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You know me.  I love outside the box thinking.  So it should come as no surprise that I’m in favor of the Tampa Bay Rays dramatic plan to become a two city team wherein they’d play half their games in Tampa and the other half in Montreal, the former home of the Expos.  The shocking proposal, which MLB has given the go ahead for Tampa to explore, makes sense to some degree.  Attendance figures have been dwindling for the Rays to the point where the Tampa/St. Petersburg area no longer seems like a viable destination for a professional baseball team.  Meanwhile Montreal has been clamoring for a team ever since the Expos ditched them in 2005 to become the Washington Nationals.

As shocking as this proposal is there is some historical precedent for it as teams have played in multiple cities before.  Stadium renovations or natural disasters have necessitated temporary relocations.  But a permanent two city solution? That seems extreme, even in a sport where the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim exist purely for marketing purposes.  Weirdness aside, the question remains: could this radical proposal work?  Well, the devil is in the details.  How would the split schedule work? Would Tampa get the early season games and Montreal the late season games, to work around the cold early season weather in the North and the propensity for rain in the South later on, negating the need for more expensive dome stadiums to be built?  Who would get to host playoff games?!  And most importantly, what about the human cost?  Would players need to buy homes in two cities?!  How would fans react if they know that they’ll only have their favorite players around for half the time? Instead of boosting interest by creating more demand for fewer games would there be even less interest, with fans figuring that there’s no point in engaging a product that is just going to be leaving soon anyway?

Those are all valid concerns but despite all of those reasons I’m still a fan of the idea anyway.  It’s bold.  It’s unique.  And quite frankly there isn’t much alternative.  Baseball in South Florida is failing as it is.  The Marlins may be even worse off than the Rays after their latest tear down.  At least the Rays have an exiting young nucleus and stacked farm system.  If any franchise can pull off a magic trick and excite two separate fan bases it may very well be the one that has future phenom Wander Franco in the fold.

Of course, none of this matters.  This likely isn’t even a real idea.  More likely just a ruse to pressure the politicians in Tampa Bay to pony up for a new stadium there.  But it should be a real idea.  Thanks to Climate Change the idea of playing in two cities has real merit.  For instance, franchises on the East Coast may find their stadiums under water in the near future, their fan bases displaced.  Might they consider relocating to more than one place as well, more so out of necessity than pure choice? Could the New York Yankees move to Cooperstown, New York?  The most storied franchise in the sport taking up residence in the most historic place.  Could the Boston Red Sox rename themselves the New England Red Sox, following in the Patriots footsteps, while they relocate to several locations throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts? Would new stadiums pop up in growing cities like Nashville, Austin, San Antonio, Charlotte, Portland, etc.? Or smaller towns that already play host to minor league teams?  Could West Coast teams play some of their games in their spring training homes in Arizona? Or in foreign places like Mexico City and London, where exhibition and regular season games are already being played?

Only time will tell but for right now the timing is telling.  Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire and clearly something is amiss.  If not now then certainly in the near future the idea of a two city team could resurface in baseball or perhaps another sport.  For the time for thinking outside the box is firmly upon us.  There’s no going back now.

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Is a two city franchise the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Jason C. seems like a nice guy.  He’s a firefighter with a friendly disposition who selflessly always looks to help others.  But Jason hasn’t always had it easy.  He has sensitive skin and gets ingrown hairs making it difficult for him to keep up with the daily shaving requirements that being a firefighter demands.

I know that I should care about Jason.  Firefighters like him do tireless, thankless work to keep me safe.  And yet I don’t give a damn about Jason C.  At least not anymore.  How could I when he’s been torturing me for the last week.

You see, Jason C. is the first person I see every time there’s a commercial break when watching a game on the MLB app.  No matter the day, no matter the time, no matter the teams playing, braces wearing Jason C. is always there to remind me of how sensitive skin his skin is.  I’m an empathetic guy but there’s only so much that even I can take.  Gillette may be the best a man can get but getting subjected to hearing the same ad over and over again during every commercial break is not the best that a fan can get.

It may sound extreme to say but in my opinion this is borderline inhumane treatment.  A form of brainwashing pure and simple.  I get that we live in a capitalistic society.  That Gillette paid for this ad time fair and square.  And that I as a consumer have other choices.  But it doesn’t make what they are doing and what MLB is letting them do any less horrific.

Which is why we need to put restrictions in place.  If MLB isn’t going to air this commercial less and Gillette isn’t going to choose to run it less than we need to force their hand.  Pass legislation that puts limit on how often commercials can be run.

For instance, you could say that the same commercial can’t run in consecutive innings or that it can only run five times per game or ten times per day or whatever restrictions you want to put in place.  Because the way it is now (with the same commercial airing every inning, and as the first commercial of that break to boot) is not sustainable psychologically for viewers.  Plain and simple, it makes the games unwatchable and makes me want to use the app less which is the exact opposite point of the app’s existence.  Soon, viewers, fed up with getting force-fed, will start to leave in droves.

