Monday, February 13, 2006

Top 25 of the past 25

[Note: I know that what I've cut and pasted below runs into the stuff on the side. It's not worth trying to reformat everything, because I think it's basically legible anyway. Sorry that it's a little annoying.]

ESPN is running an article on the top 25 innovations of the past 25 years. Readers were asked to vote for their top ten choices from this list. Here they are, with the vote totals by readers. My choices are in bold:

85.9%Addition of wild cards expands pennant races and the postseason field
62.1%Tommy John surgery becomes almost routine, prolonging careers
56.7%Internet makes even out-of-town news, stats and scores available 24/7
50.2%Extended highlights of every game on shows like ''Baseball Tonight''
49.7%Bullpen specialization redefines the final innings of games
48.8%Dramatic increase in Latin American players; one in four MLB players now Latino
47.7%Camden Yards ushers in a new era of retro ballparks
46.9%Medical developments speed recovery and improve diagnosis of injuries
45.2%Advent of interleague play
41.3%Cable and pay-per-view packages make almost any game viewable
38.5%Steroids fuel power explosion and force baseball to reform drug testing
34.8%Dramatic increase in offense and power hitting
34.4%Internet makes baseball history easily accessible to fans, fueling research and nostalgia
34.3%Development of the splitter
34.1%Revenue sharing that resulted from the strike in 1994-95
32.6%Development of fantasy baseball, fueled by easy-to-manage internet leagues
29.3%Statistical revolution ushers in sabremetrics and ''Moneyball''
28.2%Younger general managers bring new ideas and fresh perspective to front offices
24.5%Expansion adds the Diamondbacks, Devil Rays, Marlins and Rockies
24.5%Dramatic increase in Asian players makes scouting a global task
20.7%Home Run Derby takes center stage before the All-Star Game
19.9%Day games no longer a part of World Series schedule
15.2%College baseball gains equal footing with high school for high-profile draft picks
14.7%Symbolically fueled by ''Bull Durham'' minor leagues become big business
13.9%Scheduled doubleheaders disappear

Number one is a no-brainer, as evidenced by the large vote total it received. The shift to three divisons has totally changed September. I still think Bob Costas is right that this hasn't totally been for the better - the cost of having more teams involved is a watered down pennant race that generally eliminates the drama of two truly great teams vying for one spot (i.e. the 1993 NL West race between Atlanta and San Francisco). In such a case now the losing team is pretty much a lock for the wild card. If it were ten years ago I might be inclined to discuss the pros and cons of three divisions further, but at this point it's so entrenched in baseball that trying to debate it is akin to lamenting that this newfangled American Football League poses a threat to the NFL.

I view the three "access" innovations as equal and therefore choose all of them. The internet, highlights on ESPN, and the ability to view any game have been a huge benefit to all fans of all sports. The notion that you might have to wait until the next morning to read a boxscore seems flat out insane today. Likewise, today, familiarity with players on teams other than your own is easy and expected of even the casual fan. The one negative has been the migration of an overwhelming majority of games to cable, and yes, there are people who can't afford cable (or kids whose parents can and choose not to get it - poor kids). This is unfortunate, but overall the baseball fan's is infinitely better informed about the past and the present than he was in 1981. This is great.

Likewise, I think the advent of fantasy baseball is one of the top ten. It might not have a direct impact on the game per se, but it creates a demand and interest in the game among millions. Everybody in a fantasy league takes it up a notch - the first timer becomes a casual fan, the casual fan becomes somewhat serious, the somewhat serious fan becomes a serious fan, the serious fan becomes an obsessed lunatic, and the obsessed lunatic becomes...well, me. And other friends I could name as well. All these people follow the games more closely, spend more money on the industry, and may pass on a greater attachment to the sport to pass on to the next generation. Of course, the fact that my life revolves around my roto leagues (I mean, uh, my fiance, yes, that's it) doesn't hurt my view of its importance.

Sorry to do this, but I'd like to go to sleep now and don't want to shortchange the other thoughts I had on this. I'm going to save that for tomorrow's entry. Something to look forward to, right guys?


Anonymous Ian said...

Steroids should def be higher

10:56 AM  
Anonymous JP said...

Have 62.1% of people forgotten that TJ surgery takes a year and a half to rebound, and that plenty of guys NEVER come back from it?

1:06 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

I think that bullpen specialization is overblown. Maybe there wasn't one specific closer per team in '81, but the general idea was the same. Teams already had bullpen specialists.

1:46 AM  

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