Keep Phillies Out of MLB Gimmicks

Major League Baseball has become a game of growing gimmicks. Apparently, in the absence of truly good ideas, Bud Selig and his buddies have developed less than spectacular ideas. So far, the Phillies have been able to avoid being involved in baseball's gimmick trap. The longer that trend continues, the better.

Okay, I admit it. I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and got up to watch the Yankees and Devil Rays game live from Tokyo. Actually, I did have to use the snooze alarm a couple times, so I was actually up at 5:20 and missed the actual first pitch of the season. I also have to admit that I have no life. No wife or kids to worry about waking up, just a cat named Ashburn, who sleeps all day anyway.

Even though I sat there and watched, this was a bad idea. I actually felt like I was contributing to something dirty. Why is major league baseball doing this? Bud Selig is ever advancing his idea of baseball's global domination. It wouldn't be surprising if the Bush administration soon pronounced that they suspected Selig was storing weapons of mass destruction and must be stopped. Truth is, he should be stopped. There is nothing wrong with being America's Pasttime. Japan has their own league – two of them in fact – and don't really need our teams to head overseas to entertain them. They also have access to American television and get to see their heroes who have deserted their homeland for the majors.

Baseball once had a nice tradition. In a game of traditions, baseball used to always start the season at 2:00 p.m. in Cincinnati. Tradition. Nobody played before the Reds opened the season and the game was always in Cincinnati. No exceptions. Even the vaunted Yankees had to wait until after the game was over to get their season started. Granted, the Reds are somewhat less than a major draw and having an umpire die on the field in the middle of the traditional opener isn't exactly a drawing card, but tradition is tradition. There was an occasional snow delay, but opening the season in Cincinnati was part of baseball.

Of course, I would have been up to watch the Phillies had they been involved in the Japanese Opener and wouldn't have even used the snooze alarm. Thankfully though, that wasn't an issue. Having the Phillies play two games in Japan and then return to the U.S. to play two more exhibition games and then resume their regular season schedule wouldn't be my idea of a good plan. Having corporate advertising clogging up the Phillies uniform and batting helmets like the D'Rays and Yankees have during the Japanese series isn't exactly my idea of a good wardrobe move. It's more an example of a wardrobe malfunction. Oh and while we're talking wardrobes. What's with the Yankees – the visiting team – wearing their home white uniforms? I give you the fact that the Yankees uniform is one of the most recognizeable things in the world, but if you want them to wear that uniform, then adjust the schedule and make them the home team. Or, split the series and have one team be the home team and the other be the away team in each game. That way, Japanese fans get to see both uniforms of both teams. Home team wears white. Tradition.

Then, there are the wonderful San Juan games that the Expos are again enduring. A nice, long plane flight to play in a stadium that just isn't up to major league standards. But, enough about the Expos games at Olympic Stadium. Fact is that Bud and the boys should have never even allowed themselves to purchase the Expos, let alone have it drag into a third season. Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Las Vegas, put the team somewhere and get over it. Had Selig thought of this sooner, he could have just had major league baseball buy the Brewers years ago and he could have run his team and the majors all at the same time. Of course, the Brewers are for sale and once MLB dumps the Expos, maybe they could buy Selig's Brewers then. Won't that be fun?

Again, the Phillies have been left off the San Juan portion of the Expos schedule both last year and this year. Thank you, Baseball Gods. Playing baseball in San Juan isn't the worst idea to ever come down, but having two homes for a major league team is right up there. The worst part of it was last year when the Blue Jays and Expos played in San Juan. The one series that Canadian baseball fans would have loved to have played in Montreal, was moved to Puerto Rico. Good thinking. Each team has one home. Tradition.

Finally, we come to the idea of major leaguers competing in the olympics. Let's stop the season for a while to have players head to Athens or somewhere else to play olympic baseball. I can see the headline now: Padilla Suffers Elbow Injury Pitching For Nicaragua. Great. Or how about: Abreu Tears ACL In Venezuelan Olympic Game. Maybe, it would all happen in one game: Padilla, Abreu Injured As Venezuela Beats Nicaragua. Plus, we'd probably have to get up at 5 a.m. again to see it happen. Play the season from beginning to end with no interruption (except for the occasional labor problems). Tradition.

If baseball is looking for ways to make things better and be innovative, here are a couple. More afternoon games. Families vacation in the summer and kids are off of school in the summer. It's an opportunity for families to attend a game without keeping the kids up until all hours. At least, kids can watch the games. Also, don't play Sunday night games starting at 8:00 p.m. At least start them at 7:00 p.m. when Sunday night's prime time lineup begins anyway. Playoffs and World Series. Start the games earlier and have at least some weekend afternoon games. Give kids a chance to be more involved in the game, providing a chance for them to develop their love of the game as I did and as generations did for years. Yes, the networks love the night games, but too bad. Let's worry about more than just the money part of the game.

Want to improve the game? Keep working on getting game times down. Get players to spend more time signing autographs. Lift restrictions on radio broadcasts being put on the internet. Some fans would love to be able to listen to games on the internet without having to pay for them. Remember when, as kids, we snuck transistor radios into school to listen to games through ear plugs? Now, kids could sneak off to the computer lab to listen to games.

Bottom line is this. A lot of baseball's problems are because kids have lost touch with the game. Reach out to the American fans and American kids specifically. Don't worry about how much people in Japan love the game. Nothing personal, Japan is a fine and beautiful country, but we're talking about America's pasttime. Worry about how much Americans love the game. Tradition.

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