Monday, July 24, 2017

Switch BP Times

With the Yankees headed back home for the first time since the All*Star Break, I got to thinking about something that was discussed a lot during the Home Run Derby, where Aaron Judge put on a show.  Aaron Judge puts on a show during batting practice everyday.  Yet Yankees fans never get to see that show unless they go to a road game.

It's a long-standing baseball practice that the home team hits first in batting practice.  This is standard across the Major Leagues, and I'd imagine it's the same in the Minors.  What I'm not sure of is whether or not it's a rule that the home team has to go first.  But I wouldn't imagine Because it doesn't really make that much sense.

In college baseball, it makes complete sense that the home team takes batting practice first.  The visiting team is most likely traveling by bus from either their campus or a hotel.  By taking batting practice second, they have extra travel time and no long break between BP and the game.

I would imagine that travel considerations are part of the reason Major League Baseball has kept that traditional order of home team first/road team second.  (Although, how many road teams are traveling any further than from a hotel to the ballpark these days?)  It's also very familiar to the players, who have their pregame routines that they've become comfortable with.  Are those good enough reasons to stick with the status quo, though?

Major League Baseball is evidently looking into the batting practice order and considering a change.  Which they should.  Because Aaron Judge isn't the only player who puts on a show during BP.  There are plenty of sluggers who do.  Except they're doing it in empty stadiums.  Even the fans who come early to check out BP don't get to see them.  Because they're doing it before the gates open!

Fans aren't coming to the ballpark early to watch the visiting team take batting practice.  They don't care who the guys on the other team are.  They just want a baseball.  But if you switched the order and had the home team bat second (just like in the game), my prediction is that the number of people who come early to watch BP would at least double.  And they wouldn't just be trying to catch a home run ball, either.  They'd be there to watch the Aaron Judge Show.  Or the Giancarlo Stanton Show.  Or the (insert hometown slugger here) show.

The Yankees understand the ridiculous desire their fans have to watch Aaron Judge take batting practice.  That was one of the reasons they had the "BP Block Party" earlier this season, where they opened the gates an hour earlier so that fans could, among other activities, watch the Yankees take BP.  Of course, it started to rain, so the BP part of the BP Block Party ended early, but the idea is one that more teams should embrace.

When I told my dad about the BP Block Party and everything they were doing, he told me about how much fun he used to have when he was a kid and would do the same thing.  Except they did it all the time back then.  The game started at 2:00 and they opened the gates at 11:00, meaning the hometown fans would get to watch Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and Yogi Berra take batting practice every day.  Nowadays, the only batting practice you get to see is the other team.

A simple solution would be to just to do what they did back then and open the gates an hour earlier.  However, it's a lot to ask of the fans to spend three hours at the ballpark before the game even starts (even if it does mean you'll have significantly more beer sales).  There's no reason to open the gates early, though.  Not when there's an even better solution out there.

Baseball is for the fans.  And the fans don't want to just hear the stories about the majestic bombs Aaron Judge hits in batting practice.  They want to see them for themselves.  Right now, they can't do that.  But if Baseball simply switched the batting practice times and had the home team hit second, after the gates open, they'll be able to.  And it'll be a win-win for everybody.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Basketball Everyday

Did I miss something?  When did basketball become the American version of European soccer?  Is there something in ESPN's NBA contract that requires them to have some sort of basketball game on 365 days a year?  Because that's literally the only reason I can think of why a new ridiculous summer basketball tournament pops up every week...and ESPN treats each one like it's the freakin' NCAA Tournament!

Now, I know a lot of you are probably thinking this, so I'll get it out of the way up front.  This has nothing to do with my not liking the NBA.  I enjoy the sport of basketball.  I just don't need to watch it 12 months a year.  Especially when it's not even good basketball.

And is there really so little on in the summer that ESPN needs to cover the NBA Summer League like it's the actual regular season (which is only slightly less meaningless than the Summer League)?  Seriously, why am I seeing NBA Summer League scores on the freakin' ticker before baseball scores?!  Why am I seeing basketball scores at all in the middle of July?  Unless it's some sort of international FIBA tournament, any basketball game played during the summer is, frankly, pretty irrelevant.  And anybody who doesn't think that is simply fooling themselves.

