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It would look A LOT like the NFL.
April 2, 2014 6:32 PM   Subscribe

What if the Major League Baseball season were only 16 games?

In other baseball news: Jonah Keri offers his predictions for the 2014 season. The ESPN Forecast panel does the same: National League, American League. FiveThirtyEight plays around with ESPN's data.
posted by Cash4Lead (93 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
7. Bleacher seats would cost $85 a piece.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:48 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Cubs would only lose 16 games.
posted by srboisvert at 6:48 PM on April 2, 2014 [54 favorites]


I would not watch it, just as I don't watch football. I watch baseball partly because there are SO MANY WONDERFUL GAMES.
posted by Peach at 6:49 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


A game would actually matter?
posted by cccorlew at 6:50 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is commie talk.
posted by jonmc at 6:52 PM on April 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


How 'bout just one or two?
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:52 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


cccorlew: "A game would actually matter?"

That's the great thing about baseball; even if your team loses, it's just one game and they play another one tomorrow.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2014 [16 favorites]


OhsweetgodFiveThirtyEightdatadatasweetsweetdata
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2014


Yeah, I agree, Peach. The best part of baseball is that it is on every day for months and months. To be honest, I had a really negative reaction to this article, like the writer was trying to take something precious from me.

On preview: But cccorlew, the beauty of baseball is that a game doesn't matter. It allows ups and downs throughout the seasons for players and teams. It makes the game much better. I mean we are talking about a sport where if you only fail 60% of the time you are an all-time great. If you go and make a 16 game season all that will change and not for the better in my opinion.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


Damn you octothorpe!
posted by Literaryhero at 6:54 PM on April 2, 2014


I've only recently started watching baseball in the past year or so, but one of the things I like is that for any given week during the season there's probably a game that I can catch sometime in my schedule. I may miss a Dodgers game one day but that's OK cause there's another one tomorrow.
posted by fishmasta at 6:57 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


What if the NFL season were 162 games?
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:00 PM on April 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I appreciate the thought experiment, but he's only concocted it to force Baseball into Gridiron Football's mold, and he needs too many reaches to make it fit.

For instance, his take on "more film watching" is almost entirely wrong. Ted Williams wrote an entire book on the subject of breaking down and analyzing a batter's swing(a must-read for any student of the game), and the money sunk into computerized plate camera analysis systems in recent years is staggering. They're already watching film and examining their own mechanics, and constantly adjusting. Also, he's wrong about the coaching - you have the manager, the bating coach, the pitching coach, the bench coach and two baserunning coaches who are actually on the field making adjustments in mid-play.

Now, if he had said, "Batters would have to rely more on live batting practice against ace pitching with more time between games" I would agree - and that would be an awesome wrinkle. "You will have pitchers who are valued for consistency rather than pure ability, even if it means their overall ERA is higher" - could have bought into that, too.

"It will get more violent because I like football and football is violent and has 16 games" is dumb and forcing the point.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:01 PM on April 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


What if the NFL season were 162 games?

I'm on board with this idea. Here's the start of the season.

9/2 - Lions vs Dolphins (Home)
9/3 - Lions vs Dolphins (Home)
9/4 - Lions vs Bears (Home)
9/5 - Lions vs Bears (Home)
9/6 - Lions vs Bears (Home)
9/8 - Lions vs Seahawks (Away)
9/9 - Lions vs Seahawks (Away)
9/11 - Lions vs Bills (Away)
9/12 - Lions vs Bills (Away)
9/13 - Lions vs Bills (Away)

According to my calculations, everyone on the team will be dead by the second quarter of the second Dolphins game, but, you know, shit happens.
posted by kbanas at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2014 [28 favorites]


What if the NFL season were 162 games?

I've been saying this for years now. Well, not exactly this. More something along the lines of "I'll start watching football when they have a season like baseball, where teams actually get to prove who is better and not just lucky on a single day."
posted by hippybear at 7:09 PM on April 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


"I watch baseball partly because there are SO MANY WONDERFUL GAMES."

"for any given week during the season there's probably a game that I can catch sometime in my schedule."
IPL starts in a couple of weeks.
I may be gone for some time.
posted by fullerine at 7:09 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Football with hockey-like total games would probably evolve hockey-like goons or enforcers to dish out the majority of the punishment. Everybody else would be trying to stay healthy.
posted by unixrat at 7:13 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, he's wrong that football is more strategic. It can be with a Belichick or a Chip Kelley holding the clipboard, but football is generally more about setpiece battles and using surprise and preparation to cause a mismatch between the players - tactics, not strategy. (And certainly not luck! Tactics are hard to work out!)

