Letter of the Law by Bob Ryan

Sometimes in life…not often…the “Letter of the Law” is taken in an exact interpretation. We’ve seen some of that recently…..

…Kris Bryant’s contract is a classic example. Now, I rarely do I side with any professional athlete when it comes to salary or money. But….Bryant was brought up to the Cubs on Apr 17, 2015. It gave him 171 days of major league service. That number is 1 day short of a “full year” MLB service. Hence, his arbitration and free agency dates were pushed back 1 full year over that 1 day. Bryant took it to court. The Judge ruled by the “letter of the law” and denied his request. In 2015, Bryant played in 151 games, had 650 plate appearances, 26 HR, 99 Rbi. He played as an All-Star, was 11th in MVP voting & Rookie of the Year (it said “year”…not Rookie of the Part-time Year)—clearly…at least to me…those are numbers of a full time player. It seems to be an easy addendum to this regulation regarding evaluating a “full” year of service would be….if a player misses the arrival date but attains certain specific numbers….plate appearances, games, whatever…it’d “count” as a full year. Now I don’t expect the owners to agree to this change easily…or ever, for that matter. The owners know all too well that once a player reaches free agency, his value catapults. This decision was strictly by the letter of the Law…not the spirit of the Law…and the Owners won….fat chance that they’ll change now.

…The recent Hockey All-Star game & its events started a train of thought for me. All-Star games, in most of the Professional Sports, are playing by the letter of the law. They follow all the rules, attend required appearances for the event, and act as if they’re happy about being there. But….the REAL competition of athletics during the game is on a low burner…barely on…. for the most part. Watching the Pro Bowl game …for about 5 minutes… was pitiful. The players don’t play hard because that don’t want to get hurt playing in a game that means very little…if anything… to them. I’ve seen more enthusiasm during a family game played on Thanksgiving than I did in the Pro Bowl. “Hard” Hits were about as frequent as a triple play in baseball. The monetary incentive, of $70,000 paid to each player on the winning team while the losing team suffers with only $35,000 for the week that seemingly means very little to them.

….Other All-Star games seem much more concerned about having each player get into the game. Who wins the game…which is at the heart of all athletic contests… seems to be irrelevant. In All-Star baseball games, pitchers still DO pitch their best and batters still DO their best. However, don’t expect any diving attempts, running for extra bases or heaven forbid that you’d emulate Pete Rose slamming into the catcher at home. Instead of playing just to the “letter of the Law” in a game..that often seems rather boring since there isn’t any flow to it…let these supreme athletes compete in skills contests. MLB is already moving down that track…they have a HR Derby…Why not replace the game with additional specialty events…add a Fastest man of the Year event….a runner races around the bases from Home Plate back to home plate.. a contest for throwing accuracy by outfielders to each base; pitchers throwing to hit specific small targets over Home Plate area. Heaven forbid…let bunters try to get the ball inside small circles…have a rep from each team for each event…or other similar type events. MLB already realizes this transformation in the fans interest. In 2019, Players at each position in each league receiving the most fan votes (three OF and 1 at each other position) will receive $15,000 apiece. Second place vote-getters will receive $5,000 and third will get $2,500. This totals a $360,000..for the entire team. All players selected are required to attend unless injury prevents them from doing so and are given a $1,000 stipend. Recognizing the popularity of the side show over the game itself, MLB will spread a total $2.5 million among the just 8 Home Run Derby participants, with the winner taking home a cool million. I’d prefer the specific skills contests.

….The NBA All-Star game, the NBA attempts to motivate the players by a paying a wide difference to the winners/losers. Each winning player gets $100,000 while the loser a measly $25,000.

….While these All-Star games now seem to suffer because a) Players fear injury b) Players salaries don’t require too much supplemental money (how many work in the off-season now?)  c) Players may require a brief “vaca” themselves..for example,NHL had an entire week off from games while All-Star game was played…I suppose for that purpose. D) For the very, very highly paid players(biggest stars)…it’s a tax beating. In the 2019 All-Star game, Clayton Kershaw, who made $31m that season will pay total taxes of about $20,300 for the “privilege” to pitch in 1 or 2 innings of the game. $20,300 is not a lot of money for a guy making $31 million (it’s .065% of his salary)…It is the letter of the law…but… the fact that he is paying money to pitch in a game while the MLB is making millions in TV & sponsorship money just doesn’t seem like it should be “letter of law”

