August 26, 2014

Does MLB even want to speed up the game?

Keith Olbermann took on the outgoing Bud Selig on his show last night. In this segment, he points out that Major League Baseball has the power to speed up games with two rules that are already on the books. So, what gives?

Keith Olbermann is on to something, and I think it’s a problem. Baseball has little incentive to fix the length of games because they make so much money selling advertising on the “increased inventory” of longer baseball games.

Baseball is far from the only pro sport with this issue. NFL games are the butt of jokes every year when fans are blasted with the touchdown – commercial – kickoff – commercial TV break after scores.

Ultimately though, these are the kinds of things you wonder if the sports leagues will pay for. When pro sports are making money at the rate they currently do, there’s no incentive. Also as pro sports is the last of a dying breed of live programming that they can count on viewers not to DVR, it seems even logical to not mess with it.

I can’t predict the future, but to me it sounds all too much like Tower Records charging $18.99 for a CD until they could no longer afford to keep their stores open. We’ll see if the new commissioner prefers to try to change or lean on the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philospophy.

Cleveland Indians Closer Doug Jones – Reliving Yesteryear

DougJones

Mariano Rivera: “Super Mariano.” Aroldis Chapman: “The Cuban Missile.” Mitch Williams: (sing it) “Wild Thing!” (“You-stole-a-Cleve-land thing!”).

Doug Jones: “Sultan of Slow”?

Yeah.. that’s not really his nickname. Although I don’t suspect he would mind terribly. The unassuming, unlikely star closer for the late 1980s Cleveland Indians never was your stereotypical brash and showy big league pitcher.

Major league baseball closers are ‘supposed’ to be powerful and intimidating. They bring the heat. But Doug Jones earned every ounce of respect he has received.

Doug Jones grew up watching his father race sprint cars locally in central Indiana (yes, think Tony Stewart). When he was old enough, he raced his father’s car in a qualifying race. Talk about fast and powerful: he ran into the wall on the last lap. Jones made the decision to pursue a safe baseball career instead. [Read more...]

Baseball isn’t dying, but is it kind of like Microsoft?

MLB Microsoft

This morning Mike and Mike talked to Fay Vincent about the future of baseball and the next MLB commissioner.1 In that interview Vincent said that “baseball is booming” and I’ve fought that thought for a while. Everything about how I feel about MLB is that it is not booming. Even coming off of a playoff appearance for the Cleveland Indians, it seems to me that the game isn’t actually thriving because my perception is that it’s not. There are constant talks about attendance issues, slow games, inequity of team payrolls and more. Despite all that, and despite comparisons of World Series TV ratings to the Super Bowl or NBA Finals games, I think it’s largely instructive to look at baseball’s successes, because there is plenty of evidence to counter my perception with facts. For example, the Dodgers sold for $2 billion. Here in Cleveland at the epicenter of MLB attendance debate, the Indians sold off STO for an estimated $230 million just last year. So, I do understand when Fay Vincent says that business is booming. So, how do I make sense of all this? I look for a comparison. Then it hit me. I think Major League Baseball is kind of like Microsoft. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Sometimes I watch Mike and Mike on TV when I’m riding my exercise bike. I’m getting that out of the way right now, because whenever I even mention the fact that I caught something on Mike and Mike, I’m deluged with commentary that amounts to, “I can’t believe you listen to Mike and Mike!” I’ll take it another step further. It’s true I only watch them when I’m captive to morning TV on my bike, but I like their show more times than not. []

Frank Robinson Arrives in 1974, Clashes with Gaylord Perry – Reliving Yesteryear

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They hated each other. It was hardly a secret, from their days in the National League in the early 1960s. Gaylord Perry had been the talented pitcher of the San Francisco Giants; Frank Robinson, the five-tool outfielder of the Cincinnati Reds.

The narrative came easily: the fiery, outspoken black child of the U.S. civil-rights era vs. the white farm boy from the deep South. But was that fair?

By 1975, each player had been at the top of his profession. Frank Robinson was a 14-time All Star who had been MVP in both leagues. He won the American League Triple Crown in 1966. It’s hard to believe that such a player is underrated, today. Once Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth on the career home run list, a full generation of fans could recite the top four. Aaron, Ruth, Mays, and Frank Robinson. His career was one for the ages. [Read more...]

NBA Musical Chairs, ClevelandRox, and Losing My Voice, While We’re Waiting

WFNYBanner www

Happy Tuesday WFNY! I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend. Now it’s time to get back to business.

It’s July 8, 2014…exactly four years after the original Decision. I don’t expect the 2014 Decision to happen today, but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what it was like around this time in 2010. There were so many emotions involved in those final days of the 2010 free agency process. It’s interesting to look back at the roller coaster I went on back then. On July 7, when we found out about Wade and Bosh going to Miami, I wrote this. I still was feeling confident. I just couldn’t believe he would join Wade and Bosh in Miami.

On the morning of July 8, we woke up to the horrible reality that LeBron was going to Miami. But even then, I still wanted to hold on to hope. Even in the face of overwhelming reports of LeBron going to Miami being a virtual certainty, I just couldn’t allow myself to give up. Then, after the aftermath of The Decision, I wrote on July 9 that loyalty in sports was dead.

