November 27, 2021

Not Playing The Game The Right Way: Pace Of Play & Long At-Bats In The 1860s

In A Game Of Inches: The Stories Behind The Innovations That Shaped Baseball: The Game On The Field, Peter Morris uncovers the first examples (or first known examples) of numerous baseball customs and their developments, most of them (obviously) from the 19th Century. (Morris has written or co-written eight other baseball books.)

The Game On the Field's Table of Contents runs for more than 13 pages and includes 406 subsections. A sampling: catchers signaling to pitchers, home team batting last, choking up, bunts, getting deliberately hit by pitches, swinging multiple bats in the on-deck circle, windups, change of pace, knuckleball, getting batters to chase, keeping a book on hitters, stretches by first basemen, left-handed outfielders, catching from a crouch, infield depth, cutoff and replay plays, basket catches, hidden-ball trick, 3-6-3 double play, delayed double steals, fake to third throw to first pickoffs, pitchouts, hit-and-run, double switches, platooning, intentional walks, don't give him anything to hit on 0-2, first-base coaches, verbal and physical abuse of umpires, appeals on check swings, ball and strike signals, last gloveless player, gloves being left on the field, catchers' masks and shin guards, batting gloves, uniformity of uniforms, and calling time.

Here's one amusing entry (my emphasis):

1.10 Balls and Strikes. As a result of the pitcher's limited role in very early baseball [a "feeder" tossing the ball to the batter, though some pitchers were soon sending the ball in "with exceeding velocity"], batsmen accumulated no balls while strikes were recorded only on a swing and a miss. The premise was that each batter got to strike the ball once and that the pitch was the prelude to the fundamental conflict: the batter's effort to make his way home before the fielders could put him out.

This changed forever when pitchers began to enlarge their role. As noted in the previous entry [1.9 Pitchers Trying to Retire Batters], pitchers were using speedy pitching and spinning their pitches as early as 1856. Other pitchers hit upon the simpler and maddeningly effective approach of deliberately throwing wide pitches to tempt batters to swing at pitches that were difficult to hit squarely. Not only was no skill required for this tactic, but there was also no penalty in the game's rules.

Batters retaliated by playing what was known as the "waiting game" and not swinging at all. This earned them rebukes from journals like the New York Clipper, which wrote in 1861: "Squires was active on the field, but in batting he has a habit of waiting at the bat which is tedious and useless" (New York Clipper, August 14, 1861). Two years later the Clipper added, "The Nassaus did not adopt the 'waiting game' style of play in this match as they did in the Excelsior game. We would suggest to them to repudiate it altogether, leaving such style of play to those clubs who prefer 'playing the points,' as it is called, instead of doing 'the fair and square thing' with their opponents" (New York Clipper, October 31, 1863).

But these were appeals to the gentlemanly spirit, and that spirit was giving way to competitive fervor. While the rules had allowed umpires to call strikes since 1858, few did so, and players were increasingly taking the view that any tactic they could get away with was acceptable.

The result was gridlock. Bob Ferguson recalled in an 1884 interview that "a pitcher had the perogative of sending as many balls as he wanted to across the plate until the batsman made up his mind to strike at one. In an ordinary game, forty, fifty and sixty balls were considered nothing for a pitcher before the batsman got suited" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 10, 1884). Ferguson wasn't exaggerating.

Writing in 1893, Henry Chadwick described the first game of the Atlantics of Brooklyn in 1855: "It will be seen that it took the players over 2 hours to play three innings [2:45], so great was the number of balls the pitcher had to deliver to the bat before the batsman was suited (Sporting Life, October 28, 1893). Baseball historian William J. Ryczek reported that the third game of an 1860 series between the Atlantics and Excelsiors saw Jim Creighton deliver 331 pitches and Mattie O'Brien throw 334 pitches in three innings. Ryczek also cited a tightly contested game on August 3, 1863, in which Atlantics pitcher Al Smith threw 68 pitches to Billy McKeever of the Mutuals in a single at bat (William J. Ryczek, When Johnny Came Sliding Home, 45).

This presented a grave dilemma for the game's rule makers. The pitcher was not supposed to have such a large role, so almost everyone agreed that something must be done to effect "the transfer of the interest of a match from the pitcher to the basemen and outerfielders" (New York Clipper, May 7, 1864). . . . [T]hey attempted to address the problem with a series of tweaks.

In 1864 the concept of called balls and called strikes was added to the rulebook along with a warning system by which the count began only when the umpire decided that either the pitcher or the batter was deliberately stalling. . . .

