I grew up watching the likes of Roberto Alomar, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, Jr., and one of the best pitching trios of all time in Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine. Today marks the end of an era in two respects--the retirement of Craig Biggio and the end of Braves Baseball on TBS.
Over the last several years the steroid scandal in baseball has horribly hurt the reputations of several players, the most obvious being Bonds and Canseco, but to a lesser degree Palmeiro and McGwire as their careers ended. Today as I watched the final Atlanta Braves game of the season, I found myself cheering for the retiring second basemen for the Houston Astros, Mr. Craig Biggio. Not only was I cheering for a man who remained with the same team his entire career, I was cheering for one the most decent, humble men in baseball. I felt similarly today about Biggio as I felt while Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. were being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This isn't a game of decent, loyal, playing for the love of the game, men anymore.
Today's game is a game of men for the money, men for the endorsements, men for big time contracts and October post-season play. Sure, there are a few decent guys still playing, but the big time contract winners aren't there for the game itself like Biggio has been or as Gwynn and Ripken, Jr. always were.
Undoubtedly, Biggio deserves a place in Cooperstown. His stats alone are phenomenal. And taking into account that underlying question asked by those voting for Cooperstown hopefuls, Biggio was in fact one of the best in the game. Not only was he one of the most athletic players (I don't know many catchers who can and have made a successful transition to second base), he was one of the most respected players in the game. As Biggio left the field this afternoon you noticed a few of the veterans tipping their hats and I couldn't help but notice Chipper Jones, a rival of Biggio's on the field, nodding in appreciation of a decent man who loves the game as much as anyone ever has.
Major League Baseball would be an entirely different entity in the press if their were more men in the various lineups like Craig Biggio.
Also in today's Astros/Braves game came an end of a television force. Braves Baseball on TBS, as it has been known for some thirty-two years, will cease to exist as we diehard Braves fans have known it. TBS has picked up rights on the postseason (except for the World Series which will remain on Fox) and will air a special Sunday game between any two teams, not necessarily the Braves and an opponent.
Early on, TBS had announced a deal to air the 45 Braves games it holds rights to nationally, but opted out and sadly signed those 45 games as part of a deal with Peachtree TV. From here on out (or at least until 2013 when the contract expires) Sunday afternoon and playoff games will be known as Major League Baseball on TBS and what was once Braves Baseball on TBS will be only a memory.
Over the last few years I have been quite disappointed in the production change-ups at Braves Baseball on TBS. When the legendary Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren were cut back and Don Sutton and Joe Simpson stepped up I was utterly disappointed. This season was a compromise--Chip and Skip Caray as well as Joe Simpson led the charge.
Sure the announcers for Major League Baseball on TBS are good (Chip Caray will play a large part as TBS' lead play-by-play announcer for division series and LCS games with Tony Gwynn joining him. Joe Simpson and other members of the current Braves broadcast team will be a part of postseason coverage and last I heard there were talks taking place with former Braves announcer Don Sutton, but it looks like neither Sutton nor Skip Caray will be in the mix) and I absolutely can't complain about Ernie Johnson, Jr., Cal Ripken, Jr., and Frank Thomas being partially involved, but its a sad day for Braves fans outside of the Atlanta area and those with a FSN-South feed. Those of us in Idaho will have to become accustomed to only watching the Braves on Sunday baseball, ESPN, and occasionally Fox.
If next season is similar to this one, I may find myself watching more Rockies baseball (I can hardly believe I just said that) as I have been very impressed with Troy Tulowitski and Matt Holliday. But like always I will watch whatever baseball game is on for the simple love of the game.
Tomorrow we'll see the Rockies square off with the San Diego Padres for the Wild Card in a tie breaker. This coming week we'll see the beginning of the postseason with the Chicago Cubs (also a big shocker), the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Phillies (holy hell what a collapse on the part of the Mets), Cleveland (another surprise), the Arizona Diamondbacks, and either the Padres or Rockies.
Today we say good bye to a wonderfully executed television production. Today we say good bye to one of the most decent, respected, and talented men in the game--Biggio. Today, in a sense, we say good bye to an era.