Friday, November 18, 2011

Ridiculous Fan Comments 11.19.2011

Major League Baseball made it official. According to ESPN, The Houston Astros have been sold and will be leaving the National League's Central division for the American League's West division (Delta Sky Miles Diamond status, here we come). In addition, MLB will adding two wild card teams (one for each league), possibly as soon as next season.

For baseball fans, this news is huge. Realignment hasn't happened since the Milwaukee Brewers made the switch from the American League to the National League after the 1997 season, and the playoffs haven't been expanded since the first wildcard spot was created in 1994. As you probably assume, opinions about these changes are both copious and mixed.

Let's Be Logical has opinions about the changes, too. I could just lay them out, but would that be as exciting as weaving them into a Ridiculous Fan Comments (RFC) post? Of course, not.

As always, I'll give you the comment first, and then my response. Since this is such big news and since the holidays are nigh, I'm going to cover more than one RFC for the first time (consider it a Vultured Mailbag if you want). All comments come from an AP article on titled, "Astros' sale finalized; 2 more for playoffs."

the 15/15 arrangement needs to be temporary...2 new teams should be added within the next few years, both in Southern markets in the NL so that Colorado can move to the AL

posted by 1990_big_z

For those unaware, the "15/15 arrangement" refers to there now being 15 teams in the American League and 15 in the National League. The biggest complaint with this arrangement (and the one I'm assuming big_z has) is that interleague play is now going to occur all season, instead of just during a couple of weeks in May and late-June.

I hate to break it to you, big_z, but interleague play isn't going anywhere. As Peter Schmuck from the Baltimore Sun notes, people still show up in droves for interleague games, even non-rival ones. Owners aren't going to kill any golden geese, especially during tough economic times. Yes, schedule disparities abound due to interleague play (the Mets have to play the Yankees six times every year while the Nationals get the Orioles), and that is a travesty. Fairer scheduling is something the players are asking for, though, so maybe we'll get it as a result of this realignment/collective bargaining session (Don't laugh at my naivete. Call it blind optimism if you want, but don't laugh).

Also, adding two teams to give each league sixteen won't work, either. I know what you're thinking, big_z, if each league has sixteen teams interleague play becomes unnecessary. The problem with that idea is there isn't enough talent in the world to adequately fill the 30 teams that currently exist. How else can you explain why Jo-Jo Reyes remains gainfully employeed? Adding two teams would dilute the talent pool further, which would drive down the level of play, thereby making MLB less watchable. Do you really want to pay money to watch a team whose number two starter and starting second baseman are Kenshin Kawakami and Brooks Conrad, respectively? I didn't think so.

Milwaukee should have went back to the AL where they belong. Houston has been in the NL for 50 years. Apparently history means nothing to Selig. He continues to cheapen the product. Why add more teams to the playoffs, even if only one game? MLB is not the NBA or NHL.

posted by captain_morgan_2008

First of all, captain_morgan, baseball, like every professional sport, is a form of entertainment. Bud Selig's main job, therefore, is to keep people entertained. Otherwise, the league loses fans/viewers, and as a result, money. Adding an extra wild card team is definitely going to keep more fan bases involved longer into the season, and the one game playoff will surely get people talking.

History has nothing to do with it. So what if the Astros have been in the NL for 50 years? They've never won the World Series and have only been once (2005), so it's not like they're one of the pillars of National League. Change can be a good thing.

You are right about one thing, captain. MLB is certainly not the NBA or NHL. Whenever the two wildcard teams get added (either this season or next), 33% of MLB teams will make the playoffs (10 out of 30). In the NHL 53% of teams make the postseason (16 out of 30), while in the NBA a whopping 57% qualify (16 out of 28). Making the playoffs in baseball will still be much more difficult, mathematically speaking at least, even after the two wildcard spots are added.

By the way, 37.5% of NFL teams make the postseason (12 out of 32).

I can't believe they're actually adding another two teams.. I guess it really is all about the money.

posted by russianshoulders

Welcome to capitalism, comrade.

Well Selig has taken another step in screwing up the game. Why didn't he move his sorry Brewers back to the A.L. from whence they came if he wanted to even everything out? The DH is not baseball, it is not how it is taught, not how it was invented and does not make the game any better. Get back to the basics. Gone are the good rivalries Houston vs. Reds, Dodgers, Reds, Mets, Phillies, Braves. Some of the most exciting playoffs ever. He has set this team of for failure. More playoffs teams are not needed, it is just greed, wanting more fan dollars. Nothing wrong with wanting to expand as a business, why not just make it like hockey and let every team except a few into the playoffs. That will really make the season more exciting. Good job, moron!


