Maybe it was the brawl between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe it was firing of Willie Randolph. Maybe it was Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes. Maybe it really was Barry Bonds passing up Hank Aaron as the home run king. Whatever it was, the game I love doesn't feel the same.
As was mentioned last night on Baseball Tonight, it may in fact be a good thing that the New York Mets ownership fired manager Willie Randolph yesterday. That is, for Randolph's sake. The infighting in the Mets’ clubhouse isn't news. If it isn't Billy Wagner making some comment, it is the press taking a comment and stretching completely out of context. The infamous collapse of the 2007 Mets lingers in New York, it lingers in that clubhouse, and it may tear the aspiring team apart before that wound heals. Blame Willie Randolph, blame the aging veterans who are bringing the team down (Alou, El Duke, and Pedro), or blame the young mistakes of the Mets infielders. Wherever you place the blame, there is no disputing that what's wrong with the New York Mets this season is what is wrong with baseball as a whole.
When did America's past time become so much about greed and contempt and so little about the beauty of the game?
Earlier in the month, you could have set an egg timer to the outcome of the Red Sox encounter with the, no longer devil, Rays. Wednesday night baseball brought that awful slide of Boston's Coco Crisp into second that could have easily broken the ankle of Tampa's second baseman. Everybody knew it. Sitting at home watching the game and knowing next to nothing about the fine art of sliding, I knew it. Out comes Tampa's manager to discuss it and you literally saw the manager say to that second baseman that they would take care of it. The following night they did exactly that. Hit by a pitch, Crisp charged the mound and it turned into one of the biggest baseball brawls I've seen in awhile. Crisp could have easily walked away from it. The pitch that hit him was questionable. The pitcher may not have been aiming Crisp at all. But he couldn't take it back and the rest is baseball history.
Here we have one of the most promising teams in all of baseball, the Red Sox, being contested by one of the lowest-payroll teams in all of baseball (second-to-last actually with a payroll of $44,644,597), the Rays, and instead of watching that game and marveling at the competiveness the underdog was offering (keeping in mind the underdog is sitting at 34% of the other team's payroll), I was watching that game knowing that a fight was going to happen. When did the actual game become so formulaic? There's always been statistics, but never the ability to predict exactly how any play will happen or what the outcome might be.
Don't get me wrong, for all of the guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens who are making a joke out of the game, there are decent guys like Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones who are making it exciting again. Just because Coco Crisp charged the mound when the Rays took retribution for his inexcusable slide the night before, doesn't mean there weren't a handful of guys on that field who wanted nothing to do with brawl. Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson may be out of jobs today, but you better believe that yesterday, today, and tomorrow they will love the game.
Maybe it doesn't have to feel like the same game day in and day out. Maybe it just has to feel like the same game most of the time.
(by thepoliticalgame cross-posted @ www.politicalgame.blogspot.com)