(Blogathon ’16) David Brown- Taters, tobacco and terror: Baseball in the Future

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

In the year 2025 — if man is still alive, anyway — attending a Major League Baseball game might be very different than what fans experience today. Sound unlikely on the surface? Just look at what’s going on in the news recently. Changes won’t happen overnight, but…

In the year 2025…

• Pitchers, like the great Bartolo Colon, might not hit for themselves anymore in the National League. And not just because Colon would be in his early 50s by then.

• Sluggers like David Ortiz might not dip smokeless tobacco when they stroll the plate. Grab yourself, spit and repeat.

• Fans like you and me might not be allowed to consume ballpark food such as hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack because of ISIS.

Taters, tobacco and terror. What in the name of Aldous Huxley is going on here?

Granted, we’re in the annual baseball no-man’s land right now, in which we’ve got more time and less to write about. Free-agency has stalled, spring training isn’t ready yet. We’re caught between seasons and we’ve got writers digging deep into the minutiae.

In other words, the NL isn’t about to adopt the designated hitter in 2016 or 2017. The sight of tobacco isn’t going to disappear from MLB ballparks overnight, no matter that it will be illegal at three stadiums in 2016. And there’s no chance you won’t be able to try the 9-9-9 challenge (consuming nine hot dogs and nine beers over nine innings) in the coming season.

But in another decade, it might be different. Can you handle it?

Anyone who has grown up with baseball over the past 40 years has done so with the DH in the AL and eight-men lineups in the NL. With the introduction of interleague play in 1997 and the elimination of the league presidents, the differences between leagues are not so distinct anymore. The DH is really the only thing. And its existence represents a competition issue. It’s not fair for either side when it comes to regular season or the World Series. Beyond the quaintness of it all, MLB should have one set of rules.

Although he has since “hit the brakes,” on expanding the DH, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is on the record saying that it’s more likely to come to the NL than it was, say, 20 years ago. This is him, via ESPN:

“Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some sort of heretical comment,” Manfred said Thursday. “But we have a newer group. There’s been turnover. And I think our owners in general have demonstrated a willingness to change the game in ways that we think would be good for the fans, always respecting the history and traditions of the sport.”

While lots of owners, players and fans like the status quo, the quality of hitting among pitchers has really waned. Not that it ever was great. But they can’t all be Madison Bumgarner or Colon, who at least entertains if not produces at the plate.

Smokeless tobacco is in the news because Los Angeles became the third major city Tuesday to ban chaw at ballparks — from municipal Little League fields to Dodger Stadium. Boston, with Fenway Park, and San Francisco, with AT&T, have done likewise. You can’t dip if you sit in the stands or play on the field. Some will complain about government continuing to meddle in individual lives, and they have a point — although worrying about what the NSA does is a little more troubling — but it’s also a public health issue. It’s a disgusting and dangerous habit, and kids don’t need to see ballplayers doing it.

That’s how representatives of the San Francisco Giants look at it — somewhat surprisingly — via MLB.com:

After considering the issue carefully, left-hander Madison Bumgarner issued a statement: “Hopefully it will be a positive thing for us players. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, but I support the city.”

Manager Bruce Bochy approved of the law.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “I think it can be a good thing. It’s going to be hard to enforce. It’s a tough habit to break.”

Smokeless-tobacco use has been banned in the Minor Leagues since June 15, 1993. Major Leaguers cannot be prohibited from chewing or dipping tobacco without an agreement from the Players Association.

Still, Lenny Dykstra, you know? The sight of a ballplayer putting a pinch between his cheek and gum, hocking a loogie and swinging the bat is indelible. Dipping tobacco, while disgusting, is “baseball tradition,” as John Ferrell put it. It’s ubiquitous with the sport. If it disappeared tomorrow, we’d all be better off. But it would be weird.

The last big change would be the weirdest. No concessions, at least as we’ve come to know them, at the ballpark. Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, suggested last week that MLB parks could be made safer by not selling food. Marlins president David Samson said as much via ESPN:

According to Samson, Johnson told the group a stadium could be 100 percent secure if additional steps were taken, such as prohibiting fans from bringing any bags and eliminating food and food-services workers. Checking the trunks and bottoms of cars entering parking lots outside ballparks could be another step discussed at some point.

No pitchers hitting. No tobacco. No hot dogs. What’s next? No beer? Baseball in the future sounds fun! When do we get there?

A member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Dave has worked for CBS Sports, Yahoo, the Northwest Herald, and the Associated Press. He grew up in Chicago and resides with his family in Kansas City.

This guest-post was part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

 

 

Speculating on future All-Star Game Locations

This year, the All-Star Game is in Minnesota. In 2015, it’ll be in Cincinnati.

So what’s after that? Well, Commissioner Selig has said that they want to keep it on the NL-AL-NL-AL rotation, but that leads to this little problem: there are more stadiums in the National League that haven’t hosted the ASG than the American League: After this year, the AL will have only two stadiums (New Yankee Stadium and Tropicana Field) that haven’t hosted an All-Star Game- and practically that just means that there is just one AL stadium still to host, since I doubt Tropicana will get ever get one. Meanwhile, the NL will, after next year, still have four stadiums (Philly, San Diego, DC, Miami) and will have another (the new Braves park) on the way.

