September 1995 - Pennant Fever Slips Hub

So, the Olde Towne Team is streaking toward the playoffs. Try as I might, I'm having trouble building much enthusiasm for this year's post season. But I'm a certifiable baseball nut, so I've given a lot of thought as to why I haven't hopped the bandwagon.

Maybe I'm just outgrowing my second childhood, and I don't view these events with the same enthusiasm I once did. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. There's also the "once burned, twice careful" equation at work, although many long-suffering Sox fans are scorched beyond cynicism.

I have the same feeling about this team that I had in 1990. I was sincerely disappointed that they won the division, exciting as that last series against the White Sox was. I sensed that team was not of World Championship caliber, and that they were not even up to taking on the A's. Sure enough -- swept in four. Getting into the playoffs just to be buried is no prize. Is history repeating? With expansion diluting the level of performance across the Major Leagues, the Sox first place showing may be less because they're so good, and more because everybody else is so bad. Lead the league in errors through the dog days and deserve a trip to the World Series? Excuse me?

There's no denying that this strike-shortened season of only 144 games is tainted in the minds of us purists. Some of us feel that playing the full 162 game schedule means something, that when the World Series champ is crowned, it's the culmination of a long and hard struggle. Surviving the marathon helps define the accomplishment of winning the trophy. Mess with the formula and you diminish the impact (1981 still doesn't count in my mind.) Believe it or not, the baseball brass is considering permanently reducing the number of regular season games to accommodate the playoffs. If the Red Sox ever win another World Series -- which would dissolve half the fun of being a Sox fan -- they should do it in an asterisk-free season.

I can't stand the lame-o division and playoff format. The geniuses devised it to "win back September" (from football), to maintain interest in the races later in the year than the previous division format did. Balderdash! In 24 years of division races, 81% were not decided until the last nine days of the season; 36% by three games or less! Your team was out of it by mid-July? Well, then they don't deserve to be in the post season. Now, the suspense surrounds who will be the best second-place team. Yes, sports fans -- Wild Card Fever! The thrill of the chase is wasted on the runner-up spots. Baseball used to be special, but now landing in the post-season is becoming a hollow accomplishment, just like the NHL, NFL, and NBA.

America has an over-emphasis on winning. One of the nicest times to go to the ballpark is crisp September day when the team is out of contention. Enjoy baseball for baseball's sake. See the big club play without pressure. See the hot minor leaguers who may be stars one day. It's when the true fans of the game of baseball are out, not the bandwagon scenesters. Then there's money. More teams in the playoffs, more people interested, more people watch on TV, more ad revenue and rights fees. Oops! In a customer service blunder for the ages, Major League owners robbed us of the right to see every game of the playoffs and LCS on the tube. Go to jail. Do not collect $2 billion. Enroll in Marketing 101. Get a clue.

It may only be a matter of time for the owners ultimate plan: Immediate expansion to 64 teams. The regular season has each team play every other team twice, satisfying the louts who crave interleague play. The post season follows the NCAA basketball tournament mold -- all 64 teams get in! Single elimination! Talk about excitement! Talk about money! Call it Baseball Nightmare in America.

©1995 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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