Baseball is still great.

The 2019 playoffs proved just that.

Unfortunately the people that run baseball are not great. They lack the vision to keep their product in the spotlight. They act like they don’t care about their fans.

During the playoffs, games routinely ran over four hours. They start games after 8:00 PM, meaning that many games weren’t ending until past midnight. Not only are they losing a generation of fans because these times are well past kids’ bedtimes, but adults can’t make it to the ends of games like these on weekdays.

They juiced the balls this year to create more home runs. It didn’t matter because replay was an issue, teams tanked, length of games continued to be too long, and pitching was worse than ever.

Despite all of those issues, baseball ratings were up during the regular season. In other words, people still enjoy watching baseball. So why not make your biggest event, the World Series, available to more fans?

It starts with the playoffs, where you have to be Houdini to figure out which channel the games are going to be on. Then we have the aforementioned late start times. Why not start the games at 7:00? That would still put games firmly in the prime time window, but also allow them to be completed at a more reasonable hour. Oh, and cut down on the commercials. I know that helps pay the bills, but it’s easy to doze off in between innings with the length of these breaks.

Some will say playoff ratings were down because so many people have “cut the cord” with their TV viewing. Still, baseball needs to do a better job of making the playoffs more viewable.

This year’s playoffs were filled with great drama, great matchups, clutch hits, and great pitching matchups. Simply put, these playoffs were “must watch” for a baseball fan. Unfortunately the people who run baseball didn’t make the most of a great end to the 2019 season.

I still love baseball. Moreover I love when sports provide us with drama. The 2019 Major League Playoffs did just that. I just wish I knew someone else who watched them.

Two Cent Takes

Baseball

~I hate that a wildcard team won the World Series again. If you can’t even win your division then you shouldn’t have the opportunity to win the World Series.

Baseball is a game based on a lengthy season of 162 games. In a season that long, you should have to win your division.

~Gerrit Cole showed he still has some maturity issues. Immediately after losing game seven, he announced he was no longer an employee of the Houston Astros and donned a Scott Boras(his agent) hat. Clearly he was still bitter about not being used in game seven, but this was still a bad look.

~Cole should win the Cy Young.

NHL

~The Penguins took on a new identity with Evgeni Malkin out with injury. Malkin is back, and here is hoping they continue to play the same style of hockey.

~The Flyers have been alternating goalies. Carter Hart is the guy they would like to step up and take the job. He hasn’t done so thus far this season. Brian Elliott hasn’t exactly been lights out, but he is outperforming Hart. That probably needs to change if the Flyers are to make a run this year.

College Football

~Coaching Seat temperature check:

  • Clay Helton(USC)-Seat is already in ashes.
  • Willie Taggert(Florida St)-Seat in flames. *Correction: Seat has been taken.
  • Mark Dantonio(Michigan St)-Hot
  • Brian Kelly(Notre Dame)-Very warm
  • Kevin Sumlin(Arizona)-Toasty.
  • Gus Malzhan(Auburn)-Should be cool, but it’s Auburn, so still warm.
  • Chad Morris(Arkansas)-Too hot to sit on.
  • Chip Kelly(UCLA)-Kindling was put away. Sitting comfortably.
  • Pat Narduzzi(Pitt)-Should be warm, but probably isn’t.
  • Jim Harbaugh(Michigan)-Just ordered a new comfy chair.

~Obvious good coaching jobs are being done by P.J. Fleck at Minnesota and Matt Ruhle at Baylor. Under the radar good jobs being done by Dave Clawson at Wake Forest, Chris Klieman at Kansas State, Troy Calhoun at Air Force, and Ken Niumatalolo at Navy. Way under the radar good coaching job being done by Jonathan Smith at Oregon State.

~Don’t look now ESPN Gameday, but FOX’s new college football Big Noon Kickoff show is very good. Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Brady Quinn bring a more youthful outlook to the show. Urban Meyer is fantastic, and Rob Stone is a very competent host. Gameday still has the better human interest stories and the picks segment is still good. However the football talk is by far better on FOX.

