Major League Baseball just enjoyed one of its finest seasons ever. The National League treated us to three down to the wire pennant races. The Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants and, for most of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers fought it out for the NL West title with the Diamondbacks prevailing. The Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies battled for the lead in the NL East most of the season with the New York Mets making a furious comeback during the closing weeks. Atlanta needed the last series of the year to wrap up that race. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros actually tied for the NL Central crown with the Cardinals taking the tiebreaker and the Astros the league’s wild card spot in the play-offs. The Chicago Cubs were in that race for most of the season.
There were no really close divisional races in the American League, but the junior circuit more than made up for it in the play-offs. The New York Yankees came back from the brink of elimination in their series with Oakland to make it all the way to the World Series. Seattle had to battle back against Cleveland to reach the American League Championship Series.
There has seldom, if ever, been a better World Series than the one between the Diamondbacks and the Yankees. Four games were decided by one run and three of those were won by the home team on the last swing of the bat. One would be hard pressed to find a series with more drama.
During the last weeks of the regular season and in all play-off games, including the World Series, a new patriotic element was added. Following the terrorists attacks, the seventh inning stretch featured the playing or singing of patriotic music, usually some rendition of “God Bless America”, a song that has as much and maybe more meaning to Americans than the national anthem. The powers that be in Major League Baseball are to be congratulated for that addition.
Just a word is probably needed about the few things done wrong during post season play. The FOX Network broadcast all of the play-offs and the World Series. They did a pretty good job on the Series, but it is impossible to ignore their decision to have the opening game of the Diamondbacks-Braves series played in the afternoon on a weekday, even though it was the only game scheduled. The fault for the lack of a sell out for that game belongs to FOX, not the Arizona fans. Worse was the decision to let individual stations choose between National and American League Play-off games. Some fans could not see their favorite teams play because stations in their area broadcast games from the other league. This is one reporter who hopes a more responsible and wiser network has the post season games next season. Finally, in the negative category is the national news media’s obvious disappointment that the Diamondbacks, not the Yankees, won the series. They down played one of the best World Series ever in their angst and it showed.
Now, the owners and players may be on the brink of squandering much of the good will they have earned in recent weeks. The collective bargaining agreement has run its course and negotiations are in the works.
Topping the list of items to be negotiated is the possible elimination of two teams. The Montreal Expos probably deserve to go, either by contraction or simply by the moving of the franchise to a city that would support the team better. The Minnesota Twins should stay where they are. That city has a history of supporting the team. It is going to be hard to justify contraction or even moving of the franchise there. A better case could be made for moving or eliminating either of the Florida team, the Marlins or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Baseball has survived its own mistakes before and probably will again. It would be nice to see good decisions and good will prevail. The “game” is at the top of its game now. Why not find a way to just build on that?