But Can Zalenskyy Hit a Curveball?

Have you ever seen somebody ruin their own life?

The Hamilton lyric has been running through my head like crazy the past couple weeks. Each morning, each midday, each nighttime, as  horrifying details emerged from the far-flung locations of Kyiv and Jupiter. Two sets of men with an inability to read the room, that room being the rest of humanity. Forget the Titanic failing to swerve in time, these guys diverted their ships from safe equatorial waters in search of an iceberg to blame.

No, I’m not saying the invasion of a sovereign nation and the canceling of some baseball games are the same severity. Obviously one only affects the free time of a small contingent of the world, who really ought to find better things to do than watching grown men scratch their asses. Meanwhile, the other affects baseball!

I kid, of course. The Ukraine situation is abhorrent in every way. Baseball is a minor distraction. And yet, the slow-motion trainwrecks seemed to develop along frighteningly similar tracks before the eyes of a horrified public asking the same question over and over. “They’re not really going to do this… are they?”

To be clear, I wrote the vast majority of this before the players (or possibly the owners?) caved on Thursday afternoon. But that doesn’t really change the calculus on much.

In the weeks leading up to both announcements, the main adversaries (the West, in the case of Russia, and the sports media in the case of MLB) announced, “This is what they’re going to do, this is the bullshit excuse they’ll use, and these are the facts that prove it’s bullshit.” Then both sets of magalomaniacs went ahead and did EXACTLY what the watchers predicted and were somehow surprised by the world’s response.

The really frightening thing about both situations is that neither instigator seemed to have an exit strategy (nor, really, victory conditions) in mind. In the end, the baseball owners finally decided they like making money. I don’t know how Putin saves face at this point, and it really sucks when the nuclear option includes an actual nuclear option.

Seriously, what the fuck is a vacuum bomb? I guess I can figure it out via context clues, but how is that a real thing? Like, we developed and tested it? I kinda thought all the things the Geneva Convention banned were shit already used in war, then after the fact we looked back and said, “Yeah, maybe let’s not use the mustard gas anymore.” How bad is something for us to go, “Wow, we’ve never used that before, and let’s make sure it stays that way”? Assuming this was developed during peacetime, maybe we need to rethink the whole “permanent standing armies” thing.

Of course, the only reason I know a vacuum bomb exists is because Russia moved oneinto Ukraine, so we announced we know it’s there and that they better not use it. Their response is a shrug. What are you talking about? We’re just here on vacation. Our Airbnb said we were responsible for vacuuming.

That’s pretty much been the m.o. in Ukraine over the past month. “Stop building up troops on the border.” “What troops?” “Those ones on this satellite photo.” “Oh, they’re only there because of all the Ukrainian bombs.” “What bombs? We’ve detected no bombs.” “Ukraine, our enemy, will set off bombs in three… two… one…”

Seriously, their first objective was Chernobyl? Really?

Allegedly they were entering Ukraine to protect the “breakaway” republics in the east, so naturally they invaded from the north on a beeline straight for Kiev. Ignoring the fact that those republics were only breaking away because Russia had been sending people (and those “Ukrainian” bombs) across the border for the past decade.

The baseball lockout progressed along a similar trajectory. After spending all November signing or re-signing over two billion dollars worth of free agents, the owners announced, “Whoa, we’re damn near bankrupt! If we don’t lockout the players, they’re going to strike.” They used the fact that the players union hadn’t negotiated with them on a new CBA proposal, despite the minor technicality that the owners hadn’t made a proposal yet. 

That first proposal wasn’t sent to the players for two months. Two weeks later, the beginning of Spring Training was delayed. After another two weeks, they canceled the first week of the season. The commissioner laughed when he announced the cancellation. At least Putin has the decency to keep his poker face on when getting exactly what he wanted.

