Just Stuff Today …

Most folks, when they check the standings for a sport they are interested in, go to the top of the standings to see what team is on top and what others might overtake them.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, we look at the top of the standings too – – but we always check the bottom as well because there are signs of great futility and incompetence there.  And in that spirit, let me look at the MLB standings.

The team with the worst record is the Oakland A’s.  That should not be a surprise because the A’s have traded away every good player they had who was coming up on a big payday for about the last 5 years.  You don’t always get what you paid for – – see the Mets and Yankees this year – – but you rarely get a championship contender with that sort of roster-building strategy.  The A’s are not likely to threaten the 1962 Mets’ modern era record for 120 losses in the season but they still could set a new mark for the worst run differential in MLB history.

  • Previously, the A’s were on track to have a season total for run differential of minus-440 runs.
  • The modern-day record is minus-349 runs.
  • Today, the A’s project to end the 2023 season at minus-387 runs.

The run differential stat is interesting when you compare the A’s to the Royals who are the second-worst team in MLB this year a mere 2 games better than the A’s.  And yet, compare the run differential as of this morning:

  • A’s are minus-255 runs having lost 77 games.
  • Royals are minus-169 runs having lost 75 games.

There is another interesting juxtaposition of the run differential stats at the top of the AL Central Division:

  • Twins record is 54-53 with a run differential of +34 runs.
  • Guardians record is 53-54 with a run differential of +2 runs.

Even more strange than that is the situation in the middle of the NL East race:

  • Marlins’ record is 57-50 with a run differential of minus-23 runs.
  • Phillies’ record is 57-49 with a run differential of +10 runs.

Moving on … When the MLB season started back in April, lots of folks wanted to see if the rules changes for 2023 would improve the game in terms of fan experience.  Traditionalists were not convinced but the smart thing to do back then was to wait for the data to come in.  We now have 4 months of data, and the answer surely seems to be that MLB games are a better entertainment experience now than they were a year ago.

  • ESPN’s baseball audience for televised national games is up 6.9%.
  • Total MLB attendance at games is up 9.8%.

More people are watching games on TV and more people are going out to the stadium to see live games.  It would certainly appear that the folks who kept pointing out that there was not enough action in a baseball game that took three-and-a-half hours to hold fan attention had a point.  Games are shorter on average; scoring is up; on-base percentage is up; the stolen base has returned to the game – – and fans seem to like that a lot.

Now, if MLB would only get rid of the “ghost runner on second base” in extra-inning games …

Switching gears …  ESPN has hired Doc Rivers to be a color analyst for NBA games next season.  It appears that Mark Jackson has been “demoted” to the second announcing team and that the “A-Team” for ESPB will be Mike Breen on play-by-play with Doc Rivers and Doris Burke as the color analysts.  That means:

  • Burke and Rivers are on in place of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson

I know that lots of people love Doris Burke; I do not like her; nor do I dislike her.  I find her to be plain vanilla; I would not hit the mute button to avoid her; nor would I sit with rapt attention to be sure I caught every word she put out over the airwaves.  If you consider that the exchange of Jackson and Rivers is an exchange of former players/coaches and that there is not a huge chasm between their desirability, the new team versus the old team is an exchange of Doris Burke for Jeff Van Gundy.  Folks, that is not even close to being an upgrade for the new team.  I think that substitution clearly shows that:

  • The personnel shakeups at ESPN have far more to do with costs and cost-cutting than they have to do with competency.

Next up …  Earlier this week, the Buffalo Bills held their first practice in full pads in training camp.  Normally, that event would qualify as “Meh!” on the interest scale – – but this year was different.  That practice was the first time Damar Hamlin was on a football field in pads since his cardiac arrest on the field during the Bengals/Bills game on January 2nd of this year.  The practice went on schedule with no “unplanned incidents”.  Fans of the Bills – – and of every NFL team for that matter – – must hope that Hamlin has gotten proper and accurate medical interpretation of his physical condition leading him to return to the field.

Finally, for no specific reason, let me close today with an anecdote involving the poet Dorothy Parker:

  • On hearing that the famously taciturn President Calvin Coolidge had died, she asked, “How could they tell?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………