Baseball moves more slowly, and has fewer pieces to match against each other, but it also requires a plan for the series, a plan for the game, a plan for the early innings, another plan for the stretch, and a plan for the closing innings, and the plan has got to be ready to alter to fit the reality of the game as it unfolds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


"I'll start watching football when they have a season like baseball, where teams actually get to prove who is better and not just lucky on a single day."

I'm pretty sure this already happpens and it's called the NFL season.
posted by kbanas at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I'll start watching football when they have a season like baseball, where teams actually get to prove who is better and not just lucky on a single day."

But that is not even baseball. You play 162 games just to throw it all out in the playoffs where there are single game eliminations (AL and NL wildcard games).

This has always frustrated me. It is especially in college football, where everyone is clamoring for a playoff series, which would only serve to make the regular season less critical. Ridiculous, this idea that a playoff is the only objective way to determine a champion.
posted by roquetuen at 7:27 PM on April 2, 2014


So you would want something like Premier League rules?
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2014


Baseball adopting the "your season is done when you're eliminated or we hit 162 games" rule would have a huge effect on the game itself, making every single game count. The World Series would naturally evolve from simple elimination process. The shame of all those lame duck vs. contender games would be gone forever. (or worse - lame-duck vs. lame-duck)
posted by unixrat at 7:31 PM on April 2, 2014


Well, to be fair, wildcard games are sort of add-ons to the post-season. Why they don't just add actual additional slots into the post-season instead of those silly one-and-done fights is beyond me. Scheduling and marketing probably have a lot to say about this.

Playoffs aren't an objective way to determine a champion. Baseball would have to have a lot more interleague play, though, if they were to eliminate the playoff system.
posted by hippybear at 7:32 PM on April 2, 2014


In life, we do not go undefeated. We do not have perfect years. The very least of us don't always lose and the very best of us never always win. On the right day, anything can happen.

In life, we succeed by putting our shoulders to the wheel and pushing ever onward every single day, though we often--maybe even usually--fail. But our sheer perseverance, the fact that we go back day after day after day, weathering defeat after defeat after defeat, until the meager victories we also eke out amount to something, that is what makes life worth living.

This is why baseball is magnificent. This is why baseball is life. Because it is the same way. The very best teams lose 40% of the time. The very best hitters fail 60% of the time. The very best pitchers do not measure themselves in terms of perfection, but in terms of how they can, over the course of enough innings, balance their many failures out with many smaller victories. Baseball IS life. It goes on and on, as we must also go and on.

To talk about what baseball would be like if a season were sixteen games long is to miss the point of the thing entirely.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:37 PM on April 2, 2014 [34 favorites]


The shame of all those lame duck vs. contender games would be gone forever.

But I live in Chicago and this would cut the season in half.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:45 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I live in Chicago and this would cut the season in half.

I live in Minneapolis, trust me being able to put a bullet into a bad season will do everyone a world of good.
posted by unixrat at 7:50 PM on April 2, 2014


(or worse - lame-duck vs. lame-duck)

But those can be really fun to watch, especially in person. Two lousy-by-MLB-standards teams giving it their all is still a good game -- or why would anyone ever watch the minors, college, or high school baseball?
posted by asperity at 7:50 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seriously half the time I'm at a Cubs game I'm barely even paying attention to the game-- just the ivy on the walls, the green of the field, the bright of the uniforms all give off a particular electricity that is colossal. Who cares if we're not going to win the pennant?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:53 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


shakespeherian: "Seriously half the time I'm at a Cubs game I'm barely even paying attention to the game-- just the ivy on the walls, the green of the field, the bright of the uniforms all give off a particular electricity that is colossal. Who cares if we're not going to win the pennant?"

But we ARE. Just, you know... wait until next year. Or the year after.

Really, I'm feeling sincerely good about 2017.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:55 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now that they have Goose at Wrigley, this will be our year.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:55 PM on April 2, 2014


But I live in Chicago and this would cut the season in half.

Ok, so the White Sox had the second worst record in the American League last year, but in 2012 they didn't do too bad and they won a world series as recently as 2008.

