Category Archives: MLB

Money: The Most Extreme Goal

Caption: New York Yankees Executive Brian Cashman

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

January 25, 2023

Earlier this month, I wrote an article discussing how different teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) choose to spend their money. As most team sport leagues go, not every team in the league is built the same. Environmental factors are relatively out of the hands of the team owners. The city the team plays in and its economy can all impact a team’s ability to spend money.

We often categorize teams into two categories: large-market and small-market. It’s a pretty cut and dry concept, teams in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago have larger shares of the market and are more likely to spend more money on their teams. Smaller cities like Cincinnati, Denver, and St. Louis will be more likely to have teams that spend less.

In an article written in 2012, teams were relegated to high, middle, and low markets. Teams were put into those categories based on the population of their city, their payroll per year, and their average cost per win. Through these different measurements, they were able to get a good breakdown of just where teams lie. Even just 10 years ago most of the teams are in the same place they were then.

There are some areas where you might think a team would be in a large market, yet they rarely spend money like others do. Examples of this would be the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays. They are both based in relatively large markets in Florida, but both teams ranked among the bottom 10 teams in the league for payroll in 2022.

It is staggering to see the variances in payroll across the league, with the New York Mets ranking number one in payroll at $235.6 million for just one year, whereas the Cleveland Guardians who ranked last only paid their players a total of $29.1 million.

Here’s where one of my favorite parts of baseball comes into play, however. Both of these teams made the playoffs. Not only that, but the Guardians survived longer than the Mets who lost to the Padres (2022 payroll of $184.5 million) in the Wild Card round. Cleveland was eliminated in the next round by the Yankees ($249 million payroll) but it just goes to show that spending more money doesn’t always produce a winning team.

Now, while spending money guarantees nothing for your team, spending little to no money does guarantee you something as a team. Concern from your fans.

As I talked about in my previous article, every team in MLB is largely profitable on a year-to-year basis. There is only one current team that Forbes had sitting below $1 billion dollars in value, that being the Miami Marlins which was valued at $990 million.

The fact that so many of these low-ranking teams (based on payroll) could still afford to spend more makes little sense to me. Oftentimes, owners will excuse their spending habits by saying that they are in a small-market and players are going to chase the larger sums of money elsewhere. But if you look at how much the team could be spending on players to improve the team, that statement doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I just cannot see a reason as to why the owner of a team would intentionally not spend money towards improving their team if they are underperforming. Of course, there are situations where it makes sense not to spend money, such as when a team is undergoing a rebuild.

A rebuild is just what it sounds like. More than likely, the team has struggled for a few years and has built up a good farm system of prospects. So, the team will save money for when the prospects make it to the majors and perform well, and then be signed to long term contracts.

But what happens when the team isn’t in a rebuild or has been in a rebuild for years with nothing to show for it? The Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds come to mind when you think of this. Both teams are toward the bottom of the list in team value and yearly payroll and have been stuck there for years.

These teams both have histories of trading away very talented homegrown players for aging veterans. Or they will let players walk in free agency after a year of great numbers because they don’t think they can afford what the player is asking.

The A’s traded away Josh Donaldson just a few seasons before he won the MVP with the Toronto Blue Jays. The A’s more recently traded their talented corner infielders, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, with little to show in return. The Reds refused to reach out to their star outfielder Nick Castellanos with an offer after he declined his option. They let now infamous Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer go to the Dodgers after winning his award.

The owners of these teams will just continue along the paths that they are currently on unless something is done to prevent it.

This is something very similar to “tanking” in the NFL or the NBA, but with a twist. See, in those leagues, teams will tank to improve their chances of securing better players in the next season’s draft. But with those leagues, the pipeline from the draft to the league is often a lot quicker than in MLB.

Players typically spend 2 or 3 years in the minor leagues working and honing their craft so they can perform at the major league level. There is a lower correlation between a player’s pre-draft numbers and how they actually perform. That is why I see the owners’ action as nothing more than padding their own pockets with the revenue the team brings in.

If they don’t have to spend their money to get large returns on it, and if they have little to no interest in winning, then why wouldn’t they? Until the league is able to force team owners to place a certain portion of their teams’ value and revenue back into it, I’m not sure what is going to change for the teams and fans of the teams who are going through this process.

It is really difficult to continue rooting for your favorite team every year when you have little hope for them and their future. But, as a famed Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini once said, “Well, where are you gonna go?”


A Well-Oiled Machine

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

October 13, 2022

Since the late 1980s, baseball has evolved from the steroid era to the sabermetric era. During that time, there has been one true star whose career began in 2001; yet he remains relevant today – Albert Pujols. Since batting .204 prior to the All-Star break, he reached a seemingly impossible mark by hitting his 700th career home run. In doing so, he joined Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds as the only members of the 700-home run club.  

Entering the 2022 season, it looked like this was going to be the classic farewell tour for Pujols. He was finally back with his long-time teammates Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, for the first time in over a decade. After the 2011 season, Pujols was signed by the Los Angeles Angels for 10 years and $240 million. He never truly lived up to his potential in Los Angeles, only being an All-Star once, hitting around .256, and striking out almost twice as much as he walked. It seemed like his return to St. Louis was going to be a merciful end to Pujols’ playing career. But that’s where baseball fans were wrong.

Through the first three months of the season, Pujols batted a measly .181 with 4 homers, leaving him 17 shy of the 700 mark at the All-Star break. With Pujols being the only current player with a reasonable chance of hitting 700 homeruns, fans became hopeful. But after the first half of the season, most wrote him off. Alicia de Artola of Fansided doubted that he would be able to reach 700, questioning just how much he had left in the tank given his age. But “The Machine” was going to go out on his terms, slashing .318/.377/.671 since July 4th. Not only was this enough to make us reminisce about Pujols’ first stint with the Cardinals when he was consistently one of the best hitters in all of baseball. It also made him the BEST hitter in baseball (outside of Aaron Judge who was on another planet) per plate appearance.

Doing this, Pujols also helped the Cardinals clinch the National League Central Championship. Unfortunately, the Cardinals fell in two games to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, cutting Pujols’ chances short of further padding his stats. However, it is just difficult to fathom how the 42-year-old Pujols could play his best baseball of the past decade, as he neared the end of his career. It’s just one of the things that you look at as a baseball fan and think, “how can you not be romantic about baseball?.” A fun stat to put into perspective is how many home runs 700 is, Pujols’ average homerun trot over his career is around 26 seconds per. This means that over the 22 seasons Albert has played in, he has spent a little over 5 hours rounding the bases for his home runs.

