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In my anecdotal, small sample watching of the NCAA tourney, I observe there is overall more scoring in college games than in MLB. Why?

My guess (uninformed as ever) is that it has something to do with less mound talent on the college level, particularly in tournament play where teams are forced to pitch deep into staffs. But as the ever observant 3-year old pointed out during the Rice game Sunday, they also have metal bats.

So, what’s your thoughts on the greater run scoring of the college game? — CI

Looking at the difference in college versus can best be seen by looking at the extremes. If you ever get a chance watch a Division III game. Even at this level of play there is no such think as a routine play. Sometimes grounders to third, where the ball is fielded cleanly result in an infield hit simply because the arm of the fielder isn’t strong enough to throw out the runner to first. At the lower level of competition, the weaker competition simply leads to more scoring because balls in play are less likely to result in outs.

I have a question about Mike Hampton’s contract and insurance. I know the Braves will never release information about how much of an insurance payout they’ve received for Hampton’s injury. But it seems the Braves have made a successful insurance claim for a portion of Hampton’s contract the last couple of years.

Let’s hypothetically suppose that Hampton’s insurance policy pays the Braves $9 million for each year he is injured. This payout actually exceeds the $8.1 million the Braves owe annually to Hampton, averaged over 2003-2008 (since the Rockies/Marlins are paying the remainder of his salary). Therefore, the Braves could theoretically be making a net profit off of Hampton’s contract when he is injured, right?

Wouldn’t the commissioner’s office or the player’s union have a problem with the Braves keeping the entire insurance payout? After all, doesn’t this situation create a perverse financial incentive for the Braves to allow Hampton to become or remain injured?

Obviously, the Braves would prefer to have Hampton healthy and in the rotation. But do you know if and how MLB deals with this potential moral hazard problem? — HM

No insurance company will insure a player for more than he is going to make, so I am sure Hampton’s payout is less than what he is making. Deductibles exist on all types of insurance policy to limit moral hazard misbehavior by the insured.

In terms of Mike Hampton’s insurance that we keep hearing about, I don’t think it exists as the Braves portray it to the public. The media widely reported that his individual policy expired last year; however, when he went out in spring training some “insurance” that may or may not cover his salary appeared out of nowhere. My take on this is that the Braves have a limited policy that covers all players if injuries exceeded a certain about (say $10 million), and whether or not they would get any additional money for Hampton would be determined by what other injuries the Braves had over the course of the season. If injuries resulted in more than $10 million in lost salary then the insurance would kick in, and part of Hampton’s contract would be covered by this pool. But if they had less than $10 million in injuries, then they wouldn’t get any additional money to cover his contract.

This is purely speculation on my part, induced by the Braves lack of transparency on the issue. I get the feeling they are telling the truth, but not the whole truth.

I saw you mentioned NBA rule changes (August 6th, 2007 post) and that you like
soccer. What rule changes would you suggest for soccer?

Here’s what I would do: First and foremost, get rid of the offsides rule. Totally eliminates a thrilling element of the game – the fast break. Though I suggest that the forwards can’t camp inside the goal box (the innermost ring; or maybe extend the ring).

Another rule would be to make a player sit out 5 minutes for a yellow card. Similar to hockey (power play). — MH

I like soccer, but I don’t plan to ever follow the MLS like I follow MLB or the NFL. I think the main reason that soccer cannot compete with the other major sports leagues in the US is that fans prefer these other sports. It’s my opinion that no minor rule change to soccer is going to be enough to overcome the dominant US sports. Therefore, I suspect soccer needs to concentrate on a core of fans who already like soccer and hope to grow the traditional fan base. Tweaking the game may ultimately alienate current soccer fans without gaining new ones. Even the soccer fan in me finds your rule changes unappealing, simply because they are different from what I am used to. But that won’t stop me from suggesting my own changes. 🙂

I hate ties and penalty kicks. This is unfortunate since many soccer games end as ties or are determined by a controversial penalty in the box. I suggest an overtime system of five minute periods that are played until the tie is broken. After each five minute session the teams lose two players. This way the game ends by playing soccer, but should facilitate a quicker ending after regulation.

5 Responses “Mailbox”

  1. Simon says:

    As a UK based soccer and baseball fan I don’t think agree with MH’s assertion that the offside rule eliminates fast breaks. I also think that eliminating offside would have unintended effects:

    Because soccer is often decided by one goal, eliminating offside might actually encourage more defensive play; with defenders “man-marking” the now free roaming forwards on the opposition.

    I like the “sin-bin”/”power-play” rule though and I think that is being tried in some of our lower leagues.

    I disagree with JC too in that as an Englishman I have been bred with a full appreciation of the tie (we play cricket where they play for 5 days an it can still be a draw afterall). However, penalty shoot outs do present a problem, the suggestion for removing players is interesting, but again I think teams would remove forwards before defenders .

    My number one rule to change would be throw-ins; I would change this to be a “kick-in”, thus preventing teams from sacrificing possession so easily for a defensive advantage. If everytime a team opposing LA Galaxy kicked the ball out to line they could expect David Beckham sending the ball into their goal mouth they would think again, don’t you think?

  2. DRDR says:

    The point you make about tradition is a good one — both American soccer fans and the international community would think MLS is a joke if it broke with long-standing soccer rules. We also don’t want a league that won’t well-prepare our players for international play.

    It’s not a coincidence that you targeted tie games as an area for change, because there is no solid tradition for deciding ties — or at least one anyone universally agrees on, and FIFA’s constantly changed rules there. I love your suggestion — they do that in college field hockey, I think. Not sure why soccer has never tried anything like that — it’s certainly no less arbitrary than deciding a game with PKs.

  3. tangotiger says:

    You guys make me feel old. I guess you don’t remember the NASL (Pele, Chinaglia, Beckenbauer, etc). They had an offside rule similar to hockey (no offside if player was at least 35 yds from the goalie). However, FIFA has to sanction any rule changes. I prefer the OT like hockey (remove a player from the ice). And, as was talked about the NHL, they’d remove a player each period in OT (never implemented). Dropping two players at a time is entirely satisfactory as far as I’m concerned.

  4. Sal Paradise says:

    One rule change for soccer? Simple. Fall down and cause play to be stopped for absolutely any reason and be ineligible to come back on the field for at least 10 or 15 minutes. No more of this falling over and whining nonsense only to hop back up when no penalty is called. Furthermore, play stopped in this manner without a penalty called would result in a penalty kick for the opposing team.

    There is absolutely nothing more obnoxious in a sport to me than people acting their way into fouls. It’s boring, it slows the game down, and it’s got so little to do with athletic ability or sportsmanship it aches.

    Alternatively create some sort of system where the offending player can be subject to the soccer equivalent of a beanball when he pulls that garbage.

    Can you imagine a baseball player diving away from a ball over the inside of the plate, and then grasping his elbow while calling for the ejection of the pitcher by the 3rd base umpire (if right-handed) or first base umpire (if left-handed)? Because that’s what soccer’s become!

    I despise draws and shootouts as well, mind you, but what’s more despicable is the ultra-defensive penalty-rich soccer that passes as the ‘world’ sport.

  5. Tim says:

    I think Americans would appreciate indoor soccer more than MLS. 5 players + goalie per team makes it play faster, like ice hockey.