Stop the Insanity!

I promise to return to jazz matters soon, but first a few thoughts on the currently nutso baseball schedule.......... For years now, the major-league baseball season has been a 162-game marathon, almost twice as many games as hockey or basketball teams play. Part of the reasoning behind this is that, as baseball is (mostly) a non-contact sport, the players can weather playing so much. And fans love the almost non-stop daily flow of action throughout the spring, summer and early autumn, with apologies to Ralph Burns and Stan Getz. Also, as pitching is such a variable and huge determining factor in the outcome of any given game, it's thought that a season this long is needed to separate the good teams from the bad. The problem with this "separate the wheat from the chaff" rationale is that there's an illusion built into the baseball season that's hard to see until you look closely: by design, each team plays an unbalanced schedule. By this I mean that as things stand now, each team plays its four divisional rivals 19 times, accounting for 76 games (4 x 19 = 76.) Each team plays 20 inter-league games, bringing the total to 96. That leaves 66 games, which each team plays against the 10 teams from the other divisions of their respective leagues. Even to the math-challenged, this doesn't add up, as 10 into 66 works out to 6.6 games. Call me crazy, but there's no such thing as .6 of a baseball game. What this means is that an American League team such as the Toronto Blue Jays more [...]

The Hank Aaron of Third Base

Third baseman Adrian Beltre turned 37 this past April and is playing his nineteenth season in the big leagues. This puts him in the home stretch of his career, but he has shown no signs of slowing down whatsoever. He's hitting .292, a few points higher than his career average, and clubbed his 25th home run the other day (his ninth season with at least that many.) He also knocked in his 89th run, so it seems likely he will drive in 100 runs for the first time in four years, and for the fifth time overall in his career. He's still getting it done with the glove and arm in the field and remains the key leader on a very good Texas Rangers team that is poised to capture its second straight AL West title. Even at 37, Beltre would be an upgrade at third base for most teams, the exceptions being Toronto (Josh Donaldson), Baltimore (Manny Machado), Colorado (Nolan Arenado), Tampa Bay (Evan Longoria) and the Cubs (Kris Bryant). In a very real sense, he's been the Hank Aaron of third base. This is not to say Beltre is the equal of Aaron as a player - he isn't, not even close. But very few are, a player like Aaron comes along once in a generation, maybe even once in a lifetime. What I mean is that their career trajectories - the longevity, the quiet steadiness, the amassing of career totals which have snuck up on baseball observers gradually - are very similar. Hank Aaron hit 35 to 45 home runs a year like clockwork and nobody noticed because he was so consistent and there was always more [...]