Let's start with the NBA Summer League.  Why does ESPN care so much?  It's essentially the NFL preseason, except worse, because the starters aren't even there.  It's literally the guys they just drafted like a week before, some unsigned free agents, and a bunch of players "trying out" who are only there because they need to fill out their rosters.  You're basically watching the NBA D-League.  Yet ESPN would have you believe these are make-or-break games.  Why else did we get those constant Lonzo Ball updates?

The NBA Summer League at least has a legitimate purpose.  It's the first opportunity coaches have to work with their rookies, and it gives the rookies their first real taste of the NBA game, even if it is the Bud Light version.  It's like OTAs in the NFL.  Except you know the difference between OTAs and the NBA Summer League?  The NFL knows no one wants to watch OTAs, so they don't put them on TV!

However, I haven't found an actual purpose for either The Basketball Tournament or that new Allen Iverson 3x3 thing.  The Basketball Tournament especially.  As far as I can tell, the sole reason that thing exists is to give an extra 15 minutes to former college players who couldn't let go and move on with their lives.  It's their chance to prove that they're still "basketball players."  It's their NBA.

It's an ego thing.  Nothing more.  And the fact that it's on ESPN only exacerbates the problem.  Now you're getting those 15 minutes on a national stage.  And, who knows, maybe an NBA scout will be watching, see you can still play, and offer you a shot.  That scenario, of course, is highly unlikely.  But I have no doubt there are guys playing in these tournaments who think that.

"Basketball players" can be found everywhere.  How many people out there have absolutely no talent, but think they can play in the NBA?  Well dude, I've got news for you.  You might be a star in those pickup games in the park against 40-year-olds, but if you've never played competitively at any level (or you were "on the team," but just sat on the bench), you're not going to the NBA!

ESPN isn't helping these people in any way.  In fact, they're only making things worse by giving them this avenue to "show off" their talents.  Just like it's not helping the former pros or former college players who are desperately trying to stay relevant (or become relevant again).

I could be wrong.  People might actually watch these games, and I bet there are even people who actually care.  The ratings could justify their existence and explain why we have a new tournament every week.  I also have no idea what the attendance at these things is.  Maybe I'm totally off base and there's a large enough percentage of the population that these events actually make money.

But there's no denying ESPN is trying too hard to make these events a "thing."  We've long known that ESPN is obsessed with the NBA, but maybe it's just basketball in general that our friends in Bristol are obsessed with.  That's the only explanation I can think of as to why they're trying to give America a year-round sport, whether it wants one or not.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Who Else Will Move?

The other day, I looked ahead towards the baseball trading deadline by examining what I thought were the biggest needs for some contending teams.  Well, the ball started rolling almost immediately, with Jose Quintana switching Chicago teams and the Nationals addressing their bullpen needs by getting Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland, then the Yankees pulled off that blockbuster with the White Sox, bringing Todd Frazier and David Robertson to the Bronx.

That was just a start.  There's still two weeks left until the deadline.  You know plenty of other guys are getting moved.  But who?  Well, there are several names that I feel pretty confident will move.  Where they might go is another question.

Sonny Gray, A's: He's probably the best starting pitcher you know is being shopped.  Houston would like to add a starter, but I don't see Oakland trading him within the division.  That leaves the Yankees as the other best fit and, in my opinion, Gray's most likely destination.  The Yankees already needed a starter, and Michael Pineda needing Tommy John surgery made that need even more pressing.  And, with the haul of prospects acquired in last year's trades, they have the players to make the deal worthwhile for the A's.

Brad Hand, Padres: Something tells me Hand is going to end up in Boston.  Outside of Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox bullpen is not very good (neither is their lineup for that matter).  If they're going to have any shot at making a run deep into October, adding a reliever is a must.  And there are worse options than an All-Star lefty setup guy.

Pat Neshek, Phillies: Speaking of All-Star setup guys...  Neshek brings additional value because he has all that postseason experience with the Cardinals.  I'm assuming the Phillies won't let the Nationals anywhere near him, but I do think Neshek will likely stay in the National League.  They already don't lose, but just imagine how much more unbeatable the Dodgers would be if they could plug Neshek in there between the starters and Jansen.

