Category Archives: MLB

Quick Slant: Major League Baseball’s Attendance and Creativity Problem

Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

By Ryan Lack

Quick Slant: Brewers Ticket Plan Gives Fans Better Seats Each Time Milwaukee Wins


Today, we’re taking a break from the NCAA Tournament. There have been a lot of games played, plenty of analysis conducted and published, and lots of upsets. We think the tournament can sit for now as they move into Sweet 16 action tomorrow. On top of that, Florida Gulf Coast ripped my Aztecs a new one last night and the wounds are still fresh. I’d rather not talk about it.

What we would like to cover is the recent move by the Milwaukee Brewers to provide fans an incentive to purchase mini ticket packages. It’s really a pretty brilliant strategy, though it’s based on an assumption that the fans will be willing to wager $99 for a nine game package that improves the more the team wins.

The way it works is the fan shells out the required cash and gets tickets to nine select Tuesday games. The seats for the first game sound like they’re crap with a face value of $11 each, but if the team wins the game you attend your next game will be viewed from better seats, and so on. Extrapolating that out to a reasonable Brewers winning streak and you could end up in some of the better seats that far exceed the value of your ticket package or any of the seats included with it.

It’s such a simple sales tactic, which is why it’s hard to believe no one has thought of it before. Based on a variety of reports this appears to be the first time a team has tried this and I’d wager more will follow suit depending on the success of the pilot program. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a good bet for both sides and an even better way to try and up attendance, which we all know has been absolutely pathetic league-wide for the last decade+.
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The Most Disliked Teams in America

By Kevin York

Two weeks ago I started a series on the Most Disliked entities in sports. I began this little series of posts questioning Forbes original article listing the ten most disliked athletes in America. Since I didn’t agree with all the athletes on their list, I revised it and published my own. I followed that up with a post on the most disliked coaches in America, which I decided on by crowdsourcing answers from my Facebook friends and input from the other Couchletes.

I considered doing a post on the most disliked owners in America, but decided there aren’t really enough that are universally disliked right now. There’s Jerry Jones and….Jerry Jones. You could make an argument for a few others, but I realized most of the owners that we as a general public don’t like aren’t with us anymore. Guys like Al Davis and George Steinbrenner. So instead of going the owner route, I’m just going straight to the final installment, the most disliked teams in America.

In deciding the teams that belong on this list, I decided not to ask for other opinions. Not because I think I’m that smart, but because these disliked teams all really stood out. I think most would agree with the ones on this list – except maybe the fans of these teams.

In reviewing this list, I noticed that the teams on it are all popular with large, dedicated fan bases. That’s part of what makes them so disliked. You’re not going to find a team like the Kansas City Royals or the Milwaukee Bucks on this list. To be disliked as a team, there a few things you need to have:

  • Success: At some point in the team’s history, they have to have seen success. It doesn’t even have to have been recent success, just prolonged.
  • Personalities: There are very few examples of teams that become disliked for reasons other than the people on the field and sidelines. We as the audience connect with people – the players, the coaches, sometimes the owners. By the same token, we develop a dislike for people, not logos or colors or cities.
  • Good fan base: It’s not always the personalities on the field that irritate us. Sometimes it’s the obnoxious people in the stands that we grow to hate.

All ten teams that I list below have all three of these characteristics. So without further ado, here they are. The ten most disliked teams in America, at least from my perspective.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Boston Red Sox

Dallas Cowboys

Duke Blue Devils

Los Angeles Lakers

Miami Heat

New England Patriots

New York Yankees

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Ohio State Buckeyes

So what teams did I miss?

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Most Interesting Offseason Baseball Moves

By Kevin York

Earlier this month, pitchers and catchers reported, marking the official preseason start of baseball season. It seemed like there were a lot of offseason moves, so to kick off the beginning of baseball season, let’s look at some of the most interesting. Notice I didn’t say the best offseason moves or the worst offseason moves. I just want to discuss the most interesting moves.