On preview: You're a fan of the minor leagues. You should have said so.
posted by Hactar at 7:56 PM on April 2, 2014


The Cubs have a positively amazing minor league system right now. They could use more pitching. But the position players are an embarrassment of riches. If even a third of their coming swarm of terrific outfielders, middle infielders, etc. hit, they're going to have more talent than they know what to do with.

Our time is coming.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:58 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The White Sox are a team from Gary, Indiana.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:59 PM on April 2, 2014


So, when I stopped frothing about the idea of making a good sport more like a less-good sport, I looked over Posnanski's ideas about how to fix minor league baseball.

Now this is a great idea. It really does get kinda weird and demoralizing to attend minor league games regularly and see the team's name and ownership change every few years, and know that in spite of the small-scale feel of the stadium there's nothing local about any of it. Except, if you're lucky, you might get some local beers at the concession stand.
posted by asperity at 8:12 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I believe the correct question is, "What if the Major League Baseball season were only 16 games, and teams had a salary cap?"
posted by phaedon at 8:23 PM on April 2, 2014


Our time is coming.

True. It is written.
posted by Pink Frost at 8:44 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Ok, so the White Sox had the second worst record in the American League last year, but in 2012 they didn't do too bad and they won a world series as recently as 2008."

Hactar,

How dare you, sir! Don't take away the Phils' second World Championship in 132 years! :p

(you meant 2006)

:)
posted by JKevinKing at 9:01 PM on April 2, 2014


Making all the games count ruins the point of baseball. Sure, the games that matter are exciting, but then there's all the games that are an excuse to sit in the sun, drink beer, bullshit with the people around you, and heckle and those are the most fun.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:03 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]



The White Sox are a team from Gary, Indiana.
posted by shakespeherian


Hey at least they're a team with baseball fans. The cubs mascot should be a dude-bro who lives in Wrigley and is too drunk to stand by the 6th inning. Gimme sox baseball any day.
posted by Carillon at 9:09 PM on April 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Or to put it another way, at least it's an ethos.
posted by Carillon at 9:10 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Only having 16 games in Wrigleyville is Tom Tunney's wet dream.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:21 PM on April 2, 2014


Stay tuned for this guy's next two articles, "What If Sex Was Boring?" and "What If Steak Tasted Like Dirt?"
posted by koeselitz at 9:25 PM on April 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


What if the alphabet were only 16 letters?
posted by Pudhoho at 10:22 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Spelling bees would become dramatically more violent.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:26 PM on April 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm not really a fan of real baseball but I do love the imaginary version I get in Out of the Park. Since the game will let you create your own leagues & schedules, it would be interesting to set up a 16 game schedule and try the tactics suggested in the article.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:29 PM on April 2, 2014


Our time is coming.

True. It is written.


No, really. It IS written..

October 22, 2015: Cubs sweep series in 5. Back to the Future, indeed.
posted by pencroft at 10:30 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


What if the Major League Baseball season were only 16 games?

What if the NFL season were 162 games?

Such extremes. How about a schedule that gets a viewable one game per week for about half a year? NFL could do that by matching each opponent twice (home/away) for 30 games per season. MLB could do something similar with a little rejiggering of the conferences/divisions.

What would really shake things up though, would be to get rid of the conferences/divisions that divide things up geographically and instead split things up based on ranking, like most global soccer leagues. Institute promotions and demotions. Get rid those tiny 4 team divisions and multi-year match ups. Give smaller minor league teams a route to the top*. Bam. Now you've got 30 games per season that actually mean something at both the top and the bottom of the tables.

(* franchises ain't never gonna let that happen, obviously)
posted by rh at 11:23 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting thought experiment, but obviously absurd. Sixteen is far, far too low. I always thought 150+ is far too many, though, so why don't we split the difference? How about 85 or so?

To me, the one thing I have always disliked about baseball is the game length--9 innings is too long. No, I will hear no cries of heresy! Nine innings is too long and that's that!

So paring it down to seven at the most, or perhaps five innings would be good. Ramp up the intensity and strategy a bit without any rule changes. The question then is: five or seven? I can't really decide.
posted by zardoz at 11:23 PM on April 2, 2014


What if the alphabet were only 16 letters?

