Say what?: June Gloom is to Southern California as realignment is to baseball

What does this have to do with baseball? Exactly.

There are a lot strange phenomena that are unique to Southern California. We’ve got beaches and mountains within an hour of each other. We’ve got a river made of concrete. We’ve got the highest screenwriter-to-Starbucks ratio in the world. And we’ve got the highest concentration of douchebags per capita in the United States (but not the world, because there’s France).

And we, of course, have great weather. But it’s not always 72 degrees and sunny. We have rain sometimes and hot spells, and there is also a weather phenomenon called “June Gloom.” I know, it’s a really clever title, isn’t it? Most people, who have lived here long enough, absolutely hate when people use this. It’s not so much that they use it, so much as how they use it – like they just thought of it right then and isn’t it just the best way to describe the weather and did you notice that it sort of rhymes?

June Gloom is basically when the mornings are overcast because of some sort of climate reaction to whatever. Look, if you care, you can use the Internet and figure it out for yourself. I’m not here to teach meteorology to you guys.

I’m just here to talk baseball. Though my editor says there have been a few complaints about how my articles tend to drift away from baseball off into Never Never Land or Bedford Falls or Gotham City or wherever. So, I’m supposed to talk more about baseball. Here goes.

This time of the year, baseball fans are in a groove. There’s not really a lot going on other than the games. So they chitchat about this game or that game or what players should be at the All-Star game and what players are going to be better or worse or the same. Yeah, it’s all pretty unexciting. This is the boring part of the season. All the fans of crappy teams have resigned themselves to another crappy season and all the fans of good teams are waiting until the last month to see how things play out in the race to the playoffs. The games count the same but it’s hard for anyone other than the parents of the players to care night after night. And even they don’t care that much. It’s a 162-game season that lasts six months.

Oh, right, this is why I was mentioning the June Gloom thing earlier. The (not very) interesting thing about June Gloom is that since it’s not really clouds, it kind of just burns off by mid-day and then it’s just gone and everyone just sort of forgets that it was even there in the first place.

And here comes the connection. It’s around this time that the media “jumps on” some (not very) interesting story about the league that’s supposed to get us all fired up one way or the other. But the story usually fades pretty quickly and no one even really remembers that it was there in the first place. (Boom! There’s your June Gloom!)

This year’s “stimulating” buzz story is divisional realignment. Nobody really cares that much about this. This isn’t civil rights or drug abuse or political corruption. But the media gets all fired up anyway because that’s what the media does – full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Most people don’t really care about how the divisions are set up. Sure, most people think there are some flaws. But there are some fans who go right along with the media and are outraged. “Oh, it’s unfair. We have to play in the same division with the big bad Yankees (or Red Sox or Phillies) and they spend twice as much as we do.” (Spoken with a toddler’s voice.)

You don’t usually hear much from the fans of teams in the weaker divisions where all the teams stink regardless of how much money they spend. Frankly, they like the odds – like that Padres team that got in the playoffs with an 82-80 record. Ugh. There were three other teams with better records in the National League that didn’t make the playoffs, but none of them were in the Padres’ division, so they got to go to the playoffs and get swept in three games by the Cardinals.

The kids keep score. Trust me.

And the fans and teams decry this as a sham. “We didn’t make the playoffs even though we won more games than the Padres and we played against tougher teams and we would have done better than them.” (Spoken with a spoiled teenager’s voice.) Well, it is a sham. But them’s the rules.

This is all sort of a societal problem. When I played sports as a younger man, they didn’t give out trophies for second place. These days we are teaching kids that everyone’s a “winner.” Everyone gets a Participation Ribbon. Just like life, right? Oh, right, except for the exact opposite. It’s good to get kids started with a false sense of security and a vigorous sense of entitlement.

In many league games that kids play, they don’t actually keep score – “So that all the kids learn that they are all winners and it’s about how you play the game and everything in your life will turn out just great.” (Spoken with a burned-out hippie’s voice.)

Bad news, adults: The kids keep score anyway. The adults are so proud that they’re doing it for fun and the sport, but the kids want to win. They all check with each other as to what the score is. The parents probably just figure the kids are just practicing for a math test.

And another thing: A lot of those kids are losers (or are going to be). Life has winners and losers. Sometimes even though you’re really good at something, there’s someone else that’s better. Life is like baseball in that way. If you’re in a division that has better teams than you because they spend more money or make better decisions, then you need to get smart and find a way to exploit your opponents’ weaknesses.

Teams should stop wasting millions of dollars a year on players who have proven in every statistical measure to be absolutely replaceable by just about any other younger and cheaper player – and in some cases even a pylon would do just as well. Spend some of those millions on a bunch of young players with potential. Don’t blame everyone else.

I actually think the way they set up the divisions should change – maybe just two divisions in each league and the best four teams get in the playoffs. But the league (and some of the dumber fans) says we need these divisions as they create rivalries between the teams. Trust me, if the teams are rivals now they will stay rivals no matter what division you put them in. Giants fans will hate Dodgers fans no matter what division they’re in and Brewers fans will hate … um … actually I don’t know who they hate, but they would continue to. Also, if you changed each league from three divisions to two, it seems like that would allow for even more rivalries.

Did you say realignment? I'm having trouble hearing you over the din of the owners counting their money.

So, even with all this noise about how it should or shouldn’t be, it’s pretty easy to figure out that the divisions are the way they are because it means more money for the owners. I don’t know if it’s because they save money from less travel or if it increases ticket sales, but I can assure you that it’s a money thing and the owners love money.

But maybe some of the owners feel like they’d make more money with a different divisional alignment. And when they get enough other owners to agree then they’ll do something about it.

This is all pretty boring stuff that they’re going to change when they change, and there isn’t really anything we can do about it but sit back and wait until they do make a change and then there will be something about the change that we can all complain about.

But even now this story, which just a few days ago was so very important, has pretty much gone away; like the June Gloom, it has burned off and most of us barely remember it was a story. And it will be back someday or it will be some other boring story that gets way over-hyped like price-gouging on stadium parking or a bobblehead shortage. It’s all just part of baseball’s June Gloom.

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