Previous “Baseball Bloopers” posts

Banana Ball 

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Recently, friend-of-the-site Oliver Y. alerted me to a hot new sport sweeping the nation a modified version of an existing sport that’s locally popular in southeastern Georgia. That’s where a team called the Savannah Bananas play Banana Ball, a variant of baseball where fans can catch foul balls for outs, walks are now sprints, and there’s a strict two-hour time limit.

Check out this video, where Bananas owner Jesse Cole runs down the rule changes. I never need to see another mound visit for the rest of my life, so bringing at least a couple of these revisions to Major League Baseball would be just fine by me.

Banana Ball is unlikely to replace baseball any time soon, but I’d love to take in at least one game. While I won’t be able to catch their 2021 one city world tour, tickets are still available if you’re going to be in Mobile, Alabama on March 27.

Progress in Major League Baseball

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

Winter has just begun here in America, but recently, two positive announcements were made relating to the boys of summer. First, at some point in the near future, Cleveland’s baseball team will have a new name.

The decision follows a similar move by the NFL’s Washington Football Team. Unlike the Washington Football Team, however, Cleveland’s baseball team will continue to be known as the Indians — the name it has carried since 1915 — until a new name is chosen and various branding and trademarking issues are resolved.

I’m not sure why they’re taking a half measure for now, but it will be good to get rid of this name (and worse, the terrible “Chief Wahoo” logo). For now, there’s nothing stopping all of us from just calling them the Cleveland Baseball Club, and I intend to.

Shortly after Cleveland’s announcement, Major League Baseball stated that the the Negro Leagues would now be considered as ‘Major League’.

Major League Baseball is correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history by officially elevating the Negro Leagues to “Major League” status…With this action, MLB seeks to ensure that future generations will remember the approximately 3,400 players of the Negro Leagues during this time period as Major League-caliber ballplayers. Accordingly, the statistics and records of these players will become a part of Major League Baseball’s history.

From 1920 to 1948, African and Latin Americans players competed at a tremendously high level, but were excluded from the all-white Major League Baseball. That exclusion can never be undone, but recognizing the accomplishments of those players is a positive move nonetheless.

Both of these changes have been a long time coming, but late is far better than never.

Inbox Abuse at the Hands of Major League Baseball

Friday, December 11th, 2020

At 12:30 PM on November 23, I received an email from MLB.com’s shop, advertising site-wide 30% off savings. Because officially licensed gear for professional sports teams is always ludicrously overpriced, this has the effect of bringing the cost of a $260 “authentic” jersey to a still grossly overpriced $182. To say I was uninterested is putting it mildly.

However, I did notice that this email advertised the deal as “Early Cyber Monday Savings”.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings”

As you may know, “Cyber Monday” is a marketing term for the Monday after American Thanksgiving, when many online stores offer special deals. This year, Thanksgiving fell on the November 26, making Cyber Monday the 30th. November 23 was thus not “early Cyber Monday”, it was nothing at all. This email represented just the latest example of calendar abuse by some crack marketing team.

It was also the beginning of some monstrous mailing list mismanagement. Just six hours later, I received an email letting me know that these “Early Cyber Monday savings” were “ending soon”.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Ends Soon”

Another three hours later, at 9:30 PM, a third email arrived letting me know this deal was “almost outta here”, and in its “final hours”.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Final Hours”

The sale was ending at midnight, so I assumed that would be the last I’d hear about it. Three emails in one day is too much, but I could see the repeated contacts being effective with some potential customers.

The next day, however, I received the shocking news that “Early Cyber Monday” had been “extended” into Tuesday. Did MLB explain that this was due to overwhelming demand, which had perhaps crashed their servers and thus prevented hopeful buyers from placing orders? They did not. Did they at least use a bit of clever baseball lingo, perhaps saying that the sale had “gone into extra innings?” There again, the answer is no. OK, but surely they changed the design of the email for some variety?

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Extended”

Well, the badge on the bottom of the banner was a different shade of blue, yes.

That evening, I received yet another email, letting me know this was my last chance to take advantage of this 30% off.

A banner reading “Early Cyber Monday Savings - Last Chance”

I was rather incredulous at the idea of sending five emails in two days for a mediocre sale. Still, I found the overzealousness amusing, and I assumed that would be the end of it. I was completely unprepared for what would follow over the next two-plus weeks.

