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Baseball History may be ever Changing but some things never Change

Baseball history, like all history, certainly is ever changing, but some aspects of the game have remained unchanged for well over a half-century. There are a few reasons for this - over time the basic rules of the game have for the most part remained unaltered

Sports, Sports History, Baseball

Baseball history, like all history, certainly is ever changing, but some aspects of the game have remained unchanged for well over a half-century. There are a few reasons for this - over time the basic rules of the game have for the most part remained unaltered; the development of essential skills continues to involve an investment of time and personnel by ball clubs; and fans have always flocked to see money players and exciting teams.

In 1976, Major League Baseball (MLB) was changed forever with the birth of free agency. Since its inception, the owners had held power over all players. They could trade anyone at anytime and control, with relative ease, what individuals would be paid. Great players, like Babe Ruth, usually commanded solid salaries but with free agency players were able to negotiate their contracts and to go to a team willing to pay their price.

Still, as it had always been, players had to have the skills a team needed to get their price. The one major difference was that players were now able to sign guaranteed contracts, which stated that they would be paid their salary no matter how they performed and even if they were injured.

Seventy-three years before free agency, professional baseball underwent a change that would influence the way in which the Majors conducted business and found players. In 1903 the National Association of Professional Base Ball Leagues, better known as the Minor Leagues, was formed in order to create some order in which Major League teams acquired players from small market clubs. In the 1930s the great Branch Rickey developed the structure for what we know today as the "Minor Leagues." Rickey’s formalization of the "Minors," which became dedicated to developing players who could perform in the Majors, was jokingly called the "farm system" because small town clubs were raising young players "like corn" down on the farm.

Since the 1930s, MLB has relied upon affiliate farm teams to develop players for the big leagues to supply promising prospects for trades, or to simply
provide adequate replacements when necessary. Today, the Minor League system is highly developed, bringing players up through A, AA, and AAA ball. When a team is looking to make a trade for a solid Major Leaguer, one way they can sweeten the deal is by including prospects from the minors. Additionally, one way for owners to keep costs down is to bring up players from the "farm team" when they’re ready. By doing this a MLB team can save millions of dollars.

Bringing up an adequate second baseman from the minors and paying him the minimum $327,000 for the season can prove to have more value than paying a veteran infielder 2.5 million dollars. Using a certain number of non-veterans allows a team to spend more money on other positions, especially pitching, which is always at a premium and comes at a high price.

The Minor Leagues have always been a cost-saving venture for clubs but with today’s exorbitant salaries, the strength of the players union, and most clubs carrying payrolls of under one-hundred million dollars, the strategic use of Minor League players can make the difference in both turning a profit and winning the World Series.

Using players from the farm club actually gives owners more power, since those team members who have been brought up are not eligible for salary arbitration until they have three years in the Majors and cannot become free agents until they’ve accumulated six or more years in the big leagues. Today, for a brief part of a player’s career, National and American League owners have the power they used to possess over every player prior to 1976.

Teams looking to win a championship and attract as much revenue as possible have often invested money in key players. Throughout baseball’s history, there have been owners willing to pay more than others. In 1919, some of the Chicago White Sox, which was owned by Charles Comiskey, decided to throw the World Series to their National League counterparts, the Cincinnati Reds.

The White Sox players felt they were both underpaid and under-appreciated by their boss and figured if they bet on the underdog Reds and insured that the National Leaguers would win, they’d make a tidy profit. They did just that, but they also got caught. It became known as the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, and it’s a constant reminder to owners of how a man like Comiskey, who had a whole lot of money, could be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Of course, spending a lot of money does not insure a team will win the World Series or even the League Championship. Since the New York Yankees payroll exceeded one hundred millions dollars five years ago, they’ve been unable to win it all. The last few years Steinbrenner and company have been handing over two hundred million in team pay. Last year’s champs, the Chicago White Sox, paid out a little over seventy-five million to their players. It was ironic, because they had not won the Series since 1917, prior to the big scandal.

Most analysts agree that a MLB club needs to wisely spend about seventy million to be competitive. That’s why some pu
ndits believe that the Toronto Blue Jays, who reached that magic salary mark this season by adding quality players and about thirty million to their pay roll, are a club to watch.

The basic idea at work regarding salary prior to free agency is that a happy player - one who feels he’s being treated and paid fairly - can equal a happy owner with a winning team. After free agency, the thought became that in order to compete a team had to pay a player what the market dictated and owners, to a degree, had the ability to control that market. These are, in essence, two sides of the same coin.

If we could resurrect Cy Young, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Home Run Baker and bring them out to the ballpark, they’d certainly still understand the game, even though it has changed. Since their time, there has been the development of specialty pitchers, creation of artificial turf, and the addition of the designated hitter in the American League. The mound, strike zone, and scoreboards are all different too.

