Is a freeway series good for baseball?

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The Dodgers and Angels in the playoffs together for the third time in six seasons, but this is the first time they’ve both made it this far, so people are starting to buzz about the possibility of a freeway series. Given that the Yankees and Phillies don’t have any plans of simply rolling over and dying the freeway series could just as easily be an I-95 series as it could be a 405  an I-5 series (see updates below), but let’s consider the pros and cons of the California version of such a beast:

Pro: Weather.  Last year’s ski-mask series between the Phillies and Rays was not a whole hell of a lot of fun, and given that this year’s Classic is going to stretch into November, the odds of poor weather affecting a series played in either New York or Philadelphia or both is even greater.  It’s still summer in Los Angeles, however. Hell, it’s always basically summer there.  A freeway series means no rain or snow delays and no Elmer Fudd hats. Just baseball in the sunshine.

Con: Strangely enough, that sunshine.  Because of the imperative that every game of the Series be played in east coast prime time, a freeway series is going to be subject to a lot of long shadows and setting-sun glare.  All but one of the NLCS games are set to start at 5:07 p.m Pacific, and the World Series games would presumably start then too.  That will make it tough for guys to pick up the baseball in the first few innings, which would lead to a lot of pitchers’ duels. Personally I love pitchers’ duels, but that’s only when the guys are really dealing, not because the hitters are flailing at balls they can’t see.

Pro: Stereotype busting.  You know the story: East coast fans are intense and knowledgeable. West coast fans are arrive-late, leave-early dilettantes.  Only problem is that that characterization is completely untrue.  I’ve got a brother and some college friends who live out west and because of it I’ve been lucky enough to go to a great number of Dodgers and Angels games over the years. Sure, there are some folks with expensive seats down low in Dodger Stadium who seem more interested in being seen than watching the game, but no more so than the guys down in the legends suites in New York.  Once you get past those guys, you’ll find no more passionate or knowledgeable fans in baseball than you’ll find in Southern California. You remember the explosion from the Dodgers crowd after Gibson hit that dinger in 1988? It was no fluke. I was at a Dodger game two years ago where Olmedo freakin’ Saenz got the same kind of reaction following a walkoff job. ThunderStix or no ThunderStix, Anaheim gets positively raucous as well.  They love their baseball in Los Angeles, and a freeway series will give the national media a chance to show the rest of the national just how much they do.

Con: The national media will probably whiff on that, instead giving us the standard “it’s the World Series, California-style!” coverage. Lots of shots of Hollywood stars in the stands. Lots of skinny blond chicks holding beers and going “wooo!” No less than 50 commercial breaks lead in with that awful Randy Newman song.  Blah.

Pro:  New faces. We get the Yankees on national TV a hundred times a year.  We just saw the Phillies in last year’s World Series.  While no one really needs more Manny Ramirez coverage, the east coast and Midwest haven’t seen nearly enough Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales.  Fresh is good.

Con: Low ratings. Sure, L.A. is the second biggest media market in the country, but (a) it’s not as big as New York; and (b) neither the Dodgers nor the Angels have nearly the national fan base the Yankees have.  Will will two L.A. teams draw the kinds of eyes that a series involving the Yankees will draw?  My guess is no.  I don’t own FOX stock so the business implications of this aren’t tremendous, but a low-rated Dodgers-Angels series would probably mean even more Yankees-Red Sox games on national TV next year.  If that’s possible.

Personally I’d love to see a freeway series because it would be a unique matchup of interesting teams with large portions of the action played in daylight.  I’m not sure the rest of the nation feels that way though.  Ignoring the fact that, yes, it’s probably too early to talk about this yet, how do you feel?

UPDATE: Interesting point raised in the comments as to whether my picture should have been of an I-5 sign instead of an I-405 sign.  I’ll grant that the most direct route between the stadiums is I-5.  On the other hand, no one is really going to be driving between the stadiums in this series, are they?  All of the fans rich enough to afford World Series tickets — and the players themselves — probably live in wealthy West L.A. or the beach communities, no?  Wouldn’t 405 be a better option for those folks?  And at least according to Google Maps, the 1-5 route “in traffic” would take considerably longer than 405.

I really have to plead ignorance here. The times I’ve been to the Big A from Los Angeles, I took the 405, but I wasn’t the one doing the navigating.  Angelenos: give me your opinion in the comments.  If 1-5 is a truly better route from the parts of L.A. where actual World Series attendants are likely to live to Anaheim, I’ll change the signs.

UPDATE #2:  OK, I’m getting a lot of emails and stuff now and the overwhelming sentiment is that it has to be I-5, and if that’s the way the winds are blowing, let no one say I don’t also blow. I have changed it to I-5.  Which is probably for the best considering that the rest of the media will probably go with that too.  Of course, if the forces of 405 make a convincing case later in the day, I’ll change it back again, because I’m a spineless flip-flopper. 

Tony La Russa went into the Pirates broadcast booth over Hit-by-pitch criticism

MESA, AZ - MARCH 10:  Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa of the Arizona Diamondbacks gestures as he talks with coaches in the dugout before the spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at HoHoKam Stadium on March 10, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday a couple of Arizona Diamondbacks batters were hit in head by Pirates pitcher Arquimedes Caminero. Caminero did not appear to be trying to bean these guys. He simply had no control whatsoever. That the Pirates just sent him down to the minors underscores that. Still: a bad situation given the inherent danger of plunkings in general and beanballs in particular. Thank goodness nether Dbacks batter appears to be injured.

