The Key to Baseball’s Future: Compromise

Below you’ll find two quotations.  Take a second to read them both over.

I have talent, no doubt. My advantage is that I know the game well. The reason is that I grew up in it and had a good teacher in my father. I’m sure that whatever I am as a man and a ballplayer comes from the way I was raised. But am I a superstar? Oh, no. I don’t think I stack up with the great players in the league.

“Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah … if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot … I mean — sorry.

Derek Byrd

You’ve probably guessed that both of these quotes can be attributed to MLB players.  In fact, they’re both MVPs.  That’s about where the similarities end.  Much has been made of Major League Baseball’s “culture war” and these two sentiments do a pretty good job of summing up the battle cries of each side.  

The first one is Cal Ripken, baseball’s “iron man.”  The second is Bryce Harper, arguably baseball’s best active player and almost certainly loudest voice.

In the 25 seasons between Cal Ripken’s MVP win and Bryce Harper’s, the world has changed rapidly.  Baseball?  Not nearly as much. But is that a bad thing? Well, the way you answer that question will probably determine which side of baseball’s widening fault line you belong.

 

The Case for the Old

Much of the recent headbutting over baseball’s culture stems from the collision of the new vs. the old.  The perceived erosion of the game’s traditional elements has certainly led to some tension between the old guard and those who would seek to modernize the game.  While the game runs the risk of eventually being relegated to second-tier sports status by refusing to adapt, it’s worthwhile to celebrate and attempt to preserve some of the charms that made baseball America’s pastime in the first place.

One of the most controversial aspects of baseball is the pace of the game.  Younger fans don’t seem to have the patience for a season of 162 games that clock in at over three hours a pop each.  There’s also the perception that there isn’t a whole lot going on 90% of the time the players are on the field.  

While those criticisms might be in line with the on-demand culture of the past few decades, we should consider that preserving one last bastion of timelessness might be a positive.  Baseball games might not always be action packed, but they do create an environment of relaxation; an environment where you don’t have to rush.  A respite from calls, appointments, and notifications of every sort is something that the endless summer vibe of baseball can provide.

Another point of contention in the culture war is on-field conduct, especially how to act when you’ve made a great play.  

Hall of Fame pitcher, Goose Gossage made headlines back in March when he criticized Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays with a few choice words: “Bautista is an f—ing disgrace to the game.” He went on to take issue with Bautista “Throwing his bat and acting like a fool…”

While Gossage used a colorful outburst to illustrate his point, there may be something to his sentiment.  Against the backdrop of a culture that perhaps too heavily values stardom and individual self-promotion, maybe there is room for baseball to set the example for acting like you’ve been there before.

These are just a few examples of the old school mentality that makes baseball the nostalgic portal to another time that has captured American imaginations for generations.  It might be easier to deem baseball’s traditions obsolete, but working to preserve them may help maintain some of the wonderful but increasingly inconvenient values of yesteryear.

The Case for the New

On the other hand, values and nostalgia don’t pay the bills and numbers don’t lie.  The hard truth that baseball purists need to face is that the sport has a problem.  It’s actually not an immediate problem, which makes it easier to ignore, but doesn’t make it any less real.

The Washington Post published an article a little over a year ago about the decline in youth baseball.  The Post quotes Rich Luker of ESPN’s polling department who does an excellent job of summing up the reality the MLB will be facing over the next twenty years:

“If baseball does nothing, they’ll probably stay flat for another 10 years.  But 20 years from now, they’ll be moving to a secondary position in American life, doomed to irrelevance like Tower Records or Blockbuster Video.”

If being compared to blockbuster isn’t enough of a death knell, the numbers back up Luker’s projection.  Major League Baseball has the oldest viewers on average of any of the big four sports at 53 years old and climbing.  For comparison, the NBA boasts the youngest fanbase at 37 years old and staying flat year over year.

While MLB ratings have remained decent and game attendance has not seen any significant dip, an aging fan base that’s not being replenished by a younger demographic spells trouble down the road.  So what’s at the root of this climbing average age?

derek byrd

Sophomore MLB commissioner Rob Manfred posits that the single biggest predictor of avidity in sports is whether you played as a kid.”  If his line of thinking is right, then we have to turn our eye to youth baseball.  Those numbers don’t look great either.

