FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, has taken a step in a novel direction for that organization. Blatter has apologized to the English and Mexican national soccer officials for the outrageously incorrect referees’ decisions in their “Round of Sixteen” games in the World Cup. By itself, that would be noteworthy. However, Blatter went further. According to a report at cbssportsline.com:
1. Blatter said, “… we have to open this file [meaning use of technology/replay] again.”
2. He said this would be an agenda item at a meeting in July of the International Football Association Board in Cardiff, Wales.
3. He said that nothing would be done in the midst of this World Cup tournament – as it should not – but he said, “something has to be changed.”
Do not expect any change that even begins to resemble the NFL implementation of instant replay; that is not going to happen. However, the open admission that FIFA needs to consider – - and will consider – - technological means to improve the accuracy of decisions made by game officials is a huge step for that organization. I expect some modest changes to come of this; I expect there will be howls of protest from folks who think the change(s) are insufficient. Nonetheless, consider the words of the departed Mao Zedong on this matter:
The journey of one thousand miles begins with the first step.
Consider that the original reaction of FIFA to the howls of outrage regarding the calls against Mexico and England was nothing short of ostrich-like. The original solution to this problem was that FIFA would restrict the replays that could be shown to the fans in the stadium. A spokesman for FIFA simply said that showing the replay in the stadium was “a clear mistake”; if it had not been for that replay on that high def screen, all those fans in the stands would have gotten over it quickly – - until they got home and saw those replays on TV of course.
FIFA’s original reaction brings to mind the assertion made by Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep on the witness stand in the movie A Few Good Men:
You can’t handle the truth…
One of the concocted controversies out there in the sporting firmament at the moment deals with the question:
Should Stephen Strasburg be on the NL All-Star Team?
Rather than take that question on from a statistical perspective or from a baseball history perspective, I would prefer to use the question as a “referendum of sorts” on the purpose of an MLB All-Star team. If you believe – - as I do – - that the All-Star Game is a meaningless exhibition game that provides entertainment for some baseball fans, then the only question becomes, do the fans want to see Stephen Strasburg. Since he draws thousands more fans to Nats’ games when he pitches – - at home or on the road – - the first level answer would be that they do. Consider that games on television involving the Nats – - on local channels – - get much higher ratings when he pitches. Consider that ESPN and MLB Network show Nats games at all – - and only when he is pitching. If the purpose is to put players on the field that fans want to see, then he should be in the game.
If on the other hand, you believe that the All-Star game – - and by extension the All-Star teams – - carry some greater significance than I ascribe, you can make a significant argument that Strasburg has not yet done anything that would put him in the baseball cosmos that is sufficient to allow him on the team.
I understand the positions of folks who oppose his being there. I happen to think that arguments pertaining to participation in the All-Star Game – - no matter what the sport – - are insufficiently interesting to merit any significant participation. I say let him on the team and let him pitch; I will not watch more than an inning or two of the game if he is on the team or if he is at home watching the game on TV.
While only good things are being said about Stephen Strasburg, the baseball world seems to have had about enough of Carlos Zambrano. You have to have seen his “dugout tantrum” by now and if your memory is clear, you know that this is hardly the first time he has had confrontations with other Cubbies. In the past, people have attributed his antisocial behaviors to his fiery nature and tried to portray them as his “leadership style”. That might have made sense a few years ago when Zambrano was an elite player whose record in 2004/05/06 was a combined 46-21 with an ERA of about 3.15.
The facts are that Zambrano has not been that kind of pitcher – - and therefore has not deserved any “special considerations – - for the past couple of seasons. This year, he is 3-6 with an ERA of 5.66. Go to any Spring Training site and take the last two pitchers cut from the major league squads; put those names in a hat and draw one out; you can find a pitcher who will give you a 3-6 record with an ERA of 5.66 by that method.
Oh by the way, the fact that Zambrano went out to dinner with Ozzie Guillen after the tirade could put Bud Selig in an interesting position. Suppose that the Cubs conclude that they have to get rid of Zambrano and suppose that the only team willing to take him on – - even with the Cubs eating a huge portion of his $18M per year salary for the next several years – - is the Chicago White Sox. In such situation:
Could Selig allow that kind of trade to happen and still pretend that there might be “anti-tampering rules” at work in baseball?
Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summarizes one point of view with regard to the Marlins’ search for a new manager:
“The man the Marlins are expected to recycle as their new manager, Bobby Valentine, last was in the big leagues in 2002 and in 15 seasons reached the playoffs twice. He is one of three men in history to manage as many games (2,189) without winning a World Series or having a team finish in first place. Otherwise, a solid hire!
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…