playoffs, but they received more press coverage than the Angels who were quietly assembling MLB's best record. The clear and obvious bias has to stop or the executives at ESPN, FOX, TBS, or whoever, can expect consistently bad and declining ratings for each playoff series.

Also, I would immediately fire national broadcasters who openly root for teams. For example, Chip Caray. When Joe Morgan sounds impartial, you know something's wrong. What would be nice would be a dual-audio format, where the SAP button uses one team's usual announcers and the main audio uses the other team's announcers. At least this way, the bias is obvious instead of being hidden behind the supposed neutrality of new announcers.

Finally, I think the playoff format is dumb. Baseball has a massively long season which rewards day-to-day consistency in a way no other sport really does. And yet, at the end of this season, the playoffs commence with a 5 game series that has like a million off-days between each game. My opinion? Every series is 7 games long and there are no off-days. Period. Make it like the regular season. Force teams to use five starters just like they did all season. This makes it more likely that the deepest team wins, not a team with two hot starters. Reward consistency, not streaks, just like the regular season.

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