Youth baseball participation has been declining for the better part of twenty years. Some of this has to do with increased participation in other sports, especially basketball, and soccer.  That coupled with the pressure for elite young athletes to focus on honing their skill at one sport has left baseball as the proverbial last kid picked in gym class.

Because this is something of a long-term trend rather than a recent development, youth baseball recruitment is now faced with recruiting kids whose parents never played the sport themselves.  This has fed into the growing disconnect between young people and what was once America’s game.

With a potential slow decline on the horizon, it would be negligent not to give some credence to the criticisms flying from the new school camp of the culture war.  Bryce Harper, quoted at the top of the piece, might not be the traditional ambassador of baseball, but as a young elite player, his feelings probably closely mirror those of the young fan that the MLB is failing to hook.

ESPN recently published a piece about Harper’s crusade to make the game fun again.  Regardless of what you think of Harper personally, his comments that baseball makes it difficult to express yourself as an individual hold some water and may shine a light on why the sport has difficulty attracting the younger generation.  

SPORT MLB BASEBALL

It doesn’t lend itself to highlights like football and basketball do.  The game is a story, a battle, that takes place mostly in the minds of the pitcher and the batter.  That doesn’t make great social media fodder and it definitely doesn’t create the brash superstars that have driven other sports, especially the NBA.

Faced with these pending challenges, there’s little doubt that baseball needs to make some changes, but drawing the line will be difficult.

Moving Forward

So where are we left after listening to the battle cries of each side of the culture war?  Hopefully, somewhere squarely in the middle.  The future of baseball needs to be about compromising between the things that have made the game great for over a century and the realities of the modern age.

More social media integration and more on-demand content may help.  The MLB is already undertaking projects to that end.  Some of the new rules put in place last season that requires batters to stay in the box and that limit the time between innings should help to keep the game moving at a good clip without forcing stringent time constraints that could damage the soul of the game.

As far as on-field celebrations and individual expression go, maybe the NFL model can provide some guidance.  NFL players are known for their signature end zone dances but excessive celebration and especially taunting can saddle you with a 15-yard penalty.  Baseball probably doesn’t need to legislate this difference but drawing a distinction between celebrating and gloating might prevent the younger players and fans from feeling stifled while maintaining the dignity of the game for the more traditional sluggers and their fans.

 

While the war rages on, one has to hope that when the dust settles, a version of baseball equal parts new and old will remain and continue to enthrall Americans for generations to come.

from Derek Byrd Derek Byrd’s Blog Post on Cal Ripken Baseball http://ift.tt/1qJ0FH5

3 Reasons Why Apple’s Huge Home Run Deal With Major League Baseball Will Be A Success

Instead of the usual paper notes that we sometimes see during the games, coaches and managers will now use a 12.9-inch iPad pre-loaded with a custom software called “MLB Dugout,” thanks to Apple’s multi-year deal with Major League Baseball.

Swing batter, batter

The “MLB Dugout” app will allow managers a chance to see player performance statistics, access videos of previous games, and to get a specific look at pitcher-hitter matchups. According to the Wall Street Journal, the visual of the game will become more clear and relatable to players of today’s time.

Here are three reasons as to why Apple’s deal with MLB  will be a success.

1. Faster statistic rates for increased performance

MLB teams will be able to view performance stats from current games and past seasons to help coaches evaluate the changes needed to improve player performance. This will allow overall productiveness during team practices, and give the players a sense of accountability when working on their technique.