Albert Pujols was by far the longest-tenured player in the MLB today debuting one year before pitcher Oliver Perez. He truly was the last of a dying breed and I don’t know that we will ever get to see someone dominate the majors for the first decade of their career. The only star in today’s game with similar dominance is Mike Trout. Who knows, maybe in another decade someone will be writing a similar story about Trout. But right to the very end of his illustrious career, ‘The Machine’ was the story.

Mental Health and Professional Athletes

By Griffin Olah

Griffin is a third-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

February 17, 2021

This entry contains material and descriptions of depression and suicide. If you or a loved one are experiencing depression, emotional distress or thoughts of harming your/themselves, you/they are not alone. Help is available. Contact a mental health professional or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org to get the help you/they deserve and need.

“I hate myself” (Passan, 2021, para. 94). 

These were the words that San Francisco Giants outfielder Drew Robinson spoke to paramedics as they arrived at his house on April 17, 2020. Three simple words. Apparently, they were enough to make sense of everything he had been feeling.

Drew Robinson might not be a name that you know. He’s played 100 career games at the major league level over the past three years, the first two with the Texas Rangers and the third with the St. Louis Cardinals (“Drew Robinson,” 2021b). He was signed by the San Francisco Giants to convert from infield to outfield before the 2020 season, but he never saw the field in the pandemic shortened season – and April 16, 2020 is the main reason for that (Passan, 2021).

Andrelton Simmons, on the other hand, is a name you might know. Simmons, a four-time Gold Glove winner with a Platinum Glove also in his trophy case, has spent nine years in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels with great success. He is regarded as one of the best defenders in MLB and has received MVP votes three times in his career (2013, 2017 and 2018), with an eighth place finish as his highest (“Andrelton Simmons,” 2021a). 

So, what connects one of the top defenders in the game to a utility player bouncing between the majors and AAA? The answer: depression and thoughts of suicide.

A day before Drew Robinson called the paramedics, he sat at his kitchen table and wrote. To anyone gazing in, this seems like a normal event. Sure, most baseball players don’t write on the side, but it seems like a simple task. Robinson finished whatever it was he was writing and moved throughout the house, cleaning as he went. He set about making the house as clean as possible. Then, he sat on the couch (Passan, 2021).

Andrelton Simmons was reaching the end of his age-30 season in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Angels were on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and with one week left in the season, there was a small chance that they could make the postseason. Simmons was enjoying an offensive resurgence in the 30 games he played – he had a .297 batting average and a .702 OPS that were his highest since finishing 15th in the 2018 MVP voting (“Andrelton Simmons,” 2021a). In September, Simmons shocked the Angels and opted out of that final week. He didn’t speak to the media until January 31 at his introductory press conference after signing a one year, $10.5 million deal to be the shortstop of the Minnesota Twins. He declined to answer any questions about his opt-out (Fletcher, 2021).

As with the writing, everything that Robinson did leading up to sitting on the couch was normal. People write everyday. Cleaning is not something that should raise red flags. Everything on the outside was normal and peaceful. Simmons was playing the sport he loved and playing it well. Everything seemed okay on the outside until his opt-out raised eyebrows across the league. Each one of these players had one of the toughest decisions in human life to make, and they made it.

Simmons’ decision was much less dramatic, but produced more stories at the time. He initially cited “COVID-19 concerns” for his opt-out, which caught manager Joe Maddon off guard (Torres, 2020, para. 1). Simmons then released a statement to the local media thanking the Angels organization for his time in Los Angeles, and then rode off into the sunset, not to be heard from until his Twins press conference (Torres, 2020).

Robinson’s decision, however, was complex and had multiple parts to it. The first was on that couch. Before looking at that, however, we need to look back at what Drew Robinson wrote at his kitchen table. A normally mundane activity like writing took massive meaning here. Robinson wrote a suicide note (Passan, 2021).

Back on the couch, Drew Robinson, at 8 p.m. on April 16, 2020, pressed a handgun to his head and pulled the trigger (Passan, 2021).

A few hours later, Robinson woke up, a hole in his head from the bullet. For the next 20 hours, Robinson sat alone in his house, trying to cope with the idea that he was still alive. Once those 20 hours came to a close, he sat down on his couch, the gun in one hand and a phone dialed to 911 in the other. He had a choice to make: life or death. Drew Robinson chose life (Passan, 2021).

Until recently, depression and mental illness were taboo subjects. Even now, stereotypes and misinformation about mental illness run rampant while facts stay in the dark. There was no reason for any athlete to suffer from mental illness, let alone mention it publicly. Success was supposed to make people happy. Money was supposed to solve problems. So, why would someone that successful and with that much money playing the game they love suffer from mental illness? 

The ‘Superman mentality’ of athletes took a sharp change when stars like Jerry West, Brandon Marshall and Michael Phelps went public with their struggles with depression (Gleeson & Brady, 2017). If athletes of their caliber could suffer from the same mental health problems that affect one in five American adults, then how many other athletes are affected (“Mental illness,” 2021)? The only problem here is that retired athletes were the ones coming out. What about those that are playing now?

The next year, in 2018, NBA stars Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan went public with their mental health struggles: DeRozan with depression and Love with anxiety. Kevin Love even went as far as saying “everyone is going through something we can’t see” when talking about his own struggles with asking for help and his panic attacks (2018, para. 30). More stars followed, including Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys (Epstein, 2020). Finally, mental illness in professional athletes was in the public eye. It was okay to not be okay. Or, so it seemed.

Even though all of those athletes went public with their struggles, nothing changed. They still played at a high level on the field. They still engaged with the media at the same level they did before. Commercials, TV spots and other ads never halted. Even though they bared their minds and their souls, nothing changed. Enter two baseball players of different playing levels: Drew Robinson and Andrelton Simmons.

Simmons opted out of the season because of his depression, as he later told the Southern California News Group through Twitter Direct Messages (Fletcher, 2021). For the first time, depression was visibly impacting an athlete’s performance. Drew Robinson is still struggling with the aftermath of what happened to him in April. He lost his right eye in the attempt. After countless surgeries to repair the eye socket and ensure his brain was fully intact and functioning, Robinson is attempting a comeback to baseball’s highest level. The San Francisco Giants, his employer at the time in April, signed him to a contract extension to give him a full chance at returning to baseball (Passan, 2021). These effects on both players’ careers may be the next turning point.