To avoid trying your patience, while still demonstrating the abuse my inbox suffered in late November and early December, here is a siumple list of the various sales promotions MLB.com emailed about. Lest you think I made these up, I’ve included images from the most ridiculous emails:

  • Thanksgiving Eve Savings

    A banner reading “Today Only! Thanksgiving Eve Savings”
    Except perhaps when discussing travel, “Thanksgiving Eve” is really not a thing.

  • Thanksgiving Day Sale

  • Black Friday Sale

  • Black Friday Extended

  • Cyber Monday Sneak Peek

    A banner reading “Cyber Monday Sneak Peek”
    The extensions led in to sneak peeks, then back to sales.

  • Cyber Monday Sale

  • Cyber Monday Extended

  • A non-specific “Countdown” event

  • Friends & Family Savings Event

    A banner reading “Friends & Family Savings Event”
    Lamentably, I am not in the Major League Baseball family. After all this, I’m not feeling very friendly either.

  • The Holiday Gifting Sale

  • 3 Days of Saving

  • One Day Sale

    A banner reading “Friends & Family Savings Event”
    OK, this one cracked me up.

  • Holiday Savings Event

Throughout the course of this, the discounts seemed to fluctuate. Many of these sales advertised “up to 65% off”, which really tells you just how much this merchandise is ordinarily marked up. Others contained more standard 20-30% off discounts. The numbers were impossible to keep straight, as they changed constantly.

Similarly, my own reactions bounced around quite a bit. My initial mirth quickly grew to disgust at the marketing that occurred just before, and on, Thanksgiving. I was then horrified at the onslaught of emails surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I eventually grew numb, and just let the spam wash over me. Finally, I settled on bemusement, enjoying watching just how far this would go and wondering when it would ever end.

But today, enough was truly enough. This morning, MLB.com hit my inbox for the 50th time in under three weeks. That is just utterly insane behavior. I’m sure that MLB wants to juice their merchandise sales after a down year in 2020, but the idea that this is the way to do it beggars belief. It is inexplicable that anyone with any sense at all could think the above was appropriate.

So I’m out. I’ve unsubscribed, and I hope to never hear from these dingdongs again. Sure, I’ll miss their “Christmas Day Sale” (Warning, gifts will not arrive by Christmas), the “Tuesday After Christmas” event, and the “New Year’s Eve Eve” savings the day after that, but I think I’ll be alright.

Major League Baseball’s Bad Example

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

In the 6th inning of game 6 of the 2020 World Series, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell was lifted by his manager, Kevin Cash. Snell had just given up a one out single to the number nine batter Austin Barnes, but that was only the second hit of the night for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Further, the next three batters Snell was due to face had gone 0-6 against him, with 6 strikeouts. It’s essentially impossible for a pitcher to more thoroughly dominate the top of the order.

Following the move, the Dodgers plated two runs to take a slim lead over the Rays, 2-1. That pitching change will no doubt be questioned for a long time by Tampa Bay’s dozens of faithful fans. However, while second-guessing is an enjoyable part of watching any sport, I’m focused on this change for a different reason. It turned out to be the first part of a chain reaction which led to Major League Baseball’s quintessential finish to the 2020 season.

You see, in the eighth inning, Los Angeles still held that slim 2-1 lead. Though the game’s result was certainly far from certain, Dodgers starting third baseman Justin Turner was abruptly removed from the lineup. At the time, the change was even more inexplicable than Snell’s, with announcers speculating about a possible injury. Only later was the reason for the switch revealed: Turner had tested positive for COVID-19. In an effort to stop the spread of this deadly virus that has taken so much and so many from the world, he was immediately isolated.

Until he wasn’t. When the Dodgers got the last out in the ninth and captured baseball’s ultimate prize, Turner made his way out of the designated isolation room. He came back onto the field to join the party. Sometimes masked, and sometimes not, he celebrated with his teammates. He hoisted the championship trophy. He posed, grin shining through his fiery red beard, for team photos:

Maybe Turner believed the nonsense coming out of the White House, including the outright lie that Donald Trump’s administration has ended the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in the real world, however, positive cases are soaring to horrifying new heights. Hospitals in America are being overwhelmed, and hundreds of thousands of people have died from a disease that continues to spread like wildfire. Despite all that, a professional athlete was shown on television being incredibly reckless with the health of those around him.

