After nearly three years of blogging at this address, I have a new and improved site for The Knuckle Blog. You can find it at http://theknuckleblog.com or even at http://benweinrib.com if you’re feeling fancy.

For the most part, the content will be the same, with the addition of podcasts. Keep checking in for new contact, and spread the word!

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Some call it the human factor. I call it human error.

Over and over, we’ve seen games riddled with blown calls by umpires, and it’s not as if there’s nothing we can do about it.

Just in the last few seasons, we’ve had a blown call ruin perfect game, a blown call save a no-hitter, a groundout with the first baseman three feet off the bag, and an extra inning playoff double ruled foul.

It’s infuriating to watch from the stands or the couch and know that a potential game-changing call was wrong. Oftentimes, it’s as if the umpire is the only person in the world who thinks the call was made correctly.

Major League Baseball finally added instant replay in late August of 2008, a move far overdue for the nation’s pastime. I don’t want to say that Bud Selig has been a bad commissioner because of how he’s handled steroid suspensions versus DUI suspensions, but he certainly hasn’t been a very progressive commissioner.

After all, he’s following the worst line of reason around: We’re not making a change because this is the way we’ve always done things.

Change is a good thing. Change has brought us interracial marriage, DVR, and pepperoni P’Zones.

I’m a mathematical guy, so naturally I like things to be precise. I don’t like when picture frames are rotated two degrees too far clockwise, so you can bet I really don’t like it when a second base umpire messes up a stolen base call.

Fifteen years ago, there was an excuse for the lack of instant replay. There weren’t HD cameras, for one. But now, we have nearly a dozen camera angles for every play on some extremely precise cameras. We have the technology at our fingertips, yet Bud Selig has resisted the spoils of modern technology.

One of the main complaints of anti-replay fans is that consulting replay would take too long. As if Red Sox-Yankees marathons weren’t long enough as is, imagine them taking five-minute breaks every inning to check over every other call. Well, that’s not exactly the case. If you caught the Sawx-Yanks game on July 29th, you’d see it a different way.

With no outs and a runner on first in the top of the tenth, Will Middlebrooks came up to bat, squared to bunt. The second pitch of the at-bat was way inside, and as Middlebrooks brought back in his bat, the pitch hit him in the wrist. Unfortunately, the ball deflected straight into home plate umpire, Brian O’Nara.

O’Nara couldn’t make the call, as he laid on the ground in pain. The other umpires were all 100 feet away from home plate, so they didn’t have a good angle. But the umpires huddled up for about five minutes discussing what they thought they had seen. We have access to super slow motion, 1080p video from endless angles, yet baseball has resorted to four men discussing their views from afar. But that’s just the beginning.

Middlebrooks was angry because he was showing off the mark on his wrist made by the ball, but the umpires wouldn’t look. Bobby Valentine, however was even more angry since he got to see the replay in the dugout. Bobby V then spent the next five plus minutes yelling at the umpires before fruitlessly getting ejected.

On that one play alone, the umpires and manager wasted 10 minutes, when a brief look at one instant replay could have correctly sent Middlebrooks to first base.

This game-winning run couldn’t be reviewed because that would obviously ruin the integrity of the game.

With access to instant replay, Major League baseball could cut down the amount of missed calls nearly to zero at the same time as they save time and collateral damage, in the form of ejections.

But what blows the mind most about the current instant replay rules is that the most important play in all of baseball–run scoring plays–cannot be reviewed. Sure, checking if a fan touched a fair ball could significantly alter a game, but there’s nothing more crucial than a play at the plate. After all, you do win games by scoring more runs than the other team.

My rules for instant replay would be very simple. 1) Have a fifth umpire in the press box with access to instant replay. 2) Give each team two challenges per game, and if the play is overturned, they get to keep the challenge. 3) Challenge anything that’s not balls and strikes. 4) Cook for 30 minutes, then let it cool.

And you know what, I’d even be fine with robot umpires behind home plate using K Zone. Maybe then we wouldn’t have blatant miscalls based on payback, such as what sparked Brett Lawrie’s terrific tirade earlier this season.

But have no fear, sports fans, Commissioner Selig is coming to the rescue! Earlier this week he told Mike Lupica he’s confident replay will be expanded to include trapped balls and balls hit down the line… but not before 2013. He also added he would be “very cautious” to make any more changes.