It’s a little tough to go back and re-read the things I thought on those days. It’s funny to see how much my perspective on sports has changed in the four years since. Of course, a lot of that is probably a direct result of everything that happened on the night of the Decision. Just remembering how raw the emotions of that night were, it makes it seem even crazier to me that there seems to be a chance LeBron could return. I have no clue what’s going to happen in these next few days. I honestly feel like all of these recent reports and optimism have all come from external sources. By all accounts, LeBron has shut himself off from everyone. I remain pretty skeptical that he’s going to come back to Cleveland. But if nothing else, this week has been fun. Unlike last time, the Cavaliers have nothing to lose. And that has been a very fulfilling point to keep in mind.

*****

The NBA’s game of Musical Chairs

If nothing else, the NBA’s free agent market this offseason is starting to feel like a fun little game of Musical Chairs. Or maybe “Duck, Duck, Goose” is the better game. With so many rumors swirling, you wonder which free agents and which teams are going to be safe inside the circle, and who might potentially be left out.

As of Sunday, the Knicks were pretty confident that Carmelo Anthony would be returning. They were reported to be expecting Carmelo to announce his return on Monday. However, on Monday afternoon the Rockets reportedly offered Chris Bosh a max contract. This is where things get interesting. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst was on Mike & Mike in the Morning on Monday morning, and he said that LeBron has cut off communication to pretty much everyone, including people with the Heat. He said there have been a few texts between the Big 3, but beyond that, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are just as in the dark as everyone else regarding what LeBron is going to do.

With the uncertainty of LeBron’s future, Chris Bosh is now said to be at least considering taking the Houston deal, even though his preference remains to return to Miami with LeBron. But now Carmelo has held off on announcing anything. Some speculate it’s because he remains torn between the Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks, but others have suggested that perhaps Carmelo is now waiting to see if Bosh takes the Houston deal. If he does, then Carmelo could see if he could sign with the Heat and bring LeBron back.

Of course, knowing this, Bosh seems likely to wait and see what LeBron does first before deciding what he’s going to do. But what if in the meantime Carmelo goes back to Houston and, seeing how much they offered Bosh, says he’ll take that deal? In that way, Carmelo could actually put pressure on Bosh to act first or risk losing out on the Houston deal and possibly seeing LeBron sign somewhere other than Miami.

Phew. Did you get all that?

I’ve said from the beginning and I continue to maintain that I think these rumors have gotten out of hand and that the odds of LeBron returning to Cleveland are being blown way out of proportion. In reading the tea leaves, it just seems like the source of all this speculation comes from external sources on the periphery of LeBron’s inner circle. In other words, some of the Akron/Cleveland people who want LeBron to return are using the media to put pressure on LeBron to do just that. By all accounts, LeBron has gone completely ghost. So I just don’t trust all these reports. Windhorst said there’s only three people he believes when it comes to info about LeBron’s future: one is LeBron and the other two are unnamed sources presumably in his extreme inner circle. Windhorst said he hasn’t heard anything about LeBron returning from any of those three.

I fully admit there seems to be something weird going on. I think when Bosh and Wade opted out, they fully believed that they were working with LeBron. But there have been reports that Wade and Bosh are a little confused by LeBron’s silence and isolation. There are reports that Miami is starting to feel a little uneasy and unsure. But at the end of the day, Pat Riley is going to get his face to face with LeBron, and I have a feeling Riley will get the job done and secure LeBron’s return. I think LeBron will have a hard time saying no to Riley and perhaps to a greater extent, a hard time saying no to Dwyane Wade after Wade opted out of $42 million just to facilitate keeping the Big 3 together. From there, Bosh and Wade will return, as will Ray Allen most likely. That gives them a core of LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Allen, Norris Cole, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, and Shabazz Napier. Udonis Haslam would probably return as well.

That’s not the greatest team to project going forward, and the Heat will always have trouble finding cap space to sign free agents. But it’s good enough to walk through the pathetic Eastern Conference the next couple years, and from there, the Heat would be playing for a Championship every year. There are plenty of good reasons for LeBron to return to Cleveland, but Dan Gilbert continues to be one gigantic reason for LeBron not to. And you better believe Pat Riley will spend a good portion of his meeting with LeBron making that exact point, while illustrating the obvious differences between himself and Dan Gilbert. I want LeBron to return to Cleveland, but as long as Gilbert owns the team, I just don’t see it happening.

*****

Guess who’s back?!

One of the most beloved Cavaliers of all time is finally back in the NBA…sort of. Delonte West has seen his shares of ups and downs. Recently Slate.com ran this amazing feature on Delonte, asking the question ‘Why isn’t Delonte West in the NBA?’. Well, it appears Delonte is being given a chance:

Now, obviously, being on a Summer League roster isn’t the same thing as being on an NBA roster, but it’s a start. And this is the beautiful thing about the Summer League. In addition to rookies and undrafted free agents trying to make their way into the league, the Summer League also offers a chance at redemption for players who have somehow found themselves adrift from the league.

I think I speak for almost all Cavs fans when I say I wish Delonte the absolute best of luck and I truly hope that this can lead to a future back in the league for Delonte.

*****

#ClevelandRox!

