Previous “Baseball Bloopers” posts

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.

Fake Fans in Empty Stadiums

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Baseball is back. It’s back, and it’s goddamned weird. The abbreviated 2020 season kicked off with two games last night, and while they were strange for many reasons, one of the most obvious was the lack of any actual fans. Understandably, fans will not be permitted in the ballparks this season.

There is crowd noise being piped in, however, and approximately half of major league teams will also be putting representations of their fans in the stadium. This is being done with cutouts printed from fan photos. For your amusement, as well as for posterity, I recorded a comprehensive look at all of these fan cutout programs. Save this link for a few decades, then share just a bit of the weirdness of 2020 with your grandkids.

Atlanta Braves

Name: Braves Country Cutouts
Cost: $50, $25 for “A-List Members” [Link]
Beneficiary: The Atlanta Braves Foundation

Additional Notes: The parenthetical in this statement is so very depressing: “Truist Park will not feel like home unless we see (photos of) your faces in the stands”.

Boston Red Sox

Name: Monster Home Run Challenge
Cost: $500 [Link]
Beneficiary: The Red Sox Foundation

Additional Notes: This is by far the most expensive program in the majors, with a $500 donation only buying your cut-out 1/2 of the season.

However, the cutout will have some tremendous seats, on top of Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster. Also, if your cutout is hit by a Red Sox home run ball, you’ll win an assortment of prizes, including tickets to a 2021 ball game.

Chicago White Sox

Name: FANtastic Faces
Cost: $49 [Link]
Beneficiary: Chicago White Sox Charities

Additional Notes: Chicago’s program is unique in the bigs, as the cutouts will only be in the stadium for a single home stand. White Sox fan Paul Garrett purchased 100 identical cutouts, hilariously leading to this tableau:

Houston Astros

Name: Astros Fan Cutouts
Cost: $100 [Link]
Beneficiary: Unclear, though they list this as a “tax-deductible donation”

Additional Notes: Those who dislike the Astros should note that Houston’s program bars both “Inappropriate gestures” and “Obscene, lewd, explicit, discriminatory, derogatory, violent, offensive, infringing or otherwise inappropriate references”.

Kansas City Royals

Name: Fanbassador
Cost: $40 [Link]
Beneficiary: “A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Royals Respond Fund, a Royals Charities effort that supports Kansas City area nonprofits who focus on food insecurity as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Additional Notes: It appears this program is only open to Royals season ticket holders, and initially limited to 500 people.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Name: Los Angeles Dodgers Fan Cutouts & Pups at the Park
Cost: $299 (Pavilion Home Run Seats/Dugout Club), $149 (Field Level/Loge Level), $149 (Pups at the Park (Loge Level)) [Link]
Beneficiary: “Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, as they tackle the most pressing problems facing Los Angeles with a mission to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice for all Angelenos.”

Additional Notes: Of course Los Angeles, land of the purse dog, sent out a separate press release announcing the $149 option to have your dog at the ballpark. As well, the Dodgers list the fair market value of the cutout itself at $11.25.

Milwaukee Brewers

Name: Brewers Cutout Crew
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Brewers Community Foundation & the Wisconsin Humane Society

Additional Notes: The photo guidelines note “A shirt color on a same color background will make you look like a floating head”, but it’s unclear if this is viewed as a negative or a positive.

Also, Milwaukee is photographing the cutouts in place so fans can see themselves, as seen below:

Minnesota Twins

Name: Twins Mosaic
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: The Twins aren’t doing cutouts, but will instead have a massive 53×38 foot mosaic of fan photos looking down over the field.

New York Mets

Name: Mets Fan Cutouts
Cost: $86 [Link]
Beneficiary: Mets Foundation

Additional Notes: The New York Mets last won a World Series 34 years ago, and their $86 pricing reflects that 1986 championship. This also appears to be the only program that requires team gear, stating “Mets gear is a must!”.

Oakland A’s

Name: Coliseum Cutouts
Cost: $89 for general fans and pets, $49 for “A’s Access” members (Unclear if pets can join A’s Access), $129 for the Left Field Foul Ball Zone, $149 for the ALS CURE Project Right Field Foul Ball Zone [Link]
Beneficiary: ALS CURE, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) & the East Bay SPCA

Additional Notes: The A’s program has a lot going on. Most notably, when a “Foul Ball Zone” cutout gets hit by a ball, the fan will receive that ball.

Of note, A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty’s mother was stricken with ALS in 2017. Before the 2018 season, Piscotty asked for a trade to be closer to home. Rather remarkably, this was granted, with the Cardinals sending him to Oakland. Sadly, his mother passed away during the 2018 season, but he’s now honoring her by providing autographed items and balls to raise money for ALS research. Good on you, Stephen.

Philadelphia Phillies

Name: Phillies Game Face
Cost: $40, $25 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: “[P]roceeds benefiting Phillies charities”

Additional Notes: On opening day, healthcare workers will be honored free of charge. Details will be forthcoming on how fans can do the same for later games.

