Friday, October 23, 2015

Baseball and Disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  This year is also the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.   This law prohibits discrimination in the workplace for people who have disabilities.   Baseball is no different from any other work place and has had it's share of players with disabilities.

Topps trading card company has included a "Pride and Perseverance" insert set in the 2015 Topps Update baseball card set.  Here are the players in the set and his disability:

#1 Buddy Carlyle  - diabetes
#2 Curtis Pride   -born deaf
#3 George Springer - stuttering
#4 Jake Peavy - legally blind without his corrective lenses
#5 Jason Johnson - diabetes
#6 Jim Abbott - born without a right hand
#7 Jim Eisenreich - Tourette's Syndrome
#8 Jon Lester - cancer survivor
#9 Pete Gray - lost arm in childhood accident
#10 Sam Fuld - diabetes
#11 William Hoy - deaf
#12 Anthony Rizzo - cancer survivor

A few notes on the above players. 
-Jason Johnson was the first player to play with an insulin pump on the field.
-Jim Abbott pitched a no hitter in the major leagues
-Jim Eisenreich won a National League pennant with the Phillies and a World Series title with the Marlins. He also was the first ever winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award
-William "Dummy" Hoy was the first prominent player in baseball that was deaf. Some believe he was the reason why the umpires have hand signals for calls.  Others disprove this notion.

The above players are not the only ones with a disability.  Former all stars John Kruk, Eric Davis, Brett Butler and Mike Lowell are all cancer survivors.  Current Tiger pitcher Daniel Norris just recently announced he has thyroid cancer.
Former pitcher Bill Gullickson is also diabetic.  Gullickson pitched for a couple years in Japan and was admired for overcoming type 1 diabetes.  In 1998, an award was established in his name for a patient who is deemed to have a superior influence on society. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Two (Possibly Three) Things I Would Change About the MLB

Another regular season of the major league baseball season is now done.  I believe MLB does a great job running the league, but nothing is perfect.  I propose two rule changes and a possible third item that can be done in order to improve the national pastime.

One is the expanded September rosters.  The current rule is that each team must have 25 players on the active roster from opening day thru August 31.  Once September 1st arrives, any team can expand their roster up to 40.   They don't have to add any if they don't want to or use the roster space to the maximum.  This leads to unfair playing field in the time of year where every game matters more.  This especially true now more than ever because amount of parity in the league.
I am all for expanding rosters on September 1st.  Injured players come back without a need of removing a player who has been playing well in his absence.  It also rewards minor leagues who deserve a chance at the big league club and give them a chance to showcase their skills.  I propose expanded the rosters to 30.  The five extra roster spots allows the manager to have more players to use yet keeps the integrity of the pennant race.

The second rule change deals with all the days off in the playoffs.  With all the extra wild card spots and traveling. there seems to be a lot more days between games.  I know television rules here, but some of the off days needs to be eliminated .  Baseball players are in a routine of playing almost every day and down time can and have hurt the level of play.  As fans, we want to the best players playing at their best when it means the most.
This rule change gives the best team a better chance of winning it all also.  After 162 games, it becomes evident which teams are the best ones.  These teams should not be at a disadvantage because it allows others with less than stellar full rosters ride a star pitcher (see Madison Bumgarner-2014) for entire playoffs.  

For the third issue, I don't know if it is really fixable.  It is how late in the calendar year the World Series champion is crowned.  Baseball players compete in usually warm conditions for six months of the year and  when the championship is being played for, the weather is much colder.  This is not right, but what is the solution?
We could A) move the season up.  Its cold in April, so this won't work.  B) We can shorten the season.  Teams and MLB would lose revenue from less games and baseball being full of stats and records. The shorten season will have an affect here also.  C) The elimination of days off in post season will help some, but not enough.
The only solution I can think of is the return of doubleheaders.  The older generation of baseball fans remember the days of Sunday doubleheaders.  The traditional doubleheaders would get denied by the owners because they would be losing gate and concession revenue here. So I propose day/night doubleheaders. It gives the owners a full home schedule to make money from.   There are 26 Sundays during a MLB season. If you schedule double headers for 10-13 of these Sundays, it would eliminate about two weeks of the calendar year and give us a better chance of seeing warm weather games.
The problem here is that the players union will likely not go for it.  The long season is already taxing on a player especially the pitchers. If you cram the games in a shorter time period, it could cause more injuries. You also have to give an account for the unscheduled double headers -the games that are postponed due to weather and must be played later.   I am not sure there is a solution to the viable argument.
Then again I am not sure if MLB wants to shorten the season.  The expanded playoffs allows more time for jersey and memorabilia sales.  More television time and revenue from the advertisment.  And more time for having baseball in the news.
We all know we can't fix anything that doesn't want to be fixed, so I will only propose my first two rule changes in order to improve MLB.