Jay Bruce, Mets: They aren't going to make the playoffs and they have like six starting outfielders, which means the Mets are probably going to deal at least one of them.  And Bruce, who they got as a quasi-rental last year, seems like the most likely candidate.  His contract is up at the end of the year, so Bruce would be one of those two-month rentals.  I would've said Arizona before they got J.D. Martinez.  But he got hit by a pitch in the hand in his first game with the Diamondbacks, so an outfielder might be back on the table for them.

Yonder Alonso, A's: Who doesn't need a lefty power bat off the bench?  I think this one could be the surprise.  I have a feeling Alonso will be traded.  I just have no idea where.  That's why I see a team coming out of nowhere and snatching him up.  For some reason, I see Colorado being the ones to make that move.  Or Milwaukee.

Matt Adams, Braves: Freddie Freeman moved to third so that Adams could stay at first.  Who does that help, though?  The Braves aren't good, Freeman's not a third baseman, and Adams can't play defense.  He's the second coming of Adam Dunn.  He should be DHing for an American League team.  If Kansas City decides they're in it and choose to be buyers rather than sellers, I can see Adams helping them out down the stretch, then potentially taking over at first next year if Hosmer leaves as a free agent.

Mike Moustakas, Royals: However, if the Royals fall out of it, it's very realistic to envision them unloading some of their pending free agents.  And Boston has coveted Mike Moustakas for months.  Especially now that Todd Frazier's in New York, the Red Sox could panic and give up too much for Moustakas.  Although, if he were to go to the Red Sox, that wouldn't necessarily be a rental.  Since you know they're gonna go after him hard in the offseason wherever he finishes 2017.

Darren O'Day and/or Brad Brach, Orioles: Baltimore's got an abundance of relievers, and I can see the Orioles unloading at least one of them at the deadline.  Cleveland's trade for and brilliant use of Andrew Miller was one of the primary reasons why they got to extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series last year.  Can lightning strike twice with either Brach or O'Day?

Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays: Out of all the Blue Jays starters, Sanchez seems like the most likely to be dealt (assuming they trade any of them at all).  Yes, they'd probably get more for Marcus Stroman, but we all know how much the Blue Jays love their wannabe shortstop, so that's probably not happening.  Sanchez, who's a free agent after the season and making only half a million though...that's a different story.  He's the one you can easily see heading to Houston.

Melky Cabrera, White Sox: Believe it or not, the White Sox still have some players left on the roster!  It might not be for long, though, since Melky Cabrera might be the next one to move.  Especially since he's a proven postseason contributor.  And a switch hitter.  A team like Washington could certainly use him.

I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of wheeling and dealing going on over the next two weeks.  Last year, we saw the Cubs and Indians both get to the World Series on the strength of their deadline moves (with a little help from the Yankees).  Can somebody do the same this year?  It's gonna be really interesting to see.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Opening Weekend for the Olympic Channel

In news that will shock no one who reads this next sentence, I was very excited for the launch of the Olympic Channel over the weekend.  In fact, I actually called my cable company during the week to make sure that I got it (I do).  And, despite some initial glitches (it was just a black screen for the first few hours), I'm impressed by what I've seen so far.

This isn't the first time the USOC has attempted to launch an Olympic Channel.  Comcast and the USOC were ready to launch way back in 2009, but they met a ton of resistance from the IOC.  That's putting it mildly.  The IOC was not happy at all, and a lot of people think that was one of the things that led to Chicago's embarrassing first-round defeat in the race for the 2016 Games (which obviously went to Rio).

So what's the difference now?  The IOC is on board.  They have their own Olympic Channel, and they actually encouraged NBC to launch an American version.  Branded as "The Home of Team USA," the Olympic Channel promises to show a number of sports that you ordinarily wouldn't see on TV outside of the Olympics.  (The fact that NBC already had the rights to many of these events certainly helped.)

For example, if you had told me that I'd be sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon watching men's synchronized diving just because I could, my reaction would've been "Yeah, right."  But there I was on Saturday, watching the men's synchronized springboard at the World Championships.  There's been a steady helping of the Aquatics World Championships on the Olympic Channel over the network's first few days.  They've shown diving, water polo and synchronized swimming, and they'll have the morning prelims when swimming starts over the weekend.