And yes, canceling part of the season is exactly what the commissioner and owners wanted. Allegedly attendance is shitty in April, especially in areas where it’s cold. The settlement tacked that canceled week onto the end of the season. I guess ticket sales are better the first week of October than the first week of April. We all hated the sixty-game season caused by Covid, but I guess the owners loved that shit. If they could have a season that starts in July (plus fans paying for hotdogs this time), they’re in heaven.

As with Russia, the baseball owners made their real intentions all too obvious. Nobody believes Putin feared the tiny country next door, just like we knew the owners were trying to break the union. In my original write-up, I wrote “I half believe that if the players agreed to everything the owners asked for, they still would’ve canceled games on general principal.” That’s pretty much what happened with the international draft bullshit at the last minute. 

Similarlyt there ain’t a damn thing Ukraine might have done to avoid the invasion. Short of, I suppose, hoisting the ol’ hammer & sickle. Or letting the Russian army march through en route to another satellite state. I’m looking at you, Belarus.

In Putin’s defense, I was kinda surprised at the world’s reaction. I expected some finger wagging and furrowed brows, maybe a half-hearted sanction of non-essential goods. That’s what we did in Chechnya. And Georgia. And the last time Russia invaded Ukraine. But holy hell, the rest of the world certainly came with some gusto this time, didn’t they? 

I didn’t even know these weapons were in our quiver. Italy seizing the oligarchs’ chateaus was my personal favorite, but up and down the line, countries are going against decades of precedent. Germany’s re-arming. Nothing bad can come from that. Sweden and Finland are lending their support to Ukraine and talking about joining NATO. 

Holy shit, even Switzerland is taking sides? You’ve got to know things aren’t going to plan when the Swiss don’t want your money.

Who would have guessed that, after over seventy years, we would finally figure out how to stand up to a nuclear power. Putin certainly didn’t. Forget seventy years, this is pretty much the first war in human history that is being waged without the intent of killing as many as possible on the other side. Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, Russia didn’t get the memo. They’re getting it now.

I also prefer the general backseat the United States has played in this, too. Let those most affected lead the way. Germany and Poland  (there’s an ahistorical pairing for you!) seem to have a good idea of what’s at stake, and how they can stand up to Russia. The United States should be the supporting role in this particular Academy Award.

I know there are a lot of people freaking out that this is the start of World War III, but I’m not so sure. That 141-5 vote at the United Nations doesn’t look like there’s a lot of allies on both sides. The entire world rallied against one nation does not a world war make. Nor does supplying weapons and troops to a country that’s fighting off an invasion. If that was the case, we’d already be up to (at least) world war six, after Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan (Part One).

Then again, if one of the five countries supporting Russia is China, all bets are off. I notice they abstained from the vote. That’s disconcerting. My guess is they might’ve supported Russia before the world responded. Hell, if the West had done nothing more than its normal hands-on-hips posturing, I think Taiwan would already be assimilated. China might not give a shit about their own citizens, but they want the rest of the world to like them. And keep buying shit.

One group that didn’t seem concerned about winning hearts and minds was the baseball owners. I’m not sure they care about us buying from them, either. At least not tickets. I assume hats and jerseys are still selling. Maybe they can become a new Nike and survive on marketing, only. Then again, they’re shitty at crafting a message.

Let’s see what the players gave up in order to get a cost-of-living adjustment. Earlier free agency, more money for young players, minor-league pay higher than the federal minimum wage. Instead, they agreed to expanded playoffs without extra pay and to let the owners change rules whenever the fuck they feel like it. Including in the middle of a season. Who are we facing next week? Mariano Rivera? Quick, let’s ban the cut fastball. 

The owners countered with five percent off hotdogs. 

If they could figure out a way to make the entire season playoffs, and only allow the games to be shown on tv, they’d be all for it. Fans in the stands are such a hassle because you have to hire hotdog vendors and beer men. 

