Tuesday, December 05, 2006
What if Major League Baseball was operated like college football?
There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth here in the Wolverine State this week over the University of Michigan getting passed over for the NCAA national championship game.
U of M, as I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, is dumbfounded how it got passed over in the last weeks of the season by the University of Florida, a team with the same record that did not come within three points of knocking off the No. 1 team just a few weeks ago.
I’m pretty indifferent to the team from Ann Arbor, but can understand some of the beefs. Seems like a pretty strange way to pick a national champion.
Then it got me thinking. There are a lot of things about college football that I just don’t get. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to games, especially when my in-laws take me to see the University of Illinois. I love the energy and tradition, and last time got a little carried away and had my face painted and did other things you don't need to hear about.
But organizationally, the sport is a mess. Can you imagine if Major League Baseball operated like college football? Let’s take a look.
1) The first quarter of the season would be against Triple-A teams – or worse. How come teams get to pad their schedules with non-conference teams from much smaller schools that are just happy to be there? Teams, I might add, that the good teams get to select.
Looking at some Big Ten schedules the past couple of years, I halfway expect University of Michigan to challenge Washtenaw Community College and Michigan State University to play the flag football team from Zeta Beta Tau at some point in those first couple games.
So I can see the Mets spending April playing the Fresno Grizzlies and the Toldeo Mud Hens, with maybe a series with the Lansing Lugnuts worked in for good measure.
At least one Major League division, the American League Central, already does have something like this because they get to play the Kansas City Royals. But the rest of the divisions have to play teams that are actually trying.
But I can see why college teams pad their schedule like this, because if you lose one game, you’re just about out of contention for the championship. So, fully one half of the teams start playing out the string after the first Saturday of the season. And if you drop two games, fuggetaboutit!
2) College teams get new players by groveling to high school kids to come and play for them. Now how is a team supposed to get better if the decent players have all the say in where they want to play? And it’s easy to see why a player who is any good is going to only want to play on a team that’s already winning.
So, baseball operated this way, teams like the Devil Rays wouldn’t even get the chance to screw up all those No. 1 picks they get. Joe Maddon would have to spend his entire offseason telling 18-year-olds that playing in a horrible, empty domed stadium is better than basking in the glory of a place like Shea.
3) The teams going for the national championship get picked by a poll instead of earning their way there. Can you imagine a World Series Bowl where managers, a computer and goodness knows who else gets to decide the top two teams? Heck, if people like Tom Verducci get a say, the Yankees would get a free pass to the Series every year.
You can bet the farm there would never be another Tigers-Cardinals match-up.
And it might not even matter who was playing best. The talk in Michigan the past couple days is that U of M got pushed aside because no one is going to want to watch a rematch with Ohio State.
4) Any baseball team that was not picked for the title game, if they’re lucky, would get invited to some other bowl game. Again, these games are selected based on the ability of the teams to draw television viewers as opposed to quality.
So you could pretty much guarantee seeing the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox and other teams that Fox things will attract viewers in the Depends Undergarments Bowl or what ever they want to call it.
And when you win a bowl game, you win exactly what? Does being the Tostitos Bowl winner carry some sort of cache?
So let’s take this past baseball postseason and apply it to college football rules.
First, you’d have to wait an entire month between the end of the season and the bowls – which could work in our favor, since it would give Mets pitchers time to rest their injured calves.
Then, the people polled -- and Fox, because you know it would have a say -- would have pick the Yankees and Dodgers for the National Championship Bowl.
The Yanks would be picked because they had the best record in their league. The Dodgers would be added to get the west coast interested, and because no one would be interested in a rematch of the Subway Series – which is the exact argument we’re hearing in Michigan this week about why they’re not playing Ohio State.
The Mets, despite the best record in the league, would be sent to a lesser bowl game to play the Red Sox, who would be a good draw despite gagging down the stretch in the season. The game would be played in a three-quarters empty stadium in Tempe.
The Cardinals and the Angels would be invited to the Viagra Bowl at Turner Stadium in Atlanta, but only if the Braves agreed to change their name and drop the tomahawk chop per NCAA regulations.
Tigers? Twins? Athletics? Who cares about them? They’d get to play in some even lesser bowl played midweek before 2,000 people, fully half of which got their tickets for free.
Seems pretty crazy to me, but that’s what people care about here in the Midwest. When I went off to the University of Missouri, I tried explaining that people on Long Island simply don’t care about college football.
During my first week at Mizzou, there was a meeting in the dorm about how to buy football season tickets. I said out loud, “You guys actually go to the football games?”
I saw looks of bewilderment I had seen only once before, and that was on my first day in the cafeteria and the worker tossed something golden brown with a wooden stick on my plate. “What the hell is that?” I asked.
“It’s a corn dog,” one classmate replied, stunned that I had never seen one.
Just so you know, a corn dog is a hot dog dipped in corn bread batter then deep fried, and it is a glorious thing.