First, let's hear it from Buster, who after recalling watching World Series games played in the daytime some 35 years ago, offers the following:
Naturally, the deeper you play into the fall, the more likely it is that you'll have the kind of farce that we saw in Philadelphia, where Mother Nature flexed her muscles and forced ballplayers to play with snowmobile hats. (In the first part of Game 5, they could've used some slickers and swim goggles, too.) A lot of the innings we saw in Philadelphia were nothing less than farcical. Those are all part of the reason the topic of a neutral-site World Series inevitably will be raised at forthcoming baseball meetings. And you know what? Given all the circumstances in play -- among them, the fact that we'll never return to the time when the World Series was played on brilliant afternoons -- it's an idea that makes sense.Never has one game -- sorry, one half of a game -- caused so much of a commotion. In the past decade, we've had scores of October -- and in 2001, November -- World Series games played in New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and Philadelphia. Exactly one of those games -- last Monday's in Philly -- had what anyone would call awful conditions. Yes, it sucked, but they figured it out, and two days later we had an exciting little sprint that crowned a champ, and none of the thousands at the parade in Philadelphia on Friday felt that the experience was a diminished one. This week the upper Midwest is experiencing sunny days in the sixties and lower seventies. In some years it will be cold. In others it will even snow. If the scientists are right we may even one day have hot damn weather. The point is that hard cases make bad policy, and for any new policy regarding baseball's most sacred rite -- the World Series -- to be based on an outlier of a game like Game Five this year is simply preposterous.
If baseball ever takes this step, season-ticket holders initially will create an enormous backlash because they will feel as if something has been stripped from them. As anyone who attends postseason games knows, however, the high cost of the World Series generally outruns the budgets of many who go to regular-season games, anyway. The postseason crowds have a very different feel because a lot of the die-hards are left to watch on television. With a neutral site, baseball could give season-ticket holders a first option to buy tickets to the World Series. In fact, it could prearrange airfare and hotel packages as part of the event.I'm loathe to even meet Olney on this farcical, hypothetical turf, but let's play along, shall we? Yes Buster, you're right: the season ticket holders will squawk. But what won't happen is them getting first dibs, that I can tell you. Someone is going to have to underwrite this hypothetical neutral site contest, and if the NFL is any guide, you can bet it will be large corporations looking to eke out of it every bit of promotional advantage they can. Contest winners, advertising executives, and junkets of every kind will gobble up the majority of these tickets, and those that aren't so gobbled will sell for stratospheric prices. The only thing keeping that from happening now is that no one knows where the games will be until three or four days before they begin. Schedule the 2011 World Series for San Diego tomorrow, and you can bet that all of the hotel rooms will be booked by the end of the month.
And there's no doubt that Major League Baseball could make the World Series into an incredible event because it could plan and stack up a wide array of options for fans, Super Bowl-style.This is what we want to emulate? A giant, over-hyped, bloated corpse of a football game whose "media day" has long since become a punchline and whose biggest news stories tend to involve arrests of marginal players for all manner of tomfoolery? Are we gonna send Bill Simmons and A.J. Daulerio there to mock the soulless host cities and oblivious, superficial star fuckers who latch onto the event, seemingly unaware that an athletic contest is actually involved too?
Along the way, MLB could arrange for Hall of Famers to attend daily fan-fest functions, panels and autograph-signing sessions and seminars. The general managers could hold their annual meetings during that week, and the GMs could break away from their hotel to hold town-hall-style talks with fans about their teams as their managers are in town.Except of course that since the season is still going on and there are no free agents yet, the GMs couldn't do what they normally do at the winter meetings, which is to discuss transactions and the like. What's more, if we kill the winter meetings, what is Ken Rosenthal supposed to do? He lives for that stuff!
The Hall of Fame could announce its induction class for the following summer. In a place like Phoenix or San Diego, there could be daily charity golf tournaments, and fans could be part of the scramble. MLB could feature the John Smoltz Desert Classic on the first day, the Jeff Francoeur Invitational the second day and so on.And nothing says Fall Classic like golf in the dessert. In other news, I guess we know that Buster isn't going to have the Braves winning the East in his predictions column next spring.
I wish postseason baseball were played like it was when I was a kid. But it's not. So it's time to move on to the next-best thing.I guess it's inevitable that everyone will eventually revert to the notion that how things were done when they were young was the best way to ever do them, but guess what: I'm only a couple of years younger than Olney, and I never witnessed a daytime World Series game, and in fewer years than Olney might wish, no one will ever remember when they happened. What there are plenty of, however, are fans who came of age in the 90s and 2000s and fell in love with October baseball while wearing Yankees or Red Sox jackets because it was cool at night. And you know what? They don't have a problem with it.
But in case my message has been muddled in the preceding paragraphs, allow me to be perfectly clear: the idea of a neutral site World Series is an acutely retarded one, borne of an irrational reaction to a single soggy Monday night in 2008, devoid of reason, thought, heart, passion, or reverence for over a century of baseball tradition. It would benefit exactly two classes of people: (1) corporate interests; and (2) weak and lazy sportswriters who hate travel and can't handle an autumn chill. Its institution would be a disservice to every pennant winning city going forward, and would desecrate the collective memory of the raucous crowds from the Polo Grounds in 1954, Forbes Field in 1960, Fenway Park in 1975, the Metrodome in 1991, and Yankee Stadium in any one of a dozen years. For every memorable Super Bowl, there have been a dozen classic World Series, and the fact that they're played on unfriendly territory for one of the teams involved has an awful lot to do with that.
I defy Buster Olney and any of the many other writers who have advocated a neutral site World Series to make the case that any World Series prior to 2008 would actually have been improved by being played in a neutral location, and I challenge them to ponder whether they would even be baseball fans if Bob Gibson had struck out 17 Tigers in the Astrodome in 1968, if Reggie had gone yard three times in Arlington, Texas in 1977, or if Game Three of the 2001 World Series had been played anywhere other than New York City.
If the answer is that tradition and history shouldn't dictate a thing as important as the World Series, than I pity them far more than I can ever disagree with them.
(Welcome NBC readers! If you liked this, there is plenty more ShysterBall where that came from!)