As for the media, this is an incredibly hard topic to cover. Even writing this entry, I’ve had some difficulties on how to say things and how to represent what happened. But, the media has been doing a great job leading the charge to destroy the stigma of mental health. ESPN ran the Drew Robinson story as their feature in early February. Andrelton Simmons’ story garnered headlines across the nation as he revealed his struggles with mental health last season. This attention, while it may lead to triggers to some viewers, is erasing the stigma of mental illness. It’s okay not to be okay, and these athletes are reinforcing that idea by sharing their own stories for all to hear.

Even more important than that exposure, though, is the content of these articles and stories. None of the articles that I’ve come across in my own time and in the research for this entry have expressed the athlete’s mental health in a negative light. In fact, any negative views disappeared after Dak Prescott revealed his struggles with mental illness, which Skip Bayless called a sign of weakness and said he “ha[d] no sympathy” for Prescott (Gardner, 2020, para. 6). Bayless’s comments were denounced by his employer, Fox Sports, as well as athletes and media members across the nation, and the stigma surrounding mental illness became something the sports world looked to erase (Gardner, 2020). Jeff Passan’s recounting of Drew Robinson’s story, while graphic, is an important step to humanizing the problem. The in-depth look at Robinson’s experience, how it affected his family, and how he felt leading up to April 16 may open the eyes of some viewers. It may even encourage them to seek help. It may help readers pick up on signs that a friend, colleague or family member is also struggling. That is what needs to happen to get everyone the help they need.

Most importantly, though, was how Passan ended his piece; with hope. Hope that Robinson can make his way back to the majors. Hope that the stigma is being erased. Hope that Robinson’s story can affect others positively. Hope that everyone can come together and help each other, so everyone knows that no matter what they’re going through, they’re not alone.

After all, in the words of Drew Robinson, “I’m meant to be alive” (Passan, 2021, para. 114). You are, too!

References

Andrelton Simmons. (2021a). Baseball Reference. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/simmoan01.shtml

Drew Robinson. (2021b). Baseball Reference. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/robindr01.shtml

Epstein, J. (2020, September 10). Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on why he opened up on depression, brother’s suicide: ‘Being a leader is about being genuine.’ USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/cowboys/2020/09/10/dak-prescott-dallas-cowboys-depression-brother-jace/3460645001/ 

Fletcher, J. (2021. February 2). Andrelton Simmons opens up about depression and thoughts of suicide. The Orange County Register. https://www.ocregister.com/2021/02/02/andrelton-simmons-opens-up-about-depression-and-thoughts-of-suicide/ 

Gardner, S. (2020, September 10). Fox Sports calls out Skip Bayless for ‘insensitive comments’ about Dak Prescott.’ USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/cowboys/2020/09/10/skip-bayless-fox-sports-criticizes-cowboys-dak-prescott-revealing-depression/3461207001/ 

Gleeson, S. & Brady, E. (2017, August 30). When athletes share their battles with mental illness. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2017/08/30/michael-phelps-brandon-marshall-mental-health-battles-royce-white-jerry-west/596857001/ 

Love, K. (2018, March 6). Everyone is going through something. The Players’ Tribunehttps://www.theplayerstribune.com/articles/kevin-love-everyone-is-going-through-something

Mental illness. (2021). National Institute of Mental Healthhttps://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml#:~:text=Mental%20illnesses%20are%20common%20in,mild%20to%20moderate%20to%20severe

Passan, J. (2021, February 2). San Francisco Giants outfielder Drew Robinson’s remarkable second act. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/30800732/san-francisco-giants-outfielder-drew-robinson-remarkable-second-act 

Torres, M. (2020, September 22). Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons opts out of playing the rest of the season. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2020-09-22/angels-shortstop-andrelton-simmons-opts-out-of-playing-rest-of-season

What to Watch During (and after*) Quarantine

By Griffin Olah

Submitted: April 16, 2020/Published: June 2, 2020

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

[*Editor’s Note: With apologies to Griffin Olah and readers of Maxwell Media Watch, this insightful entry was submitted during a semester when everything suddenly went online. I should have published it earlier, but hopefully it still provides useful tips for media alternatives to live sporting events in the meantime. N. Spencer].

If you’re anything like me, you miss sports. With COVID-19 shutting down every sports league (we’ll ignore Dana White’s “fighting island”), I need something to quench my thirst for more sports. Luckily, there are quite a few alternatives that can get us all through quarantine while not spending a fortune.

One of the first things I discovered, with the help of Twitter, was the massive MLB library on YouTube. That’s right, Major League Baseball stores broadcasts on both its own YouTube channel, MLB, and on another, the MLB Vault (Langs et. al, 2020). This allows you to go back to see any memorable game in MLB history that has aired on television. Personally, I’ve enjoyed myself watching Game 7 of the 2016 World Series (the game ended with the rain delay), the 2017 Indians winning streak and the wildly entertaining 2019 Home Run Derby match-up between Joc Pederson and Vlad Guerrero Jr. There’s enough there to spend entire days watching baseball, and maybe you’ll even find some hidden gems that you forgot happened.

The NFL has a similar vault of games, but they house it in its own website, NFL Game Pass. Although it usually requires a subscription, the NFL made Game Pass free to all users through May 31, 2020 (NFL.com, 2020). Game Pass has an archive of all games played since the 2009 season, from preseason all the way through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. It also has access to many of NFL Network’s series, including A Football Life, America’s Game, SoundFX and more. I’ve spent a lot of time watching old Browns replays, including the 2018 game against the New York Jets that debuted Baker Mayfield, the 2009 game against the Chiefs that Jerome Harrison played out of his mind, and the America’s Game episode of the 2009 Saints. 

If you aren’t against spending money, however, the ever-popular ESPN+ might be for you. For only $5 a month, you can have access to a massive library of ESPN shows, replays and films. ESPN has streaming deals with many collegiate sports conferences, the NHL, UFC and boxing organizations, allowing many past games and competitions on their platform. I’ve spent hours in the 30 for 30 library and watching old UFC fights featuring Stipe Miocic. If you’re still bored and you want some non-sport action to watch, ESPN+ also can be bundled with Disney Plus and Hulu for $12.99 a month. 