Hi i no o be idea - i old make commnicaing mch moe difficl. I ppoe i depend ha lee one old choe o eliminae. Ih caefl choice, i old no be oo bad. E cold lie iho 'k', '', o '', b geing id of '' old make ceain enence almo ninelligible.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:54 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Spelling bees would become dramatically more violent.

My dad has a cable channel. Let's put on a show!
posted by Pudhoho at 12:09 AM on April 3, 2014


I might watch baseball if I could decide on a team to like. Is there a likable baseball team?
posted by pracowity at 12:28 AM on April 3, 2014


Sixteen is far, far too low. I always thought 150+ is far too many, though, so why don't we split the difference? How about 85 or so?

The NBA and NHL both have 82 games (but 4 rounds of playoffs). 3 or 4 games a week is a nice in-between, though baseball is my favorite sport.

And playoffs in any sport are more about drama than determining who the best team in a league is. Sure, you could just have the two top teams meet in one finals series, but that'd result in a lot of meaningless games in the second half of the season.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:37 AM on April 3, 2014


I might watch baseball if I could decide on a team to like. Is there a likable baseball team?

Of the teams that made the playoffs last year (none of which were my hometown Angels), I'd hoped the Oakland A's and Pittsburgh Pirates to make the World Series. If you had to adopt a team, those two still seem the least objectionable. They're not big-spending bullies, but still have exciting talent.

Or just watch whenever Mike Trout is at bat or on base.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:46 AM on April 3, 2014


When I started to watch baseball a couple of years ago, I didn't know which team to follow. Because I'm dutch I don't have any local team, so I picked a random team: NY Mets.
posted by Pendragon at 1:14 AM on April 3, 2014


Ahem. Have you ever watched a Little League game? If you haven't, I encourage you to do so. They're far more exciting. You know why?

They're not perfect.

You know what no other sport does? Track errors. Because errors aren't rare...they're entirely normal. Baseball's major problem is that it's too perfect. It doesn't start out that way. Little league is exciting because the kids drop the ball. Fielding is so good in baseball, that we make a statistical note of its rare failing. And the problem is unfixable, because unlike other sports the obsession with stats means there's a ton of friction in changing anything that would meaningfully alter what a particular achievement meant.

So baseball basically degrades into a home run derby with occasional races for stolen bases and the occasional line drives. Deny it all you want but honestly, what percent of a time in a baseball game do you not know what's going to happen next, versus football, basketball, hockey, or even soccer?

It's a problem. Reducing the number of fielders would probably help. It should be a question whether a failed home run is going to be caught. It isn't at all now. Reducing the number of games? Totally misses the point.

And if there were 162 NFL teams we'd need 10x the players to cycle through. Teams would be more like strategic alliances that shared a name, than cohesive units. Not a fan of that.
posted by effugas at 1:33 AM on April 3, 2014


Of all the discussions of longer/shorter seasons, basketball and the NBA is probably the one sport where it wouldn't alter the nature of the game, but would really make the sport more enjoyable. 50-60 games in a season would be absolutely ideal. No back-to-back games. Every game featuring two well-rested teams. Teams would play the most games against their division, the next most in conference, and the least against non-conference teams. It'd be beautiful. It'll, of course, never happen, because that's 20-30 games of revenue gone away, but I can dream.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:36 AM on April 3, 2014


Merge the US leagues -- MLS, MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA as one big league -- and let them play as many (or as few) games a year as they like, but there is no championship game, just a never-ending standings table, so the team that plays and wins the most games gets to the top. Top team gets the biggest cut of the total league gate, and the top players get the biggest cut of that cut. Introduce a random element -- who you play next, what sport you play against them, who plays that day -- and let 'er rip. "Whoa! Team Boston is playing soccer against Team Miami. This should be good." LeBron James plays soccer against Dustin Pedroia. After the game, set the losing mascot on fire.
posted by pracowity at 3:32 AM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Only having 16 games in Wrigleyville is Tom Tunney's wet dream.

It would cost the homeowners in his riding thousands of dollars in driveway parking sales subsidized by street parking permits though.
posted by srboisvert at 4:49 AM on April 3, 2014


I might watch baseball if I could decide on a team to like. Is there a likable baseball team?

I think the real magic of watching baseball is when you have a team which you can watch a majority of their games across a single season. Like, whatever team is covered by your local cable sports channel, usually one close to you.