Baseball Performance

2. iPad’s Over Paper

In the age of digital technology, it makes sense that the MLB would team up with Apple to incorporate iPad’s into the locker room. The paper industry has shifted due to this digital change and the game of baseball could only benefit from this change in a positive way moving forward.

ipadpro

3. Visually Appealing

From the players in the dugout to the team plays being practiced in the field, the visual elements of the game of baseball will now be made available for everyone on the team to see in real time allowing the game to become more interactive for not only the players, but for the coaches as well.

baseballfield

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from Derek Byrd Derek Byrd’s Blog Post on Cal Ripken Baseball http://ift.tt/1TlTPPQ

President Obama Catches A Friendly Match in Cuba

Derek ByrdThis past weekend, President Obama made a historic visit to the Caribbean island of Cuba. This trip was the first time a sitting American president has made a visit to the island in 88 years; the last visit was by President Calvin Coolidge in January of 1928. This trip ended with the President and his family enjoying a game of America’s favorite pastime, baseball. This exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team was a friendly match, and the recognition of a mutual affinity for the sport from both sides.

The game was hosted in Havana’s historic Estadio Latinoamericano, and also coincides with major conversations about Cuban athletes joining our country’s Major League Baseball. For a Cuban baseball player to attempt to joining the MLB, he must defect from Cuba, and leave behind his country, and his allegiance. As easy as it may seem to leave the island, it get’s more complicated, because, in most cases, these men are leaving behind their families to seek a better future.

Once a baseball player reaches the U.S., the process becomes legally intricate. Before a Cuban defector can do business with an American company, like the MLB, he must first establish residency outside of Cuba and the United States. This process can take up to several months, depending on the country. The athletes must also petition for free agency from the MLB, and be unblocked from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before finalizing any contract with a MLB club.

The process is now easier, because amendments made to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) have loosened the salary restrictions of the past. The OFAC and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) have now authorized U.S. companies “engage in transactions related to the sponsorship or hiring of Cuban nationals to work or perform in the United States similar to nationals from other countries, provided that no additional payments are made to the Cuban government in connection with such sponsorship or hiring.” These amendments will now ease the pursuit of the American dream for Cuban athletes.

The historic game ended in a victory for the Tampa Bay Rays, but in the grand scheme of things, this match was a victory in the diplomatic relationship between Cuba and U.S.

from Derek Byrd Derek Byrd’s Blog Post on Cal Ripken Baseball http://ift.tt/1Ztw7pl

UN Panel to Say Assange Has Been Held Arbitrarily

In 2010, the world was rocked over and over again as confidential diplomatic cables from the US government were leaked to the press and the world at large. Behind it all was a man named Julian Assange and the organization that he started for this express purpose, Wikileaks (an organization that publishes information from whistleblowers who wish to stay anonymous). Since then, Wikileaks has continued its mission even as Assange has been hounded by governments from both Europe and the United States of America. This comes from two sexual assault allegations and at least allegation of rape that occurred in Sweden that has had Assange on the run and hiding out. wikileaks, julian assange, law

For the past few years, Assange has been locked away and hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom due to the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries. He has been holed up and unable to leave due to the fact that he would immediately be arrested by the police that have been watching the embassy waiting for that very occurrence to happen. The UK police have been staking out the embassy since Assange took refuge there and have cost taxpayers millions of pounds since it started.

Now a UN panel is expected to rule that Assange has been arbitrarily held captive in the embassy and recommend that he be freed. While the panel isn’t legally binding, it will certainly put pressure on the Swedish government, the UK government, and the EU as a whole when it comes to this manner. Assange first complained to the UN about his arbitrary detention in the embassy in 2014 due to the fact that he couldn’t leave since he would be arrested. The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is going to announce its verdict on Friday but all signs point to them siding with Assange. That being said, Assange has also announced that he will be leaving the embassy regardless of the verdict and will accept arrest if that is what is going to happen due to the fact that he feels that there are no more courses for appeal.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

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Trump Says Cruz Broke Law to Win in Iowa

Since he first burst on to the political scene in the republican race for the presidential nomination, Donald Trump has been confusing pundits and throwing polls askew as he has gained more and more support above his actual politician rivals. Even with an increasingly inflammatory rhetoric that has shocked and disturbed many of the more terrified citizens of these United States of America, Trump has managed to stay ahead of establishment candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush while also outpacing renegade outsider Ted Cruz in both the polls and in vocal support. That is, he had been outpacing Cruz until recently.

