Point – Counterpoint: Is the Trop a Bad Ballpark

Yesterday, in the comments section of my post about Minnesota weather, Clayton, Merrill, Brendan and Travis were debating the relative merits of outside baseball in various extreme climates.

In an effort to expand upon that debate, Brendan and I will debate whether or not Tropicana Field is a bad ballpark in this week’s Point-Counterpoint.

Brendan takes the Point: The Trop is a dump.

I take the Counterpoint: The Trop is a great place to watch a game.

Point-Counterpoint: Where is the Future?

Yesterday, Steve Slowinski wrote a good piece at DRaysBay asking why Desmond Jennings, Jake McGee, et. al. are still starring for the Bulls.

I think Steve is hitting on something a lot of Rays fans are feeling but, what the heck, lets argue about it anyway!

Brendan takes the Point this week: Put them in Coach.

I take the Counterpoint: Leave the kids at the kids’ table.

Counterpoint: Kids Belong at the Kids’ Table

Brendan, you throw the baby out with the bathwater, distracted by something shiny, Hannah Montana loving, Change we can believe in reactionary. (I re-wrote that ten times, I simply cannot compete with the Lionel Ritchie burn but, luckily, I am the editor so, I can put your face on Lionel’s body as payback…boom). Why go to the kids before we know what we already have?

Sure Desmond Jennings is slaying it at AAA, and yes, Jake McGee appears to be pitching better than he was during his Major-League cameo at the start of the season, but how do we know that performance will translate to the big leagues? Remember Bobby Smith? He is one of the greatest AAA players of all time (every time Chuck LaMar fell in love with Bobby’s performance at AAA we’d call him up and he’d boot a ball at third and look at two third strikes…it was brutal but you could set your watch to it). Remember Dan Johnson? That guy hit like .976 at AAA. How’d they work out?

Here’s what we do know. We know we have an underutilized middle infielder in Sean Rodriguez already on the big league roster. Why are we going to prospects before we know if S-Rod can cut it every day? We know that Ruggiano has shown signs of life and we know Sam Fuld has proven to be a plus defender. Why go to Jennings (who was totally underwhelming last September…as most rookies are) before we know if the Ruggiano/Fuld monster can keep us in the hunt? (Did I really just defend Justin Ruggiano? What the hell is going on? How many questions can I use in a row without making a statement?).

In the end, the jump from AAA to the Majors is gargantuan. Ultimately, some of these prospects are going to work out and some are not going to work out. But, I don’t think the time to find out is while we have a fighting chance to win this division or the wild card. The roster as currently constituted is hanging around. Let’s say we get through the next 11 games without disaster and even make up a few games in the standings on Boston or New York. That is the perfect opportunity to test one prospect at a time. Maybe you start with Jennings, because leftfield is the biggest liability. Then, if you can stand the temperature of the pool, you come back with Gas Can McGee. By then, we’ll know where this season is heading anyway.

Stay away from fads and prospects until you’re sure. Otherwise, you’re going to be showing up to the yard looking like an Abercrombie just threw up on you. (Is Abercrombie still hip? Am I old because I don’t know? Am I old because I just said hip? Am I closing in on the record for rhetorical questions? Isn’t this annoying?).

Point-Counterpoint: Thank you for (not) Smoking

Point-Counterpoint is back in earnest this week with a heated (thank you, I’ll be here all week) debate about the Rays’ decision to exclude the signature cigar from their throwback Tampa Smokers jerseys.

Brendan takes the Point: Leave it Out

I take the Counterpoint: Baseball is not a Role Model

As always, let us know what you think. Unless you disagree with us. Then just keep it to yourself.

Counterpoint: Smokers are not Role Models

Brendan, you new age cigarette label, nanny state, people are lemmings, overlord.  What’s the big issue here?  Do we really think an entire generation of kids are going to take up cigar smoking just because the Rays wear a cigar jersey for three hours?  Is this Pinocchio?