The umpire thus had a great deal of discretion and, if he believed that the pitcher was trying to pitch fairly, the pitcher could "send a score or more unfair balls over the base before the umpire picked out the three bad ones" (John H. Gruber, "Bases on Balls," Sporting News, January 20, 1916).

This was an imaginative approach, similar to a parent threatening a child with punishment while at the same time explaining that it can be averted if the child just goes back to playing appropriately. Unfortunately this carrot-and-stick approach led only to more creative efforts to grab the carrot while avoiding the stick. . . .

Making the umpire responsible for making such subjective determinations put him in an untenable position. A typical example took place in a July 20, 1868, match in which the Detroit Base Ball Club hosted the Buckeye Club of Cincinnati. When the umpire did not appear, that role was filled by Bob Anderson, a highly respectable citizen who around 1859 had helped found the Detroit Base Ball Club. Steeped in the gentlemanly tradition, Anderson occasionally called balls but never strikes. The visiting players took advantage of this by standing at the plate for up to fifteen minutes before swinging at a pitch. As a result, darkness fell with only seven innings having been played. Most of the crowd had departed long before than.

A match in Rochester, New York, on August 9, 1869, saw the umpire similarly allow a tedious number of pitches to pass without issuing a warning. One spectator became so exasperated that he finally read the rules aloud to the umpire (Rochester Evening Express, August 10, 1869). . . .

It thus became clear that the warning system had failed to accomplish its purpose, and there was a gradual acceptance that the increase in the pitcher's role was permanent. . . .

The rules were modified several times between 1867 and 1875 in hopes of finding a more satisfactory system. In 1875 the rule was again changed ["when nine balls have been called, the striker shall take first base"] . . . Beginning in 1879, each pitch had to be declared a ball or a strike except for a two-strike warning pitch. Since 1881 the umpires has been obliged to call every pitch one way or the other.

The number of balls and strikes allowed changed frequently over the next decade as rule makers sought the ideal balance between hitters and pitchers. Further confusing matters was a peculiar rule that a batter could be thrown out after a base on balls if he walked to first base instead of running. (John H. Gruber, "Bases on Balls," Sporting News, January 20, 1916). (This explains why they were not known as walks until later!)

In 1889, three strikes and four balls were finally settled upon as the parameters for an at bat. And it was not until the early twentieth century that fouls began to count as strikes, a rule change that will be discussed under "Deliberate Fouls," (2.3.2).

November 26, 2021

Red Sox Sign Michael Wacha

Jeff Passan (ESPN) reports:

Right-hander Michael Wacha and the Boston Red Sox are finalizing a one-year contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. Wacha, 30, was solid in a starting role for Tampa Bay last season and is expected to bring depth to the Red Sox's rotation. Deal is pending a physical.

My reaction: "Okay." (wanders off)

Wach'a ERA "in a starting role for Tampa Bay last season" was 4.53 (and 5.05 overall). His ERA+s in 2019, 2020, and 2021 were 88, 65, 78. Describing Wacha as "solid" is debatable. There is this, however, from Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic, so who knows:

Tampa Bay didn't really fix Wacha, who has a 5.11 ERA since 2019 and a 4.62 ERA since 2016, but the Rays may have unlocked some upside late in the year when they convinced him to ditch a high-usage cutter that had been clobbered all season. Wacha shelved it in mid-August and then finished with a 3.20 ERA and 45-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his final 39 innings.

Wacha Wacha Wacha!
 

November 21, 2021

"In The Place Of These Glorious Scenes [Of One Of The Old-Time Seasons],
What Have We Now? Money, Money, Money!"

Just think of one of the old-time seasons, when the coming encounter of two of the crack nines of the principal clubs who met at the Elysian Fields was a topic in the city as general as was any important subject affecting the politics of the country. Then the meetings, too. The crowd used to get over early to get good places, and considerable fun used to be had in getting the field cleared for play. Then came the contest, with its earnest work to win, and the exciting scenes in critical emergencies. And after the battle was over, there came the gathering of the contestants, with "Three cheers for the Eagles!" "Now, then, three rousers for the Gothams!" "Altogether for the umpire, boys!" with a tiger. And then came the adjournment to the club rooms, where good cheer and hospitality prevailed, and kindly greetings marked the intercourse of the rival clubs.

In the place of these glorious scenes, what have we now? Money, money, money! Service sought for dollars and cents! A gather of gamblers whose blasphemy and obscenity is copied by the outside crowd of juvenile roughs, until the atmosphere of a ball ground becomes foul with vile language. Then, too, the various phases of latter-day professionalism, with the fraud-tempting pool-selling and the bought-and-sold "exhibition" games–what a contrast does this present to the glorious days of ten short years ago!