…One final All-Star thought….The initial All-Star game of 1933 @ Comiskey Park was part of the 1933 Worlds Fair. It was the idea of Chicago Tribune sports editor, Arch Ward. It was thought that it would be a good idea to spark life during the depression days. The proceeds ($45,000, net gate receipts) from the game went to a charity for disabled and needy major league players. It was so unique for fans to see ALL the best players of the day…there weren’t televised games, interleague play, there were only 16 teams. 20 of those 36 players from those ‘33t rosters entered the MLB HOF later!! From 1959-1962, there were two All-Star games. The funds of the 2nd All-Star game went to the MLB pension funds. Currently, MLB controls and owns All-Star rights. The MLB is also responsible for all the pension funding. I would suggest that some portion of this All-Star money be directed towards the Minor league players. Those poor guys live sub-standard lives while toiling in the minors. While the letter of the law doesn’t require it, the “spirit” of the game would lead one to support these youngsters.

….The “letter of the law” indicates that good NCAA Mens Basketball teams will win more close games than they lose. St Louis U bounced back from a sub-par performance against Davidson with a smart OT win @ LaSalle. The 77-76 OT win was highlighted by special achievements of a couple Billikens. Jordan Goodwin displayed his all-around talents as he registered 12 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. It’s so refreshing to see an all-around player! He also reached the 1,000pt plateau as a Billiken (only 1 of 10 players to do it as a Junior). The emergence of Javonte Perkins as a sharp outside shooter has helped Bills relieve the inside defensive pressure on Hasahn French. Frosh Yuri Collins became the all-time leader in Assists for a Freshman and we have several weeks remaining. Collins’ unselfish offensive approach helps build cohesion throughout the entire team.  

….The Letter of the NCAA Basketball Law is that Coaches remain in their Coaches Box. Very, very few do so. Sometimes, I think, its done by the coach so HE becomes the focus. I wish it would stop.

….The spirit of the law leads one to believe that the Best Player in the league should be seen often in post season play. Mike Trout, the best player of his generation and already an inner-circle Hall of Famer, has played only 3 postseason games in his entire career, all losses in the 2014 ALDS. It’s a shame for the Angels, it’s a shame for Trout, and it’s a shame for baseball at large. Fans hope to see Trout in October on a regular basis.

….It is Super Bowl Game day…sooooo…. I HAVE to make a pick..as if anyone else cares J. It may be more with my heart than anything else but I’m expecting the Chiefs to win in a high-scoring game. To paraphrase Hank Strams’ famous expression from his Super Bowl– 5 decades ago, “Boys, keep matriculating the ball down the field”. I think that Andy Reid’s offense will do JUST that and do it often. 

…The Letter of the law tells me that it’s time to end this week’s blog. Thanks for the read! Please feel free to respond on Facebook, Prepcasts.com or email to me. I don’t expect everyone… or anyone… to agree with all the ideas that I float out thereJ

Comments

  1. Bob, you bring up an interesting point re All Star games. Thinking way “ out of the box”, A great PR move would be that the players donate their all star checks to a charity of their choice. Would look pretty lousy for superstars not showing up! ( too many state rest, family time,fear of injury,” hang nail,” etc for reasons to skip the game). With ticket prices being so outrageous, leagues don’t often cross over playing in every market, all star games are the only chance for fans to see some of the sports greatest players.

    Not being a huge hockey fan, the all star skills challenge was entertaining/ held my interest. As the home run derby really drags on, many players avoid as not to mess up their swing, perhaps a skills competition could be interesting. Outfielders throwing accurately to bases, timing double plays, base speed, catchers throwing to bases, bunting accuracy , etc. Plus, would illustrate to young players the importance of learning fundamentals! JP1

  2. Great article Bob! Of all the professional sports all star events–Love the Home Run Derby
    Fun & fans get into it–Catching Bombs that go to da moon;
    Love the Masters Par 3 tourney So fun players kids are Caddies & hit shots
    So true even HS basketball coaches are out of the Coach’s box too! Travis Ford & Coach Calapari are so on the court they are the 6th player lol
    I agree NFL Pro Bowl should be played on da beach flag football.
    NBA All Star game played on the streets of Harlem on 8 foot baskets no dunking & MLB play at Field of Dreams play opposite handed would be cool experience Have a great day!!! MB

Speak Your Mind

*

one × 4 =