I think this is one of the more interesting PR campaigns I’ve seen in quite some time. For anyone who may have missed it, the Indians and Rockies are teaming up to ask their fans to vote for Corey Kluber and Justin Morneau for the final All-Star spots in the AL and NL, respectively. The campaign is using the hashtag #ClevelandRox.

The Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies have teamed up to get Tribe starter Corey Kluber and Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau into the All-Star Game through the All-Star Game Final Vote.Fans can vote online at Indians.com or MLB.com/vote through Thursday, July 10 at 4PM ET. Votes on Twitter will count on Thursday from 10AM-4PM; fans are encouraged to use #VoteKluber, #VoteMorneau and #ClevelandRox.

I don’t know if it will be effective or not, but it’s just fun to see these two small market teams combining efforts to try to get their guys voted in.

*****

Album of the Week

Finally, we have our new music release of the week. Now, I know this is going to look like favoritism, but my vote for new album of the week goes to WFNY’s own Craig Lyndall, whose new album “Losing My Voice” is out today under his band’s name, The Company Line.

Yes, Craig is a good friend of mine so I’m hardly objective here, but in case you guys haven’t figured out by now, I take music discussions seriously. I wouldn’t recommend this album if I didn’t think it was up to par. To begin with, you need to read Craig’s backstory on how and why this album came to be:

During that consultation the surgeon casually mentioned that part of the surgery would temporarily relocate a nerve connected to my vocal cord and that one of the risks of surgery was that I could lose my voice.As a singer and songwriter, this was terrifying to me. I am not prolific as a songwriter, but I always go back to it when I have something I really want to say. It was eating me alive that I had unrecorded songs that could be lost forever so I decided to do something about it. A week before surgery, I recorded these six songs to document that moment in time when I thought I might lose the ability to ever sing again.

And that’s my favorite thing about this album. I absolutely love music that carries a purpose, and Craig delivers on allowing that sense of urgency to carry through. There’s a great dichotomy between the fragility of the future of his vocals and the way he pushes his vocals to the limit on some of these songs.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success and Craig’s worst fears weren’t realized. But there’s still a very real and raw power in this songs. Despite his simple setup of just an acoustic guitar and his voice, you can hear his resolve in his delivery and the lyrics themselves.

I hope you guys at least read the backstory and then listen to some of the songs. I hope some of you will enjoy it, and if you guys want to learn or hear more, you can check out the following links:

Backstory | iTunes | Amazon MP3 | Spotify

*****

Anyway, that’s it from me this week. Between the Cavs Summer League games starting on Friday and the free agent market coming close to reaching it’s resolution, I have a feeling we’ll have some more good stuff to talk about next week!

“So this David Justice is Albert Belle’s Replacement?” Reliving Yesteryear

David JusticeAfter forty seasons, all of Cleveland was awash in the excitement of playoff baseball.

John Hart had completed what Hank Peters had begun. In the late 1980s, working under the anonymity of yet another Indians rebuild, Peters began collecting the building blocks of a true big league powerhouse. He and Hart famously identified a pool of young players who they considered worthy of long-term contracts. The players forfeited free agency in return for multiple years of guaranteed money. The franchise gained some cost certainty and multiple seasons of player control.

Not all of the Indians players during the early seasons of that era actually panned out as ‘core players’. For every Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga and Sandy Alomar, Jr., there was also a Carlos Martinez, a Mark Lewis and a Wayne Kirby.

But of course, they had way more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’. They augmented the roster with veterans, star players on the back end of their careers who plugged holes in the lineup while assuming leadership roles in the clubhouse. The first wave of these vets included pitchers Jack Morris and Dennis Martinez, and position players such as Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield. [Read more...]

Diamondbacks 9, Indians 8: Five games within a game

Indians vs Diamondbacks

In case you missed it—judging by the time of night the game had finish you probably had—the Cleveland Indians, once again, played a game in which they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory not once, not twice, but three times. The game 9-8, 14-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was marred by bad defense by both teams and some horrific managerial decisions by a guy who has been off his game all year. Oh and if you watched this game start to finish, one thing was abundantly clear: These were not exactly two World Series caliber teams at play here.

“Both teams stranded runners, both teams got to the starters early,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “The game mirrored each other a lot.”

I really could write an epic about this game. [Read more...]

Phoenix Rising

Untitled
The barriers to entry are very real, but in a business dominated by one, giant manufacturer, Phoenix Bats—a small baseball lumber company located in mid-Ohio—looks to turn the tide.

[Read more...]

Chief Wahoo on borrowed time as 50 Senators sign letter about Redskins name

tribeblockcThe discussions and debates surrounding mascots and team names have gone to Capitol Hill. While there’s still some debate about history, intent and political correctness, the one thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that Chief Wahoo is on the wrong side of history. It’s even more clear to me today considering what’s happening in Washington D.C. as 50 United States Senators have signed on to a letter to the NFL urging them to force a change of the Redskins name.

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

This month, Americans applauded the rapid and decisive reaction from new National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver to the racist remarks of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that racism will not stand in the NBA.

Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.