One year a while back I was living in Phoenix. They had (maybe still have) a local television channel which was not network-affiliated, and it had the contract to carry the Diamondbacks games. Like, some ridiculous number of them, 130 or so. Basically the entire season was broadcast live over-the-air for the city to watch.

Seeing so many games by the same team over the course of a season really lets you get to know the players. Their strengths, their weaknesses, their particular quirks. By the time the season was at its midpoint, I was able to know that this certain batter did well against that sort of pitcher, or that the guy on first was likely to try to steal second base, etc. I could tell when a pitcher was having a hot day or an off day, and whether he was going to be likely to be pulled out in the 5th or pitch the whole game.

That kind of in-depth watching of the sport really brought out the personal side of baseball. That it's a team sport made up of individuals who each have to function individually well to contribute to the success of the team during each game and across the entire season.

Since moving away from Phoenix, I haven't really had a full season of baseball like that since. I do watch games regularly, but don't follow a single team. I love the game, but watching less intensely means there is definitely a dimension missing from my enjoyment of the game.

Right now, I mostly root for whoever has the most beards on the field. Because beards are awesome.
posted by hippybear at 5:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I might watch baseball if I could decide on a team to like. Is there a likable baseball team?

Okay. I'm going to give some teams that are genuinely likeable, before getting to my team which is obviously the most likeable in my totally subjective, totally correct opinion.

First of all, the following teams are not likeable: Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Braves. Each of these teams are annoyingly successful and have horribly unlikeable fans. Under no circumstances should you follow any of those teams. The Cubs are also out because while they're not annoyingly successful, their fans are the absolute worst. Their field is basically a frat party held at a baseball stadium in the absolute worst, most annoying neighborhood of Chicago.

If you're looking for a team that's competently run, but not annoying, think about the Rays, Tigers, and As. Each of those teams is probably going to compete this year, they've been putting together solid teams for a while, and have enough good players to be in it for a while.

If you're looking for a team that's going to put it together in a few years so that can suffer with them for a bit and then get the payoff, think about the Astros, who will suffer like no other, but have a good farm system that should seem them contending in a few years. The Royals are a team with a shorter time horizon (they could contend this year), but they're also a team heavy on young players which should be able to get out of the doldrums in the next couple years. People will tell you to pick the Cubs here, because on paper the Cubs look like they're going to be good in a few years, but they won't. Why? Because making the Cubs lose is how the universe reminds us that its moral arc bends toward justice.

If exciting young talent makes you cringe, and you'd rather watch overpaid, old has-beens, consider the Phillies.

The Angels are a fine choice as well. Mike Trout is the main draw, but he's really really good at baseball, so worth watching definitely.

Now, all of the teams I recommend (minus the Phillies) are good choices, but you should almost definitely follow my Washington Nationals. There's young talent (Harper, Rendon, Strasburg), a top to bottom rotation that's as good as anyone's, and a ton of likeable players (Ramos, Desmond, Werth). They're likely to be in a close division race with the Braves, which means you can actively root against the Braves who are awful and also have a racist mascot. Last season was a disappointment, which gives the upcoming season the chance to be really satisfying. Don't believe people who will tell you Harper is an overrated, cocky, asshole; he's a decent guy and a ton of fun to watch.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:50 AM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


The Nationals only have a couple beards, but they're really high quality beards. Just saying.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:52 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Baseball moves more slowly, and has fewer pieces to match against each other, but it also requires a plan for the series, a plan for the game, a plan for the early innings, another plan for the stretch, and a plan for the closing innings, and the plan has got to be ready to alter to fit the reality of the game as it unfolds.

I like that. Baseball is fractal. It's all curves and probabilities, over a large set.
posted by DigDoug at 5:57 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


you should almost definitely follow my Washington Nationals.

Says the guy who lives in DC.
posted by pracowity at 5:59 AM on April 3, 2014


First of all, the following teams are not likeable: Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Braves. Each of these teams are annoyingly successful and have horribly unlikeable fans.

The Cardinals have unlikeable fans? I've never heard that. But I'm biased. Ozzie Smith is my spirit animal. (Or Whitey Herzog. It changes)
posted by DigDoug at 6:00 AM on April 3, 2014


I second the Nats fandom. They are the former Montreal Expos, who were even bigger lovable losers than the Mets, but they've built an excellent team and should take the NL East this year, if not the pennant.

