Happy Festivus: An airing of my MLB grievances for 2022
Happy Festivus, MLB. It’s time for the airing of grievances. I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re gonna hear about it.
In honor of the Seinfeldian holiday, here are the baseball bones I shall pick and the axes I shall grind for 2022.
Enough with the blackouts. MLB blackouts continue to be stupid and nonsensical. It’s almost 2023. Fans should be able to watch their favorite teams on any device they choose in any place they choose. But noooooo. Fans in the heartland are blacked out from like 17 different teams (fine, it’s “only” six). Charlotte, N.C., is considered the “local” territory of the Braves, Nationals, Orioles and Reds. Fans in Vegas can’t watch any of the West Coast teams. It’s insanity. Commissioner Rob Manfred has indicated that changes could be on the way. But until those changes happen, the grievance will remain.
The owners need to stop whining. Listen, guys: You’ll have made more money by the time you finish this sentence than most people will make in a month. Quit your bellyaching about Steve Cohen and the supposed payroll boogeyman he represents. Every one of you can afford any player you want. You just choose not to spend the money. That’s fine, by the way. It’s your money. But don’t tell fibs about how winning is your top priority and don’t spin yarns about baseball being an unprofitable venture.
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Hey, Giants: What’s your deal? How have you managed to look so bad this offseason, and especially after things looked so promising? You seemed to have a great shot to sign coveted hometown(ish) dude Aaron Judge, but then he went back to New York. You actually had Carlos Correa, but then he did a Keyser Sozean vanishing from California. You have tons of money and were ready to spend it on Correa, but were apparently spooked by what seems like a non-issue in his medicals. (It apparently didn’t bother the Mets, though). What could’ve been a franchise-altering offseason has turned into a massive dud, with no way to fix it. And the Correa thing seems to get worse by the day. Yikes, guys. You’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do. Your fans are furious. Good job, good effort.
Hey, Braves: I question your deal, too. You just let a franchise cornerstone and fan favorite walk for a second straight offseason. You know that’s a bad look, right? You’re flush with cash after your 2021 World Series run and your successful 2022 follow-up campaign, but you say the kinds of deals Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson got don’t make sense for you long term. Fine. It all just seems so calculated and corporate, though, like you take your spending cues from an algorithm. But you believe you’ve got a formula for long-term success and you’re sticking to it. You’ve locked up a lot of talented and popular youngsters for a long time, but you’ve also sent the message to your fans that those guys will probably play elsewhere once their contracts end. Not great!
Hey, Yankees: Your facial hair policy is ridiculous. The logic behind the stodgy, decades-old rule is that requiring players to be clean-shaven (except for mustaches, for some reason) will produce a more disciplined team and (I guess?) lead to better play on the field. That sounds super-pseudoscience-y to me. Plus, it creates a certain visual dullness that, whether you realize it or not, matches the dullness your team has displayed in October for the past decade-plus. You’ve not played in a World Series since 2009. Beardless faces aren’t the magic ingredient to winning that you think they are.
Get used to seeing Carlos Rodon without a beard for 6 more years pic.twitter.com/3r1WN5PQW4
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) December 22, 2022
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Hey, Angels: Why are you the way that you are? You’ve got Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, two of the most talented players of all time, yet you remain allergic to winning because you consistently fail to build a good roster around them. Your stranglehold on fourth place finally came to an end in 2022, but you still were nowhere near getting those two generational talents to the postseason. Maybe the new owners will figure it out.
Stop putting bad umpires in big games. Nobody likes an ump show, but there were — again — some big ones in 2022, including in the postseason, which should never, ever happen. There are many good umpires, but there are also too many bad ones. Calls for an automated strike zone get louder every season, and they’re not wrong.
Leave the balls alone. Seriously, MLB, stop messing with the baseballs. I know you say you’re not messing with them, but nobody believes you. The dead ball, the live ball, the Goldilocks ball, the suspicious use of the Goldilocks ball — it’s all super fishy. Players can tell the difference. Scientists can, too. Just stop. Give us a normal, traditional baseball that doesn’t play favorites. Let the dingers fly and let other fly balls die on the warning track of nature causes. Speaking of things that should die . . .
The magic runner rule must be destroyed. It served its purpose as a necessary experiment, but it’s gone on too long and it hasn’t made the game better. Make teams score in the 10th inning the way they had to score in innings one through nine. That’s baseball. Honestly, I’m indifferent about the shift ban, the pitch clock and the new pickoff rules coming in 2023, but the magic runner at second base in extra innings can be fired right into the sun. Or just throw it in a lake, whichever is easier. Speaking of easier . . .
No game should start after 6:40 p.m. local time — because early start times rule. You might not think that starting just 30-45 minutes earlier would make that big of a difference, but it does. The earlier start means kids can watch a whole game and get to bed on time and adults who value proper rest can watch a full game without the dread of morning sleepies. When you combine earlier start times with the addition of the pitch clock, it’s possible a lot of games will end by before 9:30 p.m. This convenience might even increase interest in baseball and lead to extra revenue for MLB. What a wild concept. Here’s a non-wild concept . . .
How about some actual baseball on MLB Network? I like “Bull Durham” and “The Naked Gun” as much as the next guy, but I’d much rather watch some original programming. There’s not nearly enough. Maybe bring back the terrific “Baseball Seasons.” (The last season documented was 2005.) Maybe show a classic game every day. Maybe give us some original behind-the-scenes stuff. Heck, even old episodes of “This Week in Baseball” would be sweet. Studio shows and old movies are fine, but diversification is good — especially in the offseason. I know you’ve got 24 hours to fill, but I have a theory that nearly 150 years of baseball history might just allow for some new quality programming.
That’s enough gripes and disappointments for one Festivus. Consider the bones sufficiently picked, the axes sufficiently ground. Onward to spring training and Opening Day.
In the meantime, baseball fans, may your Festivus pole be sturdy, and may your feats of strength be mighty.