When the Iowa caucuses rolled around, everyone thought that the polls would hold true and that Trump would win with Cruz coming in second. However when the numbers came through, Donald Trump had come in second and Ted Cruz had taken first place, much to the surprise of all involved. While many other candidates would have accepted these results in stride and started to focus on the next primary, Trump decided to do what he does and complain about how he was robbed. Not only that, but he floated that Cruz very well may have broken the law in the process of stealing Trump’s caucus.

So what laws did Cruz break when “stealing” Trump’s win away from him? There is no answer and the original tweet saying so was quickly deleted and edited, removing the word “illegally”. While there is a chance that Cruz did break a law, it wouldn’t be up to Trump to bring him to justice. There’s no denying that Cruz may have engaged in some shady behavior in regards to helping sink Ben Carson’s already dismal chances at victory (staffers and supporters somewhat spread rumors that Carson had dropped out). That being said, there is no evidence as of now that Cruz broke any laws and a presidential candidate getting caught engaged in libel would be a bad move. With Trump liking to call himself a winner who never loses, this lose clearly stung and he’s lashing out once again.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

from Derek Byrd’s Law Blog Derek Byrd’s Latest Law Blog Post http://ift.tt/1TEPMS3

Florida Needs to Fix it’s Death Penalty Law

The death penalty has caused controversy since it was first made a legal possibility and this controversy has only increased every year as more and more people come out against it. While the death penalty is legal under federal law, various states have made it illegal over time. It is currently legal in 32 states with prisoners in 35 states currently on death row (the death penalty is illegal in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Mexico but isn’t retroactive so prisoners who were on death row will still be executed). Now it seems as though the Supreme Court is being called in to look at certain state’s death penalty laws.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida handed down its death penalty rulings is unconstitutional and needed to be changed. This is a big deal for a number of reasons, one of which is that Florida currently has one of the country’s most crowded death row systems and seems to hand out the death penalty with more ease than other states in which it’s legal. With the Florida lawmaking session ending in six weeks and prosecutions for cases that have capital punishment as a possible sentence currently stalled, lawmakers in Florida are rushing to create new legislation that will answer the concerns of the court while simultaneously keeping constituents happy.

Up until now, Florida’s death penalty only required a simple majority of a 12-person jury to recommend a death sentence to a judge who would then decide on the punishment — most other states require unanimous jury recommendations. With the 2nd largest number of inmates on death row (behind only California) but the highest execution rate in the country, Florida’s court system is now in turmoil as it tries to figure out a fix. The Supreme Court ruled that the current law gave too much power to judges and not enough to juries, flying in the face of the Sixth Amendment and becoming unconstitutional in the process. While there is no set fix to the ruling yet, it will be interesting to see whether the laws change on a grand scale or simply on a smaller scale targeted to this specific ruling.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

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Han Shot First and the Law is Ok With It

There’s no denying that stand-your-ground laws cause controversy and concern in our country. However, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, the use of force to defend yourself when you feel as though your life is threatened is respected throughout all states in the union, regardless of whether or not the state has a stand-your-ground law. People in our country are allowed to defend themselves to the death (either theirs or that of their opponent) if they feel as though there is a legitimate threat to their wellbeing.

If we were to take this law and apply it to all planets in the universe (both fictional and non-fictional), we would inevitably come to the classic Star Wars question of who shot first, Han or Greedo? It turns out that Han did shoot first (this was learned a while ago) and it was only in later versions of the movie that it was edited so the Greedo shot first, therefore preserving Han’s legacy as a hero. However, if we apply the law of the United States of America to Tatooine, it wouldn’t have mattered if Han shot first. Under US law, he felt as though his life was in danger and therefore his shooting of Greedo before Greedo shot wouldn’t sentence him to a murder charge.

When George Lucas changed the original scene in the re-release of the movie, he earned the ire and anger of Star Wars fans across the world. Now it seems as though those edits wouldn’t have mattered. Thanks to an article by University of Alabama School of Law professor John Gross, fans can rest easy in the fact that their anger was righteous and Han’s shooting first wouldn’t have changed the essence of his character. Lucas said that he changed the scene because he didn’t want Solo to be seen as a cold-blooded killer. As Gross’ article clearly states, Han’s shooting first wouldn’t have made him a murderer because his actions were totally justified.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

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