The League Division Series are underway, and the action so far has been fast and furious. In the National League, Pittsburgh and St. Louis traded beat-downs in their first two games, and now the action shifts back to the Steel City. It is a delight to have the Pirates holding the spotlight for the first time in a generation. These two Central Division teams know each other intimately and as usual in these cases, familiarity breeds contempt. The Los Angeles Dodgers, after cruising behind their ace and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, found the going tougher behind their other ace and Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. Now we return to Chavez Ravine for the first post-season action since 2009, hardly a generational hiatus but welcome indeed to the legions of fans of Dem Bums.
Meanwhile, in the American League, the game and scrappy Tampa Bay Rays have run into a buzz saw in Boston, where the Red Sox combined good pitching and their relentless offense. The Rays played elimination games on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday this week to earn the right to face the Eastern Division champions, and once again their backs will be against the wall as the action shifts to St. Petersburg. The late-night fireworks were in Oakland, where the Western Division champion Oakland Athletics and the Central Division champion Detroit Tigers traded close, brilliantly-pitched wins. For me, a thirty-year resident of Oaktown, it was heart-warming to see the upper deck at the O.co Coliseum full and rocking. Please figure out a way to build them a new ballpark, Commissioner Selig! Such an announcement would be a fitting capstone to your illustrious career. It won’t be easy given the financial realities, but it can be done, and it should be done. A’s fans are a singular breed and deserve a clean, modern facility.
This brings us to the news that Bud Selig will step down after next season. Mostly, he has had a mixed bag of results for his twenty-plus year administration, mostly, but not all, to the good. I never liked the owners’ putsch that removed Faye Vincent from the office. My experience was that the Commissioner should truly be above the fiduciary interests involved, not for the players, and not for the owners, but for the fans and the game itself. Mr. Selig was quite visibly the front-man for ownership. I can never forgive forsaking the 1994 World Series. I do not like the conspiracy of silence that ensued between the owners and players when steroids and performance-enhancing drugs helped the game at once to re-establish its popularity and forever tarnish its credibility. If Major League Baseball has finally acted to curtail the use of cheating agents, it is all to the good, albeit very late.
There is no doubt that Selig’s years have been hugely profitable both to the owners and the players; most cities have built wonderful shrines to the game; revenue sharing has enabled small-market teams such as the Cleveland Indians, Rays, Athletics, and Pirates to thrive and play in the post-season. The game has never been stronger internationally, and it endures as the great National Pastime.