Baseball in the fall

With the start of football season, overlooked goes the brilliance and excitement of September baseball. Once America’s pastime, it appears that the NFL has taken over the hearts of many sports fans.

It is not difficult to see why, what with football’s incredible speed and strength along with the emergence of fantasy football. Also contributory is the fact that there are only 16 regular season games. The 162 game slate that baseball has makes people think that the games are less important.

People were outraged that the Baltimore Orioles refused to give up a home game to let the Super Bowl champion Ravens kick off the season with a home game. The cause of their incredulity was that it was a pointless game that shouldn’t interfere with the start of the football season.

At the beginning of the season there was an outcry of injustice of, “Why can’t the Orioles just give up one game?” Well, what if that was a key game for the Orioles?

They were in the playoffs last year and intend to make it again.

The football fan’s point turned out to be correct because that exhilarating game pitted the fourth place Orioles versus the fifth place White Sox, while the champion Ravens got beaten to a pulp in Denver on national TV.

The Orioles are only a couple games out of the wild card. Baseball’s introduction of the second wild card has proved to be a worthy addition as many teams are in contention, and every game means something.

In the American league, the Rangers, Rays, Yankees, Indians, Royals, and Orioles are all clawing each day to get into the playoffs.

In 2011, the last night of the regular season contained one of the most exciting parts of regular season sports in history.

The Atlanta Braves and Red Sox completed monumental collapses from playoff contention which allowed the Tampa Bay Rays and eventual champion Cardinals to get into postseason play.

The Yankees surrendered a 7-0 lead to the Rays to go into extra innings. Minutes after the Red Sox lost to the Orioles, Evan Longoria of the Rays hit a walk off home run to complete a magical run for an underdog team to secure a playoff berth.

The daily routine of baseball is part of what makes it great. When you keep up with a team every day for the whole season, you grow an attachment to them.

They become part of your lives, as do the broadcasters. You feel part of the team’s pursuits as you root for them each day which makes a winning team even more exciting.

The Red Sox and Dodgers find themselves as the best teams in baseball at the moment.

Baseball is one of the most difficult sports to manage success. Stockpiling talent and having a huge payroll does not translate to success either.

The Los Angeles Angels recently gave huge deals to free agents and they are now mired in salary cap hell; overpaying for talent on a losing team with a bone dry farm system.

Last year, the Miami Marlins took on a lot of salary in free agents and when their team didn’t pan out, they pawned them off on the Blue Jays. And the Canadian weather didn’t help them in Toronto as they were just as awful.

The Boston Red Sox had sensational talent last season but they weren’t winning games. So they got realistic and dumped their payroll onto the Dodgers.

The Red Sox made responsible and intelligent short term free agent acquisitions and are now stocked with minor league talent.

And on the opposite side of the coin of their Los Angeles counterpart Angels, the Dodgers are spending money with reckless abandonment and it is actually paying off.

Both the Red Sox and Dodgers missed the playoffs last year and are in first place this year. It is very rare in baseball that a trade is beneficial to both sides.

The disparity between payroll size and success is unpredictable.

The Oakland As and Tampa Bay Rays are succeeding mightily with miniscule payrolls. Baseball executives are so well paid because there is no logic to finding success.

The game requires shrewd management and realistic expectations and foresight.

Behind all the A-Rod, Biogenesis scandal, some truly great baseball is being played.

The turnaround of the Red Sox and Dodgers, the success of the Pirates, the emergence of Yasiel Puig, the new generation of young aces, and the farewell tour of Mariano Rivera has turned in a great year for baseball which is continually distancing itself from the steroid era.

Attending a baseball game is unlike any sporting event. Walking through the doldrums of of a ballpark until it opens up to the sight of the field for the first time, like the Goodfellas Copacabana scene, is something I will never tire of. 12