Friday, June 13, 2008

Go Ahead, Call It a Comeback

So it turns out I liveblogged the wrong half last night…or did I? Sure, I didn’t get a chance to chronicle the most impressive comeback in NBA Finals history, but I did enjoy the opportunity to simply take it in as a pure fan of high-level athletics.

I have to say, I picked a heck of a game to watch all the way through for the first time in a couple years. The Lakers had it all going through the midpoint of the third quarter as they led by 20, but the Celtics had a run in them, and they unleashed it through a small/shooting lineup that forced L.A. to closely cover every man on the floor. Throw in some outside bombs from Posey, deft inside play by Kevin Garnett and two clutch drives to the rim from Ray Allen, and Boston was on the precipice of its first title in more than two decades.

Father’s Day could mark the end of the pro basketball season as the Celtics hope to make the all-time record of teams that go up 3-1 in the Finals a perfect 29-0. Talk about long odds for the Lakers. But in a league where home court means so much, I think we can expect a Game Six Tuesday night at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. In fact, that’s my official prediction at this point: Celts in six.

Thoughts on Interleague

Moving on to Major League Baseball as full-fledged interleague play begins its 13th season tonight. Of course, all of this is headlined in my mind by the Pirates paying their first visit to Baltimore since Kent Tekulve closed out the Orioles to clinch the Buccos’ fifth and most recent World Series championship.

Every baseball season around this time, we hear from various pundits and voices that interleague play has been a mistake and is certainly one of the signs of the impending apocalypse. And every year at this juncture I shake my head at this conventional “wisdom.” Personally, I love seeing different teams once in a while. It’s nice to know that the American League isn’t just a nasty rumor, especially as a fan of a team that has been as far from the World Series as possible the past decade and a half.

Now, I do hate the designated hitter as a matter of principle, so I don’t enjoy having to play by the Junior Circuit’s rules, as will be the case for the next week in the life of Our Buccos. But getting back to my original point, only in baseball would the idea of having every major league team eligible to play each other be treated like salmonella-laced tomatoes. (Oh wait, hockey had that issue the last two years…but it’s resolved now so just stay with me.)

It would be great if the Pirates could play a couple series a year against Cleveland and Detroit in a Rust Belt rivalry series, if you will. Also, while we’re tinkering with the scheduling formula, let’s get the Phreakin’ Phillies into PNC more than once a year. They’re in the same state for goodness sakes!

Pittsburgh baseball fans are getting screwed two ways by MLB’s schedule makers. To wit: 1) As a member of the NL Central for the past decade, the Pirates play 15-19 games a year against fierce divisional rivals like Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis and Houston. No matter how you try to slice the nation, Pittsburgh is not in the Midwest; it’s more like an Eastern city that happens to be on the west side of the Appalachians. Conversely, the Penguins, as part of the Atlantic Division, square off with Philly and the three New York metro teams – a family of cities that the ‘Burgh fits snugly into. 2) Since the Pirates have been deemed to have no “natural rival” in the AL, they sit out the first round of interleague play while we watch the Reds and Indians square off for Buckeye State supremacy.

One of the things that the new Bucco management has vowed to change is ensuring the Pirates’ interests get heard in the league office, something that did not happen under the Littlefield administration. COO Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington may not be able to get the Bucs out of the Central, but they may be able to get the Tribe or the Tigers in town more often, which would be better than nothing and definitely boost attendance.

Before I get back to the tube for more U.S. Open golf and eventually Bucs-Birds from Camden Yards, I leave you with one suggestion for MLB: Move Milwaukee back to the AL, evening the leagues at 15 teams apiece. This configuration would force at least one interleague series to be played at all times, which would shove baseball into the 21st Century, or at least the latter half of the 20th. Then, place Kansas City in the short-stack AL West, which as currently contains only four teams, absurdly. K.C. is approximately on the same longitude as West-resident Texas, so it wouldn’t create any competitive imbalance.

To sum up, this leaves the AL West with Seattle, the Los Angeles Angels, Texas, Oakland and Kansas City and the AL Central with the Chicago White Sox, Detroit, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Cleveland. Not perfect, but it is an improvement on the present situation. One of the main benefits of this setup is that all six divisions would hold five teams each, imposing the symmetry that the other three North American sports leagues rely on.

Bud Selig doesn’t have to thank me. Go Bucs; get to .500 and I’ll pop the champaign!

1 comment:

Brian said...

If I could, I'd move the Astros to the NL West just because that usually seems like the weakest NL division. Still uneven, but better for the Central.