Harsh words, TEALCURTAIN, but bonus points for incorporating "whence" into your comment.

Let's start with the Brewers. Formerly being in the American League doesn't automatically make them the best candidates to be sent back. The Astros make a lot more sense for a number of reasons. First, as I stated earlier, they're not one of the pillars of the National League. Second, they have new owners, and making a big change is much easier for new owners that aren't used to things being a certain way. Third, the Texas Rangers make a great natural rival for the Astros, and maximizing the amount of times those teams play each other will help both teams financially and otherwise. Fourth, the Astros are a better geographical fit for the AL West than the Brewers.

I do agree about the DH. I think it should be totally done away with in MLB (except in the All-Star game). I'm not really sure why you mention the DH, though, unless you're just really upset that the Astros will have to start using one. If that's a deal breaker for you, then I have to question your fanhood.

I'm also unclear on the Astros and Braves rivalry. I'm a diehard Braves fan, and I don't consider the Astros a rival in the least bit. I don't know a single Braves fan that does, either. They faced each other in the League Division Series five times between 1997 and 2005, with the Braves winning the first three and the Astros the last two, but does that make them rivals? In my book, no, especially since only one of those series went to five games (2004).

And what, exactly, is wrong with MLB wanting to maximize revenue? They're not doing it in an illegal/immoral way; they're simply giving two more teams a chance to win the World Series every year. Would you be against the Astros making the playoffs as the fifth team from the American League? I doubt it very seriously.

Addition of playoff slots is HORRIBLE. Imagine last year's September if it had this. Braves and Cards both safely in, Sox and Rays both safely in. Instead we got one of the most exciting finishes in MLB history. I hope the players refuse to approve that garbage.

The only reason MLB wants this is to make Red Sox chasing the Yankees more exciting and meaningful. This improves things for one division and makes it much worse for the other 5. Selig is a horrible commish.

posted by Desiderata03

You're not alone in this sentiment, Desiderata03. A lot of people think adding playoff teams will ruin exciting finishes to the regular season.

Let me ask you to imagine something, though. Imagine if the Braves and Red Sox had both won one more game in April. If they had, they would have both made playoffs and we would have a different World Series champion. Both teams could have still tanked in the exact same ways in September, but they still would have made the postseason. Would we all still be lauding the exciting finish of the regular season if that had happened (actually, would all you still be lauding, because I thought it was a terrible finish)? No, I don't think we would. Instead, we would be talking about how the Braves and Red Sox stumbled into the postseason in the ugliest fashion possible (especially if one of those teams had won the World Series). One more win by either or both teams and our perceptions would have totally changed.

Furthermore, even if the new playoff rules would have been in place last season, excitement would have still abounded. Imagine the build-up to a one game series (assuming that's the format they go with) between the Braves and Cardinals or the Red Sox and Rays. Will the Braves/Sox finally win a game they need to win? Do they have anything left in the tank? Will the Cards/Rays be able to leave no doubt that they belong? Can they keep the magic alive? Desiderata03, these games would have been full of excitement.

Enough imagining. The important thing to realize is that adding a playoff team in no way makes it impossible to have an exciting finish to the season. Finishes for the second wild spot can be just as exciting as they have been for the wild card in the past. Plus, teams will still fight to win the division like they always have. In fact, they might start fighting harder. If I were a major league manager, I know I'd rather win the division and get a guaranteed spot in a five game division series than have to risk losing a one game, winner take all "wild card series."
That's it for this installment of Ridiculous Fan Comments.

I will, however, sum up my feelings on the changes in case I didn't make them clear enough. I have no problem moving the Astros to the AL West. I also don't have a problem adding two playoff teams. Is it the way I would do things if I were commissioner of MLB? Probably not, but that's for another post. Nevertheless, adding two playoff teams will keep more fans interested in baseball for longer, which can only be a good thing for MLB its franchises. As I stated earlier, change can be a good thing. Is this the best change MLB could make? Maybe or maybe not; sometimes a person or organization has to try a couple of bad ideas before finding the best one. The fact that MLB is trying to improve its product should be worth something, especially for a sport that has been accused many times of being too attached to its past. I think we should at least see how the changes are going to work before passing judgment.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sure, Batman is totally realistic.