It would make sense that Dbacks folks would be a bit upset at this, but Tony La Russa took things to the next level. The Pirates announcers apparently mentioned something about the Diamondbacks’ and La Russa’s history with hit-by-pitch controversies. And then this, from Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic . . .

La Russa acknowledged he went into a broadcast booth during Tuesday night’s game after he “heard some stuff on the air” that he considered inaccurate about his history with retaliatory pitches during his managerial days.

“I never have stood for inaccuracies,” La Russa said, “so I corrected the inaccuracies.

“It’s about taking responsibility. If you’re going to speak untruths then you’re going to get challenged and you should be responsible for what you say. I am. I reacted.”

That’s a totally chill and above-it-all way for a Hall of Famer and the head of baseball operations of a major league club to react. Glad to see La Russa, as always, is a portrait of zen.

Either way, the Pirates announcers should be excused if they were somewhat inaccurate. For you see, La Russa has always been somewhat hard to pin down on his plunking/beanball politics. In the past he’s said that another team accidentally hitting his team is bad while defending his own team’s clear and obvious retaliation. He once blamed an opposing hitter for escalating a situation by not avoiding what was clearly intentional attempt to hit him by his own player, claiming that a mere inside pitch with no intent was worse than his own guy TRYING to hit the opposition.

The common denominator to La Russa’s history with this stuff is (a) whatever the Tony La Russa-led team is doing is correct; (b) whatever the other team did was incorrect; and (c) almost everyone who isn’t Tony La Russa just doesn’t get it and that’s their problem, not his.

So of course he’s gonna go into a broadcast booth to La Russa-splain things to them. It’s a complicated business about which he and he alone has clarity. He’s doing us a favor, really.

Wade Boggs embroiled in non-controversy over his Yankees World Series ring!

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The Red Sox held a ceremony honoring the 1986 team last night and one of the key members of that team, Wade Boggs, was in attendance wearing  his Red Sox jersey. He also wore his Yankees World Series ring.

When I heard about this controversy a few minutes ago I did something that neither I nor most people who are a part of the Internet Industrial Complex usually do: wondered whether this was actually a controversy.

I quickly scanned around and found a good dozen or so articles talking about it and people talking about them talking about it. I noticed people making reference to how, theoretically, this could upset some Red Sox fans or be seen as a sign of disrespect. But I could not find anyone who actually cared. Anyone who was actually upset about it. I can’t say that I read every comment to every article, but you usually don’t have to dig deep to find people mad about something on the Internet and I could not immediately find anyone who was mad about this. Lots of jokes and comments about the idea of being mad, but no one who actually cared. It was like an obligatory ceremonial function the meaning of which everyone has forgotten.

There are a lot of “controversies” like that. They tend to be more common in the entertainment world than the sports world — people referencing a “scandalous” thing some singer or actor did which, in reality, scandalized no one — but it happens in sports too. In sports it’s when a convention or custom is not followed or when someone doesn’t otherwise conform to some set of expectations. A lot of the time no one cares at all. It’s all about the politics of recognizing situations in which someone might, in theory, care. Or once did long, long ago.

Maybe someone is genuinely mad at Wade Boggs over this If so, I’d love to hear from that person and wonder why on Earth they’d care. But I sort of feel like such a beast does not exist. And for that I’m pretty glad.

The Cardinals had a “statement loss” yesterday

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 25: Manager manager Mike Matheny #22 congratulates Matt Adams #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals as he enters the dugout after scoring a run during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on May 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
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I’ve always been critical of the concept of “statement games” in Major League Baseball. Maybe it matters more in football where there are far fewer games and thus each one means much more, but in baseball a win lasts, at best, 48 hours and usually less. Like Earl Weaver said, we do this every day, lady. When you’re constantly talking, as it were, any one statement is pretty unimportant.

I’ll grant that a “statement win” is a thing players use to motivate or validate themselves, of course. We on the outside can roll our eyes at the notion, but we can’t know the minds of a major league player. If they think that they made a statement and it’s important to them, hey, it’s important to them. I’ll admit, however, that a statement loss is a new one to me:

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Kolten Wong provided the basis of that headline. Here is what he said:

“I think we still made a statement. We were down 6-1 right off the bat. The game before, we were kind of in the same situation. We were tired of it,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “Our pitchers have been our go-to these past few years. It was time for us to step up and I think we all kind of felt that, too. We just wanted to make this a game and show that we have our pitchers’ backs.”

In context it makes sense. A moral victory, as it were. They got to one of the best pitchers in the game after finding themselves down by several runs thanks to their starting pitching betraying them. The hitters didn’t go into a shell when most folks would excuse them for doing so against a guy like Jake Arrieta.

Makes sense and no judgments here. Moral victories matter. Still, it’s hard not to chuckle at the headline. I can’t remember a big leaguer talking quite that way after a loss.

Julio Urias to be called up, make his MLB debut tomorrow

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 20:  Starting pitcher Julio Urias #78 of the Los Angeles Dodgers participates in a spring training workout at Camelback Ranch on February 20, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Dodgers have been mulling this for a long time, but they just announced that they plan on calling up top prospect Julio Urias. He’ll be making his major league debut against the Mets tomorrow evening in New York.

Urias is just 19 years-old, but he’s shown that he’s ready for the bigs. In eight Triple-A games this year — seven starts — he’s 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 44/8 in 41 innings. He has tossed 27-straight scoreless innings to boot. While the Dodgers and Urias’ agent are understandably wary of giving the young man too much work too soon, he has nothing left to prove at Oklahoma City.

Urias turns 20 in August. Tomorrow night he will become the first teenager to debut in the majors since 2012 when Dylan Bundy, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jurickson Profar each made their debuts.