Player skills are still fundamentally the same, except more advanced. They would get the idea that a better player should command more money than a player with less skill. But the overall economics of the game would probably baffle those great players. That has added a new type of off-field strategy that owners who want to win must master. Since the turn of the 19th century, it’s been the greatest change MLB has seen.


Baseballs’ Greatest Cheaters

Throughout baseball’s history of cheaters and scandal, there is only one phrase that can sum up the result of the intentions of those trying to reinvent the rules of baseball for personal gain and that phrase is - "Cheaters NEVER prosper."

Sports, Recreation, Baseball

The great American game of baseball!! Home runs, triple plays, and the World Series, make viewing this sport a great pastime. Fans, over generations of time, have come to hold special individual memories of baseball. It’s sealed in their minds; baseball IS the greatest sport of all time. Remembering, all is in the eye of the beholder, can it be that baseball history can define itself by years of great team lineups, talented athletes, extravagant game plays and greatest cheaters???

Who would have thought that in all baseball has provided for its fans, a set of stats dedicated to cheaters would fit in? No one would think that there would be a way that great athletes would conjure up or develop ways to improve their stats, career or even their place in baseball history. It is proven, however, that Hall of Fame greats and record breakers in the field of ball playing would actually be at the head of such schemes--no matter the severity of the scheme. Cheaters have been recognized throughout this sport since almos
t at its beginnings.

The most notable offenders and cheating title holders would be: John McGraw, Gaylord Perry, Ty Cobb, Mike Scott, Ken Hrbeck, Joe Niekro, Pete Rose, and Albert Belle. Later, and to add some variety to this interesting topic, one of the many baseball scandals include the 1919 Chicago White Sox sellout.

John McGraw was a Hall of Fame great who had a reputation for holding base runners by their belt loops and would even go as far as blocking and tripping runners. He was not afraid to try this stunt with runners larger than his 155lb frame.

Gaylord Perry, Hall of Fame inductee, had the infamous "spitter" ball or "Vaseline ball". While compiling his 314-265 record, this pitcher would stand on his mound and touch his sleeve or cap. At these times, he would "load up" his ball, or appear to "load up" his ball in order to psych out the batter at the plate, enhancing the hopes for a strikeout. Because of this naughty habit, this great athlete was one of the few pitchers in the sport to get reprim
anded. In 1982 he was suspended from baseball for doctoring the ball.

Ty Cobb, or otherwise known as the "Georgia Peach", was not a Hall of Famer, but held dozens of the league’s records. However, despite the records, the major reason that this athlete was able to steal bases on occasion without fail was because fielders would fear the wrath of his sharpened spikes. Cobb had a nasty habit of using his pointed spikes as weapons on the base paths.

Mike Scott, also a holder of dozens of major league statistics, had a habit of using emery boards not for the nails on his hands but to shave a little bit here and there on the ball. Altering the ball in this way allowed many of the hitters to be potential strikeout victims.

Kent Hrbek was a charismatic player who helped his team reach two World Series. In 1991, his charisma was not enough to save him when in a play, a member of the opposing team landed on his base. Lo and behold, Hrbek in an orchestrated maneuver he thought to be covert bumped the fellow off the base. He tagged the guy out. What Hrbek did not know, was that there were cameras running at certain angles poised to catch him in the act. Hrbek himself found out what it was like to be OUT!

Joe Niekro was no stranger to the emery board, ball-shaving fix. Even though Niekro claimed the emery board in his pocket was to file his fingernails so he could keep his knuckleball skills in check, it wasn’t until 1987 he was caught cheating. An umps’ eye caught an emery board flying out of Niekro’s pocket and Niekro got suspended for 10 days, no doubt giving the pitcher sufficient time to keep a neat set of nails.

Pete Rose was a gambler. At times in the world of sports, inside information has benefited players or fans alike. One small fact could swing a bet one way or another, but no one would think that a player would bet on his own team. It would not only be ethically incorrect, but a detrimental career move if caught. Hall of Fame inductee Pete Rose made such a career-crippling move by placing bets on the outcome
s of his own teams’ games!

In the unholy name of baseball cheating, there was Albert Belle. He was known to have "his own kind" of special bat; one that could have been known to hold more cork than a million bottles of champagne. In 1994, Belle was suspended for seven games in an occurrence where Albert’s bat was confiscated by an umpire after suspicions of bat tampering were made known to him.