Speaking of those in-stadium workers, they were set to be out of work, too. Only they hadn’t been putting all their endorsement money aside for the last five years. So the players, those greedy “millionaires” who weren’t willing to agree to a contract they were never given, set up a fund to pay those hourly stadium employees. About five hours later, the owners pulled a “that looks bad” move and set up their own fund. Granted, the owners are their bosses so they could have, I don’t know, just continued paying those workers instead of setting up a separate pile of slush money that I’m sure had all sorts of legal ramifications and hoops to jump through. As a general rule, if your employees think to pay your other employees out of their own pockets, it’s hard to paint them as greedy sonsabitches.

And at the end there, the owners took one last dick move. The players agreed to bridge the gap on the financials. They were only about $60,000 apart on the minimum salary and $30 million apart for the luxury tax (hard to believe three months of acrimony over a disagreement over $760,000 or $700,000 for rookies, huh?), so the players more or less agreed to the owners’ demands. But hold on! The commissioner wanted to see if he could get through a cancellation without snickering. He might never be able to feel real human emotions, but can we give him one more shot at pretendsies? Otherwise the A.I. will never be able to evolve. 

So after the players agreed to give up money, the owners threw in a new negotiating ploy. Now they wanted an international draft, because dangit, they have to spend money on stars like Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto! Wouldn’t it be better if they could just “win” the rights to these players and pay them the same minimum wages they pay the American minor leaguers? Heck, do you know how far $7.25 goes in the Dominican Republic?

I don’t even know if the international draft was in the final agreement. It doesn’t really matter. The only reason it was sprung at the last minute was so they could cancel more games. They could call the players greedy one more time, because they didn’t agree to something that hadn’t been discussed prior to that day. Then when the owners uncanceled those games the next day, they look like heroes. But only in the owners’ own minds. The rest of us saw through the bullshit all the way back to December. 

Not to be outdone, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a momentary ceasefire for the sole purpose of evacuating noncombatants from a few cities in the warpath. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the Russians started firing on the civilians as soon as they were out in the open. Then they made a second agreement and shelled them again. After the third ceasefire attack, they set up new “evacuation routes” that led to Belarus instead of Poland.

I know Bond villains are supposed to act Russian. I didn’t know Russians were supposed to act like Bond villains.

His poor wife.

Bandwagon Season

There’s a strange hue hanging over Northern California recently. And no, it’s not the ubiquitous smoky sky from approximately seventeen thousand wildfires going on simultaneously. It’s August, so we’re pretty accustomed to that visage.

Although did we really need to name one of them the Carr Fire? You know “car fire” has a different connotation, right, media?

“Hey, did you hear the latest on the car fire?”

“No, I took a different route to work today. Is that why you were late?”

But the current strange vision is  a color combination that I’m not used to encountering in the summer. Or really, at any time since the Bush administration. It’s a distinctive shade of green. Bright, unnatural. Maybe it’s called Kelly green? I don’t know. It seems to me that Forest Green is very deep green color, and everything else is Kelly Green. Or turquoise.

But these shirts and hats I’m seeing definitely aren’t turquoise. Turquoise only shows up in this region in April or May of years when the Sharks are both in line for a top playoff seed AND didn’t underperform in the playoffs the season before. So, basically never.

“Never” is also when I assumed I’d see this garish green-and-yellow again, but it’s the summer of 2018, and it’s back. When I first moved to Northern California, in the early 1990s, it was everywhere, the unofficial color of spring and summer, after which it became garnet-and-gold season. Then it disappeared, only to have a brief resurgence in the early aughts, coming up for breath once per decade like the Nessie above the surface of her Scottish loch. I’m wracking my brain for what that precise confluence of events, which stars and constellations have aligned, to bring out the blinding combination once more.

Wait. Could it be… Let me double check the standings just to be sure and… Yep, the Oakland A’s are holding the wild card. If the season ended today, they’d be in the playoffs.

At least the Giants aren’t in contention, so we don’t have to worry about the green-and-yellow clashing with the black-and-orange that is usually seen around these parts this time of year. Of course, you could never have both teams being represented at the same time. Because the people wearing the green this year are the exact same people that were wearing the orange two years ago.