The despicable comments made by Mr. Sterling have opened up a national conversation about race relations. We believe this conversation is an opportunity for the NFL to take action to remove the racial slur from the name of one of its marquee franchises…

This is a matter of tribal sovereignty – and Indian Country has spoken clearly on this issue. To this point, we have heard from every national Tribal organization, including the National congress of American Indians, United South and Eastern tribes and the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians. These organizations represent more than 2 million Native Americans across the country and more than 300 Tribes with government-to-government relationships with the United States. These organizations have passed resolutions in support of a name change as they find the Washington D.C. football team name to be racially offensive…

There’s more in the letter, but the point is that regardless of how you think about Wahoo or your own origin story in relation to it, this is the current environment. This is what’s going on in the NFL with the Redskins’ name, but subtract that name and put “Chief Wahoo” in the letter and you pretty much arrive at the same conclusion: Wahoo’s days are numbered.

So, wouldn’t it be better to get out in front of it before another fifty Senators draft a letter to Bud Selig? If this letter is successful and the NFL does intervene with Dan Snyder’s team and force a name change, it will only reflect that much more poorly on MLB, Cleveland and the Indians organization that they’re even later to the party in the face of mounting evidence of an inevitable outcome.

[Related: The Wahoo debate has changed, but where do the Indians stand?]

Unsolicited observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems and more

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP

These observations may be unsolicited, but it probably doesn’t take much to get an opinion from Tribe fans on the play of Carlos Santana. The Indians’ unexpected third baseman managed to get his OPS back over .600. In the stat world, we call that trending upward! One can hope, anyway.

Watching Santana at the plate has been frustrating on all fronts. That’s why it was refreshing to see him unleash a two-run homer against Toronto Wednesday night. Santana has now collected five hits in his last four games, enough to bring his average to .154 with five homers and 13 RBIs. He’s a switch hitter who’s not getting it done from either side of the plate (.149 as a lefty, and .163 from the right side). He’s also making weak contact, as pointed out in this WFNY feature. [Read more...]

Indians (once again) among best values in MLB

The 2014 Fan Cost Index was officially released and the Cleveland Indians are, once again, among the best values in all of baseball, coming in third-lowest with an averge cost of $162.24.

The annual Fan Cost Index, as run by TeamMarketing.com, compiles the average cost of four tickets, small sodas, two hats, small beers, programs and parking. The average in Major League Baseball comes in this year at $214.46, a 2.3 percent increase over last season. The Indians’ mark of $162.24 represents a mere 0.3 percent increase over the 2013 season, one which saw the team win 90-plus games and make the postseason for the first time since 2007.

While the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks continue to be below the Indians in average cost, the Tribe continues to be well below the game’s average in ticket price ($21.31 vs. $27.93) as well as average premium ticket price1 ($54.33 vs. $93.41). The cost of a beer in Progressive Field is over $2.00 less (33 percent) than the average stadium brew and parking is roughly $3 less (20 percent) per automobile.

Last season, the Indians were among the league’s worst in attendance, with many fans pointing to dynamic ticketing policies as a point of contention. While this policy will not be going away any time soon, the team has added additional values this season, including “Carnegie Tickets” as well as Kids Value passes.

The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies top the list as most expensive. The Detroit Tigers find themselves among the top 10 while the Twins, White Sox and Royals fill in between the AL Central’s most expensive and it’s best value.

Image via TheWeek.com

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Footnotes:

  1. Either defined as premium or come equipped with one added amenity []

LeBron James is rightfully jealous of Miguel Cabrera’s new contract

Miguel CabreraReally, who isn’t jealous of Miguel Cabrera’s new contract? His existing deal plus the eight-year extension will pay him close to $300 million in total. Last week, when asked about it by Brian Windhorst, LeBron James said he was jealous of that money, before saying he wishes the NBA “didn’t have a salary cap.”

“He’s the best player in baseball, and the best players in each sport should be rewarded,” James said. “It’d be nice to sign a 10-year deal worth $300 million.”

Of course nobody should feel sorry for LeBron James who earns lots and lots of money in his own right between the NBA and endorsements. Still, consider LeBron’s talent level and his stature in his game as one of about 450 or so players in his league.1 Meanwhile Miguel Cabrera is easily one of the best players in his game, but he’s also one of about 1,300 players in his league.2 So, it does seem a little bit strange that Cabrera could be worth double in overall contract value than Kobe Bryant who once signed a deal for seven years and just over $136 million.

I’ve suggested that one of the ways that the NBA can deal with player movement would be to have a franchise tag for one player on each roster. This franchised player wouldn’t be subject to the salary cap at all. So your team could have a roster of players that need to cost under $70 million for example, but then if you have a Kobe, or LeBron, you can pay them true market value. I haven’t worked out all the particulars, but each team can only have one of these guys making that tag scarce and inflating the value of playing in smaller markets for at least that one player who could be designated. It also might do wonders to break up super teams.

Anyway, it makes me wonder what LeBron James’ true market value might be to his sport considering Miguel Cabrera’s worth $300 million in his sport. Everyone said that the Miami Heat “sacrificed” to put their team together down in Miami. Imagine if they really had to sacrifice though. Imagine if LeBron was making $45 million per year as the “franchise” player and Wade and Bosh had to fight for the right to make $20 million each under the cap while also having teammates.

More importantly, would $45 million even be enough for LeBron’s true market value?