The Upton brothers, Atlanta – The Braves signed B.J. Upton to their largest free agent contract ever. That’s right. Ever. Think about some of the people that have put that Atlanta uniform on. Dale Murphy, Greg Maddox, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones. Upton’s contract bettered all of them. That’s significant. Nearly equally significant is that Atlanta gave up five players in a trade to acquire B.J.’s brother, Justin. They now have one of the top leadoff men (the top?) in the game and a quality bat in the middle of the order.

Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, Toronto – The Blue Jays’ trade with the Marlins showed the league that they’re serious about winning now, tired of being overshadowed by their AL East brethren for years. Should be their first really good year since the first Cito Gaston tenure.

R.A. Dickey, Toronto – Noticing a theme here? The 1-2-3 combo of Dickey paired with Johnson and Buehrle forms possibly the strongest top of the order in the league.

James Shields and Wade Davis, Kansas City – The Royals decided to go for it. For years they labored with their strong farm system, waiting for young players to develop and hoping they’d be able to get enough production out of them before they got too good and priced themselves out of Kansas City’s price range. The trade for Shields and and Davis, in exchange for promising young talent, shows they’ve decided to go for it now in a weak division instead of waiting for potential talent to develop. Adding Ervin Santana to its rotation helps as well.

Zach Greinke, Los Angeles – The Dodgers continued to spend money, picking up Greinke in the offseason and adding him to a rotation that already includes Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett. To round out the rotation, LA can choose from Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano and Aaran Harang. This has the potential to be a pretty dangerous rotation to compete with division rival San Francisco. As Eric Stephen notes in this article which lists Bill James‘ predictions for the Dodger starters, LA could have their first pair of 200 strikeout pitchers since 2000 in Kershaw and Greinke.

Joakim Soria, Texas – The Rangers already have Joe Nathan as their closer. The signing of Soria gives them possibly the game’s best setup man in front of Nathan, if Soria returns from Tommy John surgery with the same stuff he had prior to it. With its starting rotation again raided in the offseason, it’s vitally important for the Rangers’ bullpen to be strong, especially as its division rival in Anaheim continues to stockpile offensive talent. Soria could provide that added strength.

Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs – The addition of Jackson to Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood actually could give the Cubs a pretty decent rotation. The previous three World Series winners were all teams with good starting pitching, pitching so good that it made up for offensive flaws. Now I’m not crazy enough to put the Cubs in that kind of company (this pitching lineup isn’t close to being as strong as those three World Series teams – they’re not even making the playoffs), but I think they will play better than expected, powered by their starting pitching.

Those are my most interesting moves of the offseason. What did I miss?

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

There’s Cheating In Baseball

By Alton Beermann

As the 2013 baseball season ramps up I can’t help but think about the role of steroids in the game, especially with new allegations against A-Rod making the news. Baseball has a long and celebrated history. However, the history of the game is also littered with stories of cheating to gain an edge. There has been cheating in baseball since the game began. From the 1919 Black Sox scandal, to Pete Rose and his gambling, and recently, steroids or HGH, cheating has long been part of the game. What other sport allows participants to “steal” to get ahead? This is just part of Major League Baseball and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, cheating may have improved the quality of the game in some circumstances, and the “steroid era” (that most likely isn’t over) brought more excitement than shame to the game. Look at the facts:more home runs were hit over a 20-year span than ever before while, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire were all part of a media frenzy to become the next home run king.

Barry Bonds epitomized the steroid era. Whether or not you were a casual fan, a fan of Barry Bonds or even a fan of baseball, you sat down and watched Barry when he was up at bat in 2001, destroying the home run record Mark McGuire had set just three years earlier.

So I’m going to come out and say it: cheating in baseball is a part of the game and players who used steroids should not be kept out of the Hall of Fame because of it.

With the recent findings coming out of a Florida lab that players such as Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were implicated as users even after baseball imposed sanctions and mandatory testing and AFTER the Bonds, Clemens and Sosa testimony before Congress in the early 2000’s, it raises questions on just how widespread steroid usage was and is in baseball. What is it about baseball that makes people want to cheat so badly? I love baseball and I don’t think HGH has tarnished the game. I, like most fans, love to see the long ball. The so-called steroids era shouldn’t have asterisk next to broken records in the Hall Of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both belong in Cooperstown.