New York Sunday Mercury, February 9, 1873

After Arrest For Battering An Umpire, Player Given Choice Of Jail Or Fine

Timothy Flood, a second baseman for the 1899 St. Louis Perfectos and the 1902-03 Brooklyn Superbas, was arrested on November 19, 1905 for assaulting an umpire.

The "belligerant" player was given the choice of three days in jail or a "nominal" fine of $5.00. His friends in the courtroom quickly paid the five clams.

If you are wondering how Flood was playing baseball in mid-November, he was a member of the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. The six PCL teams played between 204 and 225 games that season. The Angels finished in first place with a 120-94 record. (In 1906, the Fresno team was known as the Raisin Eaters!)

November 19, 2021

Cleveland's Guardians Nickname Is Official, The First Pure MLB Name Change In 57 Years

The Cleveland baseball team is now officially known as the Cleveland Guardians.

A team changing its nickname while remaining in the same city is extremely rare. It has been almost 60 years since the Houston Colt .45s became the Astros. Any other nickname changes since then have been only slight revisions to an existing nickname or accompanied by a geographical move.

After 10 years as the Devil Rays, Tampa Bay scaled back its name to the Rays before the 2008 season. The franchise enjoyed an unrelated change of fortune. The Devil Rays had a .399 winning percentage  and never made the postseason. In 14 seasons as the Rays, the team is .545, with seven postseason appearances two AL pennants.

The Cincinnati Reds changed their name to Redlegs for five seasons during the McCarthy era (1954-58) to avoid any association with communism. (Was anyone at the time really confused on this issue?) Rick Walls, executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame:

It was at the height of the fear of communism taking over the world. The Reds didn't want the headline with the "Cincinnati Reds". They were fearful. And a lot of people called them the Redlegs going back to the Red Stockings. Redlegs made a lot of sense for them.

Many fans and sportswriters did not stop calling them Reds. The team removed "Reds" from its home uniforms in 1956; the road jerseys that year featured only a logo of the mustachioed mascot Mr. Redlegs. McCarthy died in 1957 and the Reds name was restored in 1959, but it did not appear on the uniform until 1961.

The Philadelphia Phillies were briefly known as the Blue Jays in 1944 and 1945 and Oakland owner Charles Finley changed the team's official name from "Athletics" to "A's" in 1972. It was switched back in 1981.

As mentioned, the Astros were known as the Colt .45s for the first three years of their existence (1962-64). The name was often shortened to "Colts", to avoid possible legal issues with the firearm manufacturer and to inspire thoughts of young horses. This mlb.com article cites NASA's presence in Houston, as well as the Colt Firearms Company wanting a share of the team's merchandising revenue, as reasons for the change. The team has also bounced around a bit:

1962-1968: National League
1969-1993: National League West
1994-2012: National League Central
2013-2021: American League West

Most nickname changes (as opposed to small revisions) in the last 70 years have accompanied a geographical move.

After 1953: St. Louis Browns became Baltimore Orioles.

After 1960: Washington Senators became Minnesota Twins. (But, confusingly, the following season the American League still featured a Washington Senators team. Those Senators were an expansion team and, after 11 seasons, they decamped to Texas and became the Rangers. (The Rangers' nickname is associated with white supremacy and racist, murderous gangs of terrorists and vigilantes.))

After 1969: Seattle Pilots became Milwaukee Brewers.

After 2004: Montreal Expos became Washington Nationals.


And so, the Guardians Era begins . . .

Of course, the insane still walk among us.



Cancel culture? Please.

November 18, 2021

Shohei Ohtani Is Unanimous Choice As AL MVP

Shohei Ohtani is the unanimous choice for American League Most Valuable Player in 2021.

Ohtani received all 30 first-place votes . . . so hats off to the AL voters: good job not fucking up.

The unanimous vote was well-deserved since Ohtani had a truly unprecedented season at the plate and the mound. The only possible "modern" comparisons are more than 100 years old: Babe Ruth's 1918 and 1919 seasons, but Ruth was a true two-way player for only portions of each of those seasons.

Ohtani batted .257, with a .372 on-base average (5th in the AL) and a .592 percentage (2nd). He hit 46 homers (3rd in AL), 26 doubles, eight triples (1st), scored 103 runs (8th), knocked in 100 runs, and stole 26 bases (5th). He was also 2nd in OPS (.965), 2nd in extra-base hits (80), 2nd in Runs Created (122), 3rd in walks (96), tied for 4th in total bases (318), 7th in times on base (238), and 1st in fewest AB per HR (11.7), 1st in Win Probability Added (5.1), and 1st in intentional walks (20).

