I have said here more than a couple of times that I do not want to see MLB expansion simply because there is already not enough good pitching to go around and adding two new expansion teams would put about 24 more “minor league pitchers” in major league uniforms. Having said that, it surely looks as if momentum is building for some sort of MLB expansion. There are organizing committees and the like in places like Portland and Nashville and the Research Triangle “studying” the feasibility of having a team in those areas. Do not count Las Vegas out of any sort of discussion of this type; returning a team to Montreal to play in a modern facility there is also a possibility. And then, last week, news broke about another aspirant.
Pat Williams has a long history in pro sports in the US – – mostly in basketball – – and he is now involved in a group that would seek to bring MLB to Orlando, FL. I am sure there is sufficient money in the Orlando area to arrange for a stadium and to buy into MLB. The negative question that hangs over any potential franchise in Orlando is basic:
- So, how are the other MLB franchises in Florida doing these days?
The Marlins and the Rays can’t draw flies. That problem is endemic to both areas; even when the teams are good enough to get into the playoffs, they reside at or near the bottom of MLB in terms of attendance. A common explanation given for that situation is that there are always so many other recreational things to do in Florida that it is difficult for a baseball team to be a “center of attention” for 81 home games. Well, last time I checked, there are plenty of diversions in Orlando to give residents – and visitors – there options regarding their recreational time and money.
Orlando folks point to the fact that it is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country based on Census Bureau stats. Currently, Orlando ranks as the 22nd largest market area in the country. Sounds good until you also check and see that Miami is the 16th largest market area in the country and Tampa/St. Petersburg is the 12th largest market area in the country.
Pat Williams has a name for his putative baseball team – – the Orlando Dreamers. If they do come into existence and suffer the same fate as other Florida franchises, they will soon be known as the Florida Nightmares.
Obviously, I think a franchise in Orland is a bad idea. Scott Ostler had this item in the SF Chronicle last weekend about another bad idea in baseball that seems to have been acted upon:
“Is baseball the stupidest sport? Bad question. It’s not even close. Only in baseball, this kind of thinking: ‘I’ve got an idea. We steal signals from opposing catchers with a spy cam. Nobody will know, except all 25 of our players, the manager and coaches, bat boys, the camera crew, and people we tell in bars when we’ve had too many, so it will be easy to keep it a secret, as long as none of those people have a conscience or character. Nobody on the outside will ever bust us, unless they have ears or look at a box score. We could win some games, and the only downside is that if we get caught, we’ll all be branded cheaters, liars and losers forever. Let’s do it!’”
I must admit it; that is a difficult argument to pick apart…
In a similar line but in a different sport, Vontaze Burfict has questioned the integrity of NFL games saying that some are “rigged” and the way the league effects the rigged games is to have the officials call penalties that determine the outcomes of those rigged games. Three quick thoughts here:
- Vontaze Burfict is serving a season-long suspension as we speak. His reinstatement has to go through the Commish who wants to hear about “rigged games” about as much as Chris Christie wants to be Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, sports and Nutrition.
- Somewhere, Tim Donaghy is smiling…
- The spate of bad calls this season – as shown by replay after the fact – will cause some folks who are prone to believe conspiracy theories to take this seriously. If that kind of thinking spreads, the “gambling interest” in NFL football will diminish and – even though the NFL would never admit this even under waterboarding – the biggest factor that spurred the growth of the NFL to be the dominant sports enterprise in the US is the degree to which people bet on game outcomes. This “indictment” goes to the heart of the “integrity of the games”.
Another NFL player has voiced a similar concern – but in a much more nuanced way. Richard Sherman sort of wondered aloud if the officials were flagging him for penalties he thought he did not deserve because he is an outspoken member of the NFLPA Executive Committee.
I am not saying that it would be impossible to “rig” an NFL game – – or even a bunch of NFL games. Nor am I saying that any attempt to “rig” an NFL game would be done without any officials being aware of the “rigging”. Here is where I am on these sorts of things:
- To convince me of a grand conspiracy – one that would have to involve league execs and probably some of the officials in the league – I need evidence that is probative. It is not nearly sufficient to assert the existence of the alleged conspiracy and then point to no evidence of its existence as proof of its existence.
Finally, since much of today’s rant deals with things like cheating and the rigging of games which would be despicable and immoral acts, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm at the other end of the spectrum:
“Chaste: Morally pure; decent. A quality known in the dating scene as a waste of your time and effort.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………