In less than 48 hours, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will grace millions of homes across the country — OK, just in Philadelphia and the Tampa Bay area — with the dulcet tones of FOX’s annual World Series coverage. I can hardly wait.

For anyone who watches baseball week in and week out during the season, Buck and mcCarver are a familiar pair. The two provide the commentary on FOX’s weekly Saturday broadcast and during the All Star Game. Even after baseball season, it’s impossible to escape Joe Buck as the robotic announcer covers football for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire as well.

Over the years, Buck and McCarver have done little to impress the crowd. Buck often sounds like he’d rather be somewhere else, and McCarver speaks a lot while saying a little. He’s also shown as tenuous a grasp on baseball player names as John Kerry did in 2004. It may even have come as a shock to McCarver than Manny Ortez wasn’t actually a player on the Red Sox.

As time wore on, though, it seemed like the only people complaining were those of us with our own online platforms. Fire Joe Morgan, a site clearly dedicated to the ESPN broadcaster, and Awful Announcing are popular online, but no one is listening. Maybe, just maybe, a Phillies-Rays World Series will spur on some changes.

Last week, Slate columnist Ben Mathis-Lilley started the annual baseball announcer bemoaning, and his cry has been picked up with increasing frequency over the last few days. A Huffington Post writer — not quite a position with high barriers to entry — warns of the impending Buck/McCarver tandem, but more important is Maury Brown’s diatribe about the national media. Brown writes emotionally:

So why, oh why, will the ratings be low? Blame broadcasters, for one.

Low ratings show, in part, that when you spend week after week, year after year showing the Red Sox and the Yankees during the regular season, you brainwash the average fan. If you want to make October something special, no matter who is playing, you better get America to follow all 30 teams.

This requires doing a bit of detox on FOX, ESPN, and TBS’ part. Understandably, you have America hooked on the Red Sox and Yankees, and with that you get your precious regular season ratings. The problem is, if one or the other team isn’t in the World Series and ratings are low, there’s a mountain of articles talking about how it’s a matter of being a “poor Series.”

That’s a load of manure…So, I say, the low ratings do mean something. It means that broadcasters will decide that, in the end, they will get on bended knee and pray for the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Angels or Cubs to make the World Series, and hope that they drew high ratings during the regular season.

Brown is 100 percent correct, no ifs, ands or buts about it. The national TV landscaped for baseball has become so attuned to the weekly ratings that they sacrifice the popularity of the game. Constant attention on the Yankees or Mets, on the Cubs and White Sox, on the Angels, Red Sox and Dodgers isn’t something promoting the best interests of the game.

Rather, the national TV coverage promotes the best interests of ESPN, FOX and TBS. These stations need money; they get money from advertising; they get more advertising from higher ratings. Since there are more fans in New York and Los Angeles and New England, games featuring teams from those areas will attract more eyeballs.

When Major League Baseball has a chance to renegotiate its next media contract — and that date won’t arrive until well into the next decade — it would behoove the game if the Powers That Be urge the networks to show a more distributive sampling of teams and games. After all, these telecasts should be about promoting baseball, and clearly something has gone wrong when a World Series match-up that promises to be as compelling this one is decried as a ratings bust before the games even begin.

Categories : Rants
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Back after a three year hiatus, the World Baseball Classic returns next spring to what seems like less fanfare than the 2006 installment. Implemented essentially to replace Olympic baseball (which was voted off the island by the IOC), the ’09 WBC will start in four countries in early March, and wrap up with a one-game, winner-take-all Championship Game two weeks later at Dodger Stadium.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and then-Yankee Al Leiter suited up for the USA in the inauguaral WBC, while Bernie Williams played for Puerto Rico. You may recall the Yanks forbid Jorge Posada from joining Bernie with Puerto Rico, while Mariano Rivera chose not to play for Panama. King George let it be known that he didn’t like his players taking an unnecessary risk, but when the dust settled the only player to suffer a serious injury was Luis Ayala, who blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

Jeter & A-Rod have already expressed their desire to participate in the ’09 WBC, but otherwise the news is mum on the rosters, save for a few pissed off Venezuelans. So that’s where we come in. Who would you like to see suit up for the USA? Teams will work with a 30-man roster, but you don’t have to go that deep (unless, of course, you want to), perhaps just a 9 man starting lineup and some semblence of a pitching staff.

Play Bob Watson for a few minutes and stick your USA WBC team in the comments. Play nice.