Clearly it’s going to take a new commissioner for MLB join the modern age of technology. And I hope that change comes sooner rather than later because I’d hate to see change spurred on by a playoff game marred by a blown call.

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Also check out my newest article for the Charlotte Observer: Tigers rugby club finds early success.

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Earlier this summer I interned at the Charlotte Observer and got three articles published. Now I’m freelancing with the paper–specifically with the South Charlotte News sports section–so I’ve created a page with a link to all of my articles. Quickly, my three published articles so far are:

Also, I’ve had two more articles published at Bobcats Baseline, which are:

Keep checking in on The Knuckle Blog and my Charlotte Observer and Bobcats Baseline pages, and don’t forget to spread the word!

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It’s finally here. The 2012 NBA Draft is in less than 24 hours, and here is your guide. These aren’t the players I necessarily would draft with each pick, but it’s a combination of who I feel would be the best pick and what I’ve been hearing about each team.

1

Anthony Davis

PF 6’11” 222 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

There’s nothing more I can really add about Anthony Davis. He’s just really, really good. The only interesting thing I can add is this question: would it be more of a surprise for Anthony Davis or Andrew Luck to be a total and utter schlub in the pros?

2

Harrison Barnes

SF 6’8” 228 lbs North Carolina 19 Years Old

Surprise! In a very Bobcatsian move, Charlotte takes another Tar Heel. But this move isn’t so bad, Barnes has a high ceiling as a potential 20 point per game scorer. GM Rich Cho loves Barnes, but Michael Jordan prefers Thomas Robinson. I actually believe that the Bobcats will swap picks with the Cavaliers, so Cleveland can draft Bradley Beal, and Charlotte can pick up the 24th pick and potentially a second rounder. There they can choose between Barnes and Robinson again.

3

Bradley Beal

SG 6’5” 202 lbs Florida 18 Years Old

Beal would immediately form one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league with John Wall and bring some much needed offense and shooting to Washington. But I’m not so sure Beal will be here if they don’t trade up. Reportedly, Washington, Oklahoma City, Portland, and Minnesota are all interested in trading up for Beal, and the Bobcats need as many players as possible.

4

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

SF 6’7” 233 lbs Kentucky 18 Years Old

If they don’t trade up for Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a helluva consolation prize. He played high school ball with Kyrie Irving, and is one of the surest things in this draft. He’s an extremely hard worker who can guard nearly any position on the floor and rebound well above his size.

5

Thomas Robinson

PF 6’9” 244 lbs Kansas 21 Years Old

Sacramento is full of–as Bomani Jones would call them–Jack ‘Em Joes. They have six players who need more than their fair share of shots, and none seem to be concerned with their teammates. That’s why Sacramento has been trying to trade this pick for a veteran. The two players who the Kings really want are MKG and Thomas Robinson–polished college players who can be effective without the ball in their hands.

6

Andre Drummond

C 7′ 279 lbs UConn 18 Years Old

A risky young big man with crazy athleticism and all the talent in the world. Sounds like a broken record, eh Portland? Well although Portland hasn’t had much luck with big men over the years, the risk is seriously dampened six picks into the draft. Now the Blazers also really love Damian Lillard–who all but definitely won’t be around for their #11 pick–and may reach for him with this pick.

7

Dion Waiters

SG 6’4” 221 lbs Syracuse 20 Years Old

Golden State is in an awkward position. After Anthony Davis, there’s a clear five-player second tier. They’re at the start of the third tier. Their owner stressed drafting high-motor “winners,” so that may take them out of the Drummond and Perry Jones III sweepstakes. Although they still have young Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, Dion Waiters makes the most sense here. He may never have started at Syracuse, but he has the potential to be Dwyane Wade-lite.

8

Damian Lillard

PG 6’3” 189 lbs Weber State 21 Years Old

Toronto is in dire need of a scoring wing player, but Dion Waiters won’t be on the board at this point unless Portland takes Lillard. If this scenario plays out, the Raptors will settle on Lillard–who follows the Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook model of a shooting point guard. Toronto could reach for Moe Harkless or even Evan Fournier if GM Bryan Colangelo wanted to continue drafting foreign players (kidding).

