Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Favre-Watch 09 Hits ESPN, And MLB Blows Its Awards Season

Well, you can write it down. Week 11 was the first time that ESPN mentioned Brett Favre's future in the NFL and also the week that Mercury Morris was first mentioned in relation to the undefeated Titans. November 19 was the date of the Favre article and November 17th for the Morris article. Let the hype begin.

Sports Illustrated took a different tact in hyping the World Series champions. To be honest, I didn't really notice this when it happened because I was a little bitter that the freaking Phillies won the Series, but yesterday I got the NFL's official catalogue (35 shopping days till Christmas) and in it were quite a few Super Bowl items for the Giants. After subtly circling about 30 items in it and "accidentally" leaving it open on my wife's nightstand, it occurred to me that SI never did a "Phillies Win!" World Series edition.

I went back through the magazines from this month and found that I was only sorta wrong. The November 3rd edition features Rocco Baldelli colliding at home plate with a catcher with red protectors on - I assume that was the Phillies catcher. The headline is "The World Series" - not "The Phillies Win!" The article inside was a tribute to a well played series that no one watched, not to the champs' season. No where in the entire magazine was there a sentence that actually said that the Phillies had won the World Series - the assumption being that you already knew that. If I was a Phillies fan, I would be freaking pissed about all of this! But I would probably also be illiterate, so I wouldn't get SI and it wouldn't matter.

The November 10 edition kinda made up for this oversight. It did say "Phillies Win!" on the cover, but that article wasn't really about the team either. Rather it was about how to fix the Series, not a glorifying recap.

When did the World Series Champ start getting second-billing to the NFL's Midseason Report on fat guys getting paid more than they used to? If baseball is slipping into the background of the major American sports consciousness, the way they announce their awards doesn't help. They announce the managers of the years, Golden Glovers, Silver Sluggers, Rookies of the Year and MVPs weeks after the season ends. By this time, the NFL has taken complete control of ESPN, the NBA is in full swing, college basketball is already started and baseball fans have already put last year behind them and are already bitching about next year's roster.

And they don't even have press conferences where the winners are given trophies and get to thank their dads and high school coaches! They get interviewed over the phone most of the time. Clearly the intent is for baseball to stay in our collective consciousness between the Series ending and free agency beginning, but it doesn't work. It trivializes the importance of these mens' accomplishments, and being that these are the most accomplished men in the Game, it trivializes the Game.

As does the fact that most of the time, the MVP award is give to the best player, but not necessarily the Most Valuable one. I would pick Albert Pujols to start my fantasy team, or my real franchise, over anyone else in the National League, but how valuable was he to the Cardinals this year? They took 4th. I don't think he should have been eligible because he didn't play enough games, but Manny Ramirez was eligible and was third in the voting - how did he not win? The guy joined a team struggling to play .500 that was slowly withering and never going to put it all together and carried them to the NLCS. And keep in mind as you read the following argument that I hate the Dodgers and think Manny is overrated.

So the Dodgers only finished a few games over .500 - the moment he arrived in L.A., the West was won and everyone knew it. Then he went out and hit .400 for two months just to make sure. He made you think James Loney, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier could be All Stars. Sure, Pujols carried the Cardinals, but he carried them to a crappy finish. The measuring stick for MVP is this: if you took the guy in question out and replaced him with any other above-average player of the same position, what is the difference?

Put Conor Jackson, Joey Votto, Loney, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Carlos Delgado, Lance Berkman or Derek Lee in St. Louis, and they still finish fourth. But put any left fielder from any team in baseball in L.A., and the Dodgers miss the playoffs and possibly wind up behind Colorado.

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