Fidel Castro recently called it the unsavory handiwork of "rich and powerful masters." What the terminally-aggrieved dictator emeritus is railing about this time is the International Olympic Committee's decision to drop baseball from the Games starting in 2012. His outrage is understandable: the Cuban national team is a source of enduring pride for Castro, and they've won three of the four golds that have been handed out over the years (the only exception being the 2000 Sydney Games, when Ben Sheets pitched the US to the gold). After Beijing, Cuba may not get the chance again. What probably also rankles him is that Cuba isn't well positioned heading into the forthcoming Olympiad. Japan, whose national team is larded with accomplished professionals, is probably the overall favorite, and the US national team, which notched a pair of recent victories over Cuba in international play, is the other team to watch.
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Looming conflict between two tribes dug in on opposite sides of the same wall.
Not long ago, you could find civic ads inside many of Chicago's El trains, humorously touting the charms of the South Side in the form of a mock FAQ. In one of them, a mythical and provincially snobby North-Sider asked, "Will my cell phone work on the South Side?"
When it comes to questions of morality, does MLB have anything to apologize for relative to the NFL?
The unfortunate reality-both now and throughout recent decades-is that football as the NFL practices it is the most popular sport in the United States. There's no accounting for taste, of course, but this fact nonetheless speaks ill of our ability as a people to make sensible choices as consumers. Subjectively, as a nation it's a matter of our favoring a sport that's far less entertaining and compelling than what MLB offers us; objectively-and more importantly-it's a case of our favoring a sport that's morally bankrupt in comparison to leagues of similar aims and dimensions.
The issue of change in the game's racial makeup creates questions of what can or should be done.
Every so often, you'll run across a story lamenting the fact that the number of black ballplayers in Major League Baseball is on the decline. Indeed, it's a verifiable fact that the percentage of African-Americans playing the game at the highest level has decreased significantly over the years. According to Dr. Richard Lapchick, sociologist and author of the annual "Race and Gender Report Card," the percentage of black players in MLB has remained the same or declined in every year since 1994. Today, that percentage stands at 8.2 percent, the lowest figure in the 20 years that Lapchick has tracked the numbers, and one that marks a precipitous decline from the levels of 1975, when 27 percent of the player population was black.
Last season, the Oakland A's limped to a 76-86 record and a third-place finish in the American League West. Over the winter, they seemingly worsened themselves (in the near term, that is) by trading away ace Dan Haren and offensive linchpin Nick Swisher. However, as a result of GM Billy Beane's trades, the A's now have one of the best farm systems in the game (although, to be fair, some of that young talent seems to be trending downward), but it was assumed that the cost of those acquisitions would be irrelevance in the present. Thus far, however, those assumptions have turned out to be incorrect.
A major deal between the Cardinals and Indians makes sense, given the current standings.
What follows is the latest installment of the Mock Blockbuster. As previously explained, I'm proposing a trade of the blockbuster variety, one that from my perspective makes sense for all teams involved. In terms of tenability, it depends: these are deals that may or may not have a chance of happening in the demonstrably more complicated world of reality. The deals I'm suggesting strike me as helpful and inspiring for all. So, serious prescriptive or idle daydreaming? A little helping of both, please.
Moving Joba to the rotation is a good move, but the current Yankees still don't look like contenders.
Coming into the season, the New York Yankees had cause for optimism. Alex Rodriguez had been re-signed, they had a fresh face in the dugout in Joe Girardi, and a youth movement of sorts was underway. Add all of that to a deeply talented roster, and PECOTA tabbed the Yankees for 96 wins and the best record in baseball. As it turned out, reality has provided something else entirely. Presently, the Yanks are in fifth place in the AL East and six-and-a-half games behind the much-loathed Red Sox. If paces hold, then the Yankees will miss the postseason for the first time since 1993, and finish with a losing record for the first time since 1992. Needless to say, there's plenty of time for them to reverse their fortunes, but will they?
There are underlying reasons for the Marlins' performance to date, and what that means for their immediate future.
It's safe to say that not much was expected out of the Florida Marlins this season. After all, in 2007 they won a meager 71 games, and over the winter they parted ways with Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. In part, that's why PECOTA, coming into 2008, justifiably tabbed them for a 72-90 record, a -77 run differential, and a last-place finish in the National League East.
Speculating about a trade that makes sense for both San Diego and Atlanta.
What follows is the latest installment of the Mock Blockbuster. As previously explained, I'm proposing a trade of the blockbuster variety, one that, from my perspective, makes sense for all teams involved. In terms of tenability, it depends: these are deals that may or may not have a chance of happening in the demonstrably more complicated world of reality. The deals I'm suggesting strike me as helpful and inspiring for all. So, serious prescriptive or idle daydreaming? A little helping of both, please.
St. Louis has trumped the preseason prognostications thus far. Can La Russa's crew keep it going?
Not even the most wildly optimistic partisans expected this kind of start out of the St. Louis Cardinals, and I say this as a wildly optimistic partisan. By a healthy consensus, they were predicted to finish comfortably behind the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central, and, in a few instances, were tabbed for the very bottom. Yet the Cards have charged to first-place status, and in the process have compiled one of the best records in all of baseball. Certainly, that's been a minor shock, and it raises a couple of questions: one, is there anything illusory about the Cardinals' hot start, and two, is their performance to date sustainable?
It's never too early to start putting virtual awards on mantlepieces around the game.
The month of April is behind us, and in baseball that means the time is nigh for grand, sweeping pronouncements based on four weeks of play. Actually, for purposes of this column, it means that it's time to hand out April awards. What follows is a dispersal of various bits of hardware, all in honor of those performers who have performed well thus far. These aren't predictions; rather, they're just a listing of who should win the awards were the season to end today. Needless to say, the criteria of the voting writers aren't my criteria. These awards go to the guys who are doing the best jobs, without respect to how the 24 others in the same clothes are doing their jobs.