You would think that baseball, a sport that already saw a mass exodus of fans after the 1994 strike, would be especially cognizant of how they treat their fans.  And yet just the opposite is true as their app treats the fan experience as a complete and utter after thought.  Not cool MLB.  Not cool at all.

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Are advertising restrictions on the MLB app warranted?

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#1,470 – Wireless Baseball

Major League Baseball recently unveiled new rules and restrictions that were put in place to prevent, curtail, and punish anyone who engages in high-tech sign stealing.

It’s worth nothing that sign stealing has been apart of baseball lore for generations.  The game doesn’t necessarily have an issue with the practice when done correctly i.e. naturally.  It’s when technology such as video cameras enter the equation that the playing field becomes uneven and the game takes exception.

However, instead of banning technology from dugouts and bullpens what if we took the opposite approach?  What if we added more technology?  In the form of wireless ear pieces that would enable players and managers to communicate directly just like NFL quarterbacks and offensive coordinators do.  After all, you wouldn’t need to worry about the opposing team stealing your signs if there aren’t any signs to steal.

It’s an idea that I first heard put forth earlier today on MLB Now by former Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd and I think it has a lot of merit.  Because in addition to making life easier for the people currently responsible for monitoring sign stealing it would also speed up the game.  No more changing up the signs with a runner on second base, no more infield huddles.  In theory, no more thinking.  Players don’t have to waste time learning signs, trying to figure out when to bunt or when to steal.  Now they can just do what they’re told.  No possible chance that the message gets lost in translation either.

Of course, there will be traditionalists who will be against this idea.  These are the same people who were against realignment, instant replay, inter-league play, and the advent of the wild-card game.  But all of those innovations worked out and so too might this one.  A high-tech solution to an age-old problem.

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Are wireless ear pieces for baseball players the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,440 – Iso-Cam

Fan of LeBron James but couldn’t care less about the Lakers?  Well, then I’ve got some good news for you.  Soon you’ll be able to watch LeBron and only LeBron during the second half of a game.  Wait.  What?

According to Recode:

“Instead of streaming a full game with all the players, graphics, and announcers, starting in February Twitter will stream the second half of some NBA games — yes, only the second half — but the camera will focus on a single player.

During the first half of the game — the half you can’t watch on Twitter — users on the social network can vote at the @NBAonTNT Twitter account on which player they want the camera to focus on in the second half — the half you can watch on Twitter.

Whichever player ‘wins’ will be the sole focus of the second-half live stream, which the NBA is calling ‘iso-cam.’ If that player goes to the bench or fouls out, Twitter users will see the regular game, but from a camera located behind one of the backboards instead of from the typical mid-court angle.”

It’s an interesting concept, giving Twitter a unique perspective that they can market, perhaps leading to an increase in the number of people who would stream a game on their platform.  Plus it kind of makes sense for the NBA to be doing this considering that they have always marketed their game around individual star players.

But at the same time isn’t it a little bit creepy? Are the players even okay with this?  Will they play worse if they know their every move is going to be analyzed and scrutinized by everyone on Twitter, even more so than usual? Would players have the ability to opt out if they so choose? And will this experiment, if successful, catch on with other sports?  With other celebrities and public figures?  Will we one day watch an entire movie by following just one actor?  Are we really talking about taking voyeurism main-stream?  What has the world come to?

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Is Iso-Cam the Greatest Idea Ever?

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A quick look at a few ideas to improve our national pastime:

Leave the seemingly endless parade of bodies for clown cars instead of bullpens by putting a limit on the number of players that can dress for the game during September call-ups.  In this way, expanded rosters serve as more of a taxi-squad.

Make split second replay decisions.  Why is it that teams are allowed to see an instant replay first before deciding whether or not to challenge, effectively ensuring that all of their challenges will be successful?  That is garbage.  Egregious calls that are overtly objectionable to the naked eye are the only ones that should be allowed to be challenged.

Have an off-season trading deadline.  An idea put forth during the recent General Managers meeting in Las Vegas.  Doing so would give front office executives some much needed time off and also create more of a sense of urgency to get things done during the meetings.

Remove draft pick compensation tied to players.  We see this happen year after year where no one wants to lose a draft pick for signing a player effectively hampering that player’s earning power.  That is not fair to that player.  If they are a free agent signing them should be free, no strings attached.

Change the date of the amateur draft.  The fact that it occurs during the college baseball playoffs is asinine.  Move it to a time when its not a distraction to the players competing for a championship and better yet move it to a time that would allow for those players to attend the draft in person just like every other major sport does.