I think the excuse that “everyone was doing it,” is somewhat valid. Everyone makes their own choices but it doesn’t make steroids less easy to do when they are accessible, under a doctor’s supervision, and are making a physical difference in muscle size and stature. There has been no proof that steroids make someone “better” at baseball but clearly they do have benefits. These players made bad mistakes in choosing to use drugs but the records that were broken still were broken and we can’t simply ignore what happened. Steroids don’t build muscle by themselves. Athletes (even couchletes) have to still be committed to working hard in the gym to build strength. Steroids simply allow faster recovery and harder workouts in the gym. I think as time goes on this point of view will gradually be accepted. I see it as players trying to do everything possible to win, and that’s much better morally than taking money or gambling to lose a game.

So even though I’m not condoning drug usage or cheating, I do think we need to recognize it and accept it as part of the game of professional baseball. These players did what they did and I don’t think you can look at them and try to speculate what numbers would have been like without steroids. These guys like Barry Bonds have great numbers and because of that, deserve to be Hall of Famer’s. Maybe I’m a biased Giants fan, and drugs have changed the game, but with baseball’s long history and reputation, it will bounce back, even without that extra boost.

By Alton Beermann
Follow Alton on Twitter at @altonbeermann
You can contact Alton at

Quick Slant: The MLB and PEDs, Not Again!

By Ryan Lack

Today, we’re rolling out a new recurring post – “Quick Slants.” The goal of these will be to publish daily short reactions to some of the biggest sports stories of the day. In lieu of solid news to react to, Kevin will substitute with a diatribe on beard haircare and the benefits of exfoliating and moisturizing to promote healthy skin and vibrant, voluminous hair.

Slant: Documents from Miami clinic link five MLB players to PEDs.


From a fan perspective, the news that five more Major League Baseball players are being allegedly linked to the purchase and, by extension, use of performance enhancing drugs is nothing new.

The new players listed in documents from the Biogenesis of America clinic run by Anthony Bosch: San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, 26, the reigning National League stolen-base champion; Jordan Norberto, 26, a lefty reliever with the Oakland A’s; Fernando Martinez, 24, a Houston Astros outfielder; Fautino De Los Santos, 27, a reliever claimed off waivers by the Padres; and Cesar Puello, 21, a top Mets outfield prospect.

According to two sources familiar with Bosch’s operation, however, the Washington Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, previously identified as being named in Biogenesis documents, did not receive banned substances from Bosch or the clinic.

Many of us as young as in our 20s and 30s remember the “steroid era.” First off, my biggest problem with labeling that period from around 1987-2009 or so is the problem is still plaguing the league.

How can you call a period of time “an era” when that era clearly never ended?

The short answer to that is marketing and PR. And also, you can’t.

Labeling something an era signifies it had a beginning and an end. The league and probably the media want us all to move on; to believe they’ve done enough to shore up these issues and rectify the negative sentiment rampant among fans new and old. But as time goes on, more and more revelations are made. A-Rod gets pegged again and may never step foot on a diamond again. Heros will continue to fall. Even guys you don’t expect to see getting roped into this, like this most recent one above with Gio Gonzalez, are extremely disappointing. Fortunately for Gio, he’s been cleared of any possible connection to this clinic in Miami but, let’s be honest, no one’s buying it. We’ve learned the hard way in the recent past with the likes of Melky Cabrera that where there’s smoke there usually is fire. I loved Gio as an Oakland Athletic and was sad when he went to the Nationals and became a 20-game winner, but if this is the kind of baggage he’s going to tote around with him they can keep him.

The MLB is trying to fix this but it’s not working. And it will never work until they drop the hammer on these guys. A 50-game ban is great and all, but it’s 50 games. A guy can get caught at the beginning of the season and still come back to not only play but play well.

What needs to happen is the MLB must become more stringent:
– First offense – 50-game ban
– Second offense – Season-long ban
– Third offense – You’re done, bro. Out of the league forever.

Make it happen, Bud.

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
You can contact Ryan at

Rivalry Week: The Results

This past week has been rivalry week, with posts dedicated solely to rivalries in sports. On our Facebook page we published some polls so you could vote and let your voice be heard on the best rivalries in sports. Today we’re announcing the results of those polls. So let’s get right to it.