You see, Northern Californians are horrible sports fans. When a team is losing, they are either afraid to represent it, or more likely, they simply stop rooting for that team. Ignore it like Janet Jackson asking, “what have you don for me lately?” And then, when that team starts to win, they all of a sudden come up with these wonderful stories of how they’ve been lifelong fans, busting out clothes that looks either twenty years old, or freshly purchased this week.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not just NorCals. ALL Californians are horrible bandwagoners. Northern Californians are just much more obvious about it. The SoCals’ fandom expands or contracts based on the viability of the team at the moment. A decade ago, Dodger blue was only noticeable in the Valley and LA proper. Now it’s the unofficial color of the Southland. At least it was until LeBron signed with the Lakers, and then my Facebook feed looked like it was 2010 all over again.

But the SoCals don’t swap allegiances quite as fickly as thee NorCals. Now, maybe that’s because Southern California teams rarely change position. The Clippers, Angels, and UCLA aren’t competitive enough to do a true control experiment. The Angels won one World Series, but usually underperform. The Clippers gave us a little test run, being a better team than the Lakers for most of the past decade. And while I saw more people checking in at Clippers games, and many people saying “Hey, good for the Clippers,” nobody was changing their profile pictures to suddenly claim their lifelong Clipper fandom. If the Clippers and Lakers played in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles, there would be a whole lot of people shuffling past their red-and-blue to find their antiquated purple-and-gold the moment LeBron signed. (See Below: Kings, Sacramento; Warriors, Golden State)

Southern California does have one sport with two different champions. And I give them credit for sticking by their hockey guns. The level of excitement for the two Kings championships was equaled only by the general level of ho-hum, oh-wait-there’s-another-hockey-team-here apathy the two times the Ducks won it all. And most of my friends live in Orange County. However, most of them became hockey fans before the Ducks existed. Oh, and they hate Disney. Still, if Orange County gives more of a shit about the LA team than the one in their own backyard, they’re not bandwagoning.

Back to Northern California and the impending return of “A’s Country.” Northern Californian teams swap places on a more regular basis, and boy howdy, do those fan allegiances give me whiplash. Fifteen years ago, when the Sacramento Kings came within one compromised referee game of winning the NBA championship, everything north of Fresno might as well have been washed over in purple. You couldn’t go anywhere without proudly showing your allegiance to the basketball team-du-jour.

There was another NBA team in Northern California at the time. Not that you’d know it. They were called the Golden State Warriors. I doubt you’ve heard of them. Their colors were… dark blue? Or maybe grey. I seem to remember they had some sort of ninja on their logo. With lightning-bolt lettering?

I’m being serious here. I don’t remember what their colors were in 2002, because NOBODY owned any Warriors gear. Or if they did, they wouldn’t have had the audacity to show it in public.

I know what the color and the logo look like now. It’s blue and yellow, with a picture of the Bay Bridge in a circle in the middle. I know that because the Warriors are good now, so everyone is wearing their gear. And a hell of a lot of these “Lifelong” Warriors fans were so decked out in purple a decade ago that their own children might not recognize them.

Nowadays, if you  wear a Sacramento Kings hat in Sacramento, you will be mocked incessantly. This is Warriors-county, baby!

Does this bleedover happen in other markets?  I imagine that, even when the Dallas Mavericks were very good, the predominant gear worn in Houston would still belong to the Rockets. Am I wrong here?

The good news is these Warriors fans can’t claim they bought their gear twenty years ago, because the Warriors have changed their look so many times. And yeah, their current look is a bit of a throwback, but the Bay Bridge has been torn down and rebuilt since the 1980s logo.

We went through the whole bandwagon with the San Francisco 49ers, too. Again, when I moved here, you could barely go out in public between August and February without sporting a gold Starter jacket. But by the time Y2K rolled around, you couldn’t find Niners gear everywhere. And I know these fans still rooted for their team. They would come into work on Monday morning rehashing every play of the game. Even in shitty Candlestick Park, the team was still selling out games. But there were no hats or jerseys or Starter jackets.