The swimming finals will be on NBC and NBCSN, which was a point NBC Olympic executives were sure to make.  The major events that you would expect to see on regular TV still will be.  That means your World Championships in swimming and track & field.  What we're seeing on the Olympic Channel is the niche stuff that the casual fan won't make it a point to watch.  Case in point, they showed a preliminary round water polo game between Greece and Spain this afternoon.  When would you have seen any preliminary round game, even one involving the U.S., at the water polo World Championships before the Olympic Channel came around?

It wasn't just the water sports, though.  They've been showing the Paralympic track & field World Championships, and I've watched two U.S. women's volleyball matches.  That Olympic Channel launch special has been on about half a dozen times a day, too (I give them credit for doing 24 hours without infomercials, though).  I've also seen on the program guide for this weekend the World Games, which are the Olympics for non-Olympic sports.  Did any of you even know that such a thing existed?

Yes, most of this stuff is content NBC acquired when Universal Sports went out of business.  Since then, they had been showing most of it on the now-defunct Universal HD, which primarily showed reruns of broadcast shows and movies when it didn't randomly have the NBC Sports events.  They never really fit there.  But that's exactly the type of programming that the Olympic Channel was made for.  And there are plenty of Olympic fans who will soak up the year-round content.

And some of that year-round content looks pretty intriguing.  In addition to the sports coverage, they'll have Olympic documentaries, both from the IOC's vast library and ones that they've produced themselves.  And, perhaps most excitingly, past Olympics.  The 2008 Opening Ceremony is on sometime this week, and they're going to show all eight games from the Dream Team in late August.  Who could possibly not be excited about that?

Although, their archived Olympic coverage is somewhat limited, which is the only "problem" I have with that.  This isn't NBC's fault since they only own the rights to Games they've covered, but how cool would it be to see the Miracle on Ice or the 1984 LA Games?  Likewise, one of their documentaries will be on the 20th anniversary of the Nagano hockey tournament, the first one featuring NHL players (irony of that is not lost, especially since NBC carries the NHL), but they can't show any of those actual games since the 1998 Olympics were on CBS.

How the Olympic Channel is going to be used during the Olympics themselves remains to be seen.  Again, they stressed that the whole point is to promote Team USA between Olympics.  Although, with the PyeongChang Winter Games coming up in February, we'll find out soon.  My guess is that it'll either be some type of overflow channel for hockey (think the soccer/basketball subchannels last year in Rio) or they'll have studio analysis.

What I am sure about is that they won't show live event coverage on the Olympic Channel (unless they do use it as an overflow hockey channel).  Not with the amount of money NBC spends to be the Olympic rights holder.

However they decide to utilize the Olympic Channel in PyeongChang and Tokyo and beyond really doesn't matter.  That's not the point of the channel.  The point of the channel is to keep Team USA relevant beyond those two weeks every other year.  And so far, it's working.  It's only been three days, but so far, so good.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Time to Combine Copas

Last year, we saw an incredible soccer tournament, as the best teams across the Americas met in the Copa America Centenario.  It got so many people (me being one of them) thinking how great it would be if the combined tournament became a permanent arrangement.  And now I'm seeing that they're planning on expanding both tournaments.  That's even more reason to just combine them.

The Copa America Centenario featured 16 teams--all 10 from CONMEBOL and six from CONCACAF.  Largely because of the success of that tournament, CONMEBOL announced in April that it would make the 16-team field permanent, starting with the 2019 edition in Brazil.  Which means that instead of inviting just one additional team other than Mexico (which participates in every Copa America), now they have to add six.

It's likely that the United States will also snag an invitation to the 2019 Copa America.  But the other four invitations will apparently go to European powerhouses, although Japan and Australia have also been mentioned.  In any event, Portugal would likely be included, pretty much for the sole reason of having Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar in the same tournament.  (They already have that tournament.  It's called the World Cup.)

Except here's the kicker (and the obvious flaw with this plan), they'd only be able to do it in 2019!  FIFA wants Copa America to be in the same year as the Euro, so CONMEBOL also agreed to that change.  Starting in 2020, Copa America will be moved to the even year and played in the same year as the Euros.  So, if the tournaments are in the same year, they obviously won't be able to involve European teams (who, by the way, have no business playing for the championship of the Americas in the first place!).