I can certainly understand Turner not wanting to miss a moment he’d worked his entire life for. The desire to celebrate with the rest of his team was a natural one. I hope there are no further cases among the Dodger organization, and that no other players, coaches, or family members get sick. Perhaps this incident can quietly die down to a mere footnote.

But even if that happens, it will be by sheer luck. There is a deadly virus going around and around the globe, and we can’t simply ignore it. We can’t pretend our way out of this thing. The picture above is emblematic of the fact that collectively, we Americans still haven’t learned that sacrificing for others is essential in getting past this pandemic. That’s not something to celebrate.

Major League Baseball took incredible, unprecedented precautions to enable teams to play a 2020 season. Yet over and over, even in the final game of the year, the virus still broke through. Now, it’s left a stain on what should be the game’s ultimate triumph.

Getting Into Blaseball 

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Earlier this year, I heard about a hot new game: blaseball, an online riff on baseball. However, when I couldn’t figure out if it was pronounced blace (rhymes-with-place) ball or blasé (as-in-apathetic) ball, I moved on.

Recently, friend-of-the-site Alex S. sent along a couple useful links about the game. To start, what exactly is blaseball?

Blaseball is an online, alternate reality, surrealist fantasy baseball game. At the same time, it is not any of those things at all. The game transforms week-to-week, and while it models itself after America’s favorite pastime, it’s slowly getting further and further away from the sport.

That answer comes from Polygon’s useful blaseball Q&A, which is worth a read. Intrigued, and want more? Here’s a video covering the weirdness in even more depth. It’s really quite something.

I haven’t yet really had the time to partake in blaseball’s extreme weirdness, but after reading about it, I strongly support the absurdity. The MLB season will be over by next Wednesday, but the next blaseball season starts very soon.

Walker Buehler’s Skinny Pants 

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler1 wearing someone else’s pants when he pitched the first game of the NLCS on Monday? Maybe! After his team lost, however, he was in no mood for questions about his britches.


Footnotes:

  1. If there’s a less apt name for a pitcher than “Walker”, I haven’t heard it.1 Better still, Buehler has stated that rather than giving up a hit, he prefers to issue a free pass to a batter. That figures. ↩︎

  2. Grant Balfour’s last name is also pretty great, and unapt. ↩︎

Coming to You Live From His Mother’s Basement 

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

OK, it’s not quite as ridiculous as the headline would suggest, but Dodgers announcer Charley Steiner is broadcasting the 2020 season from his own living room.

Weekend at Kansas City 

Friday, August 14th, 2020

As readers are already aware, Major League Baseball stadiums across America are full of fake fans. People have been having a lot of fun with these, but perhaps the single best cutout thus far is this one from Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals.


[Photo credit: @AsteriskTour]

Rather Amusing Mockery From an “Organist” 

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Major League Baseball is limiting the number of people at ballparks in 2020. Fans aren’t allowed to attend, and even MLB announcers are generally not watching the game in-person either. As such, it’s not clear to me why Atlanta’s organist Matthew Kaminski was present at their game against the Blue Jays last week., playing for a non-existent crowd.1 Nevertheless, I’m glad he was.

When Blue Jays catcher Reese McGuire stepped up to the plate, the organist could be heard playing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” For those who don’t follow which MLB players have been caught publicly masturbating, the reference likely went over your head.

Now that’s some good, not-really-that-clean fun.


Footnotes:

  1. I suppose the answer is that he was also playing for the TV audience, which would likely be a nice addition to 2020’s strange broadcasts. ↩︎

Daniel Bard Beats the Yips 

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Many years ago, Daniel Bard was a promising young pitcher for my hometown Boston Red Sox. Then, his career was derailed by an affliction commonly known as “the yips”. Simply put, Bard’s abilities abandoned him, and he could no longer perform the fundamental task of throwing strikes.

After several comeback attempts, Bard finally threw in the towel and retired from playing. He became a coach and mentor to younger players, helping them with their own journeys in professional baseball.

Then one day, almost as if by magic, his skills returned. The yips, poof, disappeared. The joy of the game flowed through him. Now, Daniel Bard is once again pitching in the big leagues, and that’s incredible.