This past weekend the FOX crew had a spirited discussion on making the playoffs eight teams, and Meyer was adamant about uniform scheduling with a point system for scheduling quality games. I’ve been saying this for two years now.

~The targeting rule needs tweaked. Another Saturday of games, and another Saturday of questionable ejections for targeting. Admittedly, some targeting calls are obvious, and yes player safety is important. On the flip side, some calls are made because their is “some” contact with the helmet. Defensive players need to still have the ability to come up and tackle a player. That is the idea of defense. Prevent the offense from getting more yards. In that tackling process helmets may meet. This is not targeting. And to eject a player for such plays is criminal.

~Georgia threw their hat back in the playoff ring with a solid win over Florida. Kirby Smart appeared to realize again that Jake Fromm does know how to throw the ball down field. They still have Auburn, but the Bulldogs seem to be headed for another SEC Championship game.

~Utah and Oregon had big road wins and may be headed for a PAC 12 Championship showdown. Both teams warrant discussion in the playoff conversation.

~USC was absolutely humiliated Saturday by Oregon at home in the Coliseum. After taking a 10-0 lead USC allowed Oregon to go on a 56-7 run. Clay Helton is done. Mike Bohn, Cincinnati University AD, will be named the USC AD as early as today. Then it becomes, not if, but when he fires Helton. Depending on who you talk to, Urban Meyer is a sure thing to be the next head coach, or he is never going to become the next head coach.

Another name that comes up in every discussion on this topic is James Franklin. One would think, considering how good Penn State should be next season, it would take an unbelievable amount of cash to lure Franklin out of Happy Valley. Remember, USC is in this situation because former AD Pat Haden said Ed Orgeron wasn’t head coaching material. LSU begs to differ.

~Though USC is having a tough time on the field, they still have great fans.

Ironically, these three fans think Clay Helton is clueless, too.

~Two Cent Top Ten:

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Alabama
  4. Clemson
  5. Penn State
  6. Georgia
  7. Oregon
  8. Utah
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Tie: Minnesota and Baylor

These are the only teams still alive. LSU and Alabama meet this week, as well as Penn State and Minnesota. Baylor hosts Oklahoma in two weeks. I wouldn’t be shocked if the current top four are the final four.

NFL

~Frank Reich is a good football coach.

The Colts Adam Viniateri used to be a good field goal kicker. He missed a potential game winning kick Sunday in Pittsburgh by approximately 432 yards. He is finished.

Holder Rigoberto Sanchez should be replaced. His hold for Viniateri was the exact opposite of what you want.

Everyone knows…LACES OUT!

~The Steelers will really have to be patient with Mason Rudolph. He seems to play a bit timid. Getting knocked to a different galaxy will do that to you. He’s going to have to get comfortable slinging it down the field some times.

In fairness, the rest of the offense hasn’t made it easy on Rudolph. The wide receivers don’t get a ton of separation, the offensive line is allowing to much push by the defense, and the running backs are banged up.

Last but not least, Randy Fichtner has to be the worst offensive coordinator in the league.

~Mike Tomlin is thrilled to be 4-4 at this point. The remaining schedule is soft, and the AFC is not good. Tomlin is doing a nice job with this team and all the injuries. Actually, Tomlin is a better coach as the underdog than when he is playing with a loaded roster. Remember, the man has never had a losing season.

~Sam Darnold is seeing ghosts, goblins, and many other unidentified objects. See here:

And here:

I watched this kid win game after game at USC playing for one of the worst head coaches in college football. He is playing for a horrible coach in the NFL, Adam Gase, but now looks like he never played the game of football before. This is baffling. He’s a good kid that’s easy to root for, so hopefully this stretch doesn’t define his career.

~The Eagles go into their bye week feeling good. The offense is developing into what I thought they would be. A nice one-two punch in the backfield with Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard, a nice stable of receivers, and maybe the best tandem of tight ends in football.

