Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Big Picture: MLB sucks at its job

Last month I noticed a curious headline on the homepage.

Milton Bradley was in some legal trouble — sorry, I should have advised you to sit down before writing that — but rather than refer to him as an "ex-ballplayer" ESPN deemed him "Ex-Dodger."

Bradley, of course, played for eight teams in 12 seasons. The Dodgers were third stop, where he lasted just two years — one of five teams he played at least parts of two seasons with. His best season by far was his All-Star season of 2008 with the Rangers, three years after leaving the Dodgers. He finished his career in Seattle. "Ex-Dodger" is one of a dozen adjectives one could use for Bradley, but certainly not the first one that comes to mind.

There's no logical reason to tie Bradley to the Dodgers in a national headline. More likely, ESPN figured the Dodgers are a marquee team and "Ex-Dodger" will equal more traffic than "Ex-ballplayer."

I must not have been the first one to notice the odd headline as ESPN changed it later on, but the first words of the story description were "Former Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners outfielder," which is almost even more bizarre.

Whatever the reason, it's ESPN. It's the company's job to promote traffic, so if a buzzword like "Dodgers" works for them, more power to the Worldwide Leader. And it's ESPN's job to help create stories. That's why the "bottomline" this week on its television networks has read something to the effect of, "Puig trails Freeman in Final Vote..." rather than, "Freeman leads NL Final Vote."

ESPN knows what people are interested in — or at least it thinks it knows — and it doesn't hold back on pushing those stories onto viewers and readers. Again, that's what has led to ESPN's success. As much as most of us despise Tim Tebow wall-to-wall coverage, there must be people somewhere who crave it or ESPN would move on.

Major League Baseball, on the other hand, must have no one with ESPN's knack for having a finger on the public pulse.

Who could forget this gem from earlier this year, which features fan favorite Kyle Davies, who must have been the only Royals player captured on camera in a powder blue hat in 2012.

Even the players themselves are strangely out of touch, or maybe just stuck in the past.

It's been two years since Pence played for the Astros. He's on his third team now in San Francisco. If you actually visit his site, it's amateurish at best. I feel like I could have designed it. So, my first assumption was a fan created the site and dropped it after Pence was traded.

However, the "Hunter's Bio" is written all in the first person, leading me to believe Pence had something to do with the site. As does the "Beyond the Field" tab. The "Stats" tab does actually link to Pence's profile.

And this is Hunter Pence we're talking about, not Milton Bradley. It befuddles me. Even if Hunter doesn't stay on top of his site, you'd think his people, his team or MLB itself would. I shouldn't have to frequent to know Pence is known as "Captain Underpants."

Of course, MLB is too busy with this tire fire.

That's right. The show cannot go on until the voters elect one of these five pitchers — all of whom having spent the majority of the season in middle relief roles* — an All-Star.

*I'm not going to get into the sabermetrics of this. Of course many middle relievers are more valuable than many closers, but "closers" carry much more meaning and interest with casual fans.

This cannot happen.

(Author pauses to cast his 18th vote for the AL Final Vote.)

I know Jim Leyland is a crotchety old man who Bud Selig respects to the nth degree and rightfully so. He's probably the kind of guy you pick your battles with. But this is a battle you have to fight.

All Selig had to do was give Leyland a call and suggest taking Ben Zobrist off the team, drawing one of the above five names out of a hat, and letting Zobrist try his luck in a final vote with Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz and Old Hoss Radbourn. Then Bud could send Jim some nice cigars as a thank you. Crisis** averted.

**Or should I say, most pointless online vote in history averted.

Sure, Puig is a compelling story line as the Final Votes are tallied. But that's only the National League. The American League is the other half of the story — or at least should be — so why render it irrelevant?

Instead of pundits debating only whether Puig should make the All-Star Game after playing just a month in the bigs, they could also be talking about Oakland voters rallying to recognize Donaldson for transforming from a minor league catcher to an All-Star third baseman. Donaldson is no Puig when it comes to sexy story lines, but he's a story. Five relievers couldn't be less significant when it comes to attracting masses to your sport.***

***Unless of course there are throngs of people in the Dominican Republic/Detroit, Toronto, New York City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Japan/Boston on their edge of their seats following this Final Vote.

If anyone has actually visited to partake in the Final Vote, it's been to vote for the National League side and maybe provide their input on the American League while they're at it. As a diehard baseball fan, I think that's sad.

When it comes to ESPN, only two factors force the network to move on from a story. Either people stop caring (the day after the World Cup) or the story dies out on his own and becomes irrelevant (I guess Jeff Francoeur isn't The Natural).

If baseball continues to make itself irrelevant, people will quit caring.

Fire Dayton Moore

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