Also, in the true spirit of 2020, the incomparable Phillie Phanatic is the subject of a trademark battle, and has been redesigned. The rejiggered mascot will be at the park during games though, and thankfully, you’ll probably recognize him just fine.


Before and After

San Diego Padres

Name: Military Padres Fan Cutouts
Cost: Free [Link]
Beneficiary: N/A

Additional Notes: Initially, the team is honoring military personnel with free cutouts. Later cutouts will “follow themes that honor different groups and causes”, according to Padres President of Business Operations Erick Greupner

San Francisco Giants

Name: Giants Fan Cutouts & Cutouts for a Cause
Cost: $99, free for season ticket holders who rollover their account credit to 2021 rather than taking a refund [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the San Francisco Giants themselves

Additional Notes: While nearly every other program is charitable in nature, it seems the Giants are just planning to pocket this money. They are offering fans the chance to “sit” near celebrity cutouts, while raising money for the celebrity’s cause.

Seattle Mariners

Name: Mariners Seat Fleet
Cost: $30 [Link]
Beneficiary: “The Mariners will donate a portion of every purchase to non-profit organizations supporting COVID-related relief efforts in our communities.”

Additional Notes: This is the most affordable program in the bigs, and if your cutout is hit with a foul ball, you’ll get it sent to you. However, this is one of just two programs (along with the Mets) which explicitly states you will not receive your cutout at the end of the season. Then again, I don’t know what someone would actually do with a cutout of themself.

Tampa Bay Rays

Name: Rays Fan Cutouts
Cost: $60, $40 for season ticket holders [Link]
Beneficiary: Seemingly, the Tampa Bay Rays themselves

Additional Notes: Do the Tampa Bay Rays actually have season ticket holders?

Texas Rangers

Name: DoppelRangers
Cost: $50 [Link]
Beneficiary: Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation

Additional Notes: The Texas Rangers are opening a brand-new stadium this year, and I can’t think of a worse way to do it than with no fans. On the other hand, their program has the best name, bar none.

Toronto Blue Jays

At present, the 14 remaining teams have no cutout program. Among them, however, the Toronto Blue Jays are worth calling out specifically. That’s because they lack not just a fan cutout program, but a home ballpark in which to play.

Canada isn’t providing any exception to allow players to enter the country, and thus far, no American city has accepted the team. The baseball season has now begun, yet this poor team doesn’t even know where they’re going to play.

So yeah, this shortened 2020 baseball season in the middle of a pandemic seems like a great idea which will surely play out with no issues whatsoever.

Astro the Grouch 

Monday, May 25th, 2020

It’s Memorial Day in America, a day to honor and mourn veterans who died wile serving in our armed forces. Paradoxically, it’s also the unofficial start to summer, and ordinarily a day of beaches, barbecues, and baseball. As a result of COVID-19, however, the 2020 Major League Baseball season has yet to start. Even so, baseball fans can still indulge their disgust for the cheating 2017 Houston Astros, thanks to a promotional item from Minnesota’s St. Paul Saints.

As the Saints’ staffers planned the 2020 promotional schedule, they plotted how to roast the newly sanctioned Astros. A trash can? Of course. Inside? Knockoffs of Oscar the Grouch and Orbit, the Astros’ mascot, carefully designed to skirt copyright violations.


Pressing the button will unleash a couple of bangs, or even a specific pitch.

With the season in doubt, the Saints have now decided to sell the item online, with a portion of the rather steep $35 price going to charity. Personally, I’ll be content to chuckle at the fact that this exists, write about it, and then move on.

Hopefully, This Isn’t the High Point 

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

For nearly a decade, this blog has been tracking the baseball exploits of one Christopher Michael “Mike” Carp, in the hopes that he could be added to this list. In 2015, Carp made it to the right city, though he was affiliated with the wrong team. In 2019, news of his independent league baseball success with the New Britain Bees of Connecticut was shared.

It appears the Bees experienced some sort of colony collapse, but never fear. Carp has been picked up by North Carolina’s High Point Rockers for the 2020 season.

Also signed for next season are pitchers Jake Buchanan and Drake Owenby, catcher Stuart Levy, outfielder Bryce Brentz, infielder Matt Fields and three from the disbanded New Britain Bees — Mike Carp, Darren Ford and Logan Moore.

Sure, the team’s logo is a rocking chair, an almost painfully on-point allusion to retirement. And yes, Carp hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2014. Of course, there’s little sense hiding from the fact that he’ll be turning 34 shortly, which is surely an unlikely age to return to pro ball. Nevertheless! Until Mike Carp hangs up his spikes for good, this blog will continue to track his career. If we can raise his profile enough, perhaps the Los Angeles Angels1 will finally see the light.


Footnotes:

  1. They’ve got a new/retro name, and it’s damned efficient! Truly, it just looks so good on them. Those wise team owners clearly know a good idea when they see it!↩︎