Last, but probably forever in the name of baseball, not least, it would only seem fair to mention one event that has come to be known as one of baseball’s greater scandals. Most times, individual team members could be blamed for tampering with this great sport. But for the sake of keeping any more skeletons from coming out of closets, it can be safe to discuss this topic: The 1919 Chicago White Sox Sellout. Imagine a crowd of fans that grow to the tune of around 43,000 strong. Fans driving from far and wide. Fans waiting to see their team rise to victory in The World Series. Hopes for the true fan gets crushed when i
t is discovered that eight players of one team were paid off to lose to the other team. Then insult adds to injury; it becomes clear that the event was due to a master mob plan. The eight players involved get suspended, and later are banned from baseball for life. The White Sox reputation suffers for many years to come.

With all that said, throughout baseball’s history of cheaters and scandal, there is only one phrase that can sum up the result of the intentions of those trying to reinvent the rules of baseball for personal gain and that phrase is - "Cheaters NEVER prosper."


Bonds’ alleged cheating scandal hurting baseball history

Having just finished reading Game of Shadows – the alleged tell-all book in which the authors claim to have records detailing Barry Bonds

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Having just finished reading Game of Shadows – the alleged tell-all book in which the authors claim to have records detailing Barry Bonds’, as well as other athletes’, use of performance-enhancing drugs – it has become crystal clear that Bonds cheated, continues to cheat, and could not care less about it.

Bonds just about says this when he claims in his grand jury testimony that he hasn’t played in a baseball game since college when he attended Arizona State University. Basically, what he’s saying, and what he continues to say, is that he is an entertainer and not a competitor. He conveniently forgets how his alleged cheating has impacted the other players in the game, both past and present. And how, every night, in every stadium he plays in, he is the only person who is in on this little secret.

When I go to a game, I’m not there to be entertained. I’m there to see the team I support try to win. And when I make a wager on a team, I’m not doing it for the entertainment; I’m doing it to win. If I go to Vegas and play blackjack or craps, I consider that to be entertainment. While I would like to win, and I don’t believe the outcome has been predetermined, I still understand the odds are against me coming away a winner.

But Bonds apparently doesn’t see playing baseball as a competition. It sounds as though he views it as our opportunity to watch an “entertainer” stand up there and be walked two or three times a game and, maybe, just maybe, see him grace our presence with a home run. Get over yourself, Barry. Not only are you coming off like a pompous ass, you are also making an impact on the game that the record books will reflect forever.

For example, since 1999, when his steroid use is alleged to have begun, the San Francisco Giants have won or finished second in the NL West every year, except for last year when he spent just about all of the season on the disabled list, and they finished third. Take away Bonds’ production, or fill in the production that most players would contribute, and the Giants find themselves in a different position. Also, as he approached 40 years old, his numbers would naturally decline, not go up. With that factored in, the Giants truly would be hurting for production from Bonds.

Just ask Albert Pujols, who has finished second to Bonds in National League MVP voting twice, how Bonds’ steroid use has impacted his post-season award possibilities.

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Unfortunately, the players who have truly been impacted by Bonds’ steroid use are the players who finished playing the game years ago. Bonds, along with Mark McGwire, has succeeded at setting the bar so high that no one will be able to approach their records. In doing so, they have made the average fan believe that 40 home runs a season is nice, but not Hall of Fame-worthy. One player who has been affected by this is Andrew Dawson. Dawson hit 438 home runs and drove in 1,591 RBIs. He also played baseball for 21 years and has 2,774 hits with 8 Gold Gloves and 314 stolen bases. With close to 10 knee surgeries, Dawson should have been the one allowed to take performance-enhancing drugs, not Bonds.

One thing I love about Bonds is that he refuses to even admit that Game of Shadows exists. The book has been out for about three months now and I have yet to hear of a lawsuit filed on Bonds’ behalf that contests the contents of the book. And yet everyone just casually goes about their sports day, without a care that Bonds continues to cheat because, as an entertainer, he feels he can.

As the book explains, Bonds has never had to stand before anyone and explain his actions – not even when he was a kid. He was always the best player on the team, received the benefits that comes with that title, and he continues to expect that to be the case. Regardless of how it impacts his body, the other players in the game, the kids growing up who are learning the game, or the record books – Bonds is concerned with one thing – reaping the financial advantages that being an “entertainer” in baseball provides.

And regardless of who has to pay to make that happen, Bonds is only too happy to stand there and take the paychecks and accolades that come with it. I’ve often wondered how he sleeps at night, knowing that he has an advantage that many other players don’t have – that he has cheated to get to where he is. And the only answer I can come up with is that when you are on the stage and being an entertainer, it’s just acting. It’s not who you really are – so you can get away with more. The question I have for Bonds is, when the show is over and you walk off the stage – who are you then?

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