Ohtani also made 23 pitching starts, with a 3.18 ERA and 1.090 WHIP. He struck out 156 batters in 130.1 innings (10.8 K/9). His record was 9-2. Ohtani did not pitch enough innings to qualify among the league leaders, but his ERA would have been 3rd-best, his ERA+ 4th-best, WHIP 4th-best, and his 6.8 H/9 2nd-best.

From May 5 to August 18, Ohtani made 15 starts and had a 2.71 ERA. If you toss out one horrible start in that stretch against the Yankees, his ERA in the 14 other starts is 2.00 (actually, 1.996108).

Ohtani led MLB with 9.1 Wins Above Replacement (the same total as Ruth had in 1919), with a large margin between himself and Zack Wheeler's second-best 7.7. Marcus Semien was at 7.3 WAR and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was at 6.8.

Seemingly every week during the season there was news of Ohtani reaching an unprecedented milestone or two. He became the first player in AL or NL history with at least 45 homers, 25 stolen bases and five triples in a season. No player had ever hit more than 30 homers while making at least 15 starts on the mound. In July, he was the first player elected to the All-Star Game as both a starting pitcher and a position player.

Ohtani also won his first Silver Slugger Award, was named the MLBPA Player of the Year, as well as the Player of the Year by Baseball America, Baseball Digest, and The Sporting News. 

Sarah Langs (mlb.com) wrote about "15 of the coolest, craziest Ohtani facts" from 2021. I'm snipping only eight:

• Multiple times in '21, Ohtani entered a pitching start leading MLB in home runs. Before him, nobody had done that since Babe Ruth on June 13, 1921, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• It isn't just about pitching prowess and slugging for Ohtani, though: There's speed, too. He became the first player in MLB history (pending inclusion of Negro Leagues stats) to rack up at least 20 homers, steals and pitching appearances in a season. The next-most home runs for anyone with 20 steals and games pitched? That would be eight, by Bob Caruthers in 1887. Again, simply incomparable.

• There are so many historic combinations of stats that demonstrate Ohtani's unique, never-before-done season that we can't possibly list them all. But one other combo worth noting is his 30-plus homers and 30-plus strikeouts on the mound. And again, Ohtani had 46 homers and 156 strikeouts -- nowhere even close to those modest qualifiers. The prior most strikeouts in a 30-homer season was three, by Babe Ruth in 1930 (49 homers). The prior most homers in a 30-strikeout season was 29, by Ruth in '19, when he struck out exactly 30 batters.

• Ohtani finished the season with 46 homers, third most in MLB, and eight triples, which was tied for the most with Bryan Reynolds and David Peralta. He became the first player to finish in the top three in both home runs and triples in a season, including ties, since Jim Rice in 1978.

• On May 12, Ohtani batted leadoff for the first time all season, and he did it the day after a pitching start. He became the first player to start a game on the mound, then bat leadoff in his team's next game since Ray Caldwell on July 25-26, 1916. Caldwell started for the Yankees, then batted leadoff, then played center field the next day, according to Elias.

• On June 29 at Yankee Stadium, Ohtani hit two homers. The next day, he started on the mound, becoming the fifth player to hit at least two homers in a game and then start the team's next game on the mound, joining 1930 Babe Ruth, 1887 John Clarkson, 1886 Bob Caruthers and 1883 Monte Ward, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• On Aug. 12, Ohtani started the game in the leadoff spot and got the pitching win. The only other player to do that since at least 1906 was Charlie Jamieson on Aug. 19, 1918.

• Ohtani hit 25 home runs with a 110 mph exit velocity or harder, four more than anyone else. He also hit six that traveled at least 450 feet, tied for third most this season.

Also: Three Red Sox players received MVP votes. Rafael Devers finished 11th, Xander Bogaerts was 13th, and Nathan Eovaldi was 15th. . . . Devers's fifth-place vote came from Peter Abraham of the Globe.

November 15, 2021

Julio Lugo Has Died, One Day Before His 46th Birthday

Julio Lugo, a member of the Red Sox's 2007 World Champion team, has died at age 45. (Tomorrow would have been his 46th birthday.)

Lugo's sister, Rina Lugo, told ESPN he suffered an apparent heart attack while leaving a gym in the Dominican Republic. Lugo was taken to a hospital in Santo Domingo, but could not be revived. 