Eliminate extra inning games during the regular season.  They wreck havoc on a team’s bullpen, ruining their chances to win multiple series, and cost players their spots on the team, when relievers, even effective ones, have to be sent down to make room for fresh arms.  Just allow regular season ties and that all goes away.  Not to mention how much more exciting a rare extra inning post season game would be.

Make all draft picks trade-able.  Currently compensation round picks are the only ones that are trade-able and judging by the frequency by which they get traded teams clearly are okay with the practice of trading picks for equal value.  So why not make all picks trade-able like all of the other major sports?

Forget about banning the shift.  Ban the intentional walk.  Every other sport is specifically designed to allow for a team’s best player to dictate the outcome of the game.  In football the quarterback has the ball in his hands with the game on the line.  In basketball a team’s best player can take as many shots as he wants or at least touch the ball on every possession.  And yet in baseball, we allow for a team’s best player to get intentionally walked and have the bat taken out of his hand.  Imagine paying money to go to one game a year, and that one game that you go to, you don’t even get to see your favorite player swing the bat.  This is unconscionable.

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I want to be a vampire.  Correction.  I want to be THE vampire.  Not the immortal, suck your blood, afraid of the sun, Twilight vampire that you may be imagining.  But rather the person who won’t get to pick at all in next year’s fantasy football draft.  That’s right.  There’s a new kind of league in the making and it could turn a multi billion dollar industry on its head.

Here’s how a vampire league would work.  One team misses the draft entirely.  That person is the vampire and it could be anyone.  A random victim of fate.  An eager guinea pig.  Or perhaps the person who came in last the year before.

This person would then be tasked with filling out a roster entirely off of the waiver wire.  To make things fair they would also get to keep that #1 waiver priority throughout the entire season as well.  But here’s where things get interesting.  If the vampire team wins they get to swap out any player in your starting lineup with one of their own from the same position.  Suddenly they went from having Jeff Driskel as their starting quarterback to having Aaron Rodgers.

As time goes on and injuries accumulate around the league this vampire team will continue to amass talent thanks to their #1 waiver priority and the increased likelihood that in any given week they could pull off another upset and snag themselves another quality player.  Once the bye weeks kick in and fantasy football becomes even more of a crap shoot then all bets are off.  This vampire team of misfit toys might suddenly become an actual legitimate contender.

Now here’s where things get really interesting.  Since losing to the vampire team could cost you a star player do you risk a loss by benching all of the guys you’d be afraid to lose?  An intriguing strategy. Now all of a sudden its a waiver wire team versus a bunch of bench guys and once again all bets are off.  If faced with that scenario every week the vampire team could even run the table and win the championship without ever stealing a star player.

I for one can’t wait to start a vampire league next year.  After all, winning championships year after year has kind of sucked the fun out of fantasy football for me.  It’s time for a new challenge.  A real challenge.  It’s time to become the vampire!

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Is a vampire fantasy football league the Greatest Idea Ever?

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By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court of the United States has voted to overturn a ban on sports gambling that had existed since 1992, declaring it unconstitutional.

According to CNN, “The court said the federal law violated constitutional principles limiting the federal government from controlling state policy, unconstitutionally forcing states to prohibit sports betting under their own laws.”

The move paves the way for each individual state to decide for themselves if they want to legalize sports betting with it being believed that about thirty two of them will within the next five years.  In fact, New Jersey is raring to go, and could be up and running by the NBA Finals in June, in a move that could save decrepit Atlantic City.  Other states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut are also said to have legislation already in the works in anticipation of this announcement which mirrors a previous ruling in relation to state lotteries.

The ruling is seen as a boon for professional sport leagues as it is widely believed that allowing sports betting will generate significantly more interest from casual fans who will now have a vested interest in the outcome of otherwise meaningless contests.  For proof, look no further than the explosion in popularity of the NFL in recent years, despite numerous off-field incidents, all thanks to fantasy football going mainstream.  Now the NBA and MLB can similarly hope to capitalize on artificial interest to boost ticket sales and TV ratings.  In fact, some team owners are already jumping for joy as there is some speculation that this move has effectively doubled the value of their franchises.

Others are more skeptical of the move.  Especially league officials who will now have to put their own regulations in place to ensure that there is no corruption in their games as the last thing that anybody wants is a situation where an official, umpire, referee, player or coach is on the take to fix the outcome of a game ala Pete Rose and Tim Donaghy.  On the other hand, those same officials might reason that if billions of dollars are already being spent every year illegally in off the book gambling why not legalize the action to profit off of something that’s going to be happening anyway.  The same logic used by proponents of legalizing marijuana.

Considering that I live in Arizona, a state with a Native American casino monopoly that banned DraftKings and FanDuel and which is in close proximity to Las Vegas, it’s likely that sports betting will never be legalized for me.  At least not anytime soon.  But for everyone else?  This decision could have a major impact on their daily lives going forward.  And their bank accounts.  For better or for worse.

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A look at the current state of sports betting in all of the states.

 

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