It has been very easy for fans to check out on the Angels this year. Considering the 2013 Angels might possibly be the biggest disappointment team of all time considering their payroll, do you blame them? We've argued accountability, performance, decision-making, injuries and just about every other issue and excuse we could think of this year. There is one you're all missing....
In discussions with all of my sports friends, it's getting harder and harder to justify baseball as one of the top sports in the U.S. It doesn't have to do with time between pitches, the aweful Dodger Stadium experience, or even the complete lack of emotion on Scioscia's face. is the real root cause behind the Angels terrible season and the primary beef my friends have with baseball.
Let's look at a few things that 162 game schedule breeds in baseball:
1. "Huge" Suspensions Aren't
Miguel Tejada just got slapped with 105 game ban. Manny Ramirez once got a 50 game ban. A-Rod.... Keep in mind that these bans were considered to be either subsequent offenses or especially egregious. They weren't even suspended for an entire season. Seriously? The fact that a huge ta-do is being made of all the recent suspensions is laughable. Most of the guys won't be gone all that long when you consider the length of one baseball season. Nobody in their right mind thinks this whole suspension thing is a viable protector of the sanctity of the game when a season is this long.
Yes, I'm leaving Braun and A-Rod out of this discussion. There is only so much time in the day.
2. TV Contracts
Even though baseball has seen it's decline against the rise of the NFL and soccer, huge TV contracts are given to teams in large markets like L.A., Chicago, Boston, and New York. The reason the contracts are so big is because the audience for the games, while lower than they'd like them to be, are consistent. A long season means a long marketing window. The money in these allowed for unprecedented spending sprees on free agents.
The obvious example for the Angels is Josh Hamilton. I'd like to bring a few other players in to the discussion too, but see my A-Rod/Braun point above. Hamliton is considered potentially the worst free agent signings in years. He accounts for a little over 13% of the team's payroll, and gives back less than 1% of it's output. If they'd have just paid the few million dollars more to keep Torii, they'd have 3 center fielders in the outfield, a real leader in the clubhouse, and a lot more offense. For a guy that should be in the part of his career where he knows how to work a count, he seems to think all the pitchers are going to come to him. He continues to play even though fans and anyone else with logic can see that you can get the same output from the farm system. The huge salary means that Scioscia has to play him, which means he isn't being held accountable for his play.
You may disagree with me, but fans want their team to win more than watching a high profile player be in the lineup even when playing badly. Accountability is more important than "favorites". I'm already starting to like some of these young guys in the lineup. They don't need a name for me to be a fan.
"Who cares, Joe? You're starting to sound like the Lewis Black of blogging." You should care because this huge salary guys get many, many games to work out their kinks while stinking it up. If each game were more like a playoff game, you'd see a lot more accountability and excitement. It's all about the product.
3. NO SENSE OF URGENCY
Having so many games means that there is a huge lull in the middle of the season. No baseball fan can look someone in the face and say that players and managers treat every game like a playoff game. Basketball has the same issue with most games reaching about 200 points. The players don't start trying until the 4th quarter. The problem with baseball is that many teams are already out of contention by the 4th quarter of the season.
When guys are given days off for rest or don't get frustrated with themselves after their 3rd strikeout of a game, it sends a message to the fans. LOUD AND CLEAR. You have no sense of urgency for that game. It hurts the game's credibility and keeps fans from staying engaged. And no, I don't subscribe to the "protecting the health" argument. They're paid to play, right? Literally... they're playing a game for a living.
The big guys for the Angels will be mostly the same next year. I should be excited and have all sorts of reasons why next year will be different, but it don't. There is no urgency in the clubhouse. What can be done to create a sense of urgency in every game when there are 162 games to play? What should my rebuttal be when a non-baseball fan brings up the length of the season as a primary excitement killer?