9

Meyers Leonard

C 7’1” 250 lbs Illinois 20 Years Old

I still think Jared Sullinger would be the perfect fit here, but teams are scared off by his ailing back. Detroit wants to move Greg Monroe to power forward, and drafting an athletic center like Meyers Leonard would ease that move. He’s a little immature, but he’s shockingly athletic, but as one assistant GM put it: If Meyers Leonard were black, he’d be the #2 pick. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but he’s certainly a bit underrated.

10

Perry Jones III

PF 6’11” 234 lbs Baylor 20 Years Old

New Orleans could walk away from this draft with the two best players in the class. Perry Jones has center size and perimeter skills, but he hasn’t shown consistent effort throughout his two years at Baylor. He was miscast as a center at college, so maybe playing next to a tenacious big like Davis can free him up to be effective on the perimeter.

11

Austin Rivers

G 6’5″ 203 lbs Duke 19 Years Old

Lillard is off the board at this point, but the Blazers still need frontcourt help. Jeremy Lamb could be an option, but I think they’d prefer someone with more star power like Austin Rivers. If he can ever learn to get his teammates more involved, Rivers can become one of the best point guards in the game. But if he can’t he’ll likely be limited to a 6th man change-of-pace guard.

12

Tyler Zeller

C 7′ 247 lbs North Carolina 21 Years Old

Assuming Houston keeps the pick, they’ll want to add size in the form of Zeller. But assuming Houston will keep this pick is foolish. They’re trying to trade up to a top-10 pick to land Dwight Howard, and everyone in the league knows it.

13

Jeremy Lamb

SG 6’5” 179 lbs UConn 20 Years Old

Phoenix gave a promise to draft Dion Waiters, but there’s just no chance he lasts this long. Lamb isn’t such a bad alternative, but his stock has been falling ever since the last NCAA tournament. He hasn’t been as effective without Kemba Walker, but he’s freakishly athletic with a steady shot.

14

Terrence Ross

SG 6’7″ 197 lbs Washington 21 Years Old

The Bucks moved back two spots to add size in Samuel Dalembert, so now they can look for more perimeter help. While Ross doesn’t quite have small forward size, Milwaukee can play small with him, Brandon Jennings, and Monta Ellis, after they bring Ross off the bench. Then again, more size wouldn’t hurt, and John Henson or Jared Sullinger would be great alternatives.

15

John Henson

PF 6’10” 216 lbs North Carolina 21 Years Old

Elton Brand hasn’t been worth his $82 million contract in any sense–now he’s an amnesty candidate. Jared Sullinger would be a better replacement for Brand, but John Henson would be a safer pick and much needed provide interior defense.

16

Moe Harkless

SF 6’9” 207 lbs St. John’s 19 Years Old

Again, Houston is unlikely to keep this pick, but after trading Chase Budinger, the Rockets could use a high-upside small forward.

17

Jared Sullinger

PF 6’9” 268 lbs Ohio State 20 Years Old

Back injury or not, Jared Sullinger is way better than the 17th best player in this draft. He dominated college basketball for two years and has the big body to compete in the NBA right away. Even if his career is cut short a few years, Sullinger can provide a powerful presence down low for a contending team like Dallas, Orlando, or Boston.

18

Arnett Moultrie

PF 6’11” 223 lbs Mississippi St. 21 Years Old

Do I even need to say it again? Houston probably won’t be picking 18th, but they like Moultrie, and they can always use more size.

19

Terrence Jones

PF 6’10” 250 lbs Kentucky 20 Years Old

Orlando would love to pair Sullinger with Dwight Howard, but Terrence Jones is a very nice alternative. If he can ever keep his head in the game for 30 minutes or so, he can be an All-Star, or at the very least a Lamar Odom-type player. Jones measured bigger than most expected, so it looks like he can play the 4 in the pros. Match him up with Dwight Howard, and he can continue to play along the perimeter to draw out defenders.

20

Kendall Marshall

PG 6’4” 198 lbs North Carolina 20 Years Old

The Nuggets have a bunch of very good players, but no great players. Marshall will never be great, but he has great court vision. Bring him off the bench, and his matador defense won’t hurt the team so much. Plus, UNC connections in George Karl and Ty Lawson can’t hurt.