If live action is what you’re craving, however, then eSports might fill that void for you. At the forefront of eSports is NASCAR, with its iRacing Pro Invitational Series. Using real drivers on iRacing, a platform most already use for practice, NASCAR is simulating the missed events of their season (Nicholson, 2020). The simulated races are also aired on Fox, so NASCAR fans can watch just like any other race.

Going along with eSports, the MLB has taken initiative with its MLB The Show Player’s League. Each team has selected one player to represent them through a series of three-inning games on the popular video game franchise (Toribio, 2020). Each player streams their games on their own Twitch page, which works similar to YouTube, so you can hear their commentary in real time. Cincinnati Red pitcher Amir Garrett and Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo have already proven to be both wildly entertaining to watch and incredibly good at the game. I’ve watched some highlights, and I’ll be tuning in whenever Garrett and Gallo take the virtual field again.

Finally, the NBA has attempted to offer another alternative with live action- a HORSE tournament. Current and former NBA and WNBA stars are pitted against each other in the classic basketball game in each of their home gyms (Gartland, 2020). While reception has mostly been negative, with many people claiming the games are too boring or citing internet problems, basketball fans may still be enjoyed. I haven’t tuned into any of the matchups, but if you’re starved for some basketball, it might be right for you. The competitions do air live on ESPN, so anyone interested in watching will have to tune in in real time.

Obviously, there is no true alternative to live sports action, but we can come close. Whether replays are your thing or not, there are tons of options to watch until we get sports back, whenever that may be. Until then, take a look through all of these services and find your favorite, or maybe find something new that’s not discussed here. Either way, good luck with filling your sports void and I hope these can get us all through until the return of sports.

References

Gartland, D. (2020, April 13). ESPN’s NBA HORSE competition was tough to watch. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from: https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2020/04/13/espn-nba-horse-tournament-highlights

Langs, S., Simon, A., Randhawa, M., & Catania, J. (2020, March 14). One classic game to watch online from each MLB team. MLB.com. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/news/classic-mlb-games-to-watch-online

NFL.com. (2020, March 18). NFL offers fans free access to NFL Game Pass. NFL.com. Retrieved from: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001106855/article/nfl-offers-fans-free-access-to-nfl-game-pass

Nicholson, J. (2020, March 18). NASCAR launches eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. eSports Insider. Retrieved from: https://esportsinsider.com/2020/03/enascar-iracing-pro-invitational-series/

Toribio, J. (2020, April 10). 30 stars to compete in ‘MLB The Show’ league. MLB.com. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/news/30-stars-compete-in-mlb-the-show-players-league

Conspiracy Theories, Scandals and Public Trials: The Houston Astros Investigation on Twitter

By Griffin Olah

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

The Houston Astros are a topic that has been discussed ad nauseam within the sports world. Everyone is focusing on the punishment, the crimes, and the reactions. The investigation, however, is no longer the focus. If you remember back to the middle of January, however, you may remember the craziest day in recent baseball history. This is the day that social media handed down the confirmation of the Astros cheating scandal that the MLB was looking for. Instead of a private investigation, the Houston Astros were tried by the public eye for the world to see, spawning some of the greatest stories in recent memory.

Once allegations came down, a relatively unknown podcast host and Yankees fan by the name of Jimmy “Jomboy” O’Brien saw his following grow faster than he could ever imagine. O’Brien, the proprietor of Jomboy Media, was best known for posting the video of Aaron Boone’s now-infamous “Savages in that Box” rant on Twitter (Young, 2019). When he saw the Astros allegations, however, he transformed into internet sleuth. When the world was in disbelief of the claims of the Astros cheating, O’Brien delivered a bombshell packed into a simple 2:20 video on Twitter. O’Brien cracked the code and found video proof the Astros cheated.

O’Brien’s initial tweet was retweeted over 37,000 times and liked more than 100,000 times. A lesser-known media man was now an internet sensation and the leading authority on everything Astros related. Then, the talk about buzzers leaked and Jomboy Media again went to work to expose the latest scandal. O’Brien found a new image containing what may have been an electronic buzzer on Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos’s batting glove. 

At the same time as O’Brien’s image came to light, a new account vied for interest. After the Astros fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, the Red Sox firing manager Alex Cora and the Mets firing their manager Carlos Beltran, it seemed like the scandal was done. Then, the buzzers came to light. 

A private account on Twitter, @S0_blessed1, began a tweetstorm that changed the landscape of MLB. The anonymous account accused Astros superstars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman of wearing buzzers under their jerseys to relay signs to them. Curiously, the account apologized to their “tio,” which means uncle in Spanish. Speculation immediately ran as to who the uncle was and why this person was exposing more possible methods used by the Astros on their way to a now tainted World Series victory. 

As the identity of @S0_blessed1 was being searched for, many reputable sources agreed with the account’s claims. Cincinnati Reds pitcher and noted critic of the Astros Trevor Bauer confirmed that he had heard talk within MLB about the Astros wearing buzzers. O’Brien also confirmed he was hearing similar things from sources in MLB. 

Amid this media storm, many people were looking for the identity of the anonymous account. Based on the “tio” comment, many pointed to Carlos Beltran, the disgraced former Mets manager. Since the account broke the news of Beltran’s firing days before the Mets formally announced it or any other major media outlets carried it, many believed the owner of the account was close to the former player and manager. 

Twitter then took the bait from Beltran’s “niece” and ran with it. Kenny Ducey found the home run in the ALCS that was mentioned in the “niece’s” tweets and slowed down the end of Altuve’s trot. The slow-mo video seems to show Altuve holding his jersey tight against his body and telling the mob of teammates at home plate to not rip off his jersey. Then, there is the disputed audio of Altuve possibly saying “I’m wearing a wire.” 

That last part, as already stated, had been disputed. Some have said that it is Altuve speaking Spanish, which many people would not be able to lip read and equate to a wire. Altuve himself did not dispute the fact that he didn’t want his jersey torn off, telling dugout reporter Ken Rosenthal that he, “got in trouble with [his] wife” for taking his shirt off on television in the past (Garro, 2019, para. 9). In the past few days, Carlos Correa came out and confirmed that Altuve’s wife was not happy with him for taking his shirt off and also mentioned an “unfinished tattoo that looked kinda bad” on his collarbone that he didn’t want to show on television (Anderson, 2020, para. 7). 