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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Footnotes:

  1. 30 teams times 15 players per team, give or take turnover and the developmental league. []
  2. 32 teams times 40 players is 1280. []

While Y’all Are Waiting: A Jeremiad of Sorts

[Editor's Note: With Craig being out today, we thought it would be awesome to have Denny Mayo return and do WWW today in Craig's place. For those who are new to the site and may not know who Denny is, he was one of the original weekend editors at WFNY and he gave this site a unique and interesting voice that we lacked before and have never quite been able to replace. But a lot has changed in Denny's life in recent years since he left WFNY to focus on his doctorate. Because he's touching on some hot button topics below, we are of course obligated to say that his opinions are his own. There is no unified stance from WFNY, as we are made up of many different voices and opinions. Some of us stand with Denny, while others disagree. But no matter where you stand, whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, this piece is incredibly well thought out and well written and, well, it's just awesome to have Denny back at WFNY, even if it is only for one day and for one piece. -- Andrew Schnitkey]

Dr StrangeloveGood morning. Craig is out today; the inmates have offered to run the asylum in his absence. Management acquiesced to our request.

It has been 1344 days since I last wrote words here. It’s nice to see you all. Things have changed, but you haven’t aged a day. When I decided to stop writing here to focus on graduate school, the NBA had just died a young death, never to rise from its ashes. Craig and I have talked about this on the podcast, but as I’m growing older, I’m finding it difficult to enjoy sports as much as I used to. At this point, I very well may like making esoteric jokes about sports more than I actually like sports. So it goes.

There are a number of reasons why I’m not digging on sports so hard anymore, and I’m writing whatever I want to write, so let’s get into them:

1) It really bothers me that Chief Wahoo is still a thing. Not the ‘debate’ about Chief Wahoo, mind you, but that the actual logo is still in use—and that any semblance of a ‘debate’ among the Cleveland fan base continues. The logo is racist dreck from a (mostly) bygone era and is generally condemned by the National Congress of American Indians. Yet we annually drudge up a ‘debate’ that begins and ends up with mouth-breathing talk radio hosts denying any evidence that Native Americans oppose the use of Native American likenesses as athletic logos, in order to get radio listeners to call in to their show so that they can convince advertisers to keep paying them. This debate is an auroboros of stupid.

I know that this topic is 1) stale and 2) not a lot of fun to discuss, but this is not an issue where there is much nuance, yet it is treated as such by many who cover it in order to frame the ‘two sides of the debate’ with a wonderful veneer of false equivalence, as though there should be equal weight given to each side. The AV Club review of the excellent series premiere of Neil Degrasse-Tyson’s COSMOS reboot (which you should be watching this show, by the way, because science is wonderful) gets to the heart of the matter of the show, but also the issue at hand here as well:

“The show is also unabashed in its commitment to truth—it matter-of-factly presents what we know about the universe, what we’re pretty sure about, and what we don’t know yet. Cosmos doesn’t hedge: You won’t hear the narrator, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, neuter any of his statements with a gratuitous “some people believe…” counterpoint. … In a media environment where truth has to compete with a “balance” designed to prevent hurt feelings, Cosmos’ straightforward tack is quaint—laudably so.”

There are facts about the history of America’s treatment of American Indians that are not pretty and that are not touched on during our primary education (probably because they are not pretty!). But they are facts, and they are ever-relevant when discussing the ongoing plight of the American Indian.

Sports should be fun, harmless, and inclusive. Chief Wahoo is none of these things—enough so that I refuse to put onesies with Chief Wahoo on my infant daughter that were given to us as gifts. To gloss over the nasty nature of the logo because [a largely non-Native American base of] fans want to keep using a Samboface logo because it reminds the fans of the halcyon days of their youth, or because the logo is ’tradition’, or because ‘only whiny white people don’t like the logo’, or because ‘it doesn’t matter because it’s only a logo’ are reasons that are at best selfish and juvenile and at worst come from a place far, far more pernicious.

2) It’s increasingly difficult to enjoy tackle football in its current incarnation. I’ve never been a huge Browns fan (cf.), but the NFL’s—and Roger Goodell’s—staggering ability to whistle past the graveyard and spread false information regarding the effects of brain injury does not sit particularly well with me. The tried-and-true delay tactics of pointing out that ‘the science is not conclusive’ and ‘more studies are needed before taking action’ are especially pernicious when you realize that every season that involves a delay in instituting some sort of acknowledgment and subsequent change to the game is another season in which 1) the powers-that-be profit wildly at the expense of other humans’ lives, while marketing their business as safe and humane and 2) another cohort of impressionable (and brain-capable!) children put on their Pop Warner helmets and start crashing into each other.

3) Add the labor issues involved in collegiate athletics on top of brain injury seriousness, and it’s even becoming hard to enjoy my beloved Ohio State Football Team. This does not mean that I do not watch, nor does it mean that I do not cheer for my team. But a lot of the fun is gone knowing that every time the crowd is cheering a big hit, the man who made the hit likely did so at the expense of a part of his life—and that he will go pro in something other than sports™ after being subject to the capricious gaze of the “Non-Profit” Arbiters of Amateurism.