He's just a regular dude like me.

Invariably, whenever someone says that Batman is his/her favorite superhero, they give some version of the above statement as the main reason. These are usually the same people that say that picking Superman as your favorite is a cop-out because he's all-powerful and has virtually no chance of being defeated. Furthermore, these haters will claim he didn't earn his powers but simply obtained them by coming to our planet.

No, Batman is not an alien that derives his power from our solar system's yellow sun (Superman). He wasn't given a seemingly all-powerful tool limited only by the user's will and imagination, either (Green Lantern). He was also never in a freak accident that left him with superpowers (Flash, Hulk), and he's not the product of a genetic mutation (X-Men).

 He's just a regular dude just like the rest of us, which means any of us, with enough resources and extreme dedication, could be just like him.

Yeah, he's perfectly normal.
Are you kidding me?

The only thing that makes Batman human is his human DNA. Don't get me wrong, I think Batman is beyond cool (even cooler than Billy Dee), but he's no more relatable, nor his status obtainable, to the average human than Superman.

I won't say that no one could ever be like Batman, but the chances are smaller than minute. In fact, E. Paul Zehr's book, Becoming Batman, discusses the very idea of becoming the Caped Crusader. I haven't read the book, but I did read an interview Zehr did in which he talked about becoming Batman. I recommend reading the article, but I'll summarize the main points below.
  • A Batman illustrator named Neal Adams said that Batman would medal in every event in the Olympics. Zehr logically says that no real person can be "Olympic medal good" at everything, but if he/she wanted to be Batman he/she would have to be exceptionally good in a lot of different areas.
  • The most plausible thing about Batman, according to Zehr is that someone could be trained to be an exceptional athlete, a master of martial-arts, and an expert in gadgetry.
  • Unfortunately, by Zehr's estimation, that training would probably take 15-18 years, due to the expertise required to be Batman (he can't afford to lose, and he has to know how to incapacitate someone without killing them)
  • A well-trained person can probably only fight 3-5 people at a time, not 8-10 like Batman does.
  • A person has to sleep. You can't be Bruce Wayne and Batman and expect to stay healthy for any serious amount of time.
  • You also couldn't fight every night. A real human body can't recuperate in mere hours from harsh fighting night after night.
  • If you managed to become Batman, you'd probably only have about 3 years to remain Batman. Again, all that fighting would take its toll.
Based on Zehr's assertions, and assuming that humans peak physically between ages 25 and 35, a person would probably need to start training between ages 10 and 15 to have any hope of reaching the skill level required to be Batman and then have enough time to actually be him.

Now remember, Batman can't lose. If he does he probably dies, or at the very least a lot of other people do. Also, he never kills. That means the required training isn't some "2 hours a day, 3 days a week" program. It's an "8 hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week highly-specialized" program. In other words, someone trying to become Batman would have make that pursuit the sole focus of their life. Last time I checked, training to be a superhero doesn't pay the bills.

That brings us to another issue. Bruce Wayne (Batman's true identity) is a billionaire. Forbes estimates him to be worth over $6 billion, in fact. He can afford to be Batman. You can't.

Going back to Zehr, he stated at the end of the interview that the best way to estimate the number of people who could possibly become Batman would be to multiply the percentage of billionaires in the world by the percentage of people that become Olympic decathletes. In March 2011, there were 1210 billionaires in the world. In the 2008 Olympics, 40 men competed in the decathlon. Based on a population of 6 billion, for simplicity's sake, that's .00000020167% and .0000000067%, respectively (the true percentages would actually be a lot smaller, since the world's population is closer to 7 billion). If you multiply those numbers together, you get a .000000000000001351189% chance of someone actually having the means and ability to become Batman. That's way less than 1 out of 6 billion.

In other words, becoming Batman is all but impossible. While he may not have superpowers per se, he's been given all that he needs (beyond amazing athletic ability, staunch determination and focus, and endless resources) and more to succeed, just like Superman. Sure, he had to train to become what he is, but the fact that he became and maintains what he is proves my point.

Am I saying Batman is lame? Of course, not. Batman is the polar opposite of lame. I'm simply saying that Batman's existence is no more reasonable than Superman's, and that one shouldn't praise Batman's realism while hating on Superman's lack thereof.

Thanks for reading.