Well, you see, that’s the thing: it’s actually somewhat difficult to tell what all these players believe in; or, rather, what it is that they are demonstrating through their actions.
The motivations behind the various and sundry national-anthem-time actions appear to be as varied as the colors of the uniforms on those sidelines–not to mention the colors of those players themselves.
The overarching theme of the NFL actions seems to be centered around a vague concept of “unity.” But it is an open question as to just how far that idea of unity actually goes.
NOTE: Here is the seventh in an occasional series of Features describing the author’s visits to various MLB ballparks around the country. After finishing his cross-country trip at the end of June, the author went back to the most familiar baseball ground of all: the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics and the closest major league park to your correspondent’s home.
How bad has it gotten for baseball in Oakland? After completing my transcontinental trip at the end of June, I made a point of going out to the local team’s digs, with the full intent of writing up a review of the Oakland Coliseum soon thereafter.
That was over a month ago. Let’s just say, interest in East Bay baseball has fallen off a bit in recent years.
It is probably fitting that the game I saw, an Athletics contest versus the Tampa Bay Rays on the night of Monday, July 17th, was the worst attended game at the Coliseum in several years. But all things come to pass eventually, and here, at last, is that long-delayed review of the Oakland ballpark experience.
It’s been a while since MLB went through another expansion phase. No new teams have entered the sport since the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays came into the leagues in 1998.
That expansion brought the number of major league teams to 30, and as such, it can be said to have been incomplete. The number of teams, while even, still left MLB with a lack of balance in the composition of the leagues. The movement of teams between leagues (Milwaukee to the NL, then the Astros to the AL) tried to accommodate the lack of balance in the league structures and schedules, as did the move to introduce interleague play, but there remains, even to this day, oddities that no amount of jiggering with the division formats, unbalanced schedules, and expanded playoffs have been able to smooth out.
So another expansion, which could bring the number of teams up to a far more workable total of 32, might seem like a good idea. The sport–despite doomsaying from the short-sighted–is thriving, thanks to aggressive programs of stadium building, strong marketing efforts, some wise negotiating on both sides of the labor table, and intelligent utilization of digital media to maximize the fans’ experience.
That brings us to the obvious question: where would you put two more teams if you expand MLB today? There are a number of candidates out there for one of the two putative teams, but there’s one market that everyone seems to agree should get another team (even if everyone also says it’s impossible to place a team there for territorial reasons). Let’s, as they say, “start spreading the news.”
As we rapidly approach MLB’s trade deadline, the two leagues could not look more different, at least as far as the standings go.
In the National League, the West and East are all but wrapped up, even with the Nats and Dodgers seeing injuries hit the pitching staffs in the persons of Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw, respectively. Only the Central remains wide open; even the Wild Card is looking firm for the Rockies and Diamondbacks…for the moment.
And then, over in the American League, everything except the West is wide open. If your preferred team is not leading the Central or East right now, just wait a few days–they’ll probably reach the top before you know it, and then quickly sink back into the very crowded field of contenders.
Two teams, one in each league, are of particular interest. Both teams have been making a push this last week, ascending the ladders in their respective Central divisions rapidly and making it seem, at least for the moment, like they have a shot at real contention in both the regular season and the playoffs. One of them, the Kansas City Royals, looks like a decent bet to be playing in October. The Pittsburgh Pirates, on the other hand, probably still have a long way to go.