4) Sports franchises aggressively hold their host cities hostage for absurd tax breaks in order to renovate perfectly good (yet highly land-inefficient) facilities, and will move if their deal isn’t sweet enough. This is no different from plenty of other businesses, except that sports teams are viewed as some sort of public trust—that just happen to be banned by law from being publicly-owned. And the leagues are non-profit entities.

So what we end up with are carpet-bagging team owners who come in, run roughshod over any semblance of tradition that the fan base is proud of, and then contribute little, if any, to the actual community where they make their sportsball happen. Immediately upon purchasing the team, we are inundated with PR blasts that tell us how we’ve turned a corner and that Everything is now Coming Up Cleveland, and This Owner Totally Gets It!

And then down the line these owners whose arrival and general existence has been lauded at every opportunity may even decide to build a casino and have their sportsmen happily remind stadium-goers to remember to vote for the casino referendum. And then after that, a land bridge to hermetically seal the casino-goers from the public. But if you hesitate to give them everything they want in terms of land and infrastructure, you’d better watch it—they’ll be gone before you know it.

5) That sports fandom seems to requires some caveman-like viewpoint of masculinity. This doesn’t manifest so much in dealing with actual sports, but often creeps in when sports and culture collide such as to allow the real men in the crowd to step forward and assert KNOWN KNOWNS, such as: the inability for a grown human adult to effectively play sportsball because of who they happen to be romantically involved with; that using statistics as a lens through which one can evaluate sports is invalid; or that Richie Incognito is anything but a racist bully.

Many of these collisions involve spectacular non-sequiturs, such as but not limited to: ‘WHY IS THIS NEWS?!’; or ‘I JUST KNOW A GOOD PLAYER WHEN I SEE ONE’; or ‘WHY CAN BLACK PEOPLE USE THE N-WORD BUT WHITE PEOPLE CANNOT?’ (For answers to these questions, you could do far worse than reading Ta-Nehisi Coates on two of these topics. Seriously, go do so. I’ll wait.) These questions reek of desperation and deflection from the issue at hand: that it is indeed possible that people of differing backgrounds can all participate in sport effectively, and that masculinity and personal background have little to do with it.

It’s also increasingly difficult for me to stomach the ‘suck it up and play’ aspect of fan culture. This is particularly bad with respect to hockey fans but happens across all fanbases. It’s not our place to demand injury upon others, or that someone over-expose themselves to the risk of further injury because we want their team to win at a sports.

Sports are an extension of humanity. It’d be nice if fandom were more humane.

6) I don’t like that I don’t like sports as much because of these reasons. This is much more inward-gazing and meta, but even with all of these issues I still do like sports. I enjoy going to Nationals games and DC United games, and I’m ecstatic that the Buckeyes will be playing in Baltimore and College Park this fall and I’ll be able to take a short train ride to go see my alma mater play tackle football. But I don’t view sports fandom as a very significant facet of my life at this point, and that’s weird and off-putting because it’s a pretty big shift relative to the majority of my life. It’s going to take a long time to come to grips with this, and I’ve only recently begun to really acknowledge it.

Falling out of love with sports has been a change that has been slowly developing, the sort of thing that’s been hard to track the evolution of. It’s been like watching a puppy grow, where suddenly three years later you look back at a picture and realize ‘wow, our St Bernard used to be tiny‘. The changes have been incremental and additive, and now I’m to a point nearly four years removed from writing about sports frequently where I can’t imagine trying to write about sports with any sort of frequency. Though I’m firm on the points above, please don’t read them as value judgements—not long ago I cared a whole lot about Cleveland sports, and I may care about them again at some point. Most of my good friends love them some sports, and I continue to make good friends with whom sports fandom (or, maybe more accurately, making sports jokes) is our initial common thread. I want to love sports again. I really do.

But part of growing up is realizing that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to view sports in a vacuum anymore. So it goes.

So rather than link to actual sports things that are happening as is customary in these pieces, I thought I’d point out some cool stuff that I’ve been learning about in lieu of learning about sports rosters and statistics (and if you guys have other fun things to talk about, bring them up, because quite honestly the community aspect of sports fandom is like its most positive aspect and why I still do hang around from time to time).

*One place I make time to visit every time I’m visiting family in Canton is the I-76 Antique Mall. It is wonderful. I am not joking.

*Cooking is something that I’ve been trying to learn more about. This came up somewhat frequently in discussions with Craig when we were doing the Casual Friday podcast, but I thought I’d point out some things that I’ve taken to recently:

*I’ve read Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue twice and started reading Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. Serious BBQ is a hefty book with a whole lot of recipes, but it lays out some broadly useful stuff at the front end and includes a lot of tips that are quite interesting (like using an herb bundle to butter-baste meats during cooking). Ratio strips back recipes to their foundational bases, based solely on ingredient ratios and the order of ingredient addition. For me, this is hugely useful, because it’s easy to follow a recipe, but far more difficult to be able to grab a bunch of things off of a shelf and throw together a meal. Both books are super, super insightful and I recommend both if BBQ/cooking are things you like.

*The tri-tip is a fantastic cut of beef that I’ve recently gotten familiar with. So is eye round. Pork shoulder remains the meat of the gods. Bourbon is still king of spirits (I’ve recently been enjoying Weller Reserve).