If you are going to have an event that pays homage to Tampa’s history, then pay homage to Tampa’s history.  Don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist.  If you are really concerned that kids will start smoking because the Rays wear cigars, then tell them not to smoke.  It’s called parenting.

I hate to pretend like Charles Barkley is a coherent person but, to paraphrase: The Rays are Not Role Models.  Nor should they be.

Also, isn’t part of the fun of throwback games an appreciate of how cool throwback uniforms and logos were?  Say what you want about the Rays new logo, but their uniforms are dumb.  (Don’t get me started on the road jerseys that don’t say Tampa Bay.)  Look at that beauty the Smokers wore.  Today’s test-group polished unoffensive crap can’t touch it.  Why homogenize the good right out of the Smokers?

The Smokers were a lot more than a 1950s minor league team.  They played at Plant Park forever.  Al frickin Lopez got his start with the Smokers.  You know where he ended?  Cooperstown.  If he can get to Cooperstown wearing a cigar on his shirt, then I think our children are safe.  They aren’t going to turn into Disney cartoon jackasses.

Point: Throw the Flag

Brendan, you Big Brother loving, newspeak talking, class of 1984 fascist. What is this, Minority Report? You want to entrust our national pastime to some anonymous overlords watching the game in a booth somewhere? This is America. What would John Hancock say about such a concentration of power? This is exactly the kind of thing that led Paul Revere to ring bells warning the British (#PalinHistory).

No. Here in the U-S-of-A we need to spread the decisionmaking authority around. We need to empower the people most effected by the outcome. We need to adopt the NFL/College Football replay model.

Managers will have a limited number of challenges (I am thinking 1 per team per game) and they will indicate a challenge to a play by throwing something onto the playing field. But, let’s all agree that the red flag in the NFL has two huge flaws that need to be addressed in baseball’s takeoff.

First, the flag is silly. I know the flag screams football, but I still think it looks dumb. So, our guys are going to throw whiffleballs.

Second, NFL coaches refuse to throw the flag. They just kind of drop it on the sideline in the most sheepish way possible. Say what you want about Jon Gruden – and I said plenty while he was our head coach – he always made his challenge throws count. In our system, if the skipper wants a challenge, he’s going to have to prove it by hitting the umpire that made the disputed call with the whiffleball. The throw can be made from any place in foul ground near or in the dugout and the throw-er gets 1-2 steps. But, if he wants to challenge a call made by an umpire down the foul line in a playoff game, he’s going to have to muscle up. (This has the added incentive of requiring the managers to get into better shape and not look so ridiculous in their uniforms).

We’ll need one other change to fully adopt the NFL replay system. The lack of timeouts means we need a different disincentive for a failed challenge. After serious contemplation and soul searching I am down to two options that I cannot pick between:

  1. Challenges are only allowed in innings 1-6 (innings 7-9 are the equivalent of the final two minutes in football) and, a manager that challenges a call and loses is required to sing a Take me Out to the Ballgame solo on top of the dugout during the 7th inning stretch; or
  2. A manager that challenges a call and loses is immediately suspended for one inning. During the one-inning suspension the manager can’t be in the tunnel or clubhouse. Rather, he has to sit in a sound proof booth (like the ones they used on $10,000 pyramid or Family Feud) that is located in the on-deck circle.

Point-Counterpoint: Under Review

Justin Ruggiano’s run that wasn’t in Detroit has brought the issue of instant replay in Major League Baseball back into our collective consciousness.

We kicked around the idea of debating whether or not baseball needs expanded review. But neither Brendan nor I wanted to argue against that proposition. So, this week’s Point-Counterpoint offers two competing views of what expanded replay might look like.
I take the Point: Let’s Adopt and Modify the NFL model;

Brendan takes the Counterpoint: Let’s use the eye in the sky.

