The Mariners' move to scrap the center-field landing at Safeco Field may have some nasty unintended consequences. Derek Zumsteg takes a closer look.
It seems like it's an absurd question. It's not. In Seattle, the cluelessness of the
front office is far outweighed by the often short-sighted revenue-at-all-costs
desires of the club's business minds. This time, the Mariners were only too happy to
make a short-term money grab, even if the move has longer-term consequences.
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Readers contribute more thoughts in the aftermath of Derek's article on the rule changes baseball should consider.
I got a lot of e-mails from readers about my contention that the rule stating players must try to get out of the way of a pitch was unenforceable and, further, that maybe we wouldn't want to enforce it. Many of them ran like this:
Ever wonder, when you see a manager make a terrible move, if he has a grander plan? Derek Zumsteg sees method behind the madness, and explores.
In games, systems for decision making only work until the other side figures out your system. In the RoShamBo Programming Competition for instance, programs play rock-paper-scissors against each other. The programs use varied approaches, statistical scoring, recent history, and all kinds of trickery. The least you should expect for your approach is a win in a third of all trials (33% win, 33% loss, 33% tie)--which is what you can get picking randomly. Systems with easy patterns are easily beat; rock every time takes only a couple of lines of code to detect and adapt to, for instance. But what if you intentionally act streaky and then when you've figured out your opponent's threshold for trying to take advantage of it, switch? What if they take advantage of your streakiness earlier? The more complicated your system gets, the more you may gain, and the more trouble you can get yourself into.
Why does Willie Bloomquist get to have all the fun? Derek Zumsteg writes in with a handy-dandy guide to becoming an MLB ballplayer, and a fan favorite to boot.
I'm going to risk stamping a giant red expiration date on this column in this introductory paragraph: Paris Hilton has a book deal, and her proposal includes "an abbreviated version of her instructions to anyone on how to become an heiress and live a privileged life." The first is "1. Be born into the right family. Choose your chromosomes wisely."
Derek Zumsteg's latest mission: To deploy military force into Safeco Field and eradicate the Moose Goose.
The Mariners have long been an innovative team in almost all aspects of profitable operation, including making a game a fun and baseball-centered-but-light affair for the whole family. They gave the world that techno music ("Oooh-oh-a-oh-oh, oooh-oh-a-oh-oh...") teams play going into the ninth, originally scraped up for former closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, where the oh-oh, combined with excitement and a little wincing, was entirely appropriate. The only ideas they're loathe to embrace are those that come from New York (like the endlessly annoying Day-O thing). Like great works of literature in Iran, they just don't get translated.
The Mariners have watched a string of players leave the organization and immediately play better for a new one. Derek Zumsteg examines the phenomenon.
Set aside for the minute that his grand plan for the team (maintain the core, give up some defense for offense, make another modest run at contention) collapsed around him. Or that it took him (and the organization) months to make it through the five stages of grief. Bavasi has been doubly cursed: not only did the organization's 2001-inspired hubris result in the embossing downfall of the franchise, but he has also demonstrated an amazing Midas touch in reverse, where everything he discards turns into gold. Since Bavasi came on, almost to a man every player traded away for nothing or simply released has performed far better than they had been doing with the Mariners, and far beyond what you'd expect to see.
Derek Zumsteg takes a closer look at Boston's Mientkiewicz-to-second-base experiment, and likes the risk-taking by the Sox.
There are enough barriers to this kind of move to make it tough to pull off even when there isn't that kind of pressure. Some players aren't willing to try another position, for fear of embarrassing themselves, or because they don't want to try something more demanding, or because they're not comfortable enough. Managers don't want to play someone out of position for fear of looking stupid for trying something. But in Boston? Where even the hyper-critical media acknowledges that the atmosphere is too negative? Where fan reaction runs between bitter, expected disappointment and feverish loyalty?
The Mariners today announced the retirement of Edgar Martinez, one of the best hitters of his generation and arguably one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time. To celebrate Martinez's career, we're re-running this special edition of Derek Zumsteg's Breaking Balls from last October, when it first looked like Edgar would hang 'em up.
I saw fans cry for the first time on Sunday, the last day of the Mariners season. Edgar Martinez was at bat in the eighth for what may be the last plate appearance of his career, and the standing ovation rolled on and on.
But I've come to realize that they're inseparable: Tweaking the rules is a smaller move in philosophy, but in implication and consequence can be just as large as the sweeping one. Which in turn is why this is such a fascinating discussion for me.