Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Shut Up, Old Man! The Wild Card is Awesome
During last night's Yankees Rays broadcast, YES Network play by play man and all around douche bucket Michael Kay was seemingly caught in his own douchiness by Al Leiter. After Kay did one of his "ahhh October baseball pennant races, ain't life grand?" routines following the reading of significant out of town scores, Leiter pointed out that Kay was against the wild card. A clearly flustered Kay shot back "why are you jumping on me?" in that classic passive aggressive "boys will be boys joking around but I realize you just OWNED me" way that he has. And herein lies the problem with the old fogey baseball "purist": He forces himself to hate change simply because it's change even if it makes the sport so much more enjoyable.
Baseball, more so than any other sport, values tradition and history almost to a comical point. The uproar over changes that obviously benefit game play and fan enjoyment such as instant replay and interleague play are clear examples of this. Just because something didn't exist when Honus Wagner was trotting around the ol' diamond and you could get a sarsaparilla and a trolley ticket for 25 cents, doesn't mean that it's wrong. And just as the speed and strength of players and technological advancements have resulted in instant replay, so to have gradual changes necessitated the wild card. The fact of the matter is, there's more teams than there were back in the old days and more fan bases that need reason to leave their home and 50 inch HD flat screen to plunk down extraordinary prices at their local stadium. Bob Costas and Michael Kay might think that letting more than 2 teams into the post season is heresy, but Major League Baseball is a business, and as a business they can't afford to lose 90% of their audience that knows they have no chance at a playoff berth by mid summer. It might make the pennant race in Boston and New York a little more tense and exciting, but since when did the rest of the country care about them?
It's not like the all inclusive system in the NBA (everyone's a winner!) where you have to be truly awful not to qualify for the playoffs. We're still talking about 8 teams out of 30 that are playing in October every season. It's easy for Michael Kay or some of the older writers and broadcasters that work at a national level to bash the Wild Card system. The Yankees are in it every year, as are most of the other big market teams (except the Dodgers). I like the fact that there's some hope in Milwaukee and wherever else every season. Kay followed the above exchange up by repeating a Bob Costas anecdote. If there was a Wild card back when Bobby Thomson hit the so-called "shot heard 'round the world", we would have heard "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!...and the Dodgers win the wild card". It's a funny line but truthfully, if the rules were the same now as they were then, no one would care about a Red Sox-Orioles or Cardinals-Astros game this week. And the old men would sleep soundly knowing that everything had stayed the same.