Major League Baseball strikes out online

The monolithic corporation known as Major League Baseball is incurring the wrath of many fans for taking over the Web sites of all 30 professional teams and for charging us to listen to Web casts of radio broadcasts that are free. The audacity inherent here cannot be overstated. This is the U.S. national pastime we’re talking about, the stuff of legends and lore and all things good about our country.

All right, I’ll admit there is plenty of bad, too. Some players make way too much money and some owners are toads, and the Boston Red Sox are too good to play such crummy baseball on far too many nights of the season.

But I digress. The point is to poke fun at Major League Baseball (MLB) for sucking the originality out of the team sites and for being totally unprepared for the online onslaught of fans when the season started. Opening day — April 2 this year — is as important as any to baseball fans, but because it is a tradition in many cities to play the first game in the afternoon, many of us rely on Web casts and the warmth of bosses who don’t mind such use of corporate bandwidth. This opening day, we were met with the news from MLB that we have to pay US$9.95 for a season’s worth of Web casts.

I basically need only that first Web cast since the remainder of the schedule coincides well enough with my time off, unless the Sox (Ha!) or my life-long favorite St. Louis Cardinals make the play-offs. Beyond that, there is the principle of the matter. How dare MLB charge us? Because radio signals are notoriously fickle in both big cities and rural burgs, there are plenty of people willing to pay, indeed, who have to pay now to hear the games.

Besides this indignity, after being promised the wonders of redesigned Web sites, we were greeted with cookie-cutter uniformity totally lacking in personality (save for the message boards) and a sheer mess at Before continuing, it’s crucial to explain that statistics — knowing them, loving them, reciting them — are key to baseball adoration.

Consider that on opening day, said that New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens had already won two games. Clemens used to play for the Sox, therefore all true Sox fans hate his guts (which are plenty big, let me tell you) and don’t want to see him given credit for games he hasn’t yet won.

Then there was a chart comparing statistics of shortstops, who play a key defensive position, blocking the gap between second and third bases. Three of the best ever are playing now — Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox (sadly sidelined until July after wrist surgery), the Texas Rangers’ Alex Rodriguez (the highest-paid athlete in all of sports right now) and Derek Jeter, a Yankee, but by all accounts an otherwise nice guy. The statistics of all three were wrong.

Robin Ventura, third baseman for the New York Mets (also loathed by Sox fans for reasons we don’t like to talk about having to do with the 1986 World Series and a ground ball hit that dribbled through Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs) was said to have nine runs and 19 runs batted in that first day. Highly unlikely after a single nine-inning game.

I don’t know of these glitches firsthand; I read about them in Sports Illustrated magazine. I never managed to get on or any of the team sites opening day. Even on a reasonably fast LAN they were too slow to load. MLB attributed the problems — some still lingering — to hardware that malfunctioned. For now, I’ll buy the excuse. Despite corporate MLB, I’m in a good mood because it’s the start of baseball season and this year the Red Sox are definitely going to win the World Series.