Obviously, possible proof that Altuve was wearing a wire in the 2019 postseason, which was not part of the Commissioner’s Report, would make the scandal grow even more with possibly worse repercussions. While immunity was granted to the players in relation to the investigation into the 2017 iteration of the sign-stealing scheme, a new investigation may not be so kind. The potential ramifications are mind-numbing to think of, and the accusations themselves destroy any possible respect or goodwill for the team. 

Without Twitter and the dedication of the public to get to the truth, none of this would come to light. While the Commissioner conducted his own report, the findings are limited when compared to the scope of the Twitter investigation. Clearly, all Twitter sources are not to be trusted, and some here are untrustworthy. As the days wore on and the tweets from @S0_blessed1 became more and more ludicrous and eventually disappearing, the account’s credibility was called into question. Eventually, it was determined that the account was run by a noted Twitter troll, or someone who dispenses false information for comedic or personal value, and almost none of the information was considered true. But if the account made up all its claims, why is there so much evidence supporting it? 

Twitter is often seen as a cesspool of false and fake information, which is true in part. Some believe that it has no value in modern society, which can also be true. Nobody, though, can diminish the role that social media, and Twitter, in particular, played in the investigation into the Astros’ nefarious ways. One of the main principles of journalism is to be the watchdog for larger government entities, corporations, and organizations. On January 16. 2020, Twitter took on that role and conducted its own investigation. Without internet sleuths like Jomboy, Kenny Dacey and so many others, the full extent of this scheme may never have been realized. Maybe in the future, Twitter and the public as a whole can solve more of these mysteries and bring to light the wrongdoings of teams, organizations, corporations and other massive entities like the Houston Astros.

References

Anderson, R.J. (2020, February 16). Astros’ Carlos Correa fires back at Cody Bellinger, reveals new reason why Altuve didn’t want jersey removed. CBS Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-carlos-correa-fires-back-at-cody-bellinger-reveals-new-reason-why-altuve-didnt-want-jersey-removed/

Bauer, Trevor [@BauerOutage]. (2020, January 16). I’ve heard this from multiple parties too, for what it’s worth…[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/BauerOutage/status/1217888647468310528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1217888647468310528&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Fa-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Ducey, Kenny [@KennyDucey]. (2020, January 16). Altuve making sure he keeps that jersey on (via r/nyyankees)[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/KennyDucey/status/1217888139072745474

Garro, A. (2019, October 19). Congrats to the Astros for clinching a trip to the World Series in the most adorable way possible. Cut4. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/cut4/jose-altuve-keeps-jersey-on-after-winning-alcs-with-homer

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 19). Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1194348775965437952?lang=en.

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 18). I have no idea what an electronic buzzer looks like but someone just sent me this as a ‘maybe that’s[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1196525061659906050?lang=en

Oz, M. (2020, January 16). A new Astros cheating conspiracy theory has sent Twitter into a frenzy. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from: https://sports.yahoo.com/a-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Young, D. (2019, August 17). Jomboy is obviously good for baseball, and the Yankees should lighten up. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-jomboy-savages-mlb-bill-simmons-20190817-hho4pn2mlvcghjdmlozroxh4se-story.html

Setting the World on Fier

By Griffin Olah

November 21, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

Since baseball’s inception, teams have looked for a leg up over their opposition. Whether that is the development of signs from coaches, the shift or stealing signs, it is expected and even encouraged that teams innovate new ways to win. The Astros, however, have taken it to a new level. Earlier this month, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers dropped a bomb on the unsuspecting baseball world: the World Series winning team in 2017 cheated.

In 2017, reports came out that the Boston Red Sox were using an unapproved Apple Watch in the dugout. Naturally, that revelation turned to thoughts of cheating, and the opponent did nothing to dismiss those. The New York Yankees, arch rivals of the Red Sox tossed in accusations that the Sox were stealing signs from their catcher. The MLB launched an investigation into the team, and found them guilty of cheating. On September 15, 2017, Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the Red Sox for their scandal and created a new discipline protocol to deter future teams (Davidoff, 2019).

At the same time, however, a far larger scheme was underway, which can now implicate 3 different MLB managers. In Houston, the Astros had a few veteran additions off to a slow start. It was then that a slumping addition who is yet to be named and a team official concocted the plan: they were going to electronically steal signs. Throughout the season, the Astros perfected the system: using a camera placed in center field to pick up the signs from the catcher, sending it to a laptop in the tunnel, where a staff member banged on a trash can to signal the coming pitch to batters (Passan, 2019). 

Fast forward to today, where the Astros are almost a certifiable dynasty. They’ve been to the past 3 World Series, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy only in 2017. Mike Fiers, a pitcher on that World Series team had just given an interview to The Athletic where he detailed how the Astros stole signs during all home games at Minute Maid Park in 2017. The baseball world exploded, shrapnel strewn all across the baseball landscape. Did the Astros cheat their way to a championship? Who ran this whole operation? Was Alex Cora, former bench coach and current Red Sox manager, involved? What about former Astros DH turned Mets manager Carlos Beltran? Information was at a premium, and nobody could pay the price.

The media, of course, jumped at the bomb Fiers threw into the world. Every major sports news outlet was looking into the Astros allegations, and the MLB opened another investigation almost immediately. Some sources tried to prove or disprove the allegations. Most, however, either ignored, or misused statistical evidence. One ESPN article cited the Astros success on the road, both in win-loss records and batting lines (Schoenfield, 2019). While these are good surface-level stats, they don’t tell the full story. Home and away splits can illustrate the differences between the Astros’ play in Minute Maid Park and away from it, but sign stealing won’t show up as a large impact on traditional stats. If one was to look at isolated power (ISO) and strikeout rate (K%), the numbers would tell a different story. Stealing signs is going to give the hitter an upper hand, that part is undebatable, but that advantage may not be evident in hits. ISO is simplified to slugging percentage minus batting average, which shows the player’s raw power (Slowinski, 2010). The MLB average ISO is .140, with higher values showing that players are hitting the ball harder for more extra bases and home runs (Slowinski, 2010). The Astros in 2017 paced baseball with a .196 ISO as a team, .56 higher than average (“Major League Team,” 2019). The Astros also bested the league in K%, which shows the percent of at-bats where batters struck out, with 17.3%, which was only 1.2% lower than the second place Indians (“Major League Team,” 2019).

