Baseball should follow hockey's lead
A major league player qualifies as a rookie as long as he has not exceeded 130 at bats or 50 innings pitched in previous seasons. He also cannot have spent more than 45 days on a major league roster during the 25 player limit period.
But Ichiro played nine years in the Japanese league with the Orix Blue Wave and won his seventh straight batting title for them last year. He may not have 130 major league at bats, but he had 3,619 at bats in Japan. His lifetime average there is .353. Isn't it a bit of a knock against the Japanese league to not consider that experience as nothing more than the minor leagues•
Just as hockey did when it started getting so many foreign players with varied experience, baseball should change the rules for their Rookie-of-the-Year awards. When Calgary's Sergei Makarov won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1990, he was almost 32 years old. The NHL immediately changed the qualifications. Players now cannot be older than 25 when the season starts in order to qualilfy for the Calder Trophy.
Baseball should consider some changes, too, although to me, the age of Ichiro doesn't bother me. That should be insignificant. It's his experience that should be taken into consideration.
At the same time, the Monday Night game on ABC featured Dallas and Washington. Both teams were 0-4 and both played lousy football. One touchdown was scored all night. Yet the football game did better in the national ratings than the baseball game did.
There has been little doubt for a long time that football is the sport of choice for most Americans. Baseball is only dreaming when it still considers itself the national pastime. But this really proves the point.
There were other problems with Hlinka. His insistence on keeping a short bench, using mostly veterans over and over again while retarding the progress of the young turks in the organization, was poor strategy.
He refused to match lines for much of the season. With all of the offensive talent the Penguins had, he often got away with it. But in the playoffs it really bit him especially in the New Jersey series. The Devils were probably a better team anyway, but the Pens never had a chance to find out how good they could have been. Not with Bobby Holik bottling up Mario even in the games played at Mellon Arena. It was hard to tell if this was stubborness or stupidity, but it was bad whatever it was.
But with the Penguins making it to the conference finals, it was almost impossible to fire Hlinka after last season. Craig Patrick wasted little time in announcing that he would return. Then Jagr was traded in July and whether or not the two could patch things up was moot. It became a matter of when Hlinka would be fired, not if.
It didn't help when training camp started and Hlinka's poor English didn't seem to have improved much from a year ago despite the organization's request for him to take some formal training. It's not smart to tick off Mario Lemieux if you want to continue collecting a paycheck from the Penguins.
A lot of people last week were asking me if it was fair to can the guy after just four games. The 0-4 start wasn't the reason Hlinka was fired, it was just the excuse used to do something that seemed obviously necessary since last year.