Plus, Bryce Harper is the most GIF-able ball player.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:03 AM on April 3, 2014


Consider the evidence regarding Cardinals fans.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:11 AM on April 3, 2014


You know what no other sport does? Track errors.

They may not always call them "errors" as baseball does, but every sport tracks misplays, mistakes, and errors in player judgment. Football (soccer) tracks dispossessions, turnovers, offsides, fouls, own-goals, failed clearances, etc. Hell, even FourFourTwo's StatsZone has an option to display "Errors" that lead to shots/goals for every match they track. American football has interceptions, fumbles, total turnovers, penalties, etc. They may not appear on the scoreboard or in the official box score as they do in baseball, but to say other sports don't track errors at all is incorrect.
posted by zakur at 6:28 AM on April 3, 2014


I might watch baseball if I could decide on a team to like. Is there a likable baseball team?


Another option is to buy a subscription to MiLB.TV, and pick a minor league team to follow. The Toledo Mudhens have 1) the best name ever 2) a very long history as a team and 3) a very pretty ballpark.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:31 AM on April 3, 2014


As a life-long Cardinals fan, yes, there are unlikeable Cardinals fans. I've met plenty of them. My brother's running dialog during a game would not be out of place on the twitter account Bulgaroktonos linked to above.
posted by Groundhog Week at 6:34 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


While I am a Red Sox fan (yes they are annoying but it's a recent development, historically speaking, unlike the Cardinals or the hated Yankees), I would propose the Los Angeles Dodgers as a team to follow for someone new to baseball. Why?

1) Big star players! Big money! They might actually win!
2) The prettiest uniforms in baseball, no contest.
3) They moved from Brooklyn, and what could be more of an American tradition than going west to seek your fortune?
4) First to integrate!
5) Vin Scully is legitimately great and not really matched by other announcers.

In spite of their recent insane infusion of TV cash, they really are quite likable.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:22 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a good point that other sports track errors as well. But you have to admit, there's just a fundamental qualitative difference here. High end baseball is a lot like...well, bowling. The competition is at the extremes. It's there, sure. But most everything except the actual batting is heavily predictable (with intentional walks impacting even that) and the game really suffers for it.
posted by effugas at 7:34 AM on April 3, 2014


(Put another way, reducing the number of games isn't even on the radar compared to the elephant in the room that most plays resolve entirely predictably.)
posted by effugas at 7:35 AM on April 3, 2014


If any team ever again gets uniforms half as cool as the 1977-1979 Pirates uniforms I will totally start watching baseball and follow that team. I've never been much for watching sports, but an uncle's mostly mid-70's to mid-80's baseball card collection solidified in my mind What Baseball Should Look Like as a kid and I still think it's never looked so cool since.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:49 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I stayed up to 1:15 am last watching my Pirates beat the Cubs in 16 innings. All I can say is, if you think baseball is predictable, you did not watch that game. Weird crap almost every inning.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I might watch baseball if I could decide on a team to like. Is there a likable baseball team?

This is the wrong question. The team you should decide to like has already been decided for you: it's the home team. You must always root for the home team, whether they're assholes or not, whether they have a shot at winning or not. (Important and only exception: if you grew up rooting for a home team and then moved, it is OK to continue to root for the home team of your youth.)
posted by kjh at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is the wrong question. The team you should decide to like has already been decided for you: it's the home team.

This is a good point. In pracowity's case, this would be the Skidzyel’ Sugar Storm, which is right up there with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in the "Best name for a baseball team ever" rankings. Unfortunately, it looks like they get beat pretty regularly by the Brest Zubrys.

If any team ever again gets uniforms half as cool as the 1977-1979 Pirates uniforms I will totally start watching baseball and follow that team.

At least bring back the pillbox caps!
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2014


Other sports do not go into 7x overtime, Chrysotom. That's a sign that something is wrong -- that most plays are resolving exactly as expected, and that even when things are strange, the score isn't shifting. Sure, soccer and football have even fewer scoring events (multipliers ignored) but when that ball is passed there's not a 95% chance you know what's about to happen. You're calling out one game with weird crap. Because it's special. You've just made my point.
posted by effugas at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2014


If you really want to enjoy the game as it is meant to be enjoyed, sitting on the deck with a beer and a good dog next to you while listening to the game on the radio, then you should become a Reds fan. They have the best announcing duo in the game.
posted by Mick at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2014


Other sports do not go into 7x overtime, Chrysotom.