Of course, the fact that there's only 10 teams in CONMEBOL has always made the Copa America somewhat awkward anyway.  And it's why the idea of combining the Gold Cup and Copa America into one makes so much sense.  Especially with the cycle changing from odd years to the non-World Cup even year.

I'm not opposed to the idea of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.  In fact, I think it should be used as a qualifying tournament.  The eight teams that make the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup qualify for Copa America.  The South American teams, meanwhile, actually have to qualify, since only eight of the 10 would be in the final tournament.

This suggestion isn't that extreme.  It's essentially the same thing they did for the Copa America Centenario, which everyone agrees was tremendous on a number of levels.  That's why the talk of a combined event started in the first place.  And it makes sense, too.  Because, let's face it, the quality of play in the Gold Cup is not a very high level.  Which is part of the reason the Copa America Centenario was so great.  The competition was simply better.

And if we thought the 12-team Gold Cup was bad, get ready for it to get even worse.  Because the Gold Cup is also expanding.  Starting in 2019, the Gold Cup will feature 16 teams instead of 12.  Why?  I don't know.  No offense to them, but we don't need four more Martiniques and French Guianas further watering down the tournament (also, how did Trinidad & Tobago not qualify?).  

World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF is a joke until you get to the Hex, mainly because these are the teams that the United States and Mexico and Costa Rica have to play.  Sure, expanding the field from 12 to 16 gives those lower-level teams more of a chance to qualify for the main event, but as we see in the Confederations Cup, their chances of being competitive are still pretty slim.  And that doesn't help anybody.

What the United States and Mexico need is to play more games against better teams.  And that's not gonna happen by expanding the Gold Cup.  Because, as we've seen with the incredibly flawed yet still used religiously FIFA rankings, you don't get any credit for beating CONCACAF opponents (even though you have to, seeing as you're in the same region).  For their rankings to go up (and, frankly, to have a better shot at the World Cup), they need to play Colombia and Uruguay, not El Salvador and Jamaica.

Can the Gold Cup and the expanded Copa America coexist?  Yes.  But, if the Copa America is going to expand, it needs to become a true regional championship.  Then it'll really mean something if the U.S. or Mexico wins it.  And, on the flip side, I think South Americas would be able to stomach that more than seeing a European team win the Copa America.  

After all, the Americas are combined in every other sport, and the Pan Am Games.  Why not soccer, too?  Make the Copa America the championship for all of the Americas.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Contender Needs

With the second half of the baseball season about to get underway, teams have just a couple of weeks to decide whether they're going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.  We already know some contenders (Dodgers, Nationals, Astros) that will definitely be in the market for the pieces that can propel them to a World Series run.  We also know the teams that are out of it (White Sox, Padres, Phillies) and will be providing those pieces.  Then there are teams like the Cubs, Toronto and Kansas City that have two weeks to figure it out.

Things have already started in jest, with the Cubs making the first move and getting Carlos Quintana, who was going to be the most sought-after starting pitcher out there (as a bonus, he doesn't even have to move!).  We also saw a Yankees-Brewers trade where both teams added something they badly needed.  Those were the first of what I think will be many trades.  

Because there isn't a team out there that doesn't need improvement.  Even the Dodgers and Astros, who both seem untouchable, have flaws.  And if the other playoff contenders want to catch them, they really need to work on theirs.  Here's what I think each of the 10 teams currently in playoff position needs to consider the most as we begin the second half.

Astros: Another Starter--On paper, Houston doesn't need to do much.  Offensively, they're stacked.  And they play all 12 guys on their roster, so it's not even like their bench needs any help.  They've got a really strong bullpen, too.  Which leaves the starting rotation.  That's really the only area where I see the Astros (who will be prohibitive favorites in the American League) as vulnerable.  Now, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh are both on the DL and expected back, so that might be the answer right there.  But I wouldn't be surprised to see them get another starter just for insurance.

Red Sox: Third Base--Third base has been a position where the Red Sox have been seeking an upgrade for about two years.  Early speculation had them tied to Mike Moustakas, but with Kansas City back in the AL Central race, I'm not sure Moustakas will be on the move.  They're definitely going to look for a third baseman somewhere, though.  And if Moustakas is out of the picture, I can easily see them going back to their old friends the White Sox and making a run at Todd Frazier.

