I tried to write something the last couple days. I really did. But I couldn’t really come up with enough to write after that Pacers loss. It was all just so simple. The Knicks woke up a bit after getting their pride pounded in game one. The Pacers seemed satisfied with taking one on the road and put it in cruise control a bit. Carmelo Anthony’s shot finally started to fall. But all those were secondary to the Pacer bench finally rearing it’s ugly head.
The bench has been a worry all year for the Pacers, and it finally really caught up with them. The Pacers made a big run and actually took the lead for a brief moment, but then in came Jeff Pendergraph and momentum evaporated just as quickly. The starters had absolutely no gas left in the fourth quarter, and things got out of hand in a hurry.
Game three is tomorrow. I have a hard time seeing the Pacers lose in their own building. I also have a hard time seeing the Knicks matching that level of intensity and the bench being quite that awful again. Besides that, the Pacers will be better prepared to face that sort of playoff level defense. Frank Vogel won’t let them be caught off-guard again. Besides, I’ll be at the game tomorrow, and clearly I’m a good luck charm.
Now, I was also going write a piece about umpires. If you didn’t see, the umpires in the Angels-Astros* bungled a rule that I think most people who have played at all past Little League know. Without going too far into detail, the Astros went to the bullpen, but then for whatever reason,** decided they would rather go with a different pitcher, so one guy got pulled without ever actually throwing a pitch. Now, anybody who remembers the Braves-Yankees World Series of the ‘90’s remembers the farce of Bobby Cox bringing out a pinch hitter, which led to Joe Torre bringing out Graeme Lloyd, which led to Bobby Cox calling on another hitter and burning his batter. But, we all knew that Lloyd had to pitch at that point.*** Clearly, this didn’t happen last night, and Mike Scioscia rightly complained and protested. MLB admitted it was a mistake today, but I don’t know if they’ll have to replay that part of the game now or what.
*It’s still so bizarre to think of the Astros as an American League team. I was quite a bit younger when the Brewers became a National League team. Was that just as weird?
**The one reason we know it wasn’t would be injury. If he had managed to hurt himself warming up, then he is allowed to leave without throwing an official pitch.
***I’m not sure if I’m remembering the 1996 or 1999 series and I’m trying to write this quickly, so unfortunately, I can’t be bothered to look. I think I’ve got the teams right in that sequence, though.
This combined with Angel Hernandez blowing a home run call both in live action and replay and the various misadventures of umpires the last several years did get me wondering, have umpires gotten this much worse? I mean, I don’t remember this happening all that often as a kid. The only instances of badly bungled umpiring I can really remember growing up was Jeter getting an assist from Jeffery Maier in the playoffs (in ‘96, no less) and the, um, expanded, we’ll say, strike zone of Eric Gregg with Livan Hernandez on the mound the next year. I’m sure there were other blown calls, but none seemed to big and obvious as the stuff that’s been getting missed lately. Is that because sports media has grown into such a behemoth? Is that because all our fancy HDTVs make it easier to see the mistakes? I don’t know. Maybe. But it sure seems like the quality of umpires in MLB has gone way down. Something needs to change, and maybe that something is a pretty big turnover in umpires. Turnover with MLB umpires is notoriously low. Maybe it’s time for a big transfusion of new blood.
Now, as you can see, that still wasn’t very long, so I decided that wouldn’t be the main focus of today, either. Something did catch my attention, though. This Grantland piece by Bryan Curtis. To summarize, it’s an up close look at the Marlins’ well-documented attendance woes. Tellingly, it opens with a scalper. Just the thought that scalpers would even be present at a Marlins game is a bit of sad humor. The exchange is even worse.
$10, goes the scalper’s opening offer. A single ticket. At an average MLB stadium, you would pounce on that deal. The Marlins? It’s laughable. $4, comes Curtis’s counteroffer, apparently the sum of cash he happened to have on him. The scalper couldn’t say yes fast enough. Actual retail value of said ticket? $1. Seriously. One George Washington. Or four of them, if you have coins.
And this wasn’t a nosebleed ticket, either. In fact, the upper bowl was closed that day, and you might say is generally closed with the woes of the team. No, this ticket was lower level, somewhere on the third base side. To buy a similar ticket from the Cubs box office would run you $45. And that’s against the Rockies. The same ticket when the White Sox make the trip north? $115.
Now, there is a few tricks here. First, these scalpers are buying a bunch of tickets at the group rate. Even so, a dollar for an MLB ticket? Outrageous. It really goes to show badly the Marlins have screwed up this Miami market.
True, Miami isn’t really known for having rabid fans of anything. They show up when teams are good, and the Marlins are clearly not good. This isn’t, say, Pittsburgh where the fans care even when the teams are bad and there is tradition for all their teams to be good. Still, the ballpark is only two years old. There was almost no bump for the brand new park last year. It was so bad last year that the team is looking at having the lowest drop off ever between first and second year attendance at a new stadium. And let me assure you, that’s not because the fans are pouring through the gates in droves.
Still, on paper, the Marlins make so much sense. Florida has been a baseball hotbed. Look at how well spring training does there and the attention high school and college ball gets there. Look at the demographics, especially around Miami. A lot of Latinos Cubans especially. Cuba plays a little bit of ball, if you didn’t know. There are a lot of Dominicans around Miami, too. They also play some baseball. Games, obviously, are cheap and have been cheap. But the team can’t draw flies to this shitshow. Why?
Well, why would they? They have exactly one player the average fan would have heard of in Giancarlo Stanton (or Mike Stanton, if you didn’t get the name change memo). That’s been the case most years. Sure, they’ve loaded up before, and attendance has generally gone up in those years. But the immediate fire-sales afterwards have left fans cold and unwilling to invest their time and money into a product that won’t be there as soon as it gets “too expensive.” Fans have learned what to expect. That’s one reason* the splurge last year went so poorly and was blown up before the year was even over. Well, that and the losing.
*A certain public relations nightmare didn’t help, either.
That’s why it seems there’s no way for the current product to exist in Miami. The only options seem to be to sell the team and see if more invested ownership can raise fan interest and morale, or move the team (and probably still have to sell it to an owner that gives a crap) to try a new market. I’m not sure where that market would be right off, but it sure isn’t Miami.
Oh, and as for Curtis? He went to the game the next day, too. For game two, he said directly behind home plate. The most coveted seats in any park. To pay for that privilege? Nada. Not a single dime.