You would think that Major League Baseball officials would be crying crocodile tears about the inept performance of the American soccer team at the World Cup, but in fact their disappointment is real.
MLB has never been worried about soccer getting so strong in this country that it would be a competitor for either corporate sponsorship dollars or for lucrative network television contracts. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, however, is hoping that the World Baseball Classic, which was inaugurated this past March, will be one of his lasting legacies. But the WBC did not stir much passion among American baseball fans and few of us were really upset when Team USA was beaten by Mexico. As a matter of fact the opposite was true. Many fans were relieved that the American baseball team lost early because it meant that those star players could return to spring training to prepare for the upcoming season.
Selig was hoping that if the American soccer team did well at the 2006 World Cup, then it would stir interest in other types of international professional athletic competitions such as the World Baseball Classic. The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown recently opened an exhibit on the WBC as a way of whetting baseball fans’ appetites for future tournaments. I am afraid that all of the clever marketing in the world is not going to make the meat and potatoes WFAN listening, ESPN Sportscenter viewing fan start caring about the next World Baseball Classic, especially in light of our soccer team’s futility in Germany.
You have to give credit to the Yankees for maintaining a sadly dying tradition in baseball, Old Timers’ Day. Last Saturday the Yankees honored the upcoming 50th anniversary of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series and it was great for Bronx Bombers fans to have a chance to cheer for their team’s past heroes.
Although the Mets may not have the same lofty caliber of alumni that the Yankees do, it is an absolute shame that Mets fans do not have the same opportunity to greet the Amazin’s of yesteryear. Mets owner Fred Wilpon likes to talk about the importance of establishing tradition but he has refused to spend the money necessary, or find a sponsor who will pay the freight, for an old timers promotion. There is no better way for older Mets fans to share their love of their favorite team with youngsters dear to them than by pointing out the guys they cheered for at that age. It would be wonderful to see Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Cleon Jones and Bud Harrelson put on the old uniform for a day and let them hear the cheers from the stands once again.
The Mets, on the other hand, showed more class than the Yankees did when it comes to making up a rained out game. When a Mets Giants game was rained out on June 2, the Mets immediately scheduled a traditional doubleheader the next day where a fan could sit through two games for the price of one ticket. The Mets lost over $1 million in gate revenue from that postponed game with Barry Bonds and the Giants.
Last Saturday, the Yankees’ game with the Florida Marlins was rained out and the team scheduled a “day night” doubleheader on Sunday where separate admissions were charged for each game. Not only was the Yankees’ cheapness shocking, but it also made for an extremely long day for the players since they had to play games which began at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. You can be sure that Yankees manager Joe Torre was not thrilled with that arrangement.