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Snakepit Round Table: the World Series Champion Dodgers*

* = they still suck :)

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Dodgers won the World Series. How do you feel?

Makakilo: Boo! On the other hand, it’s a chance to build mental strength.

With intense focus, the D-backs strive to win the NL West on the way to the World Series. The Dodgers are largely blocking the path. A new reality appeared. The Dodgers won the World Series, further blocking the path.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” — Tony Robbins

Steven: We’re lucky they’ve only won 1 of these since the new owners took over. It’s not enough for the Dodgers to have one of the highest payrolls, but also have drafted so extremely well that having young players like Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and Corey Seager allows them to take chances on bigger contracts like Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw, and Mookie Betts.

I still feel pretty crappy about it.

Jack: Other than the utter disgust I feel in dealing with their fans when they come to Chase Field, and overall visceral hatred of all things Dodgers, the biggest issue for me is that success begets success, strength begets strength. Usually. The silver lining here is the Dodgers didn’t receive the typical revenue windfalls that go with winning a world series in game 6 or game 7 at home. So at least there’s that. 2020*

Keegan: Diarrhea icing. Took them long enough. Took enough rule changes for them to make it happen. However, Game 4 will go down as one of the best of all time.

James: It makes me want to not watch baseball for at least 4 or 5 months. The way in which they won it really makes it worse for me, as does the controversy surrounding player personnel. It was just a disaster all around. I guess it was a very 2020 outcome though. I’ll still put a mental asterisk next to this title every single time.

ISH95: Not a fan. But wake me up when they actually pull it off over a 162 game season. I’ll be waiting.

The World Series ratings were “devastatingly bad”. Is it a real problem or not?

Makakilo: An average of about 10 million viewers is not that bad. Likely the drop from previous years was due to several factors. Two factors specific to this year were: The Rays were a small market team, and the election has commanded more attention than usual.

Steven: Most sports have felt the same ratings crunch so I’m not surprised. I actually dealt with sports fatigue with basketball and baseball playoffs playing at the same time.

Jack: There is so much going on in the ratings numbers and debates. How much of the viewing is some form of streaming that is not captured by the typical ratings? On the other hand, MLB doesn’t get revenue from the eyeballs viewing on illegal streams. If another couple million people are viewing illegally and it’s not generating revenue for MLB that’s a problem too. Beyond all that, and in addition to the reasons mentioned above by Mak and Steven, I think a lot of people just didn’t engage in late July when the season restarted. I personally know people that usually attended and watched a lot of games that hardly watched games at all this year once things started up in late July. So they weren’t going to watch the World Series either.

Keegan: Jack summarizes it pretty well. Some in my family who I would consider avid viewers said they couldn’t get into it this season. I think streaming viewers not getting captured can explain the drop in viewership as well.

James: It is a problem if numbers do not bounce back come April and May. For one thing, MLB needs to get those legal streaming numbers involved in the ratings. Then, they need to have a proper season. There were just far too many reasons for people to not tune in by the time MLB finally decided to start playing. Then, once they did start playing, they still couldn’t seem to get it right. If, once things are back to “normal” again, the numbers do not start to trend in a positive direction, in a hurry, then yes, there is a problem - one that will heavily impact the CBA talks next winter.

Should baseball be changed to become more entertaining? If so, how?

Steven: I think keeping the game the same is the only way to go for baseball going forward. Other than outside factors changing like automated strike zones and quicker replays, don’t change the game that much.

Makakilo: This season, the Diamondbacks’ team-page interactive-game on the Ballpark App added entertainment for fans who needed more entertainment. That was great! As far as rule changes, the man on second in extra innings added game excitement. No additional changes are needed.

Jack: I really wish I could see MLB’s internal marketing data and polling. Most of the fans that post and comment on sites like AZSnakepit are diehards. If not old in age, most of us here are old souls. :)

Baseball’s demographics skew older to begin and the media influencers that cover the game are typically older as well. So there is naturally going to be resistance to change and preference for the way things used to be among that set. Personally, baseball really is more fun to watch when there are more balls in play and more action and running around and movement. And it really does drag when pitchers take too long to deliver a pitch or when having to sit through yet another pitching change.

All that said, maybe their data shows them that these aren’t the most important things when it comes to fan interest and growing the game with younger people. I think the most important thing to keep people interested in baseball is to make youth baseball more readily accessible and affordable and get more young people out to games so they get hooked. The smartest thing MLB could do to insure future health and growth of the game is triple their investment overnight in youth baseball and institute 50% ticket discounts for everyone under the age of 18.

Keegan: What wasn’t entertaining about Game 4 of the World Series? Could your emotions tolerate that sort of drama every night? I suppose the most radical suggestion I could propose would be that they shorten the season to 80 games and start two seasons in a year similar to NBA and NHL.

James: I’m not opposed to some changes. I am opposed to radical changes though, the sort that almost fundamentally change the game. Sorry, no starting with runners on base. I know that this means that sometimes games go overly long. That’s sort of the point though. Baseball is all about the marathon. It is, often as not, about attrition. Who has the freshest legs left, both in inning 16 tonight, and inning one tomorrow - at 1:00 in the afternoon? Outlawing shifts just feels silly. On the other hand, as much as I hate the DH in both leagues, it is not the hill I am going to die on. The DH coming the the NL is inevitable. I’m all for enforcing the time limit on delivering pitches too, even if it means putting up a pitch clock to remind the pitcher (and the umpire) that there is supposed to be a time limit. While at it, enforce keeping batters in the box as well. I enjoy small ball and balls in play. I always have. Stop eliminating foul ground. Put outfield fences at 340 on the corners. Those are non-drastic measures that I would rather see first, rather than some of Rob Manfred’s ideas..

