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Just say no to any neutral site World Series games

Mar 29, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Gibson homer

Ken Rosenthal has a good column up today about how baseball’s future is so bright it’s gotta wear shades. Business is booming and looks as though it will continue to boom.  Technology that allows fans to get even more immersed in the game is leading the way to the future, and how the time is now ripe for baseball to build on it.

He only has one misstep — and he admits that it’s a problematic idea — and that’s talking up Scott Boras’ idea of a big World Series Weekend event in which baseball basically stages a party around the kickoff of the World Series in which awards are given out, other fan events are held and — in most constructions of the idea — at least one or two World Series games are played. All at a neutral site.

Which, in my mind, makes the idea a deal breaker.  Neutral site scenarios — most of which are launched when the weather gets nippy in late October — are just awful.  And not just on the grounds of tradition and unfairness to whichever team is losing home games.

As the NFL has taught us, if you have a neutral site event, the certainty of time and place of that event will invite — hell, demand — corporate underwriting. Contest winners, rights partners, advertising partners, and junket junkies will gobble up all the tickets, freezing out season ticket holders for contending teams and/or sending them to stratospheric prices on the secondary market.  The only thing keeping that from happening now — at least en masse — is that no one knows where the games will be until three or four days before they begin. Schedule Game 1 and Game 2 of next year’s World Series for San Diego tomorrow, and you can bet that all of the hotel rooms will be booked by the end of the month.

I don’t care how much money it makes or how much it grows the game (or how much those who stand to make all that money argue that it will grow the game). Baseball should not, under any circumstances, seek to emulate the Super Bowl.  That game has become a giant, overhyped-corpse of an event and I don’t want baseball to have any part in that kind of thing. Under such a scenario, Kirk Gibson hits his homer in the 1988 World Series where? Miami?

I agree that making the awards into an event of some kind would be a good thing. And the All-Star Game could use some help, I think.  But let’s leave the games that count alone.  They’re fine just the way they are.

  1. Andrew - Mar 29, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Agreed. Not to mention that one of the reasons I don’t like the idea of a neutral city is that it shuts out the fans of the teams actually in the game, because tickets would be sold before we’d even know which two teams were in the World Series.

  2. dodger88 - Mar 29, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Agreed. I like the idea of announcing all of the major awards as part of a World Series kick off and they could always entice players to attend like they did for Game 1 of the 1999 World Series in Atlanta for the unveiling of the all century team. Beyond that, keep the World Series at 7 games with no neutral sites. Considering that baseball has tried to makea big deal out of home field advantage what with the bloody all star game determining which league gets games 1, 2, 3 & 7, I’d be shocked if the powers that be even considered the idea of neutral site games.

  3. Mike Luna - Mar 29, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    Yup.

  4. xnumberoneson - Mar 29, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    I don’t like it. The Super Bowl is a major event every year regardless of the teams involved. Fan interest in the World Series is heavily dependent on the year-to-year matchups. Imagine the city that gets “stuck” with a Braves vs Rays matchup only to find that those fanbases aren’t going to travel to a city when they don’t even attend games in their own stadiums.

    • kellyb9 - Mar 30, 2011 at 9:15 AM

      I firmly believe that, if the Super Bowl was a best of 7 contest, they would adopt the same home/away structure as baseball. I think the major reason its played in a neutral site is because of it only being one game.

  5. scatterbrian - Mar 29, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    “the kickoff of the World Series”

    Please don’t ever use this phrase again.

  6. seeingwhatsticks - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Ironically, all the reasons you list for why it would be terrible (and which I agree with) are EXACTLY the reasons it would be appealing to MLB.

  7. garlicfriesandbaseball - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    Absolutely, leave it the same, if nothing else, for the benefit of the home team fans.

    Personally, I’d like to see the major awards, including Cy Young and the MVP’s, to include the activity of, and be voted on after, the World Series. Then you’d have a true representation of who’s “really” the most deserving in any category in any given year. But that would change the character of everything baseball, so it won’t happen. It’s just that those awards are given without taking into account the real tests and pressures of the best of the best. Same might be said of the All-Stars, who are voted on before half of the season is even over with; not a real testament to the best of anything.

    • garlicfriesandbaseball - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Here’s another take on the premature voting of the All Stars;

      http://garlicfriesandbaseball.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/all-stars-and-steinbrenner-who-cares-2/

    • scatterbrian - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:34 PM

      Postseason should not count for major awards. That way you’d be giving 200 players extra credit simply for being on one of eight playoff teams.

      I do agree on the All Star game voting. I think the ballots start floating around the ballparks about a month into the season, which is too soon. But unless they move the time the game is played (which won’t happen) I think we’re stuck with this scenario. The best way to combat this is to simply not vote for the half-season flukey guys. Also, instead of looking at April/May stats, consider the second half of the prior season as well as the current season.

      • garlicfriesandbaseball - Mar 30, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        But you’re assuming everyone plays well during the playoffs, which they don’t . I know the idea’s utopic and will never happen. ’twas just a thought….