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Short and dirty: With the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies set to face off in the Fall Classic, baseball fans will enjoy a World Series with two relative newcomers. The Phillies, despite their lengthy history, have just one title and were last in the Series in 1993. For Tampa, 2008 marks their first winning season ever. Who gets your support?

For whom are you rooting in the World Series?
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Feel free to discuss any aspect of the Fall Classic in the comments. Wednesday’s Cole Hamels-Scott Kazmir match-up should be a good one, and apparently, Tampa and Philly have a non-baseball sports rivalry going on. Who knew?

Categories : Polls
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Two of the most storied — and most hated — franchises in sports are teaming up for a concessions business venture.

The Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees have teamed up to form Legends Hospitality Management that will, according to Sports Business Journal, “manage regular concessions, suite catering and team stores at the new Yankees and Cowboys stadiums.” The company will also bid on concessions contracts at stadiums across the country.

The first-of-its-kind initiative between two of pro sports’ star teams is the idea of Gerry Cardinale, the Goldman managing director who helped create the Yankees’ regional sports channel, the YES Network, and brokered the return of Alex Rodriguez to the team last year.

Cardinale met Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and his son Stephen, the team’s chief operating officer, through a mutual friend who hosted them and their wives on a boat off of St. Barts in the Caribbean in February 2007.

On the boat, a source said, Jones spoke of his new stadium, and Cardinale brought the idea of pairing the two teams together back to the Yankees. Hal Steinbrenner, the team’s co-owner, team President Randy Levine, and Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost handled the discussions.

The teams are known for their entrepreneurial bent, and the concessions business is now the latest iteration. The Yankees’ YES Network is a highly successful regional sports channel in which Goldman is an investor, and the Cowboys are the only NFL team to manage the distribution of its branded merchandise.

In charge of this new business venture will be former Pizza Hut President Michael Rawlings and Dan Smith and Marty Greenspun, two Yankee employees.

While some many think back on the non-descript YankeeNet venture, this partnership has the potential to reap massive benefits for the Yanks and Cowboys. The Yanks did about $70 million in concession sales at their old ballpark, and this figure stands to jump tremendously when the new stadium opens in April. If this venture is successful — and there’s no reason it won’t be — it could mark a new approach to sports business deals across all major sports.

Categories : News
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While we were busy celebrating, the Hot Stove League was blazing this weekend. We’ll delve in, bullet-point style.

Jake Peavy

  • The Padres will deal Jake Peavy this winter, and this trade will be consummated at or by the Winter Meetings.
  • Ken Rosenthal thinks that the Yanks are a prime suitor for Peavy and the Padres. They have some near-MLB-ready outfield prospects and a plethora of young arms to trade. Rosenthal thinks the Yanks would have to part with Robinson Cano in a potential deal with the Padres as well.
  • But — and this is a fairly substantial but — Peavy, according to some team officials, “hates” New York. It would take extra compensation to land Peavy, and the Yanks won’t want to deal prospects for the opportunity to toss more money Peavy’s way.
  • BP’s John Perrotto believes the Yanks would include Phil Hughes (subscription required) in a deal for Peavy. I’m not sure I understand that logic. Hughes’ value in the eyes of the Yanks hasn’t dropped that much since last winter when the team wouldn’t include him in a deal for Santana, and Santana was a known AL commodity. Perhaps the Yanks appreciate the fact that Peavy is locked up for a few years, but his contract is hardly a steal.
  • The Sox are interested in kicking the Peavy tires, but the price seems too high for them as well. If Peavy doesn’t want to pitch in New York, he won’t like Boston either.

Mark Teixeira

  • Buster Olney believes that Mark Teixeira and the Yanks are a good fit, but the Yanks seem to have a limit. They don’t want to offer 10 years and $200 million to the first baseman but seem willing to go to six years at $18-$20 million per.
  • Olney notes that the Orioles will be active in perusing the Maryland native as well, but if I’m Tex, I go to the Yanks. New York has a much better shot at winning a World Series over the next six years than the Orioles do.

CC Sabathia

  • Within the same piece, Buster notes that the Yanks are willing to outbid for CC Sabathia by “a factor of 30 to 40 percent.” If CC wants the money and wants to come to New York, he’ll be here next season. These early rumors show that, to the Yanks, money is nothing.
Categories : Hot Stove League
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  • Almost worse than 2004

    When the Rays were up 7-0 in the top of the seventh and had two runners on, they had a 99.3 percent chance of winning the game, according to the game’s win probability. Back in 2004, David Appelman noted this week, the Yanks had an 83.8 percent chance of winning game four and an 87.9 percent chance of winning game five. While I’m still working on the odds that the Sox would win four in a row in 2004, Tampa came very close to out-choking our Yankees. I’m glad they didn’t. · (40) ·

Let’s take a trip back in time. October 16, five years ago.