ISH95: get rid of dumbasses (can I say that? Edit it if I can’t Jim LOL) like Manfred and TLR, replace them with people who actually understand how the 21st century works, market the fact that it’s actually a pretty fun sport. Profit.

Kevin Cron has gone. Thoughts?

Makakilo: Recognizing clear thinking, I saved the following quote by Jack:

“One of Walker or Cron will be traded. Don’t ask me exactly when or for whom. But one of them will be gone at some point once Beer is ready to play in MLB. (Which he isn’t yet)

Posted by Jack Sommers on Jan 3, 2020 | 2:28 PM

Although Seth Beer did not play in the Majors, on 29 June he was promoted to the alternate playing site where he played until the end of the season. The Diamondbacks got a good look at him. My guess is they were very impressed with what they saw. Perhaps they released Cron (age 27.5) in anticipation of promoting Seth Beer (age 24).

Steven: Sad because he really could hit the baseball. It’s too bad that Christian Walker has worked out so well because all three of Cron, Pavin Smith, and Seth Beer are stuck in the minors until they decide to do something with Walker.

Jack: Thanks Mak for yanking something I said out of the archives that wasn’t dumb ! (Too many examples of that too).

Cron’s inability to lay off breaking and off speed pitches out of the zone doomed him. But here’s the thing: He really didn’t get a lot of opportunity to work through it. I’d also said in the past the only way Cron was going to make that adjustment was to be handed the DH role, let him play EVERY day, and tell him that his number one priority was to work on approach and learn to pick up and lay off the breaking and off speed stuff. It would be fine if he struck out looking a lot for a month. Because down the road that would pay off. He would start to recognize better perhaps. And if he didn’t, then at least you knew he couldn’t make the adjustment.

Obviously 2020’s short season made doing such a thing all the more impossible, and had it not been a short season there wouldn’t have been a DH anyway. His defense is very poor. So he just didn’t fit. Maybe in Japan, where he will get to play every day, and will see a ton of off speed, he’ll finally figure it out. Accordingly I predict a bad first month or two for Cron in Japan and then watch him take off.

Keegan: MLB pitchers adjusted to him faster than he could correct course. He wasn’t given enough opportunities at the MLB level for him to ever get comfortable. Hopefully that changes in Japan and they love him over there.

James: I think it was inevitable. I also think he got hosed by the pandemic season. Jack already mentioned, the only way he was likely to improve was to get regular play, every day. In the shortened, 60-game season, that was never an option with the way he was struggling against off-speed stuff. I hope he gets the regular nod over in Japan. If he does, he could do some incredible things with his accidental home run power.

As we enter the winter, what area of the team is in most need of being addressed?

Makakilo: There are several imperatives: who will replace Starling Marte in center field? (will it be Daulton Varsho?), bullpen pitchers are needed to replace losses, team defense needs to return to a level near the top in the Majors, and offense needs to improve.

Improving Diamondback offense is the most important. Their runs scored per game fell from 5.02 to 4.48 in 2020. Recently I wrote about offense:

The next most important is team defense. Defensive Statistics shows sources of defensive statistics that I found on-line. It is scheduled to post on Monday.

Let’s look at Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) by year (data from The Fielding Bible). The circles highlight significant aspects.

Steven: The team was so bad all around that I wouldn’t worry too much about specific positions, just upgrade where it’s logical to do so, even if that means jettisoning popular players. The D-backs were really bad last year and if ownership just punts this next season in order to get afloat money-wise well that’s what they’re gonna do.

Jack: I think one mistake we often make is looking backwards instead of forward when trying to address what the team needs most. Projecting where the strengths and weaknesses are going to be in the future is hard, but that’s where the focus needs to be. This is only a starting point, not an end point, but looking at the Steamer HITTER and PITCHER projections, the position players project to produce 19 WAR and Pitchers just 10 WAR. (that adds up to a 77 Win Team). So at first blush, there are more holes in the pitching staff than there are on the position player side. Here is how the early projections stack up in the NL West only as teams head into the off season. Obviously with 200 free agents out there and no trades made yet there is a lot that is going to change, but this gives a rough idea of how the teams head into the off season. Overall I think the Diamondbacks have too many holes across the board and cannot vault themselves into a strong pennant contender in one off season. Let the kids play and develop and save your pennies for 2022 free agent class is my advice.

Keegan: Appears there will not be any shortage of free agents looking to secure a deal wherever one can be had. This offseason might be all about the bargains more than ever. For that reason, I say improve wherever you can for a reasonable price. Who knows what ownership will consider reasonable this year.

James: Prospect development. The new financial model dictates that the Diamondbacks need some low-cost, impact talent. The only place they are getting that, is from their talent pipeline. WIthout a strong stroke of luck in their favor, the 2021 Diamondbacks are unlikely to sniff contention. With that being the case, It will be all the more important to develop that young talent, hoping to fill one or more of the many, many holes the team currently has. If they can do that, then next winter, they may have a more manageable list of shortcomings.

ISH95: Pitching. Pick a side of the game either starters or bullpen, and fix it. There are going be some depressed values in the FA market. Take advantage.

Sean Connery, RIP. What’s your favorite Connery film?

Makakilo: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Sean Connery’s acting as Indiana’s father was remarkable.

Jack: Tie between Untouchables and Hunt for Red October. The latter is the better movie but the former has some really great quotes.

Keegan: The Rock.

James: I will probably have to go with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The amount of fun that movie was is just hard to match. That has as much to do with HArrison Ford and Indiana Jones as it does with Connery playing Henry Jones Sr. If I am choosing one film that I enjoy because of Connery, I think I might go with Finding Forrester. That movie came and went very quietly back in 2000, but was an outstanding film.

ISH95: going to go with the majority. The Last Crusade.