Point: Put them in Coach, They’re Ready to Play

Mark you dream crushing, Lionel Ritchie hating, Decision to let Doogie Howser skip all those grades disagreeing, trying to keep kids from playing on your lawn by calling them “whippersnappers” and “hooligans,” “No Man.” Take a page out of the Jim Carrey movie and start saying yes to life. Donʼt be like the college basketball rules back in the day that said the freshman had to play on a separate team. Donʼt you think, if given the capability to play Pete Maravich his freshman year, the LSU varsity coach wouldʼve jumped at the opportunity? He wasnʼt allowed…We are.

Ok, I admit, the Lionel Ritchie line was obscure, but he called people to say he loved them, and I think the Raysʼ front office should make some loving calls of their own. Bring up these young guys. The platoon leftfield and bullpen doesnʼt need to be a platoon for the second half of the season. The positions need to be filled by 2 young
guys who deserve the right to play at the big league level. Not because theyʼre prospects, not because theyʼll sell tickets (if they would…weʼd have already tried that. Iʼm sure weʼd adopt the “throw back opposing team home runs” strategy if we thought there was a Henry Roengardner in the stands who could sell more tickets)…itʼs because theyʼve earned it, and itʼs because we need them.

When we made our run a few years back on our way to the world series, we did it with youth, speed and defense. Desmond Jennings is young, he has 17 stolen bases and has only been caught once (my guess is he tripped on the way to second or third), and he has a total of 0 errors in the outfield. Not once has he made an errant throw or dropped a flyball or misplayed a double to the gap and let a runner get an extra base. That sounds like someone I want to see playing at the Trop. Heʼs the reason we didnʼt mind losing Carl Crawford. He is Carl Crawford(but with 12 home runs at the all star break, he probably has more power).

Another big factor in our Pennant Winning run was our bullpen. And as much as I like our 3, 4 and 5 pitchers, seeing them pitch into the 8th inning scares me…regardless of the command they show for the first 7. We need relief pitchers we can count on, and I think I have a solution, and I think you know what that solution is. (If youʼre this far into the point/counterpoint and donʼt know what my solution is, than remind me not to ever
ask you for help with anything.) Call up Jake McGee. Heʼs been closing in AAA Durham, and I know we got JP Howell back, but that just means we have a reliable set-up man from 2 years ago. We need the young fireballer to beef up an unreliable pen.

I think this one is a no-brainer. Regardless of rules that let us keep a player one year longer or pay him $14 less per game in the future…let these young talents showcase their stuff in front of the world and help lead us where we need to be. Iʼm not saying we should call up every young player that we have in our farm system…Iʼm saying call-up the guys who will help us win right now. It seems hard to argue with.

Point: Close…But no Cigar

Mark you negative-image pushing, bad-role-model endorsing, punchline explaining bozo. There is a time for subtlety, and it can even come when paying tribute to a team of yesteryear. Now granted, there are worse things that happen in our day to day lives than seeing a cigar on a baseball uniform for one throwback regular season game, but that doesn’t mean we have to celebrate and glorify every bad habit that the people who came before us made.

If the Rays are going to wear throwback Little League jerseys, they are going to wear these Belmont Heights jerseys from the back-to-back World Series participants that featured Derek Bell and Gary Sheffield (pictured)they were in, and I couldn’t tell you one player who played for the franchise. (Can I call it a franchise? It seems kind of like calling Church’s Chicken a “restaurant”) So if the argument is “we should keep it the same for history’s sake”, then it seems a little ridiculous. This isn’t the LA Dodgers wearing the old Brooklyn uniforms or the
First of all, I have no idea who the Smokers were. I don’t know what years they played, I don’t know what league Oakland A’s wearing throwback jerseys of the Kansas City(or Philadelphia) Athletics. This isn’t even the Nationals deciding to don Expos attire for a game this summer. I just looked this up, the Smokers were a minor league team that won the international league in 1951. If a team plays in the middle of a century, and there’s no one there to witness it…does it make a sound? Obviously it does. This just in, the Rays are going to wear the uniforms of my little league team from 1991 next year.

