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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - ove it Or Hate it...Standings Shakeup

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Love it Or Hate it...Standings Shakeup


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

The March 31 issue of Sports Illustrated featured a 78-page MLB Baseball Preview, complete with regular season, playoff and World Series predictions.

MLB fans everywhere were eager to read the opinions and forecasts put out by the most trusted source in sports since 1954.

According to SI's experts, the Yankees will win the American League East, the Tigers and Indians will go 1-2 in the AL Central and the Florida Marlins will finish dead last in the NL East. The St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays will both just barely escape the bottom spot in their respective divisions and the Colorado Rockies will take the honors in the NL West.

As the old expression goes: "that's why they play the game."

About a month from its halfway mark, the 2008 baseball season has the experts scratching their heads. As of June 1, the Yankees were a half game out of last in the AL East, while the Marlins sat just a half game out of first in their division. The Tigers and Indians were wading through the gut of the AL Central, the Cards were a just few games back of first in the NL Central and the Rockies — boasting the worst record in baseball — were the cellar dwellers of the NL West.

Of course, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. There's certainly time for the Yankees to turn things around and for the Rays and Marlins to tank.

The question is, do fans want to see order restored or is this standings shakeup good for baseball?

While Yankee haters everywhere are happy to see the Starbucks of baseball sputtering and sinking, some find it hard to watch such a storied franchise die. Gone are the days when the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry actually meant something. Things have gotten so bad, no one even talks about whether Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are friends anymore — there are bigger fish to fry. For instance, why the Yankees are flirting with last place while the Marlins, an ENTIRE TEAM with an Opening Day payroll less than that of A-Rod ALONE are battling for first.

Meanwhile, the (presumably soon to be higher-paid) Marlins players look out over the rows of empty seats in Dolphin Stadium and wonder what it will take for the fans to get wise. Last year, on the first of June the Marlins were three games under .500 and their state-mates, the Rays, were a staggering eight games below even. Hot starts by the two surging clubs have the media buzzing, but many wonder if the apathetic residents of the Sunshine State are deserving of their winning teams.

Maybe the Yankees are the Spurs of baseball. Fans are sick of their winning ways; they're ready to usher in a new dynasty. Just as the New Orleans Hornets brought new faces and new fans to the NBA playoffs, so too will baseball's new darlings. It may take some time, but eventually improving clubs will see their attendance improve, too. Yankees fans will still be around, win or lose, but only with continued success will Marlins and Rays fans come to the party.

Not only will the fans take notice of the new teams to beat, managers and owners will, too. Instead of the "spend first, think later" approach of the Richie Rich Yankees, clubs may follow the smarter, more modest ways of the Marlins and Rays — the teams with the two lowest payrolls in baseball. It seems this year the underdog still has a chance.

That's why I'm loving the "backwards day" feel of today's baseball landscape. What do you think?

Is baseball better off when the Yankees are winning or are fans ready for change? Are you loving or hating the surprises of the 2008 season?


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