Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo is a popular sports commentator, best selling author, radio and TV personality, and extremely excitable individual. His rants and raves and interjections and tirades about sports like baseball and sports towns like New York City have made him one of the most famous and recognizable figures in all of sports broadcasting. “Mad Dog” has a spot daily on the MLB Network, where he berates the Mets, yells at the Yankees, denounces the Red Sox, and that’s just the first 30 seconds of material on an average episode.
On a recent trip to Block Island, Rachel and I stopped by the Block Island Public Library. On the lawn outside the library, next to a children’s playgroup situated on a blanket (reading books of all things), was a cart filled with used books for sale. The price tag – 3 for $1 or something like that. I picked up a hilarious book entitled “S@*T My Dad Says,” which is so funny you cannot read more than one page at a time, and a sports book entitled “The Mad Dog 100, The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time.” The “Mad Dog” Russo book was published in 2003 and contains a ton of great short stories and commentaries featuring Russo’s take on sports, movies, culture, all time greats vs all time greats, and so much more. I highly recommend it and if you would like to borrow it from me, I can make that happen!
In the book, on page 30, there is a Chapter entitled “Kennesaw Mountain Mad Dog,” where Russo plays commissioner and shares what he would do if he were commissioner. Now remember, this book was published in 2003, so we are talking about close to 20 years ago. And here are the headlines that I read and how Russo would change the game of baseball, 2003:
- Sunday Doubleheaders – Russo writes, “I want it because you’re giving something back to the fans. It’s got tradition to it. Joe D did this. Ruth did this. 1:05 and 7:05, two different admissions. Different uniforms for the second game.”
- Natural Rivalries – Russo writes, “I want to streamline interleague play. For every Dodgers-Red Sox matchup you get now, you also get Dodgers and the (Devil) Rays. Sure, it’s fun to see Barry Bonds coming to Yankee Stadium for the first time…or Arizona going to Boston, Pedro vs Schilling. But its run its course. I’d rather have one great matchup, and have teams play more against teams in their own league.”
- Can the DH – Russo writes, “I want to get rid of the DH. You would think the union would agree to it because it gives them thirty extra jobs…They didn’t have a DH for a hundred years and baseball survived. We don’t need it now.”
- Day Games in the World Series – Russo writes, “I understand the need to play night games during the week, because the guy who’s following the team all year can’t watch if it’s a two o’clock start. There’s no reason in the world why they can’t play some day games on the weekends for the World Series. Why can’t Major League Baseball play game seven at 4 in the afternoon so I don’t have to stay up until two in the morning to see the end of the game?
- Contract some teams – Russo writes, “There are simply too many teams. There aren’t enough good pitchers to go around. Get rid of some teams and spread the talent around. Mediocre talent means longer games…Contraction will help with that problem.”
- Expand the playoffs – Russo writes, “I can’t take credit for this one. I heard Steve Hirdt from Elias say this. Add one extra wild card team in each league. Why would you do that? You’d have the two wild card winners play on Monday as soon as the season’s over, basically to get into the main draw. One game, go home or go on.”
So in the spirit of debate, here are my comments regarding each topic raised by the aforementioned Kennesaw Mountain Mad Dog and how they relate to how I see baseball changing here in 2021:
- Sunday doubleheaders would be fantastic. In fact, I proposed that doubleheaders become more prominent overall in the Major League Baseball schedule and eliminate weeks, perhaps even a month of the season. If teams had double headers each weekend, you could play 162 games in far less time calendar wise, finish the season in mid to late September, including the Fall Classic.
- Natural rivalries, yes and I would take it a step further, make it every other year. There are far too many interleague games on the schedule, in my opinion, that don’t excite me as a baseball fan. Red Sox open against the Marlins or play an away game versus the Rockies or a home series against the Nationals? What? No, I want AL teams to play AL teams and NL teams to play NL teams, period.
- This is a tough one because the DH is so prominent in the American League, where my beloved Boston Red Sox play. I’m not sure what the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement (set to expire tonight) will bring in terms of the DH. Personally, I say keep the DH in the AL and keep Pitcher hitting in the NL. I love the league disparity rules wise here.
- Yes, yes, yes. In 2021, everyone has a smart phone or a personal computer or tablet to watch a game anywhere and anytime. Night games that start at 8pm or later don’t finish until well after midnight – you lose a ton of fans like me who cannot stay up past 10pm most nights. Please put more day game on in the postseason. I promise I will watch most of them to the last out! 1pm would be just fine for me.
- Russo mentions the Premier League of English football and how they move teams down that do not perform well and move teams up if they are winning consistently at lower divisions. Contraction is so tricky with the stadium rights, tenured season ticket holders, city commitments, etc. But some of these teams that consistently rank or place last or next to last need some major incentive to get better. The fans in these cities deserve better, like Baltimore and Pittsburgh – two proud baseball cities whose teams have been terrible for way too long!!!
- This one I strongly disagree with. I say 4 teams, tops should make the playoffs. I dare so 2 teams – one from the American League and one from the National League – should play at the end of the regular season. Football – professional and college – viewership cuts way into the baseball viewership and game attendance starting in early September. Finish the season in September with the top 2 to 4 teams competing in a shorter playoff series, then a 7 game World Series.
This awesome sports book is in my den and I read it whenever I have 5 minutes to spare. It is filled with great sports commentary and intelligent dialogue about sports. “Mad Dog” Russo is a yeller and when you read this book, you have to use his voice to yell at you reading the words on the pages of his book. It makes it a lot more interesting, I find. And if you would like to borrow this book, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you would like to debate one of these topics with me, I will be posting this story on my social media pages and can’t wait to hear what your thoughts are.