Yes, they still make baseball cards

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An interesting story flew under the radar this week, as the once-mighty
Topps came to a multi-year agreement with Major League Baseball that
makes them the sport’s exclusive trading card maker. The move
effectively squashes Upper Deck, Topps’ main competitor. According to the
card company’s new top-dog Michael Eisner — yes, that Disney guy —
it’s all part of a strategy to turn the focus of the industry back
towards children:




“This is redirecting the entire category toward kids. Topps has been making cards for 60
years, the last 30 in a nonexclusive world that has caused confusion to
the kid who walks into a Wal-Mart or a hobby store. It’s also been difficult to promote cards as unique and original.”




No
question about it, baseball cards were a heckuva lot more fun before a
bunch of middle-aged creeps hijacked it. It’s kind of sad, really. The whole industry has been
reduced to a mere snapshot in time. I’m not gonna lie, I have purchased
a couple packs of Topps recently after a long hiatus. I grabbed one
last week upon seeing Pablo Sandoval — one of my new favorite players
— peaking his head out of the packaging. Yes, they still have the gum
inside. And yes, it’s still awful, but at least it’s now individually
wrapped as opposed to leaving a distinct stain on the back of the card
it is wedged up against.




And as for the question of competition, it’s hard to get all worked
up about a product that nobody even buys anymore. If it’s okay for
Nascar to have an official cheese-filled snack (Combos — don’t ask me why I know this) then it’s okay
for baseball to have an official trading card company. I’m rooting for
this comeback story.

Dustin Pedroia leaves game with a sprained left wrist

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Bad news for the Red Sox today. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was involved in a collision at first base with Jose Abreu of the White Sox. Pedroia stayed in the game at the time but was replaced by Josh Rutledge in the second.

The injury: sprained left wrist. Which, no, is not good, but there was some initial concern that he may have aggravated the knee which has been bothering him of late. They’ll no doubt provide an update after the game. As of now, the Sox lead the Sox 1-0 in the bottom of the third.

 

Brad Ausmus is not a fan of the Tigers’ schedule

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Everyone in baseball has a tough schedule. The season is a grind. Some teams, however, due to weather and happenstance, have stretches which are a tougher grind than others. The Tigers are in one of those right now.

Detroit played the Astros on Thursday night, and lost in a three-hour and thirty minute contest. It was a getaway day, er, night, and they didn’t get to Chicago to face the White Sox until the wee wee hours of the morning on Friday. Waiting for them: a double header which was to start at 4pm. The first game of it was rained out, though, so they woke up after a short “night’s sleep for nothing. Then the nightcap was delayed over an hour, giving them another late bedtime. On Saturday it was another double header, so it was another early wakeup and another long day at the park. And, of course, another day game on Sunday, before a flight to Kansas City.

This stretch has made Brad Ausmus grumpy. Here he was after Friday night’s late finish:

“Give some credit to the White Sox pitchers, give some credit to the schedule we have. We’ll try to get about 5 hours of sleep and come back tomorrow and play two more.”

He was particularly miffed at the scheduling of two doubleheaders in a row:

“You can’t control the weather but I think it would have been prudent to play the second game tomorrow in August,” he said. “That would have made a lot more sense to me.”

Ausmus did note, however, that it’s not the White Sox’ job to make a schedule that is convenient for their division rivals.

You can look at this in a few different ways. One one level, Ausmus is understandably upset about a particularly arduous stretch of games. On another level he’s probably trying to protect his players, who have looked flat, by changing the subject from their play to the schedule. On a different level, you could say that he’s making excuses for a team that is underachieving. And, of course, those three things are not mutually exclusive.

The thing is, though, that the Tigers have lost seven of ten, are five out of first place, four games under .500 and could conceivably leave their series with the Royals this week in dead last in the Central. Ultimately, extenuating circumstances like the weather and an unfortunate schedule don’t save a manager whose talented and highly-paid team struggles like the Tigers have. If they don’t turn it around soon, Ausmus could be hitting the bricks and the Tigers could be fixing to sell off and rebuild.