The 80-game suspension handed down by MLB to Pirates’ centerfielder, Starling Marte, is a significant blow to the Pirates’ hopes for 2017. As of this morning, the Pirates active roster of 25 players has 4 outfielders:
- Adam Frasier
- Andrew McCutcheon
- Jose Osuna
- Gregory Polanco
The outfield looked set as a strength of the team back in Spring Training, now it is an area that needs help. However, beyond the short and medium term effects on the Pirates, Marte’s suspension demonstrates 2 things:
- Baseball is not drug-free. MLB and the MLBPA worked out the drug testing protocols and the increased penalties for failing drug tests back in 2004. In the intervening dozen years, there have been 85 players who got long-term suspensions. That means MLB has improved in terms of the number of players who are “using”, but the penalties have not taken PEDs out of the game.
- The time is coming when fans and baseball writers/commentators will tire of the standard – and clearly insincere – explanation by players who fail these tests. Starling Marte is merely the most recent case; he has had many predecessors but the excuse that he did not do this knowingly and cannot figure out how that “stuff” showed up in his lab specimens is threadbare. So is the faux contrition offered up to the team’s fans for “letting them down”. Frankly, if there are ever negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA to increase penalties, I would like to see players get twice the amount of time for offering up that sort of lame pabulum. And maybe, agents who write that nonsense for the players to read should lose their status as MLBPA approved agents if that were to happen in the future…
About a week ago, I mentioned an idea floated by a high school principal in Dayton, OH that might reduce significantly all the intentional fouling by trailing teams at the end of basketball games. I would really like to see the NBA try out that system in the D-League just to see if it works and if it produces interesting game endings. With that said, I would like to suggest today some ideas that might add some degree of excitement/interest in the NBA regular season and the NBA playoffs.
- First, when teams are in “tanking mode” they do not produce an interesting product for their fans or for the fans of their opponents. Because the fortunes of a bad team can be turned around with the addition of only one or two young dominant players, there is a significant motivation for bad teams to tank a season. The same is not true in the NFL or in MLB; this problem is endemic to the NBA only. I believe the overall draft order needs to be determined by lottery meaning the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs should each get 1 ping-pong ball in the hopper and the top 14 slots should all be determined by lottery. Yes, a truly bad team can try its best and still be bad and then they could have buzzard luck and wind up drafting 14th. So be it. Minimizing tanking is an important goal for the league; it is essential to the “Holy Grail of competition” – – the integrity of the games.
- Second, the regular season needs to be shortened if it is so taxing to the players that they need to rest when faced with back-to-back games. The NBA season will start earlier this year – meaning shorter off-season rests for players – as a means of spreading out the 82 games a trifling amount. Some scribes have suggested cutting the schedule back from 82 to 76 games. My suggestion is more radical. Cut the schedule to 58 games; every team plays every other team twice; the schedules are balanced; there would never be a need for back-to-back games. If, however, you subscribe to the thinking that “division races are important”, [Aside: I do not think they are important at all.] then make the schedule 66 games and have division teams play 6 games each and with two games against all other opponents. Revenues will go down meaning player salaries would also have to go down. But there would be rest for weary under this proposal; I wonder how much that rest is worth…
- Third, the NBA playoffs take too long – more than 2 months if the Finals go 7 games. I think the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals should remain as 7-game series; the others should be reduced to 5 games. This will give more meaning to the early-round games.
Here is the lead paragraph from a report at CBSSports.com from last week:
“Tiger Woods revealed on Thursday that he has undergone yet another back surgery. This is his fourth in the last 40 months, and it was performed to alleviate pain he was having in his back and leg.”
The first of those 4 surgeries was reported ex post facto in March 2014. If I have counted correctly, I believe that Tiger Woods has only had 4 finishes in the top 25 in PGA Tournaments since the start of the 2014 season. When the number of Top 25 finishes equals the number of back surgeries over a period of time, I will go out on a limb and suggesst that is not a positive equation.
Finally, here is an item reported by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“Next week, the Equestrian World Cup Finals get underway at the CenturyLink Center. The World-Herald assigned its equestrian expert: a guy who has seen every Budweiser Clydesdales commercial.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………