Most articles, however, strayed away from making judgements. They simply relayed the information and waited to learn more before going after the Astros’ rings. Some, however, made sure to point to the Astros’ checkered past. During the 2018, reports from Cleveland and Boston of a uniformed Astros employee recording the dugouts made the MLB first investigate the Houston franchise (Passan, 2019). This came along with allegations from that same year of Astros players clapping signals to tell the batter what the coming pitch was ( Passan, 2019). While the past of the Astros is important, constant reminders and retelling can sway opinions. If the narrative that the Astros are cheaters is pushed by the media, an investigation into the allegations can become difficult. Fans make up their notions of what happened, and those fan ideals can destroy a franchise.

While gathering information is vital in the process, making sure it is properly relayed is important. Statistics are among the few ways, along with video, to show the Astros have stolen signs. If their numbers are drastically higher, which some advanced stats like ISO show, then maybe there is creedence to Fiers’s claims. Those numbers, however, have to be given and shared with the public, as opposed to selective stats like batting average that can paint an incomplete and biased picture of the problem. The media has done a good job overall so far in their coverage of the Astros, but as always, some things could be better. It just so happens that with advanced sign stealing techniques, advanced and traditional stats could be the problem

References

Davidoff, K. (2019, November 21). Rob Manfred: Statement puts Astros in ‘serious’ sign-stealing trouble. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/11/21/rob-manfred-the-statement-that-puts-astros-in-serious-sign-stealing-trouble/

Major League Team Statistics. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2017&month=0&season1=2017&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2017-01-01&enddate=2017-12-31&sort=4,a

Passan, J. (2019, November 12). Ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers: Team stole signs with camera. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066522/ex-astros-pitcher-mike-fiers-team-stole-signs-camera

Schoenfield, D. (2019, November 12). What you need to know amid Astros sign-stealing accusations. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066847/what-need-know-amid-astros-sign-stealing-accusations

Slowinski, S. (2010, February 15). ISO | Sabermetrics Library. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://library.fangraphs.com/offense/iso/

Cleveland Indians’ Carlos Carrasco wins prestigious Roberto Clemente Award

By Pershelle Rohrer

November 3, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco was selected as the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award on Friday, October 26. The award is given annually to the player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field” (“VOTE: Balloting underway,” 2019, para. 1). Carrasco was presented with the award before game 3 of the World Series in Washington, D.C. He is the third Indians player to win the award, joining Jim Thome (2002) and Andre Thornton (1979).

Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia in late June and missed over three months of the season while receiving treatments. However, that did not stop him from making positive contributions to the community, both in the United States and around the world. He provided box lunches to the homeless in Tampa, Florida during the offseason, awarded scholarships to single mothers, traveled to Africa to distribute clothing and school supplies, and donated toys and money to his native country of Venezuela (Axisa, 2019). He also visited cancer patients in hospitals, even as he was undergoing his own treatments, and “received the 2018 MedWish Humanitarian Award,” along with his wife, Karry, in November 2018 (Noga, 2019, para. 8). His contributions to the community led to his fifth-straight nomination from the Indians and his ultimate selection for the Clemente award.

Each team nominated one player for the award in September, and they were recognized on Roberto Clemente Day on September 18 (“VOTE: Balloting underway,” 2019). The selection process occurred through a panel that included MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred; media members from MLB Network, FOX Sports, ESPN, TBS, and MLB.com; and Vera Clemente, Roberto Clemente’s widow. A fan vote took place through September 29 and counted as one vote cast alongside the panel.

Carrasco’s selection is viewed highly by the media. Media members select the winner of the Clemente Award and saw his contributions as meeting the criteria for representing Clemente and his own philanthropy. Roberto Clemente was a 15-time All-Star who was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Originally called the “Commissioner’s Award,” the accolade was created in 1971 and renamed in Clemente’s honor in 1973 (Justice, 2019). 

Carrasco began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. When he was a player there, Sal Artiaga, Philadelphia’s director of Latin American operations, told Carrasco, “You could be Clemente” (Brown, 2019, para. 11). Carrasco’s selflessness followed him to Cleveland when he was traded there in 2009, and he continued his involvement in the community through hospital visits, autograph signings, helping veterans, and giving to the underprivileged. Tim Brown (2019), who writes for Yahoo Sports, shows the impact of Carrasco through the headline of one article: “In a world with many problems, it also has selfless people like Carlos Carrasco.”

One of Carrasco’s sayings regarding his cancer diagnosis is “I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me” (Carrasco, 2019, para. 47). He wants people to see that they can rise above their circumstances and defeat any problems they may be facing. 

Carrasco returned to the mound on September 3 and pitched as a reliever for the remainder of the 2019 season. His goal is to be ready for spring training in early 2020.

References

Axisa, M. (2019, October 25). Indians’ Carlos Carrasco wins 2019 Roberto Clemente Award. CBSSports.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/indians-carlos-carrasco-wins-2019-roberto-clemente-award/

Brown, T. (2019, October 25). In a world with many problems, it also has selfless people like Carlos Carrasco. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved from https://sports.yahoo.com/in-a-world-with-many-problems-it-also-has-selfless-people-like-carlos-carrasco-185646178.html

Carrasco, C. (2019, September 27). I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me. The Players’ Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/carlos-carrasco-cleveland-indians

Indians’ Carlos Carrasco honored with Roberto Clemente Award. (2019, October 25). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/27927326/indians-carlos-carrasco-honored-roberto-clemente-award

Justice, C. (2019, September 12). Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco nominated for Roberto Clemente Award. news5Cleveland.com. Retrieved from https://www.news5cleveland.com/sports/baseball/indians/indians-pitcher-carlos-carrasco-nominated-for-roberto-clemente-award

Noga, J. (2019, September 12). Carlos Carrasco earns fifth straight Cleveland Indians nomination for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award. Cleveland.com. Retrieved from https://www.cleveland.com/tribe/2019/09/carlos-carrasco-earns-fifth-straight-cleveland-indians-nomination-for-mlbs-roberto-clemente-award.html

VOTE: Balloting underway for Clemente Award. (2019, September 12). MLB.com. Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/2019-clemente-award-vote-nominees-announced

Joe Maddon hire signals new hope for Los Angeles Angels

By Pershelle Rohrer

October 24, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The Los Angeles Angels hired Joe Maddon as their new manager on Wednesday, October 16. Maddon returns to Anaheim after previously spending 31 years with the Angels organization as a player, coach, and manager. He will receive $4 million a year as part of a three-year deal as the Angels look to rebound from a 72-90 season, their worst since 1999. 