Most other sports do not permit going to seven overtimes. Soccer, hockey, and NFL football can end in ties. Hockey does go to multiple overtimes in the playoffs, and has gone as long as six overtimes. College football used to end in ties; since the rule change, there have been two seven overtime games.

That's a sign that something is wrong -- that most plays are resolving exactly as expected, and that even when things are strange, the score isn't shifting.

I guess if you define "interesting" as scoring, then okay. The game featured multiple hit batsmen, several controversial calls, a truly bizarre 7-2-3 double play (first time that has happened since 1974), timely and dramatic hits.... Honestly, if you could watch that game and not enjoy it, then I guess baseball's not for you. We'll just have to agree to disagree.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:55 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is the 7-2-3 double play, if anyone's curious.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:06 AM on April 3, 2014


>The Cardinals have unlikeable fans? I've never heard that. But I'm biased. Ozzie Smith is my spirit animal.
> Consider the evidence regarding Cardinals fans.
Lifelong, die-hard Cardinals fan here, and while Bulgaroktonos' assessment stung my pride a bit, it's pretty accurate -- and moreso it's indicative of a pretty widely-held opinion of Narnies fans by fans of other teams (esp. NL Central). I can't say that it's not with good reason.

Sometime in the 1993 when Peter Gammonds came up with the whole "best fans in baseball" thing, St Louis back-patters and circlejerkers made sure that it stuck. At the time, of course, we were a likeable team with a storied history that was finishing in the middle of the division, and still selling out the stadium in a medium-sized market. That's a really likeable way to be "good fans", and that didn't cause any resentment.

Then, starting in '96 we began working on what would be a 15-20 year dynasty of showing up in the playoffs every other year or so. This "likeable" stuff went out the window, understandably, and we kept backpatting and circlejerking over the "best fans in baseball" stuff... and yeah. I can see how that comes off as smug and unlikable. Everyone here pretends like it's not, but I'm like: "C'mon. You know you'd hate us if the shoe was on the other foot."

I love Pujols and hold him in my heart forever; but there was more than a kernal of truth to the "Crybaby Cardinals" NL Central slight/catchphrase that was going around. I'm not supposed to say this out loud, but both the 2011 Reds and the 2011 Brewers had really fun, likable, laid-back... fun teams to watch. STL had some tempramental primadonnas that played well but seemed like stuffy jerks. Officially I have to hate other NL Central teams, but on a likeability level I would've straight-up traded every Cardinal for every Brewer or Red in 2011, and taken the (very slight) performance hit.

(Asshole Card Fan signoff: Farm systems not included, of course, 'cause we're clearly the best ever at building that.)
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 1:27 PM on April 3, 2014


The team you should decide to like has already been decided for you: it's the home team. You must always root for the home team, whether they're assholes or not, whether they have a shot at winning or not.

Except the Yankees. Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for small pox.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for small pox.

In that case, it looks like large parts of the country are objectively pro-pestilence.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:18 PM on April 3, 2014


Hating Yankees fans only makes us stronger.

Okay so you need a likable team to root for. The American League is the only league worth rooting for unless you really love pitchers hitting (which is stupid as hell, who wants to see a guy with a lifetime average of .190 when you could see dingers), so we've already cut it in half.

Of the remaining teams, the following are both objectively likable and worth rooting for:

Tampa Bay: They have some of the best management in the league, they grow pitchers like Nebraska grows corn, they are David in a division of Goliaths plus the Blue Jays, and they desperately need more fans. They also have fun and will probably make the playoffs every year. Downside: Your good pitchers will get traded away and you'll be crushed in the ALCS or ALDS by someone slightly better.

Chicago White Sox: They're second fiddle in their home town despite being pretty good, so you'll get to root for a big market team without being an unbearable Cubs fan, like the world needs more of those. I almost picked Cleveland but then you have to root for a racist mascot but they seem to be on the upswing. The Twins are a tire fire, don't root for them.

Oakland Athletics: They play in a stadium that's usually flooded with sewage, they have no budget but somehow compete anyway, and they turned the Bernie Dance into a team thing that was hilarious and fun. I like Oakland but they're like the Rays in that their best players get traded away all the time, but if you can deal with that, they'd be my pick. The Astros are busy tanking for greatness but I saw them play and based entirely on a one game sample, they may surprise some people and you can get on the bandwagon early.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:37 PM on April 3, 2014


Are the Toronto Blue Jays likable? I like the city and I like the bird.
posted by pracowity at 1:47 AM on April 4, 2014


Are the Toronto Blue Jays likable? I like the city and I like the bird.

