What’s the :07 all about anyway?

October 6, 2009

The Baseball Post-season is finally here and once again my beloved Dodgers are in the thick of things, kicking off their Divisional Series against the Cardinals. Game 1 is Wednesday night October 7 at 6:37pm PST…

6:37pm PST? 6:35 wouldn’t work? And Thursday it is a 3:07pm start time. What’s with the :07 anyways?

The bigger question is simply the playoff schedule itself. The way MLB schedules games is precisely what’s wrong with baseball in the first place and why Football and Basketball are more popular in America today. The Dodgers are in one of the biggest baseball markets (and biggest TV markets period) and yet game 2 on Thursday of the series starts in the middle of the work day? Baseball’s desire to get every game on TV is penny-wise and dollar-foolish. MLB is losing out on audience because most of LA will have to work and won’t be able to watch game 2, or at least not the first 6 innings. And the same goes for all of the teams in this year’s playoffs.

What baseball SHOULD do, is allow more than 1 game to be on at the same time. Only a small audience really cares about watching each and every game anyway, and so they need to maximize the audience for the fans of the teams in each series. St. Louis, the Dodgers 1st round opponent is 2 hours ahead of the West Coast, so why not start each game at 5:15pm PST/7:15pm CST and both markets can watch the game? I’ll catch the Yankee/Twins and Rox/Phils highlights on SportsCenter. Instead, game 1 at 6:37pm LA time, means a lot of little kids won’t still be awake to see the Dodgers beat the Cardinals in game 1 (or if they are, they will be half asleep for school the next day).

Baseball is greedy, and nothing proves it more then looking at the start times of the games. Wake up baseball and start focusing on your REAL audience, not your perceived audience.

I’m lucky – I make my own schedule and I won’t miss a pitch of the Dodger games this week. Not everyone is in my situation though and now there are multiple losers… the fans who can’t watch the game because it is on too early or too late, and baseball who is losing out on audience.

As long as the Dodgers don’t lose, I’ll still be happy.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com


a win isn’t always just a win

August 27, 2009

Today my faith has been restored in the Dodgers… I complained loudly everywhere I could in recent days and weeks. They showed no passion. No urgency. No indication that they WANTED to win. But today’s 3-2 win, and overall series win against the Rox changed all that.

After an emotionally brutal loss Tuesday night in extra innings, especially after the boys in blue rallied to tie it in the 9th, they came out last night and today with a fervor, a purpose – They ARE still the team to beat in the NL West and the National League overall. They showed grit, they showed determination and they showed the Rockies who remains boss in the NL West.

Today was a good win for the Dodgers and all Dodger fans. Today the Dodgers got their confidence back – and they got their mojo back (a fact many, including yours truly has questioned recently). On to Cinci then home for 4 against the D’backs…. I can smell October!

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

where were they hiding the fat lady?

August 24, 2009

Do you have an iPhone? I do, and the MLB At Bat application is the best $10 I’ve spent in a long time. Tonight, it allowed me to keep up to date on the Giants/Rockies game in Denver while I did other things around the house.

The iPhone battery is, well, let’s just say the Energizer Bunny isn’t a fan. So when I saw the hated Giants take a 3 run lead in the top of the 14th, I turned off the phone to save the battery… and did so with every confidence the Giants were going to win and that as my beloved Dodgers invade Coors Field tomorrow night, even a sweep by the home team would leave the Boys in Blue a 1 game lead. Ever the Optimist? Ever the Pessimist? These are the Giants. The Hated ones. I should have known better.

But, it’s truly never over ’til the fat lad sings, and tonight she’s bellowing out a loud raucous tune… a grand slam in the bottom of the 14th caps a Dodger-esque rally by the Rox – and now this little 3 game series, that only 5 weeks ago looked like a gnat on the but of an elephant, becomes an even more crucial series for the Dodgers. A season on the brink. There I said it. And every member of that Dodger roster, coaches and players, better say it over and over in their heads because unless they come in with the passion and urgency that we saw from the Dodgers when Manny got suspended, this little series could turn their dreamy season into a nightmare. A month ago the Dodgers were making post-season plans. But now they’re a sweep away from the only post-season plans being made are for tee-times.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

No Vin Scully on Opening Day?

April 13, 2009

You can pretty much always count on one thing…Beautiful weather for the Dodgers’ Home opener. For 17 straight years, I attended the festivities that mark the opening of an 81 game (and hopefully more with playoffs) home calendar, a streak that ended in 2007, by choice, trading in the sun and the crowd for a front row seat in front of my nice HDTV LCD.