Maddon was the bench coach for the Angels when they won their lone World Series title in 2002. He managed the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006 to 2014 – leading them to the playoffs four times, including their only World Series appearance in 2008. He was hired as the manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2014, led them to the playoffs in 2015, and brought them their first World Series title in 108 years in the 2016 season. The Cubs made the playoffs in four of Maddon’s five years as manager, but after finishing 84-78 in the 2019 season, Chicago decided to move in a different direction. 

The media looks at Maddon’s hiring as a positive for the Angels. Given Maddon’s previous accomplishments with Chicago and Tampa Bay, the Angels have expectations that he will be able to replicate that success with a team led by one of baseball’s best all-around players, Mike Trout. Maddon is “credited with changing the culture” in Chicago, transforming a young rebuilding Cubs team to championship contenders in just a year (“Joe Maddon agrees,” 2019, para. 12). David Baumgarten (2019) of The Atlantic describes Maddon as positive, nurturing, and charming, citing his willingness to allow young players like Javy Báez to play through their mistakes along with the witty stories he shared with the Chicago press. Descriptions of Maddon in such a positive manner emphasize the media’s belief that he has the potential to revive an Angels team that has struggled for over a decade.

When Maddon was hired in Chicago, the team was nearing the end of a rebuild, something that the Angels have avoided for years. Dave Sheinin (2019) from The Washington Post explains Los Angeles’ winning approach that replicates the Cubs’ mentality through their hiring of Maddon in 2014: “The Los Angeles Angels, by hiring Maddon on Wednesday to be their manager for the next three years, appear to be placing a similar bet on the now-65-year-old skipper – minus the rebuild” (para. 3). The Angels have missed the playoffs for five straight years, including four straight losing seasons, and they haven’t won a postseason series in ten years. Sheinen also suggests that hiring Maddon could put the Angels in the race for Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole this offseason. Similar to the Cubs’ signing of Jon Lester in 2014, Maddon could become an attraction for Cole, who is from Orange County, California, bringing them another star to play alongside Trout. The parallels between the 2014 Cubs and the 2019 Angels highlight the potential for Maddon to bring new life into the team where he spent the first 31 years of his career. 

Overall, the media looks at the Angels’ hiring of Joe Maddon as a move that could transform them from a struggling team to a contender. His history of success in Chicago and Tampa makes him a promising hire, and after thirteen years away, the Angels hope for an exciting homecoming and the return of a winning culture in Anaheim.

References

Baumgarten, D. (2019, October 10). Joe Maddon was doomed by his own success. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/10/joe-maddon-cubs/599731/

Bollinger, R. (2019, October 21). Angels to introduce Maddon as skipper Thursday. MLB.com. Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/joe-maddon-angels-manager

Joe Maddon agrees to be new manager of Los Angeles Angels. (2019, October 16). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/27859727/joe-maddon-agrees-new-manager-los-angeles-angels

Kepner, T. (2019, September 29). Joe Maddon will not return to Cubs next season. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/sports/baseball/joe-maddon-cubs.html

Sheinin, D. (2019, October 16). By hiring Joe Maddon as manager, floundering Angels hope to replicate Cubs’ rise. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/10/16/by-hiring-joe-maddon-manager-floundering-angels-hope-replicate-cubs-rise/

Mismanagement and Curses in Dodgers’ Playoff Woes

By Griffin Olah

October 16, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major with a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the gold standard for success in the National League in recent years. They’ve been to the World Series in 2017 and 2018, and followed that up with a franchise record 106 wins in 2019. After losing two straight World Series, the Dodgers revamped their roster this past offseason, bringing in outfielder A.J. Pollock, righty reliever Joe Kelly and lefty reliever Adam Kolarek. Walker Buehler turned into a bona-fide ace and star shortstop Corey Seager was back healthy. They were heavy favorites, as usual, going into the postseason, led by the same cast of characters that always got them there: Dave Roberts and Clayton Kershaw.

The NLDS against the Washington Nationals was a roller coaster ride leading to a winner-take-all Game 5 in Los Angeles. Walker Buehler toed the rubber for the Dodgers, and red-hot ace Stephen Strasburg faced him. The Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, and Buehler’s gem ended when Roberts lifted him in the 7th with 2 outs. Coming in from the bullpen was none other than three-time Cy Young winner and generational pitcher Clayton Kershaw. 

Kershaw got Adam Eaton out quickly to end the 7th, and then came out for the 8th. The first Nationals’ batter, Anthony Rendon, golfed a down and away pitch over the left field fence. 3-2 Dodgers. Lefty-killer Adam Kolarek sat in the bullpen as Kershaw stared down young phenom Juan Soto. Kolarek had great success against Soto throughout the series, not allowing Soto to reach base. Kershaw stayed on, however, and Soto took him deep to center field. Tie game. 

The entire dynamic of the game changed, and instead of cruising to a win, Kershaw let up two runs and now the Dodgers were fighting for their lives. Kershaw got out of the inning, and Roberts called on Joe Kelly to pitch the 9th. He sat down the Nationals in order, going 1-2-3. The game moved to extra innings, and Joe Kelly came out in the 10th. Joe Kelly. Not Kenley Jansen, one of the league’s premier relievers. Not Kenta Maeda, starter turned playoff reliever who has been lights out all postseason. Joe Kelly, who gave up nine runs in 12 ⅓ innings of multi-inning outings (Baer, 2019). Kelly loaded the bases, and then Howie Kendrick launched a moonshot through the night sky at Chavez Ravine and through the Dodgers’ hearts. A grand slam, game over.