I was as drunk then as I am now. Okay, I was probably more drunk then. I remember texting a buddy, those five years ago, when we were down 4-0 in the 4th: “For every run we score, I’m going to funnel a beer.” Over an hour later, while I was partaking in other activities, my friend texted me back: “Start funneling.”

For the next year, I thought nothing could top Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. In fact, to this day I don’t think anything can top it. I was a kid eager to get out of college. I sat in a circle at a frat house, equal numbers Yanks fans, real Yanks fans, and Yanks haters, a/k/a Mets fans. Most of us had 30s of Keystone light in front of us. There was no implicit sharing. You showed up with your own booze, and rooted for your own team.

We bemoaned Clemens. We heralded Mussina. We didn’t know what to think of Aaron Boone. In fact, I had started my ascent to the bathroom when the inning started. Only fate held me back. As I hit the second step, I heard an uproar from the room. I sprinted back, and saw the ball fall in the left field seats. Maybe it was the first live replay. Maybe it was the original shot. I don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t have to pee anymore. Instead, I took my joy to the streets of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

YANKEES WIN!!! I screamed, hopping down the street in the purest joy I’d felt since the Yankees clinched the 2000 World Series over the Mets. YANKEES WIIIIIIIIIINNNN!!!!!!

Tonight’s joy wasn’t quite that. There were no late-inning heroics. There was no rivalry to uphold. Hell, my favorite team sat at home during it, unused to the feeling of being absent from October baseball.

Yet, it felt eerily similar. I still hopped down the street once I saw Jed Lowrie ground out on the first pitch. I still screamed at the top of my lungs, though this time it was “RED SOX LOSE!” rather than “YANKEES WIN!” Still, it has been the most visceral baseball feeling I’ve had in 2008.

I only hope my fellow Yankees fans feel the same way. Tonight was glorious, in a bastardized, absurd way. One thing is for certain, though.

The Boston Red Sox will not be the 2008 World Series Champions.

That is all.

Categories : Game Stories
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  • David Price

    That was sheer beauty. My heart is almost relieved the Yanks weren’t involved in this game. Almost. I have nothing else to say. Congrats to the Rays. · (37) ·

It doesn’t get any better than this. The ALCS started as a best-of-seven series a whopping nine days ago, and after the two teams split games 1 & 2, it became a best-of-five series. Once they split games 3-6, it turned into what it is now: a best-of-one.

Jon Lester takes the bump for the BoSox, and much has been made of his innings total after his stuff looked flat in Game 3. Right now he’s working on a career high 230 IP including the postseason, while his previous career high was 163 IP, set just last year. It’s no secret why Lester looked fatigued in his last start, a jump of 67 IP will do that to anyone.

Rays’ starter Matt Garza is also working on a career high in innings pitched, but his total of 196.2 IP (including playoffs) is just barely more than his previous career high of 185, which he set back in 2006. Garza’s fastball was still popping Dioner Navarro’s mitt late in Game 3, and there’s little reason to suspect that fatigue will be an issue for the former Fresno State Bulldog. Anything can happen in one game though, so expect the unexpected.

Someone’s going home tonight, and regardless of who it is, let me be the first to congratulate them on a great season. We should be in for a good one, enjoy it.

1. Coco Crisp, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. JD Drew, RF
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Mark Kotsay, 1B
8. All-Star Catcher Jason Varitek, C
9. Alex Cora wins games, SS – damn Tito, I thought you weren’t supposed to mess with the lineup in the middle of a winning streak
– Jon Lester, P (16-6, 3.21)

Tampa Bay
1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
2. BJ Upton, CF
3. Carlos Pena, 1B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Carl Crawford, LF
6. Willy Aybar, DH
7. Dioner Navarro, C
8. Rocco Baldelli, RF
9. Jason Bartlett, SS
– Matt Garza, P (11-9, 3.70)

Site note: No DotF tonight – the entire AzFL is off, and no Yanks’ farmhands are in the lineup for HWB Waikiki. You can see everyone’s overall winter ball stats here.

Rays’ cheerleader pic from flickr user dbadair, who’s got a badass set of pics from Game 2.

Categories : Game Threads
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