It got to the point that I forgot I lived in Niner Country. Then Jim Harbaugh showed up and they started winning again. All of a sudden, people who I had worked with for ten years started showing up in Niners polos and jerseys every Friday. I even mocked some of my students (“Oh hey, you Niners fans finally found all that gear at the back of your closet”), which was mean and probably a bit errant because the Niners had never been good in their life, so if they had gear, they probably were legitimate fans.

Although, in my defense, last year I taught the younger sister of the girl I mocked. I asked her if her sister still wears a lot of Niner gear. She said no.

Northern California fans feel this is absolutely normal. They simply believe the way the world works is to stop showing support for your team when they are losing. Clearly they’ve never been to Chicago, where people were wearing Cubs and White Sox gear when neither team had won anything in fifty years or more. Or Boston before 2004. Hell, I’ve never been to Cleveland, but I bet there are still a lot of people wearing Browns gear during football season there.

And this says nothing of international destinations, where people still wear shirts for their teams when they drop down to the minor leagues.

At least Niners fans didn’t put on silver and black when the Raiders got good. If there’s one sport where NorCal fans don’t just jump to the currently successful team, it’s football. But when you talk to a Giants fan who thinks it’s perfectly fine becoming an A’s fan overnight, and you ask them if they should do the same thing with the football teams, they will look at you aghast. That’s fucking crazy talk.

It should be for baseball, too. Browns fans are still Browns fans, even after years of being horrible. They wouldn’t jump ship to the Bengals just to save face. Nets and Knicks fans don’t have to look at the standings to know which team they like that day. I have a White Sox friend who says, “I’d rather my sister be a whore than my brother be a Cubs fan.”

Of course, I always told him those weren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

And I guaran-fucking-tee there is no New York equivalent of this monstrosity:


I’m not saying you can’t root for a team other than yours. On any given day, there are usually 14 games that do not feature your favorite team. It’s not a bad thing to prefer one team over the other. In 1986, when the Mets were playing the Red Sox in the World Series, I assume that Yankees fans wanted the Mets to win. But I doubt they started spouting off about how long they had loved the Mets and started wearing Mets gear instead of Yankees gear.

That’s what puts California fans apart. They are proud of switching their allegiance on a dime. Again, look at that atrocious hat. People are PROUD to own that hat.

But when two teams share one media market, dammit, those are supposed to be rivals. I grew up an Angels fan and I absolutely hated the Dodgers. The typical sports news in Southern California was eighty percent Dodgers and twenty percent Angels. We were the red-headed stepchild of SoCal.

Then the Angels won the World Series and the whole Southland was smothered in halos. Not only did the Orange County Register remember there was a team in Orange County, but the Los Angeles Times did, as well. It was unnatural. I felt uncomfortable. I actually felt a little sorry for the Dodgers fans who stayed true, because I knew how they felt rooting for the forgotten team in the market. Just like those Golden State Warriors fans.

Even worse, the Angels started selling out their games. I was like the fan of the indie band that hits it big. For two or three years, I couldn’t get tickets.

Of course, the Angels only won once and within a few years, the Dodgers were back on top in SoCal. Now I can get any ticket I want in a stadium that’s only forty-percent full. All is right with the world. Until we lose Mike Trout…

Which brings me back to the Bay Area. I thought we had finally gotten to an equilibrium a la SoCal, with the A’s as the permanent underclass. They haven’t been competitive in over a decade, and they usually have to trade away their entire team every year. Even worse for them, their decade of crap was also a decade when the Giants won the World Series three times.

And some of the A’s fans that switched to the Giants actually acknowledged it. They say it’s tough to root for a team that will never sign good players and will always trade away their stars. The irony, of course, is that it’s the Giants fault. Back in the early nineties, when NOBODY went to, or watched, Giants games, they threatened to move to Florida. To entice them to stay, the commissioner made it so that the A’s would never be able to move out of very-heavily congested Alameda County. So then the Giants built their brand new stadium and everybody started going to their games. The A’s tried to follow suit and the Giants blocked them. The Giants are literally the only team in all of sports that can control the ability of a rival to make money.