Indians: Bench Depth--Cleveland made the World Series last year and in many ways is better this season.  The Indians made it through the playoffs with only three starters and creative bullpen usage last year, so I think they're actually in OK shape pitching-wise.  But they're one position player injury away from being completely screwed.  Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are already out, and they simply don't have that much depth.  They might want to look into strengthening that bench just in case.

Yankees: First Base and the Bullpen--The trade with Milwaukee was just a start.  You know there will be more moves.  The Yankees have a bunch of flaws.  The most glaring ones are first base and the bullpen.  Some would say a starter, and the rotation has been hit-or-miss, but it's nowhere near as big of a problem as the bullpen.  There aren't many arms Joe Girardi can trust out there.  And Tyler Clippard should be pitching for the Tampa Yankees, not the New York Yankees.  The first base thing, meanwhile, will be decided one way or another at the deadline.  They're waiting to see what's going on with Greg Bird.  But either way, there will almost certainly be yet another first baseman wearing pinstripes by the end of this month.

Rays: A Left-Handed Starter--I'll be honest.  I have no idea how the Rays are this good.  You haven't heard of half their roster, and half the guys you have heard of are on the DL.  I'm not sure Tampa Bay can sustain it in the second half, or that they'll have the players/resources to be buyers.  But assuming they are, you'd have to think they'd like to add another starter.  Preferably a lefty, seeing as their top three (Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb) are all right-handed.  What lefty starters will be available and in Tampa Bay's price range remain to be seen.

Dodgers: A Right-Handed Bat--If they could clone Clayton Kershaw, they would.  And, like everybody else, they could use some bullpen help.  But the Dodgers' biggest area of concern in October is their lack of a right-handed bat.  To say their lineup is lefty-heavy would be an understatement.  Assuming Cody Bellinger moves to the outfield when Adrian Gonzalez comes back, five of their eight starters are left-handed (and Yasmani Grandal is a switch hitter).  The only Dodger regulars that are right-handed are Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig.  That imbalance makes them incredibly vulnerable against left-handed pitching and needs to be evened out.  The Dodgers are reportedly in the market for pitching.  But they should be looking for a right-handed bat, too.

Nationals: A Closer--It's the same old story in Washington.  This team has the potential to make a deep postseason run.  But their Achilles' heel, which is always exposed in October, is that shaky bullpen.  That's why they're linked to every good relief pitcher out there.  David Robertson.  Zach Britton.  Justin Wilson.  Sean Doolittle.  They'd be wise to go after a set up guy like Brad Brach or Pat Neshek or Brad Hand or Steve Cishek, too.

Brewers: Left-Handed Pitching--Whether the Cubs make a run at them in the NL Central or not, the Brewers should be thinking about October.  And they're not gonna win in the postseason without left-handed pitching.  That's why it was really smart of them to get Tyler Webb, who gives them another lefty in the bullpen alongside Josh Hader.  But Brent Suter is their only left-handed starter, and those heavily left-handed lineups in LA and Washington eat up right-handed pitching. 

Diamondbacks: A Corner Outfielder--Catching the Dodgers doesn't seem likely, and they've got Zack Greinke to pitch the Wild Card Game, so they're in decent shape there, too.  And, just like every team, they could use bullpen help.  But Arizona will almost certainly be in the market for another bat at the deadline.  And I think that bat will be a power-hitting corner outfielder they can plug behind Goldschmidt and Lamb.  Somebody like the Tigers' J.D. Martinez or, perhaps even more likely since it seems like such a perfect fit, the Mets' Jay Bruce.

Rockies: Pitching--As usual, and to the surprise of no one, Colorado's biggest trade deadline priority is pitching.  The separation in the National League is such that it would be an incredible surprise to not see a Diamondbacks-Rockies Wild Card Game.  And unless Colorado gets a starter better than Jon Gray to go against Greinke, their first trip to the playoffs in 10 years will be a one-game appearance.  That's not to say they don't need bullpen help, too.  They've got a solid closer in Greg Holland, but they'll be looking for setup guys all over the place.