Secondly, do we really need a picture of a cigar on a jersey that says “Smokers” across the chest? Would they need a picture of a guillotine if they were paying tribute to the Nottingham Executioners? Would they need a picture of moonshine embroidered on the throwback uniforms of the Dodge City Drinkers? Would we need a picture of a whip if we were honoring the Bradenton Crackers? Not only would those pictures be unnecessary, they would, for the most part, be wrong.

I’m all for paying tribute to the smokers. I’m all for Tampa being steeped in cigar making and smoking. Hell, I’m all for taking part in smoking a stogie from time to time. What I’m not for, and this is my final point, is beating a dead horse. We’re paying tribute to the smokers, right? That’s not a word that needs to be explained to people. Adults know what it means, kids over the age of 10 know what it means, and kids under the age of 10 will only know what it means if we decide to make it a cartoon. Let the kids today keep a little bit of their innocence.

I think it was the correct move by the Rays. No one remembers the smokers, no one needs to see the picture to know what smokers means, and no one needs to choose this as their battle.

Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.

Counterpoint: Get it Right.

Mark, you unfair, Lance Armstrong loving, Derek Jeter “homerun” grabbing, Tuck Rule agreeing cheater. Some instant replay isn’t good enough. There needs to be more. There needs to be most. Whatever it takes to get the call correct.

AJ Pierzynski’s trot to first base after striking out against the Angels in the 2005 ALCS should’ve been all for not if replay had determined that the catcher never dropped the ball. Derek Jeter getting hit on the hand last year in a game at Tropicana Field should’ve been called a foul ball after they took a look at the replay and determined Jeter to be showing off his thespian side. When umpire Tim McClelland forgot the rules in the Angels-Yankees 2009 ALCS and said Cano was safe at third and Posada was out, even though they were both clearly out, he said, “[The replay] showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that for whatever reason… I’m just out there trying to do my job and do it the best I can.”

Not trying to take away from the umpires doing their job, just trying to make their jobs less accident prone. Some companies have signs up at their workplaces that say, “23 days without an accident” (23 was an arbitrary number, obviously…fill in the blank any way you wish). If Major League Baseball had this sign, it would never get past 1 day (the day after the all-star game when there are no games scheduled usually has no accidents).

When companies find ways to improve productivity and improve the finish product, they jump on the chance. Why is Selig’s Bunch so slow to use this tool put in place to help them. Selig would’ve been the guy who voted against the backboard and opening the bottom of the net when basketball was looking to change the rules. He would’ve voted against cars getting GPS put in them. He would’ve voted against companies using websites to promote their business.

Imagine all the things that help businesses run smoothly. Now I want you to imagine all of those things being taken away because of one person. Now I want you to imagine that little girl is white. (every time people imagine things, I think they should end it with a McCounaghey-ism)

I get it, the game is slow. It takes a long time. I don’t think each ball and strike should be replayed, but certainly the check swings. We have a camera that runs perpendicular to the batter, and yet we still call on the umpire 90 feet away to determine whether the hitter broke his wrist. Use the technology you have baseball. The balls are better. You use them. The bats are better. You use them. The gloves, the spikes, the helmets…all better and all used. The cameras are better…use them.

The season is slow and takes a long time. But at the end of the season, only 8 teams get to make the playoffs. Shouldn’t the calls be right so that you get the actual best teams making it to October(now November)? Without making things right, Ben Johnson would still have a gold medal. Without making things right, Bernie Mac’s character would’ve ended his career with 2998 hits and Mr. 3000 would’ve ceased to exist. Without making things right, every episode of an 80s sitcom would’ve ended with no morals or lessons and our generation would’ve grown up thinking we could throw a party when parents were away or book 2 dates for the same night or do drugs at a party, all without consequence. Make things right, Major League Baseball. If for no other reason, than to teach this generation that making things right is the best way to be.