And that power was given to them because the A’s were too popular in their market.

Now, or at least up until this year, the Giants have the fancy new ballpark and the world championships and all of the fans. Fans who say, “I just love the black-and-orange color scheme. That rustic, intertwined SF Logo. I mean, the A’s logo is just so gauche and doesn’t really match with anything.”

Until 2018.

In Sacramento, our AAA team switched affiliates from the A’s to the Giants, thinking this would bring in more fans. Not only did they switch, but they went Giants all the way. When they were the A’s franchise, they marketed themselves as “Sacramento’s team.” Since the switch, they reference Sacramento as little as possible. All of their giveaways are Giants players who never played in Sacramento. The bobbleheads all wear Giants, not River Cats, uniforms. They even put the fucking Golden Gate Bridge on our hats and uniforms.

It’s sucked for attendance though, because they forgot that Northern California fans are fickle. The year after the World Series? Yeah, gangbusters in Sacramento. But since then, it’s been dismal. Plus the team has tanked. The A’s usually have really good minor league teams, a result of that whole “trading their entire team every other year” thing. But the Giants don’t really build through the minors.

So now the River Cats are horrible and the stands are empty. The only time fans show up is if a major leaguer is rehabbing, and then they only pay attention when that particular minor leaguer is at bat. Then they talk over the rest of the action and check their phones and just generally don’t give a shit about anybody else on the team.

When Madison Bumgarner was rehabbing, tickets were being sold on eBay for over $100. Fifteen-thousand fans showed up. MadBum  pitched into the third inning. By the fifth inning, there were only about four-thousand fans left. The following week, MadBum was back up in San Francisco. The stands were half-full. Those Sacramento fans probably could have seen him for substantially less than $100, even after paying for gas and bridge toll.

Hey, at least playing in Sacramento is preparing those AAA guys for what it’ll be like to be a real San Francisco Giants, where nobody will come to their games or bother knowing who they are unless they’re winning a World Series or are named Barry Bonds.

Open Letter to Rob Manfred

Dear Commish:

Congrats on your first Opening Day. Not only for you, but for the sport. You make the first legitimate commissioner of Major League Baseball in over twenty years. How nice it must feel to have this important post without the necessity of an owners’ coup. You didn’t have to collude with Jerry Reinsdorf to oust the previous commissioner.  You didn’t have to lead Dick Cheney-esque committee to “look for the next commissioner,” only to find that, lo and behold, there was “no other viable candidate” but yourself. You didn’t have to come up with stupid titles like “acting commissioner” for six years to give you time to sell your team to your sister.

In fact, there doesn’t really seem to be any conflict of interest surrounding you at all. Other than being the afore-referenced commissioner’s hand-picked successor. But for years, Supreme Court Justices and Roger Goodell have been pursuing their own ideas contrary to the desires of the people that put them in that office.

So again, congratulations. The good news is that you are now in charge of a sport that managed to thrive despite your predecessor’s ineptitude.

The bad news is that he made some really stupid decisions that you’re going to have to work around. Good luck providing guidance on that whole “which players that he implicitly encouraged to take steroids to rescue the game from his own mismanagement should get into the Hall of Fame” question. And the fact that one Bay Area team is contractually obligated to play in a shithole because he couldn’t stand up to an owner and reverse an agreement that is no longer economically legitimate. Yeah, you should do something about that.

But the thing I want to focus on is realignment. I know, it’s a scary prospect for a commissioner, considering it was the main topic which allowed your predecessor to tyrannically ouster his own predecessor.

At least it’s not as scary as relocating teams. I might bring that up a little bit, too. But I might pair that with expansion, which should make every commissioner’s eyes sparkle.

