Something's happening in the Bronx

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Tyler Kepner of the New York Times was in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees’ clubhouse recently and saw a sign posted with the title “Yankee Play Hard Index.” On
it were seven rules for the farmhands to follow, all of which basically
boil down to “hustle and work hard.” Mark Teixeira was never a Yankee
farmhand, but based on his play in last night’s game against the Rangers, he appears to be living up to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre standard. This description, courtesy of ShysterBall reader, J.W.:

Nice little series of events in the bottom of the 4th of the
Yankees–Rangers game, as Vicente Padilla plunks Mark Teixeira for the
second time to load the bases. Teixeira jaws at him. A-Rod stepped to
the plate looking to pick up his teammate, and did what A-Rod does best
in situations in which he feels some kind of pressure to perform, he
flailed and failed, chopping a hard(ish) hit grounder over towards what
I believe was the second base side. The ball was fielded cleanly and
slung over to second base in what looked to be a sure-thing double
play. And yet, Teixeira dialed it up to a gear we may never see him
reach again and went flying into second to break up the play. It was a
cleaner break-up slide than you’ll often see; he even took the time to
swipe the bag with his hand as if to say, “See, this was a legit
slide!” It was a nice piece of aggressive play that didn’t hurt anyone
and showed some of that competitive fire that is sometimes lacking in
the great game of baseball.

A couple of things before I say what I’m going to say about this.
First, I don’t believe that grit and determination and fire or any of
that stuff outweighs baseball talent. You can have the latter without
the former and still help a team win, but if you have the former
without the latter, God help you.

Second: I don’t believe that the Yankees’ biggest problem of the
past several years has been that they’ve brought in mercenaries who
don’t understand “The Yankee Way” or somesuch nonsense. The problem has
been a lack of depth — which may be a byproduct of the free agency
spree, but not a necessary one — and the fact that a short playoff
series can be a crapshoot. They didn’t get the job done over the long
haul in 2008, but between 2001 and 2007 they could have just as easily
won the World Series as they were eliminated, with only a few bounces
and random hot streaks standing in the way. They haven’t been a perfect
club over that time, but they haven’t been fatally-flawed either. Stuff
happens.

All of that said, I think there really is something to note in
Teixeira’s hard slide last night. A little of that intangible fire,
sure, but also evidence that the most recent batch of free agents
brought to town is a bit different than that which Brian Cashman has
brought in before. More complete players in some important ways, both
in terms of makeup and ability. Alex Rodriguez is an otherworldly
talent, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him get angry like Tex
apparently did and I can’t recall him really barelling into second like
that to break up a double play. Jason Giambi could hit the cover off
the ball in his day, but he was so limited defensively and on the
basepaths that comparing him to Teixeira is a rather silly exercise.

Where does all of this lead? Probably to a place where we can
honestly say that building through free agency, while not the most
efficient thing to do, isn’t something that is going to necessarily
keep the Yankees from winning another World Series title as so many
adherents to those 1990s Yankees teams suggest. At the same time,
however, it probably also forces us to conclude that the intangibles —
fire, grit, determination — matter at least a little as well, if for
no other reason than they often accompany a player with a good
all-around game like Teixeira’s.

Whatever the case, it certainly feels like something different is
happening in the Bronx this year. Something that hasn’t happened in a
long time. Something that, just maybe, will give New York a better shot
at navigating that postseason crapshoot than they have in nearly a
decade.

Trevor May joins eSports team Luminosity

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 04: Trevor May #65 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning at Progressive Field on August 4, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 9-2.  (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
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When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.

May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.

The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.

Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.