 

So, it’s looking like the next decade or so will see a pattern of new stadiums (in NL years) followed by old stadiums (in AL years), with the exception of the year that New Yankee Stadium gets it or (less likely) in new Athletics or Rays parks.

 

Let’s look into the Crystal Ball (speculation is:

 

2014: Target Field, Minneapolis

This, of course, is already set.

2015: Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati

This also is already set.

2016: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Type in “2016 MLB All-Star Game” into Google, and the front page is almost entirely of articles talking about how Baltimore and Camden Yards are the front-runners for the game. The only other place mentioned is Wrigley Field (as 2016 would be the 100th Anniversary of the Cubs playing there), but that was from an article in 2011, and goes against the current schedule and also doesn’t take into account that Wrigley will be heavily remodeled in the next few years.

2017: PETCO Park, San Diego

The only things I could find on early 2017 speculation was around Nationals Park and Marlins Park. I don’t think either will get it. The Nationals won’t get it because I doubt MLB would have an All-Star Game site so close to the previous year’s site. The Marlins probably wouldn’t get it because it’s likely that the rest of baseball’s owners will still be angry at Jeffrey Loria, should he still own them, for being a constant PR nightmare who blows up teams every few years. By the way, if my current prediction is correct, the next Marlins fire sale should be in either 2016 or 2017.

So, instead, the game would go to PETCO Park in San Diego, partially due to process of elimination, and partially because San Diego is gorgeous.

2018: New Yankee Stadium, New York City

By 2018, it’ll have been five All-Star Games since the Mets hosted the All-Star Game in 2013. That, coincidentally, is also the span of time between when old Yankee Stadium hosted and when the Mets had it. So, by 2018, it should be safe for the All-Star Game to come back to the Bronx.

2019: New Atlanta Braves Stadium, Cobb County GA

With the exception of teams that are unlucky enough to have new stadiums dangerously close to when their neighbors gets All-Star Games or that are borderline pariahs (the Marlins), Major League Baseball likes getting the All-Star Game to them, particularly if the local government paid for most of the stadium’s construction. So, the new Braves Stadium, due to open in 2017, would be a prime candidate in 2019. Another possibility: Wrigley Field.

2020: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada

By 2020, the Blue Jays will be playing on grass, not turf! That will change a lot about the once-Skydome, and will make it a more appealing place to hold an All-Star Game.

2021: Nationals Stadium, Washington DC

By 2021, it’ll have been long enough since the Orioles’ held it for DC to hold the ASG. Alternate possibility: renovated Wrigley Field.

2022: New Athletics Stadium, Who-Knows-Where

Technically, the Athletics recently signed a 10 year extension to their captivity at the Oakland Coliseum, but, I’m sorry, if the Athletics stay in the Oakland Coliseum as it currently is for the next 10 years, I’ll eat my hat. Maybe the Raiders will move to LA (again) and they’ll blow up Mount Davis and turn the Coliseum into a baseball-only venue. Maybe they’ll finally move to San Jose. Maybe they’ll go to Montreal, San Antonio, San Juan, Las Vegas, Portland or any of the other bugaboos that are drummed up anytime a team wants a new stadium. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that by 2022 the Athletics will be in a new place.

If not, uh, I dunno, Texas maybe? Or Cleveland?

2023: Marlins Park, Miami

Loria will have either sold the Marlins or died by this point, and even if he hadn’t the turnover in MLB ownership would have been enough where maybe there won’t be enough people who dislike him enough to keep the All-Star Game away from him. If neither of those things are true: Wrigley Field.

2024: Fenway Park, Boston

It’ll be the 25th Anniversary of the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. That was the All-Star Game when Ted Williams came out and waved to the crowd. I can only presume that he can be stitched back together and unthawed in time to repeat the feat in 2024.

 

So, what do you think of these predictions? Too pessimistic on the chances for Miami or DC?

Also, if you are wondering why Philadelphia isn’t listed, it’s because they are on record as wanting the game in 2026, as part of America’s 250th birthday. Of course, that would require a break in the current rotation of AL-NL, but, hey, there’s 12 years to figure that out.

 

Expanding on my idea for future WBCs

Awhile ago, I briefly had some thoughts on how the World Baseball Classic could change and expand in the future. I figured I would expand a bit on that for this, the BASEBALL CONTINUUM 1ST ANNIVERSARY SPECTACULAR (or, rather, the overflow from it). This is something of a lengthy post, so go below the jump for it.

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The Biggest Stories That Haven’t Happened Yet

I once wrote an article on things that hadn’t happened in a baseball game yet. Today’s article is about something else: the biggest baseball stories that haven’t happened yet, the ones off the field (or at least not only on the field). We’re talking the stories that would get attention beyond seamheads like you or me. Go below the jump to see what I mean.

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