So here we go.

One of Selig’s worst boners was one of his last. Like a bad wine, age only turned him to vinegar.  Last year he moved Houston to the American League. This was absolutely stupid. The reason was to give Texas a divisional rival that wasn’t two time zones away. I understand this gripe. However, there were other ways to go about giving them some road games that start before 9:00 PM Dallas time.

Move Kansas City to the AL West. See how easy that was? Accomplishes the same thing as Houston without jacking with the geographic parity of the Leagues.

See, that’s the real problem with moving Houston. I mean, aside from being utterly dismissive to the Astros’ fans and franchise, a franchise that had represented the National League in the World Series less than a decade ago. A franchise that had been in the National League since 1962, the same year as the Mets. Last I checked, no one said “eh, move the Mets to the AL, who cares?”

The leagues should be as geographically balanced as possible. If a fan is within driving distance of two teams, one should be in the American League, and one should be in the National League. The four metropolitan areas that share teams all do that. Prior to the move, four of the five states that share two teams did it. Even Minnesota and Milwaukee form “natural rivals” with a socially similar neighbor. Selig moved the Brewers to the NL, one of the few times he made the right move, albeit for the wrong reasons.

But now, if you live in Texas and want to see a specific National League team or player, your options are to wait three to six years until they visit, or else drive twelve hours to St. Louis or Atlanta.

So who should have been moved to even out the leagues? As I said before, prior to Selig’s nimrodery, there was only one state with its only two teams in the same league.

California? I see you scanning your map. Nope, they have five. Arizona? Texas? No wait, he means before. Let’s see… Not there… there… wait a second… He can’t mean…. Pennsyl…

Okay, breathe Mr. Commissioner. It’ll be okay. You see that reaction you just had? That we can’t possibly mess with the “majesty and history” of some teams but who the hell cares about the Astros? That’s what we call an East Coast Bias. It’s all over your sport. It would be nice if it wasn’t. In case you were wondering, the Houston metropolitan area has just under six million people, making them as viable and important of a fanbase as the Phillies. Pittsburgh? Just under two-and-a-half million, right above those baseball powerhouses in Portland and Charlotte

But yes, either the Phillies or the Pirates should move to the American League. If it was the Pirates, it would be easier to put them into the Central while sending the Royals into the West. Bear in mind the AL Central already has other great Steel-Belt cities like Detroit and Chicago. Oh, and did I mention Cleveland? Go ahead and ask any Browns or Steelers fans if it works having those two cities in the same division.

Philly could move to the AL East, with Toronto moving to the Central. Plus Philadelphia does have some American League history with the A’s. And they would have a closer drive to the closest NL cities than Pittsburgh would. It would mess with the nice AL-NL-AL-NL-AL-NL tradeoff as you drive south through the Bos-Wash corridor. Technically, the Mets technically play south of the Yankees, but that’s just splitting hairs.

After the simple Houston-for-Pennsylvania switch, we’ll be down to only four sets of teams that don’t have natural interleague rivals. In the American League, it’s Detroit, Toronto, Boston, and Seattle. San Diego, Arizona, Colorado, and Atlanta are the National League loners. Interesting how one problem is in the northeast, the other in the southwest. How about either Detroit or Toronto moving to the National League? In the southwest, just send Arizona to the American League West.

You’ll notice on that last one, I didn’t say Arizona or San Diego. Why? This was another flub-up by your predecessor. Arizona was never supposed to be in the National League. They came in with Tampa Bay. But Jerry Colangelo whined that Arizona formed a natural rivalry with Los Angeles and San Francisco (but, magically, not Anaheim and Oakland) and he didn’t want to play in the stinky American League. Selig, complete with every conflict of interest known to mankind, kowtowed to another owner. He then volunteered to move his own team into what was the weakest division in baseball at the time.

Hell, Bud, just have them play some Double-A teams and get back to us in October.

