Let It Bleed, Bud

Good PR move, Bud Selig. And bless the fans in Chicago.

Bud has flung out suspensions for a dozen players who cheated the game, but he leaves Alex Rodriguez on the field to represent the absolute worst in baseball for the rest of the season.

Crisis management 101 — get everything out and get it behind you. Don’t let a wound slowly bleed.

A-Rod deserves to buried up to his nose in a vat of mustard for the rest of the season and the rest of his career — see how long his testosterone lasts treading mustard.

Baseball is busy congratulating itself for being tough on cheaters. Right. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who somehow missed that players like Bonds and Clemens and Sosa and McGwire were juicing and ruining the game’s grace and history and spirit, is trying to reclaim his reputation by being tough on the current crop of cheaters. Dozens of players have spoken out saying they’re tired of the cheaters winning pennants and MVP awards and lifetime records while honest players plug along. Fans are sick of it. Every exciting performance by a new home-run hitter or mow-em-down pitcher comes with the question — is he juicing?

Selig could have bounced A-Rod for life. Could have bounced him for the rest of this season and next, not letting him play while he appealed. But, apparently fearing a lawsuit or trouble with the union, Selig took the easiest way out and gave a suspension that allows the arrogant sniveling thief to still play, likely for the rest of the season, while a slow appeals process drips on.

You thought a lawsuit or union troubles would be bad for the game, Bud? How about the spectre of one of the most dishonest disgusting disingenuous hypocritical greedy bastards to ever pull on a jockstrap slouching into stadium after stadium modeling how well cheating works from now until October? How good is that for baseball?

Our only hope is that what the fans in Chicago started Monday, when they riotously booed every step Rodriguez took out of the dugout, will continue for every inning of every game the lying crook plays the rest of the season. Let’s take it upon ourselves to shame this creep under a rock.

Reach in your suit pants and find a pair, bud. Rid the game of this shameful imposter.

Or watch the great American game bleed to death. On your watch.

My brother David and I have watched Class A minor-league games the last two nights in gorgeous little ballparks in Iowa. Baseball remains a beautiful and amazingly difficult game to play. But when cheaters are chemically inflating their performances, there’s nothing on that field of dreams that we can trust. So we’ll turn away.

Unless you stop the bleeding.

— Bruce Benidt
(Image from epicurious.com)

Baseball In The Dome

Manic joyous crowd screaming and leaping and jabbing fists in the air. The cheers echoing off the Dome. I’m yelling “That’s just not possible.”

Metrodome ’87 or ’91? No, Tropicana Field on Tampa Bay last night. Lisa and I saw a baseball game any fan would go coronary over (and anyone who despises the Yankees, as I do, felt an extra moral pitterpat).

I think it’s in the Magna Carta and the UN Charter that one shouldn’t leave a baseball game early. Half the fans did. We did not. OMG.

As the Rays ($41-million payroll) came back from 7-0 against the CorporateYankees ($161-million payroll) I hit the decibel meter on my iPhone (yes of course there’s an app) and the cheers rolled between 90 and 100 dB. My memory of the 1987 World Series in the Metrodome is that the sound meter we borrowed (I was a reporter and my then-wife Sharon and friend John took turns reading the meter in the left field stands at peak moments) from the MPCA neared 130 dB on Kent Hrbek’s home run — that’s about the sound of a 737 landing on a speeding freight train in your back yard. The Trop rocked last night, but my eardrums didn’t vibrate out of phase as if they’d shred like torn sails in a hurricane as they did in the Dome in ’87. Remember how that felt? Literally your eardrums were thrumming like the blade of grass some kids can put between their thumbs and whistle through.

Tropicana Field is smaller than the Metrodome — ranges from 38,000 to 45,000 capacity, depending on what seats are covered with tarps — to begin with and the crowd was only 30,000 last night at high tide. By the time there was something to cheer about the stands were thin as a Pawlenty rally. Too bad. What a game.

Indoor baseball. Gotta have it down here — it was 91 yesterday (sorry, Minneapolis friends) and a bit steamy. July outdoor games here would need coroners more than umpires. Tropicana field is dissed by fans and sportscasters around the country. But those folks forget what baseball was like in the Metrodome. Except for the thunderclap cheering, the Dome (the Hump, the Dump) was an awful baseball stadium. The Trop is not awful. It’s small. Intimate. Good sight lines. Built for baseball. In a weird way, it’s cozier than Target Field. Really. It’s a decent place to see baseball.

The team, of course, wants a new stadium. This one is stuck down on the St. Petersburg peninsula, a bit hard to get to. Fan support here has been lousy — is it the stadium? The Rays have been a wonderful baseball team for several years, but the ballpark is seldom even half full. Almost half the fans last night were (shudder) Yankee fans. The Yankees’ spring training home is here, and George Steinbrenner was revered here (he bought favor, as any felon would, by funding hospitals and kids’ causes here — this hustler whose philosophy “winning is everything, win at any cost, buy what you don’t have the character to grow” should be shunned not celebrated), so it makes sense the place would be infested with pin-stripe fans. Even, under Christians’ pressure, taking the word “Devil” out of the team’s original name “Devil Rays” (for the huge majestic Manta Rays that sail in the Gulf of Mexico) didn’t improve attendance.

It’s a nice little ballpark and a fine team. Home-town Tampa product Matt Joyce stuck a three-run homer in the Yankees’ eye Tuesday night, and Evan Longoria, the Ray’s marquee player, homered twice last night to dispatch the forces of evil, the game-winner barely clearing the lowest part of the fence in the left-field corner, 315 feet down the line. Dan Johnson, two outs, two strikes, bottom of the ninth, down one run, homered to the right-field corner (322 feet, the ball barely out, barely fair) to tie the game. As hundreds of us stood near the field after the game, Johnson being interviewed was told people in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, were dancing in the street — Minnesota boy.