Lugo debuted with the Astros in 2000, playing for seven teams over the next 12 seasons. He signed with the Red Sox in December 2006, after four seasons with Tampa Bay. As Boston's shortstop the following season, Lugo's regular season stats were hard on the eyes (.237/.294/.349), though he did steal 33 bases and drive in 73 runs, both the second-highest totals of his career. He was no slouch in the Red Sox's four-game World Series sweep of the Rockies (5-for-13, three walks, no strikeouts, .962 OPS).

JoS gave Lugo the nickname "Secret Weapon" after he was described as such (for unknown reasons) in a May 2009 MLB.com headline.

Eduardo Rodriguez Signs Five-Year Deal With Tigers

Eduardo Rodriguez has reportedly agreed to a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers.

MLB.com reports the deal includes an opt-out after the second season (2023), as well as incentives.

Rodriguez finished the 2021 season with a 4.74 ERA in 31 starts, but he was fourth among AL starters with both a 3.32 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

The Red Sox had made an $18.4 million qualifying offer to Rodriguez for 2022 – above the average annual amount of the Tigers deal ($15.4) – so either Boston did not want to give him five years or Rodriguez simply wanted to leave.

Losing a solid starter is never good, but I'm not too upset over this. Rodriguez had his moments (and he was a huge heist from the Orioles, costing only two months of Andrew Miller!), but he never made the expected progression to a dependable ace. His inconsistency and tendency to nibble led to long counts and far too many outings where he was near 100 pitches by the fifth inning. I wish him well in Detroit.

November 10, 2021

Bobby Valentine Loses Stamford Mayor Race, Refuses To Congratulate His Opponent, Offers Half-Hearted Trumpian Excuses

Joe Erwin, New York Daily News, November 3, 2021:

Bobby Valentine's campaign for mayor of his hometown [Stamford, Connecticut] went into extra innings Tuesday night before he finally admitted defeat.

The former Mets manager was in a tight contest with Democrat Caroline Simmons in Stamford, Conn. — and told supporters there may have been some funny business at the polls. . . .

As he came to address his backers . . . Valentine [who ran as an independent] suggested some people may have cast multiple ballots.

"It makes my stomach turn to think that in our city, that they're actually telling me now, 'Oh, someone voted in person and they forgot they voted absentee,'" Valentine said.

He didn't say who the "they" were telling him about people voting more than once.

But finally, around midnight, Valentine announced he lost. . . .

"Someone says maybe I'm supposed to thank the media for all the lousy coverage that they gave us or maybe even compliment [Simmons's team] for the campaign they ran but I can't do that with an open heart and a clear mind, so I'm just going to say the campaign is over," he said. . . .

[Valentine] got back into managing with the Red Sox in 2012 . . . [Boston] won the World Series the year after he left.

Valentine is still as annoying and dooshy as he was ten years ago. We'll check back with him in 2031.

November 5, 2021

1904 New England League Triple Play Involved All Nine Fielders

On August 23, 1904, the visiting Manchester Textiles of the New England League turned a triple play against the New Bedford Whalers, in which all nine fielders took part. The above recap does not mention the inning in which the triple play was turned.

With [Fred] Valdois on third and [Buster] Burrill on second, [Win] Clark hit a grounder to [Billy] Page at shortstop. Valdois was run down between third and home, Page, [third baseman Wally] Warren, [catcher Henry] Cote and [pitcher Bill] Leith handling the ball, and Warren made the putout. While Valdois was dancing back and forth Burrill went to third and back to second and finally was put out at third base by Warren after the ball had been handled at second base by [left fielder Harry] Armbruster, [center fielder Archie] Graham and [second baseman Wally] Taylor, and Clark was the third out trying to get back to first base, [first baseman Charles] Chapman making an assist in this play, and [right fielder Frank] Morrissey having the putout.

The box score lists the fielders involved as 6-5-2-1-4-3-8-7-9, but since the recap credits the third baseman with recording the first two outs, he obviously handled the ball more than once. My first guess was that the box score mentioned the players involved in the play in the order they first handled the ball. However, it seems more likely that the play began 6-2-5 rather than 6-5-2.

Following the recap, I could imagine the play going (at a minimum): 6-2-5-2-1-5-7-8-5-4-5-3-9. It's impossible to know without reading another account of the game. The clip above is from the Fall River Daily Evening News of August 24. I looked at the Fall River Globe and Boston Globe, but those papers, while they mentioned the triple play, did not include a description. Some baseball tidbits in the Daily Evening News were cited as coming from the New Bedford Mercury, but that paper is apparently not part of newspapers.com.

