Monday, August 27, 2007

USA Today is on a Roll

In light of their recent published drivel about the Red Sox marrying the Statue of Liberty and raising little patriots together, you might think the multi-colored lady that is USA Today would take a few days off from printing sheer idiocy about the sport of baseball. You might be wrong.

With no trace of irony or dissent, today's bright red sports section features an article about the excitement of the current Wild Card races, and, for good measure, adds a sidebar about how proud Bud Selig is of the Wild Card:

"Well, I'm very proud with what's going on now. Here we are, down to the last five weeks of the season, and we're going to have wild-card races that are legendary."

Yes, Bud, there's so much of which to be proud. The six divisions and Wild Card races are going swimmingly. Nothing to see here. Move along. In related news, the U.S. occupation of Iraq is problem-free and we have been widely accepted as liberators.

The only thing legendary about the pennant races this year is the sheer number of dreadful teams in contention. Teams that have no business anywhere within sniffing distance of the post-season.

To wit: The San Diego Padres lead the N.L. Wild Card chase by three games, despite not having one great (or even very good) hitter in their lineup. The Cincinnati Reds, at 60-70, are only 6.5 games out of first place. Last year's disgrace of a World Series champion, the St. Louis Cardinals, are again locked in a tight race despite being on pace for even less than the 83 wins they managed a season ago.

And those legendary Wild Card races Selig is getting so erect for (sorry for the mental image)? An overachieving Seattle team and a flawed Yankees squad fighting it out down the stretch doesn't really seem the stuff of legends. Neither does the Padres and Phillies trying to figure out who sucks less.

The Wild Card definitely has its advantages, one of which is that a lot more fans have a lot more hope later in the season. But for Selig to pretend that it's flawless is silly, self-serving hype. The new playoff system, combined with the commissioner's push for parity, has resulted in one entire league not having a great team for the last five years. The National League is so bad right now that it's an embarrassment to baseball. Who cares if crappy teams are in contention for the playoffs? Who wants to see a Reds-Dodgers best-of-five anyway?

If the old divisional system were still in place, the Red Sox would still be running away with the A.L. East, but the Angels and Mariners would be locked in a tight race for the West, with something actually at stake because the loser would go home.

Every word out of Bud Selig's mouth is intended to make us think he's done a great job. He hasn't.