The Windup (cont.)
From the Mailbag
Lots of mail on the piece I did on Dream Teams in Olympic baseball, and not all of it good. For example:
I like the idea of your article, however I do have one question -- when did Chase Utley lose his American citizenship? I know he is in a slump right now, but Pedroia? Seriously?
-- Paul, Philadelphia
Well, Paul, thanks for going easy on me. Unlike some ...
I think SI needs to start drug testing for its writers ... you picked two other second basemen over Chase Utley?
-- Joe, Chesapeake, Va.
OK, here's the backstory on that blunder. The Dream Team piece was up on the site for I'd say, oh, .063 seconds before someone ripped me for not including Utley on the American team. And, clearly, it is an oversight. I blew it. Don't know how I missed him. Don't know how I could. But I did. Now, being the Internet and all, I could have rushed back to the piece and corrected the error and saved my inbox some serious strain-age. I could have made it look like it never happened, like I never messed up. But, ethically, is that cool? Is that OK? It's one thing to dive back in and correct an error in fact -- a statistic or an incorrect year or a misspelling or something. But this was an opinion. An ill-informed error in execution. But, still, an opinion. It's not, technically speaking, wrong. Instead, I decided to take the heat, admit I screwed up and correct it here. Utley should be on that team, over Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler and anyone else. Happy now?
How could you not consider Venezuela's team in your analysis? Venezuela could put a team that can match up with any of those! Santana, Big-Z, Cabrera and Ordonez, just to name a few, are not precisely nobodies in MLB.
-- Rafael Guerra, Caracas
Nope, you're right, Rafael. I could have put several other teams in the Dream Team story, and Venezuela would have headed the list. I just didn't want it to get too unwieldy, that's all. I didn't want to go through 16 teams, like the WBC does. So the editors and I decided on four. If we had picked five or six, Venezuela certainly would have been there.
No love for Canada? I'm pretty sure we'd at least be the fourth best team, better than Cuba. Sure our middle infield is weak, but we're pretty strong everywhere else and our pitching is all-world.
C Russell Martin, 1B Justin Morneau, 2B Pete Orr, 3B Corey Koskie, SS Danny Klassen, OF Jason Bay, Matt Stairs, and Joey Votto. SP Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden and Shawn Hill. CL Eric Gagne, Rheal Cormier and Jesse Crain.
-- Jeff Little, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
Good team, Jeff. You can argue with Rafael about who comes in after the four I picked: the U.S., Japan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. And include this next guy in the discussion ...
I am not saying that the four teams you have mentioned are unworthy, or South Korea is superior to any of those teams. However, S. Korean baseball has recently beat three of the four noted nations in Beijing. One may argue that the teams were shorthanded, yet in the first WBC, Korea beat the U.S. and handed Japan two losses out of the three times they faced each other even with their major leaguers. If the organization of the seeding for that event was made with some practical sense, Korea could have just as easily been in the finals. Therefore, when it comes to "strongest baseball-playing nations in the world," doesn't the Korean team deserve the least bit of recognition?
-- Donguk, Seoul
Yes, and you wrote this before the Koreans beat Cuba for the gold medal in Beijing. I'd say that bolsters your argument a little bit.
Brian McCann over Joe Mauer? Dream on. The latter is a future HOFer and the former, well, isn't. It's nice that he has more HRs THIS year though.
-- Dave, Columbus
Dave, I like Mauer plenty, but I'm not ready to bestow that future HOF tag on him quite yet. Like everybody else, I'd like to see a little more power out of him. And don't dismiss McCann so quickly. His power gives him the edge over Mauer in OPS, and that's not just this year.
Embrace the WBC, it IS baseball's Olympics, played by the very best players in the world, not just one unimportant player from each roster as you and Lasorda want. The WBC was a great, compelling show last time and will be better this time. The only way to make the Olympics work would be to interrupt the season for at least 12 days in mid-August to late September, a la hockey in the Winter Olympics. You really think that will ever happen? File this lame idea and column under Fantasy Sports, you can't possibly have been serious about this.
-- Jon DeMent, St. Cloud, Minn.
Jon, here's what I think. Baseball will make its way back to the Olympics as Major League Baseball allows some of its players to be used. The list of players won't include the best. I can't see players who could make a difference over here being allowed to play over there, even for only a couple of weeks. But the new Olympians will be guys on teams' 40-man rosters, and then the Olympic organizers will supplement (if they have to) with minor leaguers. Not great. But better than no baseball at the Olympics at all.
From what I've heard, attendance at Tampa Bay Rays games is pretty meager. If that's the case, the population of Tampa should be lined up and slapped. As of August 20th, the Rays are tied for the best record in baseball, have the best home record, are 8-2 over their last ten games, and just took two in a row from the Angels. Anyone who thought the Rays would fade in the second half was sorely mistaken. The Rays are here to stay, and are most definitely a legitimate World Series contender.
-- Scott, New Mexico
How'd this question get in here? Attendance at Rays game is still pretty lame, at just over 21,000 a game, but it is up almost 4,000 a game from last year. So that's something. The thing is, when you've had a team that has been miserable for a whole decade, playing in a nondescript dome in the middle of acres of parking lots in a sleepy town like St. Petersburg, it's hard to draw fans. It's going to take several seasons like this one -- and, yes, a new stadium -- for the Rays to move out of the bottom third in attendance. Go easy on the fans of that area, Scott. They have some problems to overcome.
If MLB owners are really concerned about losing money during a two-week Olympic layoff (don't get me started), I have a suggestion: How about scheduling day-night doubleheaders during an Olympic year to make up for the two-week layoff? That way the owners maintain their 162-game season and the Olympics can get players for their two weeks. Granted, I don't see the (too-powerful) players' union going for that. But hey, it's an idea.
-- Ray Kim, Troy, NY
Yeah, Ray, it's an idea. But if it's going to cost the teams too much money -- doubleheaders are generally money-losing propositions -- nobody's going to go for it. Sorry.
I have a solution to the Baseball in the Olympics problem. The powers that be should make it part of the Winter Olympics. Play the games in a dome during MLB's offseason. It's so simple it just might work.
-- Bert Thomas, Elkridge, Md.
I had a couple people suggest this, Bert. All sorts of technical, and other, issues with this. First, if baseball, a sport meant to be played outdoors in the summer, can't make it in the Summer Games, why should the Winter Olympics organizers care? Venues would be harder to come by, too. In cold-weather cities where the Winter Games are held, you'd have to have a domed stadium big enough to play baseball in, and those aren't found in the smaller cities that generally host the Winter Olympics. You really can't ask a Torino, Italy, or an Albertville, France, to build a $300 million dome for baseball. And I could see MLB objecting to the scheduling of this, too. Players would have to jump right from the Olympics, which normally begin in early February (and you'd think there'd be some kind of practice/qualifying before), into spring training. In fact, they'd miss some spring training. It would, in effect, lengthen seasons for those who participate. And those are just the problems off the top of my head. I just don't see it happening.