Times being what they are, and having had a lot of unofficial off days in recent weeks, I planned to work from the office today, to set a good example for my team, and besides, technology would virtually keep me at the game. In today’s world I’m only a video or radio stream away from the action.

True to form, on a beautiful California day on which Vin Scully, the iconic voice of the Dodgers for 6 decades, threw out the first pitch, I looked forward like a little kid, to his harmonious call of the 58th home opener at Chavez Ravine. As I began my hunt for the online radio station that would turn my office into the next best thing to a luxury suite, I learned the sports world lost the legendary voice of Harry Kalas. A moment of reflection and it made me appreciate the fact that we all still have Vin Scully that much more. I was mere cyberspace hops away from hearing Vin Scully again today.

As cliche as it sounds, I spent many a school night staying up later than I was allowed to quietly sneak a listen of Vin spinning tales of guys names Garvey and Cey and Yeager and Sax and Fernando and Jerry Reuss and… . It was storytelling mastery, and it was free and available to anyone who had a cheap am radio. The static sounds of the airwaves only added to the ambiance and delight of a game. So with today’s technology, I’d have no problem hearing Vin Scully visualize the game for me.

A quick click to the KABC radio website, the Dodgers flagship station, and I could listen for free… to their regularly scheduled programming of political know-it-alls. Strike 1, fastball that just nicked the corner.

Google had plenty of results…. And after another umpteen clicks of the mouse, my excitement to hear “play ball” took an inside fastball belt high. Strike two.

MLB.com had the answer. In fact, they were pretty much the only answer: For a small fee, every game of the 2009 season could be mine on Internet Radio (not to mention streaming live video for every game for under $100). I smiled and my eyes focused…that next pitch was going to sail over the center field wall.

And then, giddiness struck out on a nasty curve ball at the knees.

In a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, and for some, to put a hot meal on the table, it’s the simple things, like listening to Vin Scully, that can make you smile for a few hours. Baseball has been heralded in movies and conversation as the glue that has held this nation together. It was America’s past time. But not anymore. Baseball is a business like any other. It’s P&L statements and board rooms and contracts and marketing. It’s not pennant races and head-first slides into home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. It’s not Dad’s and their sons finding a common interest to bond over. Not anymore. Now, baseball is simply money.

I paid my $9.95, and I’m sure I’ll listen to countless games online throughout the year. But I won’t hear Vin Scully. Market restrictions limit what games, specifically, what Dodger games, I can listen to. And that doesn’t include home games. “Sorry Mr. Wolf”, no doubt would have been the Customer Service response had I called. “You can’t listen to Vin Scully but don’t worry, you can enjoy Jon Miller on the San Francisco Radio feed of the game.” Clearly that person has never tasted the incomparable difference of a grilled Dodger Dog to a boiled one. Like Jon Miller to Vin Scully, there is no comparison.

Nevertheless, thanks to technology and a nominal fee, I got to hear the game, and enjoyed every minute of the Dodgers’ thrashing of the Giants 11-1. I suppose sometimes you would eat a boiled Dodger Dog instead of no dog at all… but it’s not the same. So tomorrow, I’m going to let technology make sure this never happens again.

I’m going to Target and getting me a little AM radio. Look forward to hearing you Wednesday night, Vin!

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

Have your cake and Manny too

February 20, 2009

This is typically my favorite time of year. Baseball Spring Training has kicked off and the first pitch of the regular season is only 6 weeks away. But as a Dodger Fan, I am growing increasingly frustrated at the Manny Ramirez situation.

I have never been a fan of Scott Boras, the super agent who represents Manny and many of the other big name stars in the league. But I read an article this morning on USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/dodgers/2009-02-19-dodgers-cover_N.htm) and for once I agree with him… Manny is like cake that needs little frosting and for the Dodgers, the difference between a winning and losing 2009 campaign rests largely on whether or not the dreadlocks are flowing  this season at Chavez Ravine.

I am no GM. But I know baseball and I understand business. Yes, the economic climate has unquestionably changed the face of free agency in MLB this year so I can understand the difficulty in wrapping our minds around a $25mil/year contract for a baseball player. But as a Dodger fan, that’s a small price to pay for a difference maker. I’ve religiously read countless blogs and news articles about Manny and the Dodgers going back to last year and I’m tired – I want something done.