Note: Archie Graham, Manchester's center fielder, is better known as Moonlight Graham, who would play in his only major league game the following year (June 29, 1905) for the Giants.


Fall River Daily Evening News
, August 26, 1904:

There was dust in Umpire Kerns' eyes in the third and he let Murphy walk, refusing to call at least two strikes.

The first item in an accompanying "Notes" column gripes that the umpire "made Day split the plate for every strike called". . . .The umpire was referred to as "Kerns" (game story), "Kerins" (Notes column), and "Kerin" (box score).

November 4, 2021

The Atlanta Racists' Championship Parade Will Be In Two "Phases", One In The Mostly White Suburbs & One In The City Where Many Darker-Skinned Fans Reside

The Atlanta Racists will have their Championship Parade on Friday, November 5.

According to this blog:

The parade route will begin at the corner of Marietta Street NW and Peachtree Street and travel North up Peachtree to 10th Street. The second phase of the parade will then continue through Cobb County on Cobb Parkway, beginning at the corner of Riverwood Parkway and culminating at Circle 75 Parkway.

Craig Calcaterra (Cup of Coffee) notes that the above details of these "two separate – but equal, I'm sure! – parade routes" are "pretty damn telling":

. . . one in the city they left a few years ago but whose name they retain for marketing purposes, one for the suburb they have used as a piggybank/white flight haven and which they presently call home.

How on-brand is it for the club which moved out of Atlanta because it did not think its white suburban fans wanted to go into a majority-Black city for baseball games to hold two separate parades so that they did not have to even travel into the city for one morning lest they feel unsafe?

A recent CNN article about the team and its relationship to the citizens of the greater Atlanta area quoted Rev. Michael Clayton Harris, who described his experience at a recent baseball game as sitting in an overwhelmingly white crowd in a predominantly white suburb while a soundtrack of mostly rock and country music played over the sound system.

When you go to the game, it has a Trump feel to it with the fan base.
The perception in Atlanta is that the basketball Hawks and the football Falcons are the "Black teams" and the baseball team is the "white team". CNN's John Blake observed:
The crowds for Falcons and Hawks games, in the city's downtown, are filled with Black and brown faces. But the throngs of Braves fans who passed through on their way to Turner Field were noticeably whiter. And some White fans looked palpably nervous as I watched them navigate Black crowds on their way into the Hawks' arena and Falcons' stadium.
Bruce Levenson, the former majority owner of the Hawks, sold his interest in the team in 2014 after some of his emails to other Hawks executives were made public. In one, Levenson said blacks attending Hawks games had "scared away the whites". As Robert Weintraub (Slate) wrote:
This message that the Hawks owner apologized for delivering – that white fans are more valuable than black ones – is the exact one the Atlanta Braves have been broadcasting for the last several years.
The baseball team's 2017 decision to move to a smaller ball park in mostly white, suburban Cobb County was an echo of "white flight", the mass migration in the 1950s and 1960s of white people from racially or ethnoculturally diverse areas to more homogeneous areas. 

In addition to the offensive nickname and vile racism, the team's new stadium deal forced Georgia taxpayers (without their consent) to be on the hook for about $400 million (the team screwed their fans by also raising ticket prices by 45%) in what Vice described as "an all-around train wreck of the highest order" that might be "the worst sports stadium deal ever". The Cobb County Commission approved the team's financial plan (and green-lighted the robbery of Georgia's taxpayers) by getting together in hallways to avoid holding actual meetings at which, by law, there had to be public debate.
How, then, do we compare [Atlanta's] deals to Arlington, Texas's plan to spend $500 million on a new Texas Rangers stadium (plus a bunch of free land and property tax breaks on parking lots, plus maybe even more money if the Rangers' revenues aren't enough to pay off their share of city bonds) just to get the team to move across the street from the last stadium Arlington built for them, a distant 22 years ago?

For that matter, does the Cobb County deal stand up to the nearly $1.2 billion dollars in public cash and tax breaks that the Steinbrenners are getting for the new Yankee Stadium right next to the grave of the old one -- crazy enough since the New York Yankees were never going to move out of New York and give up the cable TV windfall that comes with the territory, and crazier still when you consider that more than $300 million of that comes via a creative dodge to evade federal bond taxes, meaning Boston Red Sox fans helped pay to move the Bombers to the other side of a Bronx street.

 In short, the Atlanta team and MLB can fuck all the way off.

. . .