*Internet Friend Sarah Sprague’s 2014 Chili Roundup is well worth your time. In brief: never, ever use store-bought chili powder in any dish ever again. But you already knew this, you smart devil, you.

*You should be reading everything that Kenji Lopez-Alt writes at The Food Lab. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is sublime (sea salt on cookies = advanced move) and the tacos al pastor recipe is absolutely worth the work (I made this last Friday and used leftover meat for nachos).

*Successfully growing vegetables and herbs is not trivial.

*Freshly-roasted coffee is sublime and remarkably inexpensive.

*If you want to find old pictures to make prints, the Library of Congress’ website is amazing. For instance: this old picture of Municipal Stadium during construction is incredible, and is free for download. Seriously. I printed, matted and framed a copy for my father-in-law this year for Christmas. There are lots of pictures of Olde Cleveland (and old WPA posters as well). Use this information to your advantage.

*As I haven’t been in Ohio this calendar year, I thought I’d ask a friend who has been to Cleveland this year about his experience. His response:

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – I’m assuming it’s named for Sir Anthony – is entirely successful from a functional perspective: planes land there, and then they take off again. It gets a solid A for Being An Airport, and that shouldn’t be ignored; there are still delayed flights from 1994 in Dallas-Fort Worth, for instance. Beyond that? It’s the airport you would design if you were too cheap to pay for an architect and just downloaded the first “airport_plans_eminem_freestyle.jpg” file you found on LimeWire, a choice reinforced by the fact that the dining/shopping options are places you think you’ve heard of maybe once. Look: the Chili’s Too people wanted a crazy franchise fee. You’ll eat at Burgers of Calais and like it. (Burgers of Calais is not actually a restaurant in Cleveland Airport, and if you steal that name I’ll sue.) This is an airport designed to be forgotten quickly. I was there six weeks ago and already it feels like a particularly unremarkable dream.

That friend is Celebrity Hot Tub, and he was stuck in Hopkins for something like 22 hours. It sounds like y’all wow’d him.

*Home organization is an incredibly difficult and never-ending process. Case-in-point: I lined the wall under my basement stairs with pegboard and spend ten minutes or so a week wondering if I could better-arrange my tools. The same goes for kitchen organization and wall-mounting of frequently-used items. These things do not matter, yet they matter.

*Babies: really cool, and quite anxiety-inducing. I’m gonna take my kid to go meet Brendan’s kid today, which is kind of weird, but also pretty awesome. Hooray Internet.

I’ve come a long way from photoshopping Kelvin Sampson’s head onto Bruce Willis, y’all. Growing up is weird.

OK, it’s been fun. Go sports.

MLB Rumors: Indians possible destination for Joaquin Benoit and Shawn Marcum

As MLB’s Winter Meetings wind down, the Indians have been mentioned as possible landing spots for two free agent pitchers. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Cleveland is one of five teams likely to land reliever Joaquin Benoit, whose closer role in Detroit will likely be subsumed by Joe Nathan in 2014.

Meanwhile, Jasyon Stark of ESPN notes that the Indians are one of three teams showing particular interest in starter Shawn Marcum.

Marcum is coming off a rather severe injury that significantly limited his performance in 2013 with the New York Mets, but could represent the sort of “bounce back” rotation role that Scott Kazmir personified last season.

More if/when/as this develops.

[Related: Francona on Masterson: “He’s not going anywhere”]

MLB News: Indians manager Terry Francona named A.L. Manager of the Year

It was a good first year for Terry Francona in Cleveland. Francona guided the Tribe to the playoffs and now he’s been recognized for his success. Francona was named American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

CLEVELAND, OH – The Baseball Writers Association of America today announced Cleveland Indians Manager TERRY FRANCONA has been selected the American League Manager of the Year, beating out Boston’s John Farrell and Oakland’s Bob Melvin.

In his first season managing Cleveland, Francona led the Indians to a 92-70 (.568) record and a berth in the American League Wild Card game as the Indians became the first Major League team since 1971 to end the season with a 10-game winning streak. The 24-win improvement over 2012 (68-94) matched the largest year-to-year win improvement in the history of the franchise, joining the 1986 Indians. 2013 marked the sixth time Francona has led a club to the postseason and the ninth straight season in which a Francona-managed team has won at least 86 games, the sixth-longest such streak in MLB history.

Today’s award is the first earned by Francona over his 13-year Major League Managerial career and marks just the second time an Indians Manager has been selected, joining ERIC WEDGE in 2007. The BBWAA began voting on the Manager of the Year Award in 1983.

I always wondered if Eric Wedge’s award was more of a snake bite for the team that wouldn’t be able to fire the Mustachioed grinder. I have no such reservations with Terry Francona. This is a great way to cap off the season and kick off the hot stove period. It can’t hurt the Tribe’s chances at following up their breakout first season with Terry Francona at the helm.

[Related: MLB News: Jimenez rejects offer, Indians likely to receive compensatory pick]

It’s time to say goodbye to Chief Wahoo

wahooI have spent a lot of time and energy in my life defending Chief Wahoo. In many ways, I love Chief Wahoo. It’s an image that reminds me of my youth, of my mom and dad taking my brother, sister, and I to a game every year. It reminds me of talking Tribe with my late grandfather. It reminds me of Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Charles Nagy, Jim Thome, and Sandy Alomar Jr. It’s a sacred image for many fans of the Cleveland Indians.