Manny wants 4 years and $100 mil. The Dodgers have offered both 1 year and 2 year contracts. And as of right now, we head in to the first workouts of the spring with the prospect of a pitching-poor Dodgers team with no real threat of an offense. Love the kids Kemp, Martin and Ethier. Love the vets Furcal and Blake. But who is going to drive them in? Who is going to generate the kind of fear in opposing pitchers’ eyes in a tight game in the later innings? No one. Except Manny.

So in a country faced with challenges, and a call from our President to work cooperatively, it’s time the Dodgers worked for their fans. Offer Manny 3 years at around $22mil/year. Offer him a 4th year, player option for $18 mil. If he walks away from that, I can still go to Dodger Stadium with my hat on straight and head held high knowing the team and management did all they could.

With Manny, more seats will be filled, more national attention will be on the boys in blue, and the Dodger Dogs and beer will flow more so than if Juan Pierre is our 3rd outfielder. More souvenirs will be bought (all the kids, young or adult like me want the dreadlocks). All Dodger fans want Manny.

When the Dodgers open up the regular season on April 6 in San Diego, all eyes will be on right field. If Manny is there, Dodger fans will have the cake that Scott Boras so eloquently spoke about – If he’s not, even the glorious taste of a grilled Dodger Dog won’t wash away the bad taste left in the mouth and minds of Dodger fans.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

No winners in Little League?

February 17, 2009

Many years ago, I coached the Agoura White Sox, a little league team of 10-11 year olds along with a close friend. We were in college, loved baseball fanatically, and we wanted to teach. Having both played ball in high school, we figured we could bring the kids on our team a different perspective than all the other baseball dads coaching their sons.

We worked on complicated drills and plays with this special group of kids, that were built on the assumption they had a good handle on the basics. After the first 4 games, we were wrong. We started 0-4, and the games weren’t even close. The kids and parents alike were questioning us, we were questioning ourselves, and ultimately we realized we needed to get back to basics. We practiced hard and won game 5, then game 6. The kids were having fun, playing as a team, playing hard, and playing to win.

In recent years, as I have gone to my nephew’s games and to those of my friends kids, I have been astonished at a trend in which there were no winners and losers. As long as the kids play hard and learn. Granted, these kids are a few years younger than our Pony team, but at least back then, every game counted. Not just in the standings for the local newspaper, but to each and every one of our kids. We taught them to lose with dignity and win with grace. We taught them to work hard with one another as a team, and individually. We taught them honesty and integrity meant something in a game, and in real life. They knew what it felt like to win, and they knew what they had to work on improving when they lost.

So what do the little league kids of today learn? Even in their early years, if they don’t learn about winning and losing, how can they take serious the games of life they will play when they are older? Aren’t they being taught that losing is no big deal? And if that is the lesson, then what happens when they get in to that real world, and have to support themselves and maybe a family? Will losing not matter than either?

In school we learn the skills and information needed to be successful in life and profession. But it is in our friendships, our families, our extracurricular activities, like little league baseball, that we learn so many of the values and lessons that will carry on throughout our lives. And now, in a position where I am responsible for hiring and firing people, I am seeing the results of the generation that thinks losing is no big deal. The picture I’m seeing is no Picasso.

Losing is a big deal. No matter the business, you have to strive to be number one as a company, a team. Individual effort is important, but if you’re say, a Project Manager on a software development project that is integral to your company’s success, is winning or losing important? You may work hard, but perhaps few or no one on your team does, and the project is riddled with problems, not to mention being late and over budget. Does winning or losing matter then? In today’s economy, company’s are struggling to stay afloat – does it matter to them if they win or lose? Go to the local unemployment office and ask anyone in line if it is important to win or lose.

Winning and losing alike are a part of life. It’s never too young to teach kids what it is all about. Let them taste the sweetness of victory, but also the bitterness of defeat. Should there not be winners in local spelling bees in school? Or writing contests? Science competitions?

I am not a parent, so perhaps it is not fair for me to judge, but our nation of parents has become so hung up on not upsetting their children or disappointing them, that we have begun playing games that don’t count and don’t mean anything. Doesn’t the very definition of game mean you have a winner and loser?

Our White Sox worked hard the rest of that season. Kids of 10 and 11 stepped outside of comfort zones, tried new things, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. But together, we all decided winning was important and something to work hard for.

We finished the last 10 games of the season undefeated… sweet victory! We lost our first playoff game… bitter defeat. But all of our kids on that team we’re better off for the experience.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com