November 3, 2021

2013 Red Sox Are Still The Last World Series Champions To Celebrate On Their Home Field

The Boston Red Sox are still the last World Series champions to win the title on their home field. (Thanks, Astros, for winning Game 5.)

The Red Sox beat the Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 at Fenway Park on October 30, 2013. The subsequent MLB champions (2014-19, 2021) have all clinched on the road or at a neutral site (2020).

In the last 21 years (since 2001), exactly half of MLB's 30 teams have won a World Series championship. Three teams have won more than once: Red Sox (4), Giants (3), and Cardinals (2).

11-0, 1985 Royals vs Cardinals (Game 7)
11-0, 1934 Cardinals at Tigers (Game 7)
 9-0, 1956 Yankees at Dodgers (Game 7)
 8-0, 1909 Pirates at Tigers (Game 7)
 7-0, 2021 Atlanta at Astros (Game 6)
 5-0, 1983 Orioles at Phillies (Game 5)
 5-0, 1957 Milwaukee at Yankees (Game 7)
 3-0, 2004 Red Sox at Cardinals (Game 4) (and three others)

There were two shutouts in this year's World Series, the first WS whitewashes since 2016. In that series, Cleveland beat the Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 and 1-0 in Game 3 and led three-games-to-one, but lost the final three games.


Why Does MLB Still Allow Synchronized, Team-Sanctioned Racism In Atlanta?
During World Series Games 3, 4 And 5, A Nationwide Television Audience Will See A Largely White Crowd Mocking A People Its Ancestors Tried To Erase.

Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated, October 28, 2021 (my emphasis)
Seven months ago, Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to institutional racism. On Friday, it will hold the World Series there – and this time, MLB is the institution supporting racism.

The name "Braves" is bad enough. Fans might see it as honoring Native Americans, but in equating them to Tigers and Cardinals, it dehumanizes them. Beyond the name, though, the crowd's favorite gesture, known as the tomahawk chop, is unconscionable. At every home game, fans raise and lower their right arms in unison, howling a mock war chant. "It's offensive," says Claudio Saunt, a professor at Georgia who specializes in Native American history. "I also find it kind of embarrassing, just knowing that the whole country is seeing it on national TV."

Anyone tuning into World Series Games 3, 4 and 5 will be subjected to this synchronized racism dozens of times: any time the home team scores, any time the opposing team changes pitchers, any time it has been too long since a largely white crowd mocks a people its ancestors tried to erase.

Is this what MLB wants at its signature event?

Evidently. The tomahawk chop is sanctioned by the team, and therefore by MLB. In 2017, commissioner Rob Manfred began to pressure Cleveland to "transition away" from its Chief Wahoo caricature; eventually Cleveland dropped both the mascot and the Indians name. In April, Manfred relocated the All-Star Game to Denver after Georgia passed a law that made it more difficult for people – especially Black people – to vote. Yet Atlanta can lead its fans in a racist chant throughout the game, and MLB does nothing – and therefore supports it. . . .

"It is overtly racist," says Aaron Payment, secretary of the National Congress of American Indians and chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. "Whether people understand it or not, it's overtly racist." . . .

Game 1 of the NLCS featured 14 chops; Game 2, 20; Game 6, 24, including three on consecutive pitches. Roughly half of these were instigated by fans; the rest were team-initiated, complete with music piped over the PA system and graphics splashed across the jumbotron. During each pitching change, the team went so far as to darken the stadium to set the mood, as fans used their cellphones while they chopped to create a racist light show. And the spectacle travels: During Game 4, which Atlanta won 9–2, a few chops broke out at Dodger Stadium.

If this seems like an old complaint, it is – and that is an indictment of the team. Thirty years ago this week, before Game 1 of the 1991 World Series between Atlanta and the Twins, some 800 people protested the chop outside the Metrodome in Minneapolis. . . .

Why is this still happening? There are plenty of other ways to celebrate a home run or intimidate opponents during a pitching change. . . . 

The Boston Braves got their name in 1912, after Red Stockings, Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves and Rustlers all failed to catch on. The new moniker was a reference to owner James Gaffney, who belonged to the Tammany Hall political organization, which was named after Lenape chief Tamanend.

"That was an era when white people thought that Indians were backwards, that they were incapable of surviving in the modern world, and that they were going to vanish from the face of the earth," says Saunt. . . .

The team moved to Milwaukee, then to Atlanta. Along the way it acquired as a logo a caricature called the "screaming Indian" and a mascot named Chief Noc-A-Homa, a man dressed in Native American attire who danced and set off smoke bombs from his teepee in the left field seats. Chief Noc-A-Homa was retired in 1986 when the team argued with his portrayer, Odawa Tribe member Levi Walker, about payment. The logo made it to '89, a "Scalp 'em" billboard to '92.