Yes, actually - they're a big market team with a lot of money to throw at their players, but they always wind up in the middle of the rankings. They've had back-to-back World Series wins in the early '90s, but enough mediocrity since them to stay humble. The uniforms are nice, and feature a bluejay on the jersey.

Also, they have a surreal stadium - it's a "convertible" dome, where the roof opens up on nice days, but the field is this green astroturf that looks like pool-table felt, with little islands of red earth where the bases and pitcher's mound are, linked with painted white lines to show the running paths. It's a visually striking effect that has the added bonus of driving the traditionalists insane with rage.

They're in the same division as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees and play them frequently, so you'll get to see some of what that fuss is about, as well as Tampa Bay and Baltimore, who have been pretty decent lately. It's a great team to follow to watch some good baseball.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:49 AM on April 4, 2014


Okay so you need a likable team to root for. The American League is the only league worth rooting for unless you really love pitchers hitting (which is stupid as hell, who wants to see a guy with a lifetime average of .190 when you could see dingers), so we've already cut it in half.

Your picks are good, but this is nonsense. Pitcher hits are the best hits. Pitcher home runs are the one of the top maybe six things that happens ever in a baseball game. Even when it goes awfully it's great. Look at this and tell me this isn't something that makes the world a more wonderful and magical place. A pitch later Colon struck out trying to sacrifice. That's beautiful.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:17 AM on April 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


If your team hasn't been playing in the same town since the 19th century, it's not a real team.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:52 AM on April 4, 2014


If your team hasn't been playing in the same town since the 19th century, it's not a real team.

Neither the Boston Americans Red Sox nor the Baltimore New York Orioles Yankees qualify, both being established in 1901.

The oldest teams still in their home cities are the Philadelphia Quakes Philadelphians Phillies (1883), the St. Louis Brown Stockings Browns Perfectos Cardinals(1882), and the Chicago White Stockings Colts Orphans Orphans??? Cubs (1870). And then there's the Boston Milwaukee Atlanta Red Stockings Beaneaters Braves Doves Bees Braves (again), who have been all over the place since 1876.

On the other hand, the Detroit Tigers have been the Detroit Tigers since their inception in 1894, which is some doing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:53 AM on April 4, 2014


Neither the Boston Americans Red Sox nor the Baltimore New York Orioles Yankees qualify, both being established in 1901.

Yeah, exactly. By happy coincidence almost all American League teams are automatically disqualified.

I'm okay with name changes, though. The Brown Stockings didn't skip town or anything. But props to the Tigers for never changing.

Also, you missed that the Yankees were the Highlanders when they first moved to New York.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:04 AM on April 4, 2014


Ugh FINE I'll do the NL but the occasional pitcher dinger doesn't outweigh everything else. Acceptable NL teams are:

Washington Nationals. By process of elimination: Miami's never going to do anything worthwhile and their owner killed the Expos so screw them, the Barves are still bandwagon-y enough that you don't want to jump on it, I hate the Phillies, and making someone a Mets fan is just asking for a life of misery. So it's the Nationals, who also have a pretty good young team with some great players and aren't any of the other teams in the NL East.

Pittsburgh. The Pirates are pretty good lately and god knows how that happened, so they're a good bandwagon to jump on. The Cardinals have some of the whiniest fans in baseball and they're also kinda racist even if they are a really good team. The Cubs have good management now but are also the Cubs.

LA Dodgers. Yeah, it's bandwagon-y but they have some great players, the best announcer in the game, and I have to pick someone in the NL West. They're like the Yankees but a more laid-back, West Coast kinda smug. The Giants are okay but their bandwagon is full of unbearable San Francisco hipsters so don't pick them unless you actually think your app that gives photos a sepia tint is world-changing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:43 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Arizona Diamondbacks: GRIT. Plus you get to follow Brandon McCarthy on Twitter and the guy is a gas.
posted by kjh at 8:51 AM on April 4, 2014


the Barves

Pretty great typo if you want to avoid the team name.
posted by Carillon at 6:59 AM on April 7, 2014


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