21

Royce White

PF 6’8” 261 lbs Iowa State 21 Years Old

Here’s maybe my favorite player in the draft. White is as talented as any player in the draft, and is crazy athletic. He’s even a gifted ball handler. But he’s cursed with a crippling anxiety disorder that kept him from playing at Kentucky since he’s afraid of flying on a plane. If he can land in a solid lockerroom with strong leaders–like Boston–he can become a very strong starter. Or even more.

22

Andrew Nicholson

PF 6’10” 234 lbs St. Bonaventure 22 Years Old

Boston is looking for lots of size that can help right away, so Nicholson fits in. Fab Melo may have more talent and potential, but he’s years away from helping a contender. Nicholson can stretch the floor with a solid jump shot (not to far off from near-Celtic David West), and most importantly can help from Day One.

23

Tony Wroten Jr.

PG 6’6” 203 lbs Washington 18 Years Old

Atlanta would love Moe Harkless, but if he’s off the board, they’ll likely take the best point guard available. Wroten has huge potential since he’s an incredible passer with great size and slashing ability. He’s not going to be Chris Paul or Deron Williams–and his jump shot is pretty broke–but he’s more of a pure point guard than Jeff Teague.

24

Fab Melo

C 7′ 255 lbs Syracuse 22 Years Old

At this point, the Cavs still need a big man and a shooting guard, but taking a shooter like Will Barton or John Jenkins is a bit of a stretch here. Melo adds more size and athleticism down low, and the Cavs can wait on him to reach his ceiling. If the Bobcats are picking here, they’re likely going with Quincy Miller or Tony Wroten Jr.

25

Quincy Miller

SF 6’10″ 219 lbs Baylor 19 Years Old

Memphis could use another point guard, and Marquis Teague would be a great steal, but Quincy Miller is an even bigger steal. He’s a top-10 talent, but he didn’t show it at Baylor, partially thanks to an injured knee. Rudy Gay might be leaving the building soon, and Miller can take over at the 3, but if he puts on a bit more weight, he can back up Zach Randolph at the 4, too.

26

Marquis Teague

PG 6’2” 180 lbs Kentucky 19 Years Old

Point guard isn’t really a position of need, but the team is looking to deal Darren Collison, and Teague is fantastic value at this point. If Teague isn’t the pick here, a wing like Draymond Green or a big like Festus Ezeli would man great picks.

27

Draymond Green

SF 6’8” 236 lbs Michigan State 22 Years Old

Draymond Green is a hero among the stat communities, so it’d take a small miracle for him to last this long in the draft. He’s polished and a great team player, both of which should be key for a Miami Heat pick. If Green isn’t on the board, look for a Commodore to go here: either Jeff Taylor or Festus Ezeli.

28

Evan Fournier

SG 6’7″ 206 lbs France 19 Years Old

The Thunder don’t have a particular need, so look for them to take a foreign player to stash overseas for a year or two. Fournier is better than the 28th best player in the draft, and he’s very young with room to grow. Plus, with James Harden possibly too expensive to keep, Fournier is great insurance.

29

John Jenkins

SG 6’4” 212 lbs Vanderbilt 21 Years Old

Chicago is looking for a guard, particularly a shooter. Will Barton might be the better player available, but John Jenkins is far and away the best shooter in the draft. He may never be a Ray Allen, but at worst he’s J.J. Redick. Who, by the way, has turned himself into a very solid pro.

30

Festus Ezeli

C 7′ 264 lbs Vanderbilt 22 Years Old

Ezeli may be the third best Vanderbilt prospect in this class, but he can help address Golden State’s need for size. He’s massive with a 7’6″ wingspan and can help make up for where David Lee and Andrew Bogut come up short defensively.

Next Five off the Board: Jeff Taylor, Furkan Aldemir, Will Barton, Tyshawn Taylor, and Kostas Papanikolaou.

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Life isn’t fair because there’s too much we can’t control. But when there’s something unfair that we can control, it’s time for a change.

Major League Baseball has had two separate leagues since its inception, and each league was split into East and West divisions starting in 1969. Twenty-five years later, a Central division was added to each league, and a wild card spot allowed a non-division winner into the playoffs for the first time in the league’s history.

Win your division, and you’re in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, just win your division. That’s the way it’s always been, and after all, baseball is a game of tradition.