The media looked at this collapse and talked mismanagement immediately. Blame was laid on the shoulders of Dave Roberts for his bullpen mismanagement. Critics pointed to Roberts’ “lack of confidence in the rest of his bullpen” (Baer, 2019, para. 6) as the main reason for the loss. Roberts had one of the best overall bullpens in the league, yet stuck with a starter carrying postseason demons and a reliever who struggled in multi-inning appearances all year. Others looked to the man who let the game get tied in the first place: Clayton Kershaw. It seems every season someone “write[s] about [his postseason] failure” (Baumann, 2019, para. 11). Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in MLB history, and has had his share of success in the postseason. Sure, he hasn’t won a World Series, but he is still one of the best we have ever seen. 

Many in the media want to push the narrative that Clayton Kershaw cannot pitch in the postseason, and this latest collapse is a major piece of evidence to support that point. Where is the talk of his dominant performances, though? Where is the talk surrounding his reign of dominance over the last decade, with only injuries and a few bad starts holding him back? Justin Verlander got shelled by the Rays in the ALDS, but he is still heralded as a great postseason pitcher. Both had bad outings, but only Kershaw’s is considered a problem across his entire career. Kershaw may have had some bad postseason outings, but he is not the reason that the Dodgers’ season came to an untimely close. That is Dave Roberts’ problem.

Dave Roberts severely mismanaged the end of the game, and that’s the main problem. The media likes to focus on a pivotal point in the game that swung the outcome one way or the other, and Kershaw’s meltdown fits the bill. The real issue, though, is Kershaw staying on to face Soto, or Kelly’s second inning of work. There was a capable bullpen, a fact many articles ignore, and Roberts left the game in the hands of two relievers that struggled mightily in the game. Will this mishap cost Roberts his job? No, and it shouldn’t but media members looking for a scapegoat point at both Roberts and Kershaw as the problem, and think they should be removed from the team.

References

Baer, B. (2019, October 10). Dodgers’ NLDS Game 5 loss is on Dave Roberts. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2019/10/10/dodgers-nlds-game-5-loss-is-on-dave-roberts/.

Baumann, M. (2019, October 10). NLDS Game 5: The Clayton Kershaw playoff narrative will never go away. The Ringer. Retrieved from https://www.theringer.com/2019/10/10/20907661/nlds-game-5-nationals-dodgers-clayton-kershaw-playoff-choke.

Is Acuna Jr.’s Hustle a Problem for the Braves and Baseball?

By Griffin Olah

October 13, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

Game 1 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves was entering the bottom of the 7th with the Braves up 3-1. The first game is always among the most important, and the Braves had the ability to add to their lead. Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves’ young phenom and leadoff hitter, stepped into the box. He worked the count to 2-2, and then unleashed a long fly ball off of Cardinals pitcher John Brebbia. The ball flew down the right field line, nearly leaving the confines of Sun Trust Park and extending the Braves’ lead. However, it came up short and careened off the wall. 

After watching the ball, Braves fans willing it to stay in the air and go over the wall, and seeing it land just short of a home run, attention turned to the bases. There, Ronald Acuna Jr was inexplicably on first base. After launching a ball 331 feet down the right field line, Acuna was stranded at first. He moved to second on a groundout by 2B Ozzie Albies, and was then doubled up after a Josh Donaldson lineout. 

It’s easy to see that something went wrong on the base paths with Acuna, though. While the double play was bad, it was almost inevitable. The real issue was his single to lead off. Acuna hyped up his long ball, as usual, but this time it came up short of the fence. Acuna stood in the box, his bat raised to the sky in celebration, for two seconds as the ball was in the air. After that, he jogged to first only for Cardinals OF Dexter Fowler to play the ball off the wall and fire it into the infield. If Acuna came running out of the box as soon as the ball left his bat, he would have easily made it to second. He would have then moved to third on Albies’s groundout and the double play would have been much more difficult to turn. Acuna could have scored. 

After the game, the Braves were understandably frustrated. Veteran 1B Freddie Freeman pointed back to when Acuna was benched in August for not running out a foul ball, believing you only need to “have that conversation once” (West, 2019, para. 4). Albies believes that Acuna “probably scores that inning if he’s on second” (West, 2019, para. 8). Acuna was a problem for the Braves in that moment, but what about the rest of baseball?

Media attention on Game 1 revolved around Acuna’s lack of hustle, much like it did last season with Manny Machado’s lack of hustle and possibly dirty play in the playoffs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This time, however, the actions of Acuna are perceived as more representative of the entire league. New outlets point to Acuna’s hustle as evidence that “the game has changed” into something selfish and immodest (Mushnick, 2019, para. 10). While people in the game – GM’s, managers, coaches, players – have excused the actions of players like Machado and Acuna, the media feeds off of it and turns it into something it’s not. Is Acuna not hustling a problem? Sure, he might have cost the Braves a key run that would have factored heavily in the 7-6 loss. Is Acuna’s hustle emblematic of baseball as a whole falling into bat flipping ruin? No, it probably isn’t.

The traditional media – old players, managers, and GMs sitting in broadcast booths – like to talk about how baseball as a whole is changing into some unwatchable mess of strikeouts, home runs and bat flips. Former pitcher Goose Gossage said of the sport “it’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable,” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 7). Hit king Pete Rose said the game has turned into a “home run derby every night” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). And former manager Lou Piniella derided the shift, claiming he “won a few games without having to shift” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). While that is up for debate and interpretation of each person watching the game, Acuna’s hustle is not some overarching issue like the media is making it out to be. It’s a key mistake in an important playoff game, but not some egregious pattern of error that needs to be corrected. With this miscue, the focus on Ronald Acuna Jr. has shifted from his near 40-40 season and his 1.579 OPS in the Postseason so far to his inability to hustle and his selfishness (“Baseball Reference,” 2019). Acuna put together an amazing season, shouldn’t the focus be on marketing one of the league’s best young players instead of his relatively small faults?

References

Baseball Reference. (2019). Ronald Acuna Jr. Stats. Baseball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/acunaro01.shtml

Mushnick, P. (2019, October 5). Braves’ Ronald Acuna is doing his part in ruining baseball. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/10/05/braves-ronald-acuna-is-doing-his-part-in-ruining-baseball/

Nightengale, B. (2019, August 19). MLB lifers decry the state of the modern baseball: ‘Unwatchable’. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/08/19/mlb-baseballs-old-timers-decry-state-modern-game/2047025001/.

West, J. (2019, October 4). Braves critical of Ronald Acuna Jr. for lack of hustle in NLDS Game 1 loss. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/10/04/ronald-acuna-jr-lack-hustle-braves