You voted the Yankees-Red Sox as the best rivalry in baseball. No surprise here, although it was closer than I thought it would be with the Dodgers-Giants  finishing closely behind the winner. All of the Dodgers-Giants votes came from people that grew up on the west coast though. Votes for Yankees-Red Sox came from all over the country, which to me just supports it being the best rivalry in baseball.


This one was a surprise, at least to me. I was expecting the Bears-Packers to win, but they were upset by the Steelers-Ravens in a close one. If you think about the past ten years though, the Steelers-Ravens have both been very good. They’ve both been playoff contenders and Super Bowl contenders. For the most part, either the Packers or the Bears have been good over that same time period, but not both.


Landside. Celtics-Lakers ran away with this one. Not a surprise and not much else to say about it.


Surprisingly, the NHL poll garnered the most votes. I assumed the NFL or MLB would get the most votes. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry ran away with this one in a contest that wasn’t very competitive overall. This did show a deep field though with a number of rivalries receiving votes. More choices received a vote in this poll than in any other. The NHL poll was actually also the hardest to determine the rivalries that would be included in the poll. There were a number that we considered including and just missed inclusion: Devils-Rangers, Kings-Ducks and Red Wings-Avalanche.

College Basketball

As expected, Duke-North Carolina won this one pretty handedly.

College Football

Another one that wasn’t a surprise with Ohio State-Michigan winning.

So what did all these polls tell us? Anything? Some weren’t surprising, others were more revealing. It looks like our followers enjoy hockey more than we thought (maybe we should write a little more on the NHL….). The west coast came out in force in support of the Dodgers-Giants, even though they fell a little short, showing that the rivalry between those two teams is very healthy. While the west coast may not have a ton of rivalries, they do enjoy that one.

The votes also showed us that we did a pretty good job of choosing all the poll options. There weren’t too many write-in votes, so for the most part, it looks like there are a few rivalries in each sport that stand out from all others as the best.

Rivalry Week: What’s the Deal with the West Coast?

If you’ve been following us this week you know that it’s Rivalry Week for us. You may also have noticed that we have some polls up on our Facebook page asking our followers to vote on the rivalries they think are best in sports. Something we noticed after we chose the rivalries for the polls is that we didn’t include many west coast rivalries. Definitely not as many as there on the east coast, in the south and in the midwest. I had to go back and do a double take to make sure there weren’t some good ones we left out. Nope…we didn’t.

Before I dive in further I need to say I’m focusing this post on professional sports. Rivalries form much easier in college sports and there are a number of good rivalries among west coast colleges: Oregon-Oregon State; Washington-Washington State; Cal-Stanford; USC-UCLA. But still, none of them stand up to the college football and college basketball choices listed on our Facebook page. Trying to compare Washington-Washington St. or USC-UCLA to Ohio State Michigan or Florida-Georgia is like saying a bologna sandwich is just as good as sushi. Sorry, they just aren’t the same.

So what’s the deal with west coast pro teams? Sure, there are some good west coast rivalries – the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers come to mind as one. The…uh….well…the Giants and Dodgers. Yeah, the Giants and Dodgers. Seriously? Is that it? The LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks were also considered for the NHL poll, but ultimately didn’t make the cut when compared to some of hockey’s other rivalries.

Is it because west coast fans are less passionate about sports than people living in other parts of the country? People are into it in college because there may not be anything else to do, then they graduate, move to LA, San Francisco, San Diego or some other west coast city and see there are a lot of other ways they could spend their time. While I think this is true to a degree, I also know a lot of passionate sports fans that are west coast residents. Sure, they don’t have the die hard stereotype that fans in Chicago, New York or Boston have, but there’s a good number that like their sports and grew up on them.

I’ve heard some people say that the high number of transplants on the left coast could be a contributing factor to the low number of rivalries. Someone grows up in Pittsburgh, then moves to Seattle and has no attachment to the Seahawks or Mariners. Or people even move around within the west coast. Does a mobile workforce not allow for the formation of rivalries though? I say no. Most rivalries have roots that are decades old and the U.S. didn’t become so mobile as a population until more recently.