But what are divisions? They’re just groups of five generally geographically close teams.

Moreover, divisions aren’t equally balanced groups of five teams; they’re just five arbitrarily placed together teams. So to say that a team needs to be better than four other arbitrarily picked teams to make the playoffs would just be unfair.

Most of that “unfairness” is eliminated with the addition of a wild card. In four of the last five seasons, the AL East has been home to two of the three best teams in the American League, but thanks to the Wild Card both teams have qualified for the postseason.

But sometimes teams aren’t so lucky. The best five teams record-wise don’t always get to the playoffs because the divisions are often not equally talented.

If the season ended right now, the Angels, owners of the fifth best record in the AL, would not make the playoffs. Their record is 38-32, but the Indians are leading the AL Central with a 36-32 record, so Cleveland would be the team playing into October.

Sure, we’re not even half way into the 2012 season, but situations like the Angels’ predicament have happened plenty of times before. In fact, they’ve happened not so long ago.

In 2009, the Rangers finished second in the AL West with an 87-75 record, good for fourth best in the AL. But Minnesota and Detroit were locked up at 86-76 atop the AL Central, so they had a one-game playoff to see who would advance to the postseason. Texas was just out of luck.

Basically the same situation played out the year before with the Yankees finishing third in the AL East with an 89-73 record—the fourth best in the AL. Chicago and Minnesota were each 88-74, so Chicago made the playoffs after winning their 163rd game of the season.

But that wasn’t even the most extreme example of unfairness from that 2008 season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West that year with an 84-78 record. Three other National League teams (the 89-win Mets and the 86-win Astros and Cardinals) finished with more victories than the Dodgers. And that’s not even considering the Marlins, who also finished with 84 wins, despite playing one less game.

Naturally, the Dodgers deserved to make they playoffs because they had the best record in a group of five arbitrarily grouped teams.

And worst of all is the 2005 San Diego Padres. They won 82 of their 162 games, but qualified for the postseason because the other four teams in their division could only muster 77, 75, 71, and 67 wins.

San Diego got to feast on the worst division in recent memory, while the NL East saw it’s worst team (Washington) finish 81-81. MLB schedules have each team play 45% of their games against divisional teams—San Diego got a bunch of cupcakes, while the NL East teams spent nearly half their schedule beating themselves up.

Baseball is rearranging their schedule next season when the Astros switch from the NL Central to the AL West. But I suggest that MLB changes the landscape of the league ever further for the 2013 season. I think that they should completely do away with divisions.

Eliminating divisions entirely would do two things to help equity in baseball. One, it would remove the unbalanced schedules that hurts teams in overly-competitive divisions. Two, it makes sure that the teams with the five best records make it to the postseason.

For years, the Toronto Blue Jays have been in a mess of trouble if they wanted to make the postseason. It’s not just that they’re fighting an uphill battle trying to finish the year with a better record the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. They also have to spend 9 out of every 20 game playing these tough opponents before they play out-of division teams.

Brett Lawrie is really angry because his Blue Jays have a doubly hard time making the playoffs since they're stuck in the AL East.

Some teams, like the 2011 Tigers for example, have that 45% chunk of their schedule against just terrible opposition. After Detroit, no other team in the division had a winning record.

The Tigers played that 45% of their schedule against divisional teams with a dismal .452 winning percentage. I bet Toronto would have killed for that instead of their brutal schedule of teams with a combined .535 winning percentage.

Now that there are fifteen teams in each league, every day will have at least one interleague game. So with that in mind, why not give ever team an even schedule? Each team can play two-thirds of their games against the other fourteen teams in their league with the last third being interleague games. No team faces an unnecessarily hard schedule, and nobody gets a Boise State-style cakewalk schedule.

With balanced schedules and no more divisions, MLB would basically ensure that the the five best teams in each league would make the playoffs. No more 82-win division champs. No more crazy tough schedules.

What’s there to lose? Sure, there will be fewer Red Sox/Yankees games, but that will make each matchup mean more. And yes, there will be longer flights, but teams can have extended road trips to visit geographically close teams in a row (a 12-day road trip against the Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, and Twins).

And when it all comes down to it, I’d rather have a profitable sports league spend a bit more on travel to have a more fair way to pick playoff teams.

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