  8. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    Let’s have a 32-team single-elimination playoff and call it October Crazytime!

    • aarcraft - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      Sounds great! But where are we going to get the other two teams?

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:59 PM

        Don’t mind him—he’s had too much pie. Heyward, cake would never cause you to do something like that. ;P

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      Where do you get the extra teams? The NFL, since they’re locked out? Or what about lingerie baseball teams?

  9. florida76 - Mar 29, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    Ken Rosenthal isn’t exactly an expert when it comes to covering baseball. Anyone who thinks baseball has a bright future hasn’t been awake these last 20 years. Technology won’t solve the major issue of declining TV ratings for the World Series. Having a more equitable system would help with the competitive balance problem, Rosenthal just tosses aside teams like the A’s in that article.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 29, 2011 at 7:12 PM

      Revenues are up substantially over the past 20 years. The game, on its own terms, is tremendously healthy financially speaking. Just because there are a bunch of stories every year in which people’s panties get all in a bunch that baseball doesn’t have the TV ratings that football has means absolutely zero for the health of the game.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 29, 2011 at 8:55 PM

        Craig, everyone knows that football is much healthier than football. In baseball, there’s no salary cap, so teams like the Rays can’t compete and the Yankees win the World Series every year. In football, there’s no dominant team like, say, Pittsburgh and New England who go to the Super Bowl all the time.

      • lanflfan - Mar 30, 2011 at 2:38 PM

        Will there even BE football next year? It may be moot to describe how “healthy” the NFL is as it is in the middle of a very nasty contract fight.

        Baseball is lagging behind, but is now being given a chance to regain some lost momentum while the NFL and its players publicly haggle over billions.

  10. phantomspaceman - Mar 29, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    The idea of a neutral site for the World Series is kind of silly based on the fact that home field advantage means a lot more to a baseball team than other sports. Teams build their teams based on the strengths and weakness of their ballparks and change their fields accordingly (ex. leaving the grass a little longer, banking the infield foul lines in or out, etc.) Every football field is exactly the same (except for maybe wind conditions). It just doesn’t make sense in baseball.

    • Old Gator - Mar 29, 2011 at 11:54 PM

      Yeah, I agree. Somehow, the idea of a World Series that swings back and forth between Geneva and Zurich strikes me as pretty silly.

    • bicyclee - Mar 30, 2011 at 5:19 AM

      Hmmmm… I think there’s a comedy routine in here somewhere, comparing football and baseball…

  11. drunkenhooliganism - Mar 30, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Season ticket holders are mostly not buying the tickets to see every game. Some see every game, but most have, you know, jobs and lives and can’t see every game (even the partial plan holders) so they have to hustle to find people to buy the tickets or maybe give some away to business partners or family. It would be cheaper just to pick and choose the games you want and buy them off other season tickets holders or stubhub. But, season ticket holders are guaranteed playoff tickets and world series tickets. And that’s why we buy them. taking away a home game or two from the world series and shrinking the ticket pool would take away that option and would take away a big perk of season ticket ownership.

    Seeing your team win a world series game (or better to clinch the world series) with 50,000 of your fellow fans is awesome and would be ruined even if you could afford the tickets and trip if you had to sit among trust fund babies and their booger-eating kids and pink-baseball-hat-of-a-team-that’s-not-even-in-the-game-wearing wife.

  12. lanflfan - Mar 30, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    First, love the picture.

    Neutral site games are a horrid idea. It’s bad enough Bud Sellout gave us the All-Star League winner getting home field advantage, which makes less than zero sense. Taking games away from either World Series team robs their fans and host city of the honor of hosting the games. Some teams wait years, decades (or centuries) to host a game or two. Just say NO.

  13. macjacmccoy - Mar 30, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    My only problem with neutral site games is they are never neutral they always favor one team. Because the site they pick would either be closer to 1 team then the other allowing easier access to that teams fans and giving them the advantage and/or the ballpark would be more similiar to 1 teams ballpark then the other giving that team the advantage.

    Like in the NFL and how the Superbowl is a “neutral” site which is completely false. The SuperBowl is always played in warm weather cities or in cities with domes. So if a nothern team has to travel south for a Superbowl to play a Southern team that pretty much gives them home field advantage. The Southern teams fans would have better access to the game giving that team the advantage in crowd noise plus the Southern team would be more suited to the climate. Same goes for an outdoor team playing a dome team in a dome. There is no wind or climate in a dome and the crowd noise is amplified. So being used to playing in those conditions is clearly an advantage.

    So besides the fact of how non-nuetral a neutral site game is, its a great idea.

  14. macjacmccoy - Mar 30, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    “And the All-Star Game could use some help, I think”

    Totally disagree there. Baseball has the only decent all star game and the fact that they made is worth something made it perfect imo. I dont think it needs any help. Well maybe the way players are selected to become allstars (ballot stuffing) could use some help but thats it.

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