So now we’re down to only four outliers. This is where it gets a little tricky and can’t be solved overnight. The easy answer is to pair Boston and Atlanta, which usually happens anyway under the silly notion that the Braves used to play in Boston. It’s true, but I don’t know how many octogenarians are running to these Interleague games. And what exactly does Atlanta get out of the bargain?

The other match-up’s a little more logical. Denver and Seattle, the two most geographically isolated teams. They also come from the two states where pot is legal, so we don’t have to explain the pairing. Just tell the potheads that “Everybody KNOWS why they’re rivals.” Brought to you by Doritos.

But this seems a temporary fix. Before too long, the remaining five Boston Braves fans will die and other states will legalize marijuana. So we’re going to need to get a little more creative. From here on out, I’m just throwing ideas out there. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is most feasible.

If you’re wondering about the implication of that statement, the answer is yes. Yes, I’ve been telling you how to do your job. But only up until now. From here on, these are just suggestions. You’re on your own.

Florida shouldn’t have two teams. They probably shouldn’t even have one, but definitely not two. Sometime in the late 1980s, someone decided that Florida needed more teams. From 1987-1998, Florida gained one NFL franchise and two teams in each of the other three leagues (baseball, hockey, and basketball). That’s seven teams in eleven years! Is it all that surprising that none of them have taken root, with the exception of the years that the Heat make the NBA Finals?

A few years ago, I would have said the Marlins were the logical team to leave the state, making Tampa Bay as Atlanta’s rival. But then Miami got a new stadium, while the Rays still play in one of the worst.  Not that it matters how good the stadium is, or how good the team is, nobody attends either team’s games. So ship one out, leave the other one playing in the American League in Miami.

So where should the displaced Ray-Marlins go? Let’s move them up to become a rival of the Mariners. The northwest has plenty of room.

Portland, you’re thinking? Nope. Huge population, but not overly interested in baseball. They couldn’t even hold onto their Triple-A team, and kicking them out of town to make way for soccer.

No, I’m talking about Vancouver. Some people think that, since baseball failed in Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city, how could baseball survive in its third-largest? Speaking English can’t hurt. The whole border town thing helps, tooI’ve been to a number of minor league games there, and they regularly have some of the fullest Single-A stadiums I’ve ever seen.

Of course, the question about an NL franchise in Vancouver would be whether they are rivals of Seattle or Toronto. We could fix that, though. Remember baseball failing in Montreal? Want to know whose fault that is? Whoever the jackass was that canceled the World Series when the Expos were on the verge of winning their first championship. They were dominating the competition, 74-40, six games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East and four games ahead of the Yankees for best record in baseball. There was a ballot measure to build a new stadium.

Then Bud Selig and Donald Fehr decided to cancel the season. When baseball came back, Selig made sure it was skewed toward the bigger market teams, because if he couldn’t get fans to come out to the games, he would survive off of advertising. Oh, and steroids.

So give Montreal another shot.

Another dearth of Major League Baseball in the country seems to be the Carolinas.  An American League team would fit very nicely there, partway between the two NL franchises in Atlanta and Washington.  Looking down the list of metropolitan areas, I know Las Vegas is probably a no-go, and some of the other mid-majors, Sacramento and Orlando, don’t work due to proximity of other teams. San Antonio/Austin might fall into that trap, as well, or they might be viable for relocation or expansion. Heck, if you put a National League team there, I might even let you keep the Astros in the American.

Another spot that might work despite a smaller population is Salt Lake City. Much like the Rockies, I think a team there would draw from far outside the metropolitan area. Not just in Utah, but also Idaho. You could also add in a lot of Mormon support as the team traveled. Dropping an AL franchise there would finally help those Rockies stop feeling so isolated.

But yeah, the Utah Salties and Austin Smokehouses might be a little far down the road. Try to work on some of that other stuff first.

But in the meantime, Mr. Manfred, sit back on this Opening Day and enjoy the show.

It’s a beautiful little game we’ve got here.

Hopefully we finally have a commissioner that appreciates that.