The path to nine wins is easy to see. From there the Eagles still have home games with New England and Seattle plus a revenge road tilt with Dallas. Ten wins seems reasonable, maybe eleven. That may just win the NFC East.

~The Detroit Lions lose more last minute games than any team I’ve ever seen.

~Chucky is making winning look like child’s play in Oakland.

~Seattle may be that team this year that makes the playoffs without ever looking impressive.

~The Chargers got a nice win against the Packers Sunday, meaning my Super Bowl pick still has a faint pulse.

~Speaking of the Super Bowl, Baker Mayfield and the Browns’ path there is going to be more difficult than they expected. Greatness isn’t easy, eh Cleveland? Suddenly pretty boy Mayfield looks like a ‘70’s porn star coming off a weekend bender.

~Allow me to end my takes with this. Replay, in general, stinks. The added pass interference replay is a complete disaster. You have officials making terrible, unnecessary calls, then replay upholds the call.

Thanks to the New Orleans Saints complaints, and they were justified, now we have to endure this nonsense. The replay officials finally overturned a pass interference call in the Vikings/Chiefs game. It was such an egregious call that it had to be overturned. Weekly, though, there are 4 or 5 calls that should be changed and aren’t. One more delay, and one more thing to hate about replay.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting fired everyone below him in the organization. As well he should have. It’s the breaking up of the Stooges.

How sad.

I’m wondering when the ticker tape parade will be held. According to some in the Pittsburgh media, Bob Nutting has just set the course for the next championship era of Pirates baseball.

Sorry if I’m not throwing confetti. You see, Moe got rid of the other Stooges, but unfortunately for Pirates fans he still owns the team. At no point during his ownership of the Pirates has Nutting shown any inclination to want to win.

Oh sure, he had three straight winning seasons. 2013-2015 were tremendous baseball seasons, considering the 20 years that preceded them. However, they never won a division. During these three seasons, Nutting never authorized GM Neal Huntington to make a move for a difference maker. Difference makers cost too much. Huntington, who largely was a failure at his job, actually made some quality minor moves to add to those teams.

Otherwise, Nutting has overseen losing and lots of it. He has seemed fine with that because he was, and is, still making a profit. I refuse to praise Nutting for making moves that were long overdue.

Frank Coonelly did some fine things with Pirates charities. On the baseball side he was an utter failure. Neal Huntington had some successes as GM of the Pirates, but largely failed at the most important aspects of his job. He drafted poorly, evaluated talent poorly, hired poor people with strange ideas to work under him, and along with those folks developed players poorly. He needed to go. Manager Clint Hurdle’s message wore off long ago. He was a great ambassador of the city of Pittsburgh. He cared about his players. But it was definitely time for a change.

Nutting liked to sit back and let Hurdle and Huntington take the bullets for their failures. Heck, I’m still convinced it was Nutting who pushed Huntington to make the Chris Archer trade. He was trying to get that “Won’t make a go for it move” monkey off his back. He lied to fans when he said if they showed up then payroll would go up. Fans showed up in record numbers, then after 2015 payroll went down. It bottomed out last year, including not spending the $50 million in computer money that each team got.

During his media session, after hiring Travis Williams as the new team president, Nutting waxed on about how unfair baseball’s financial system is for small markets. He’s correct. Yet nobody from the Pirates organization has ever spoken up during CBA negotiations about wanting a fairer system. Not once. So color me skeptical about how upset he really is.

So you see, Bob Nutting hasn’t done anything to earn my trust. He won’t get a pat on the back for firing people that had long overstayed their welcome. He won’t get my sympathy for hating a broken baseball financial system. I’m certainly not going to buy into the “he’s serious this time” nonsense. Give me a break.

I will be happy to give Nutting a cap tip when the Pirates show improvement and make moves that look like the owner actually cares about winning.

Until then I’ll assume Moe is sitting in his lodge at Seven Springs counting nickels and trying to figure out how to sue Lonnie Chisenhall for stealing $2.75 million and one Pirates hat.

Just my two cents…