Earlier this week I wrote about what makes a rivalry – geographic proximity, historical significance, consistent competitiveness and national relevance. Maybe it’s the national relevance piece that holds the west coast back in rivalries. The ol’ east coast bias by the media. There are plenty of teams that are geographically close, have some type of historical relevance between them and consistently play competitive games. So is national relevance to blame? Or is it that there isn’t enough of a historical significance. After all, most of the west coast teams are much younger than their east coast counterparts. The Giants and Dodgers, the west coast’s best examples, are older than most of the other teams on their coast and they’re young compared to teams in the east and midwest.

I actually think it’s a combination of historical significance and national relevance. Look at some of the match ups that logic says could (and probably should) be rivals: the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings; the Lakers and Clippers; Lakers/Clippers and Warriors; the 49ers and Seahawks; the Oakland A’s and LA/Anaheim/California Angels; the San Jose Sharks and LA Kings/Anaheim Ducks; the Raiders and Chargers.

Yet none of these are thought of as hot rivalries. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but the lack of west coast rivalries just seems odd to me. Why haven’t more formed over the years?

Rivalry Week: What Makes a Rivalry?

There are a lot of rivalries in sports, but what makes a good one? Maybe a better question to start with is, are there good rivalries and bad rivalries? Or are there just simply rivalries? I’m not quite sure. I know there are some rivalries that are better than others. The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are rivals, both being from Ohio, but do they match the relationship that, say, the Bears-Packers have? Not so much… I don’t think I’d call the Browns-Bengals a bad one though. So I think the answer is that there are just rivalries. With some better than others…

This question was asked by a guy at my office a few weeks ago: why are the Giants and Dodgers rivals? Answers came from all different angles.

“Because they’re in the same division.”

“SoCal vs. NorCal”

“They were rivals in New York before they moved west. It stuck when the moved.”

“San Francisco people hate LA people.”

All could be valid answers, but this guy at my office kept pushing on it, asking what event or occurrence happened for them to be rivals. He didn’t understand what caused these two teams to be rivals. He was looking for one thing, one unquestioned reason for why the two teams and their fan bases despise each other. I should disclose that this guy is a Yankees fan… So in his head, he was comparing every rivalry to the Yankees-Red Sox. He wanted there to be a Babe Ruth sale for ever rivalry.

What this led me to realize is that in most cases, there isn’t one occurrence that leads two teams to be rivals. In fact, even if you look at the Yankees-Red Sox, they didn’t immediately become rivals after the ink on the contract selling Ruth to New York dried. It was built over time.

Most rivalries have all, or a mix of several, of the following factors: geographic proximity, historical significance, consistent competitiveness and national relevance.

There are exceptions to all of these (the Lakers and Celtics are on opposite coasts), but for the most part, they’re all common to a rivalry – or at least three of the four. Over on our Facebook page we have polls asking people the best rivalries in all the major sports leagues and college football and basketball. You’ll notice all the choices we propose have at least three of the above factors.

So to go back to that question my colleague asked – why are the Giants and Dodgers rivals – there are a four reasons why:

  • Geographic proximity – they’re both on the west coast
  • Historical significance – each club has a lengthy history, starting in New York and then moving west. More importantly, they have a lengthy history of competing with each other for pennants and division titles
  • Consistent competitiveness – while one club is usually better than the other in a given year, there’s always a competitive spirit that exists between the two when they play, more than what exists between either of the two and any other NL team
  • National relevance – the country looks at the two teams as rivals and acknowledges the significance

Think about other rivalries. I guarantee that they’ll have at least three of the four factors I’ve talked about. Prove me wrong. If you find one, let me know.

Rivalry Week

This week, The Couchletes will be focusing on rivalries in sports. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, college sports. We’ll cover them all. Why did we choose this week and not align with one of ESPN’s rivalry weeks during college football season. Well, we’re not ESPN for one. And two, it’s a fairly slow week in sports. Wimbledon and MLB’s All Star game, that’s about it. So why not create some sports discussions of our own?

To start the week off, we want to hear from you. What do you think are the best rivalries in sports? Head over to our Facebook page and vote on the polls we’ve posted over there about the best rivalries in sports. Then throughout the week, we’ll publish some of our thoughts here about sports rivalries.