Watch these Rays. September Rays baseball was heavenly. Last night was ridiculously fun. There could be more. Twins fans — these Rays play the way Minnesota has until this year. Adopt a Ray.

— Bruce Benidt

Confession of a Bandwagon Fan

I mostly subscribe to the adage “a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anyplace else.” And I have been known to get too wrapped up in sports. For instance, I spent some quality time getting ulcer treatment at the George Washington University Hospital ER after Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

But I have a confession to make. Bless me, Father Gardenhire, for I have sinned. Please don’t tell the fellas I share season tickets with, but I’m not watching the Twins games much these days. I also haven’t been watching much of the slumping Wolves, Wild or Gophers. I must admit, I’ve evolved into what I once loathed – a bandwagon fan.

The face paintin’, tail gatin’, trash talkin’, blog readin’ Real Fans despise bandwagon fans. They view switching the channel to a movie while your team is getting thrashed as akin to cheating on your terminally ill spouse. The look Real Fans give you when you leave in the 8th inning with your team seven runs behind is the same look of contempt chicken hawks give flag burners. Real Fans call into sports talk radio shows to admonish bandwagoners to “man up!” They do what loyal fans do, stay and heckle your beloved team mercilessly!

Continue reading “Confession of a Bandwagon Fan”

Our Streak of Consecutive Political Posts Ends at 78

Had to happen sometime.

So here we go. A gentleman named Paul Lukas runs a blog called Uni Watch, which he describes as “a media project that deconstructs the finer points of sports uniforms in obsessive and excruciating detail…. [F]or those who understand the pleasures of detail obsession, programmatic classificatmlb-logoion systems, information overload, and sports history, you’ve come to the right place.”

In a piece he contributes to ESPN.com, Lukas today considers the Major League Baseball logo, which just turned 40. If you like baseball, history, logo design and controversies (I’m 3 for 4), you’ll enjoy this.

An excerpt, in which Lukas interviews the guy, now 76,  who designed it in 1968:

UW: Did Major League Baseball accept the logo pretty much as you designed it, or did they ask you to make adjustments?

JD: Nope, no adjustments. I cleaned it up and that was it.

UW: What do you mean “cleaned it up”?

JD: You tighten it up so it can be reproduced. What I had originally created was just a Magic Marker sketch.

UW [incredulous again]: The original version that you created in one afternoon, and that was presented to Major League Baseball, was rendered in Magic Marker?

JD: Right.

Read the whole thing here.

Thanks to my pal Peter for the tip.

[Image credit: Major League Baseball] state tax help nice

Consumer Weather Perceptions Argue for Twins Stadium Roof, Not Weather Data

One of the most persistent water cooler topics in the Twins Cities over the last few years has been this: “Should the Twins put a roof on their new outdoor stadium?”

On the Opening Day of the Twins season, Jay Wiener at the online news publication MinnPost (anyone reading it?) had some typically insightful reporting on this subject. The crux of his analysis:

So, including today, since 1961, that’s seven home openers out of 48 — or about 15 percent – that would have been problematic. But, if Opening Day were pushed each time beyond April 15, it looks like all but one of those snow/rain/cold days would have been avoided.

Interesting. But if these are the data the Twins used for their their roof decision, their analysis was incomplete. To me, the sales loss associated with going lidless goes beyond ACTUAL weather cancellations. Losses also will be associated with something else, the consumer’s perception that there is a constantly LOOMING THREAT of weather cancellations, or, just as importantly, a miserable experience.

After all, in marketing consumer perceptions about the product matter more than the actual product attributes. If buyers are convinced Yugos are lemons, it doesn’t really matter all that much if the reliability data actually tells a different story. And if Twins fans are convinced that the chances of cancellation or a bad experience are high, it really doesn’t matter if the weather data tell a sunnier story.

For this reason, I hope the roof decision was viewed through the prism of surveys and focus groups deeply probing consumer perceptions and concerns about weather, not just historic weather charts. The number of Opening Day weather-related cancellations is interesting and partially relevant, but it strikes me you have to go much deeper into consumer angst about Minnesota weather.

• APRIL/SEPTEMBER BOYCOTTS. How many families will boycott individual tickets in April and September in anticipation of the higher liklihood for cancellations and bad experiences?

• PREEMPTIVE DOWNSIZING. How many families will opt for PARTIAL season ticket packages, rather than FULL season packages, in order to avoid the weeks when the perception is that cancellations and bad experiences are likely?

• FROZEN OUT. How many families ultimately will not renew their ticket packages with the memory of a miserable experience(s) frozen into their brain?

• NON-METRO NO SHOWS. How many non-metro Twins fans and their families will eliminate or severely limit their Twins road trips because a multi-ticket forfeiture due to a weather cancellation seems too possible to risk the cash?

OK, I realize the following “analysis” is ridiculously back of the envelope. But I kinda sorta have a real job, so this is the best I can do between conference calls and emails. Here goes: If the Twins stadium is used for 30 years, the $200 million cost of a roof spreads out to about $6.6 million per year. Let’s say the average amount a fan dumps at the park per game — tickets, food, beer, trinkets — over those 30 years is $75. I have no idea if this number is reasonable, but remember MLB inflation rate is not exactly the same as the normal inflation rate. Given all that, it would take the loss of just 88,000 fans over 81 home games per year (3.4 million total annual capacity in the new stadium) to justify the cost of the roof.

For all of the aforementioned reasons related to consumer weather-related perceptions, might that be possible?

– Loveland

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