I also believe that it’s time to put Chief Wahoo out of his misery and remove the image from any association with the baseball franchise. The sooner the better.

My change in stance on this issue has been a slow one, but it really picked up speed in recent weeks. Things really started to change with the Indians’ recent playoff game against the Rays. The TBS crew at one point aired a shot of a group of Indians fans who had painted their entire faces red with an enormous, exaggerated white toothy grin. [Read more...]

A Twitter-free AL Wild Card Experience

twitter-freeWhile the genesis and timing of the actual decision are still unknown, there was a point leading up to Wednesday night’s American League Wild Card game where I decided that I was going to watch in solitude. Not alone, in a closet, with some tin foil antennae attached to a 16-inch television while I consume beef jerky and water, but free from the thousand-or-so individuals who populate my Twitter feed at any given time1. Though the beef jerky itself sounds delightful, I wanted to be free from the noise—the pitch-by-pitch analysis and valueless play-by-play and electronic onomatopoeias, the “I told you sos” peddled as “truths” and the potential for glass-half-empty garbage that would otherwise take away from the fact that the baseball team I root for had somehow put together a 90-plus win season and was still playing the game I love into the month of October.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious what others were saying. I’d also be lying if I said that the fact that many of the opinions I valued—the cavalcade of WFNY writers who were inside of Progressive Field, thus likely having trouble tweeting due to depleted cell signal—didn’t help make this decision that much easier. I could hear the crowd, I could see the towels. I knew how electric the atmosphere was; the 5.1 surround sound helped propel the waves into my living room. The last thing I needed was to see some local troll or national pundit spew something negative. As easy as it would be to ignore, why invite any ounce of potential negativity into my experience? My thoughts on baseball in the Information Age are well-documented by this point. If the night-by-night noise was excruciating enough, a minute-by-minute account of what was unfolding would have put me over the top.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Before anyone wants to cast this as some sort of sign of dependency, Twitter is simply the nature of the beast when it comes to this Internet world we trade in. Not experiencing one of the biggest games of the last several years with those who I interact with on a daily basis is, well, kind of weird. []

Rays 4 Indians 0: Missed opportunities send Indians home for the winter

Kipnis and BrantleyI was downtown around 5:30. Walking around 4th street, people filled the streets, rocking their red. The civic pride that we Clevelanders hold so dear was on full display. It was like a scene out of Major League when everyone in and around the city was walking past each other, holding up their #1 finger and saying “Go Tribe.” The buzz downtown was something special. We all wanted that feeling to continue. Nobody wanted it to end.

That is what makes last night’s 4-0, season-ending loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the win-or-go-home Wild Card game extra painful. Everyone who is a Cleveland fan knows – opportunities like this one don’t come around every year. So when they do, you have to make the most of them. [Read more...]

Justin Masterson: Ace to Closer?

Justin MastersonIt isn’t too often that an ace starting pitcher becomes a team’s closer, but the Cleveland Indians coaching staff may find themselves with a tough decision to make.

It had been quite the passage of time since an Indians pitcher ran out of the bullpen in the ninth inning and was welcomed by a standing ovation complete with raucous cheering. Such was the case on a crisp, late-September night in Cleveland when the bullpen door gave way to Justin Masterson, the 6-foot-6-inch ace hurler for the Tribe who was making his first appearance since succumbing to an oblique injury earlier in the month. High socks and all, Masterson jogged to the mound while fans, understandably enjoying the team’s multi-run lead in the midst of a playoff hunt, welcomed him back with open arms.

A perfect storm, really. One night after the team’s polarizing closer Chris Perez blew a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning only to leave the field while being pelted by a chorus of boos, Masterson—essentially the antithesis of Perez in every way but employer—came in with his team up considerably. There was an absence of pressure. The fans were exuding an energy that had long been missing from the confines of Progressive Field. It was, in fact, the team’s final home game of the regular season—who better to close it out than the man who ushered this crazy, roller coaster of a season in by throwing the team’s first pitch? [Read more...]

See, it is not just a Cleveland Problem!

tropicanainprogressThere are now less than two weeks remaining in baseball’s regular season. October is just around the corner. Other than the NL Central, the division races have all but been decided.  The move to the second Wild Card last year was met with skepticism by some and applause by others. Those who oppose it find it ridiculous that the two Wild Card teams have to play one, winner-take-all game to advance to the League Division series where they get one day of travel and start a best of five series with two games on the road. I stand on the other side of the fence. I think the one-game Wild Card places a premium on actually winning your division. Why should a team that didn’t win its own division be on par with a team that took care of its own inner-division business? Plus, with MLB still going with a five-game ALDS and home field advantage in baseball usually meaning the least in any of the four major sports in the playoffs, the Wild Card winner should have to fight more of an uphill battle.

The American League Wild Card race is as wide open as any since the advent of the original expanded format in 1994 (There were no playoffs that year due to the strike, but ’94 was the first year of the three divisions in each league). Six teams are separated by two and a half games. Two monster series between four of the teams started last night and will help shape the final two weeks. [Read more...]