MLB Polices Spin Doctors; Playoff Proposal Will Extend Season, Generate Billions; The Kimmel Bowl
People have been cheating in baseball for as long as the game has been played.
From taking amphetamines and performance enhancing drugs, to stealing signs and spiking opposing players, to corking bats and doctoring balls, cheating is as much a part of baseball as the seventh inning stretch.
And for the most part, it's been accepted by the powers that be. Baseball's suits have tended to look the other way until they've been embarrassed in the media. That's what happened when Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle exposed Barry Bonds' alleged use of performance-enhancing substances in a series of articles and their 2006 book, Game of Shadows.
And it's happened again. Starting today, after exposes in Sports Illustrated, the LA Times and elsewhere, baseball will finally begin policing the use of foreign substances by pitchers trying to increase their "spin rates", ball movement and velocity.
Rules forbid the application of anything other than rosin and sweat, but for years pitchers have cut baseballs and mixed rosin with sun screen and other tacky substances. But lately, the application of heavy duty products such as Spider Tack has enabled pitchers to get baseballs to do other-worldly things—like diving four feet—and strike out batters at rates never before seen in baseball.
So pitchers throughout the league are preparing for a new reality in which umpires will check their caps, gloves, fingertips, and pant legs. Starters will be frisked more than once per game; relievers will be checked between innings or when they leave the game.
If a player is found to be using a foreign substance, he will be suspended for 10 games, without being replaced on the team roster.
Our local boys—the Giants and A's—are generally considered to be modest offenders, while the LA Dodgers, particularly Trevor Bauer, are known throughout the league as the poster boys for using foreign substances.
The impact could be dramatic. Batting averages, balls in play, and home runs may increase significantly. And fans everywhere will celebrate a reduction in strikeouts, which have made the game borderline unwatchable.
Too Many Games? One of the downsides to the new 12-team CFP proposal, as a few of our readers have pointed out, is that it lengthens the season. A team ranked No. 5-12 could play 17 games (first round, quarter final, semi, and champ game, in addition to the 12-game regular season and a conference championship).
17 games is a lot for a 20-year old player, particularly one who is supposed to be attending classes and carrying a full academic load.
In the past we've advocated dispensing with the conference championships. Another option would be to reduce the regular season to 11 games. Yet another would be to finish the season with a "championship week," like the Big Ten held last year. In that format, teams schedule 11 games, leaving the last weekend of the season open for the championship game or a divisional crossover game between comparable teams.
More Games=More Money: Estimates on the value of a 12-game playoff range in the $2 billion neighborhood, up from the $608 million ESPN currently pays for the playoffs and New Year's Six bowls.
That increase will only serve to make the current excesses in college football even worse. Expect higher coaching salaries, bigger recruiting budgets, fancier locker rooms, bigger scoreboards, more state of the art practice facilities, etc..
But none of the extra money will go to the people whose labor is generating these riches…the participants, the "student-athletes."
Which is a crime.
Supreme Decision: Speaking of athlete compensation, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously this morning that the NCAA can’t bar modest payments to student-athletes in the name of amateurism.
Last year a federal appeals court allowed payments for things like musical instruments, scientific equipment, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic rewards and internships.
The Court upheld that decision and rejected the NCAA’s absurd argument that compensating athletes would alienate sports fans who love the idea of amateurism.
Kimmel Goes Bowling: Over the years, we've had college football bowl games named after gardening equipment (Poulan Weedeater), social causes (Fight Hunger), snacks (Cheez-It), beverages (Tropical Smoothie), fruits (Peach), vegetables ( Famous Idaho Potato), condiments (Duke's Mayo) and breakfast cereal (Tony the Tiger). But never has a game been named for or sponsored by a human being.
A new bowl in Los Angeles will be named after late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. The inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl will be played this year at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, he announced last Wednesday.
"This is not a joke," Kimmel said. "This is a real bowl game named after me, so mark your calendars for Saturday Dec. 18, the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl here on ABC."
The bowl, which will match teams from the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences, was originally scheduled to debut in 2020, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kimmel, 53, attended UNLV, a Mountain West school, and Arizona State, a Pac-12 school.
Now that the precedent has been established, one can only wonder who else might step up to sponsor a bowl.
The Donald Trump Orange Bowl, perhaps?