Of course, there are teams currently on the outside looking in who will also be buyers at the deadline.  In fact, I think we might see more trades like the one between the Yankees and Brewers.  Two contenders helping each other out.  Because I'm not sure how many teams, especially in the American League, will really consider themselves out of it enough to be sellers.  If teams like the Blue Jays or Rangers do become sellers, though, that could be the difference between a pennant and a Division Series exit for whoever snags those guys first.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The 2024-2028 Combo

To the surprise of no one, the IOC unanimously approved the proposal to award both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles at the IOC Session in September.  Now the three parties will work on an agreement as to who goes first, although the consensus on that has long been that Paris will get 2024, while LA will wait until 2028.  If there's no agreement in place by the IOC Session, the membership will only vote for the 2024 host.  Don't expect that to happen.

We've all known for quite some time that they were going to move ahead with the dual awarding.  That was the clear preference of IOC President Thomas Bach, so he was going to make sure of it.  And it makes sense on a lot of levels.

After the debacle of the 2022 race, as well as seeing four cities drop out of the running for 2024, leaving just LA and Paris, the dual award seemed inevitable.  And not just because, as Bach said, the old process "produces too many losers."  It's also about much more than the rhetoric the IOC was spewing about having two "first-rate" bids.  There was definite fear that the loser wouldn't want to come back for 2028, and the IOC wanted to make sure that wouldn't be the case.

Paris has bid for the Olympics and lost three times in the past 30 years.  They were considered the favorites in the stacked 2012 race, which was ultimately won by London.  How many times can you reject a city and expect them to keep coming back?  Especially a city as spectacular as Paris.  Now, full disclosure, if they didn't come to this arrangement and it was a straightforward head-to-head vote, Paris would likely win.  But it was definitely wise not to run that risk.

Likewise, the U.S. has seen New York and Chicago both suffer embarrassing defeats in recent bid cycles.  Then there was the even more embarrassing selection of Boston for the 2024 bid, only to have them say no before LA, which probably should've been the choice in the first place, step in as a replacement.  Boston would've had no shot of winning internationally.  LA is probably the U.S.'s best option as an Olympic host.

But an LA loss would've meant that the three largest cities in the most important nation to the Olympic movement were all rejected in a 12-year span.  And it almost certainly would've guaranteed that a Summer Olympics on American soil wasn't going to happen anytime soon.  The IOC didn't want that, either.  Not with the amount of money NBC and a whole bunch of American-based sponsors have invested in the Olympics.  Not to mention how much it would've alienated the USOC, wasting all that effort that went into repairing the relationship.

So, as much as this is about making sure two excellent bids are rewarded, there are also some obvious political reasons for the dual awarding.  They knew that they couldn't lose either one as a bidder for 2028, especially with the disaster that has been the last two bid cycles.  That's where the mutual benefit comes in.  Everybody gets an Olympics, and the IOC doesn't have to worry about having to settle for the best available option four years from now.  Now they have plenty of time to figure out a new system that works before the next Summer vote, which is now pushed back until 2025.

That vote won't take place until a year after the Paris Games.  There are a lot of reasons why Paris will likely go first, and, frankly, it should.  For one, the IOC needs a willing host in Western Europe.  It's been Western democracies that have been saying a resounding "No" to the Olympics over the past two bid cycles.  Western Europe is very important to the Olympic Movement.  They need the countries in Western Europe to actually be involved.  Hopefully a successful, on-budget Paris Games will stop scaring them off.

I can go into all the technical specifics about the two bids, too, but it also seems to make sense financially to go with the plan that doesn't require any building later.  That may sound counterintuitive, but it really isn't.  Because who's to say the money (and land) earmarked for those projects would still be available four years later?  (That's a big issue with their proposed Olympic Village, which is part of the reason why Paris insists it has to go first.)  LA wants to use already-existing permanent facilities.  If they'll already be there in 2024, they'll still be there in 2028.

One of the points the IOC has made repeatedly throughout this process is that these are both tremendous cities capable of hosting an outstanding Olympic Games.  They've both hosted twice previously.  Now they're poised to become the second and third three-time hosts.  And I'm sure both Games will indeed be outstanding, whichever order they're in.

Although, if you're planning on going to the 2024 Olympics, you'd better get your Passport ready.  Because the order will almost certainly be Paris-LA.