The chop is widely believed to have followed outfielder Deion Sanders from Florida State when he joined Atlanta in 1991. "We don't discourage any of that," Stan Kasten, then Atlanta's president, told the Los Angeles Times in '92. The chop salute, he argued, ridiculously, "doesn't have anything more to do with Indian culture than the wave." Kasten now holds the same role with the Dodgers. Asked before Game 2 of the 2021 NLCS whether his feelings on the matter had evolved, he declined to comment.

Georgia, though, has a lot to do with Native American culture. It was largely due to the state's influence that the Indian Removal Act of 1830 passed. That law led to the Trail of Tears, the forced migration of some 100,000 people from the southeast to territory in what is now Oklahoma. Some 15,000 people died along the way. The Indian Removal Act was one of the most contentious pieces of legislation to that point; it passed the House of Representatives by only four votes. All seven of Georgia's members of Congress voted yea.

"Georgia played a really oversized role in formulating Indian policy and Indian removal," says Saunt. "Without Georgia's politicians pushing it on the national stage, [the Indian Removal Act] would not have unfolded in the way it did." . . .

"I have maps – there were Cherokee families living right near Truist Park who were forced out of their homes by state militia in 1838," Saunt says. "It's very personal." . . .

Atlanta officials continue to claim impotence. "No matter what the decision is from our vantage point," Schiller told The AJC, "this started as a fan initiative, and the fans are likely going to keep doing it anyway."

Officials from another championship-contending franchise have made similar claims. The NFL's Chiefs, who call their version of the racist gesture the Arrowhead chop, have also received complaints from Native American groups and have also rebuffed them by deferring to the fans. The league has not intervened; to the contrary, commissioner Roger Goodell did the chop during the 2020 NFL draft.

So Atlanta has a chance to set an example. It's time for the team to show the courage it claims its name represents. It no longer distributes foam weapons en masse, but it has much more work to do. Officials should announce that they no longer tolerate that particular brand of bigotry. Nix the graphics and the music. Then start throwing people out of the stadium. MLB should step in here, too, with fines that could escalate to baseball penalties until Atlanta takes action. If the team starts losing draft picks, it would pretty quickly figure out a way to put a stop to this. Fans of Mexico's national soccer team have long chanted an anti-LGBTQ slur; the national federation enforced policies this year to eject fans who yell it and to stop matches if it continues. In September, the team played a World Cup qualifier in an empty stadium as punishment.

The Atlanta organization, meanwhile, leans into racist imagery. It seems to know the chop is offensive – before the 2020 season it changed its slogan from "Chop On" to "For the A" – but tomahawk branding still pervades Truist Park . . .

Native American activists say they would like to see the Braves' sponsors – Truist, Delta, Nike, State Farm and Miller Coors – speak out, as FedEx did about the old Washington Redskins' name. It was only after the company threatened to pull its funding that team owner Dan Snyder changed the name. So far, businesses associated with Atlanta do not seem ready to take that kind of action. In a statement, Truist says, "We support the Atlanta Braves and their work with the Native American community on the responsible use of Native American culture and imagery in the sport." Delta, Nike, State Farm and Miller Coors did not return requests for comment. . . .

In the meantime, the team chops on. During the 14th chop of the night in Game 1 of the NLCS, Atlanta switched its jumbotron image from its tomahawk graphic to a new one, designed to encourage the fans to be offensive more loudly: "I CAN'T HEAR YOU."

Yes, we can.
The Atlanta organization has known the chop is racist and offensive from the very beginning of its use. There were protests during the 1991 World Series and the team stated at that time it would take a hard look at the practice after that fall's World Series. That was nothing more than an empty gesture (and a statement the team has repeated over the decades) intended to get placate protesters until the World Series was over.

The Atlanta team's ownership has shown over and over that it does not give a shit. In Georgia, racism and baseball go together like peanuts and Cracker Jack. Would attendance really drop if fans were not allowed to be overtly racist for three or four hours? The team seems to think so.
Kevin B. Blackistone of the Washington Post notes that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the tone-deaf dolt who recently gave a hearty thumbs-up to loud public displays of racism at the most important games of the sport he oversees (and hates, judging by his actions), was given the National Congress of American Indians' Public Sector Leadership Award in 2019 because of whatever the hell he did that helped the Cleveland team decide to phase out its use of Chief Wahoo. The NCAI might want to think about revoking that award.