Firestone becomes official tire of Major League Baseball

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Outside of the Big Bust Challenge Trade, there isn’t a lot happening in baseball today, so let’s look at little stuff. Stuff like Firestone becoming the Official Tire of Major League Baseball.  I just left the business world, so I don’t care about the synergies and cross-promotional opportunities involved here, but there were still a couple of things in the official announcement that caught my eye:

in the summer of 1925 [Harvey] Firestone opened a ballpark in Akron, Ohio, for one of his employees.

He built a whole ballpark for just one of his employees? And to think: this year your boss will cite a tough economy for not even having a cash-bar Christmas party.

The agreement, which marks the largest sports sponsorship for the 109-year-old Firestone brand outside of motor sports . . .

This is shocking to anyone who slavishly followed professional bowling in the 1970s and 80s and didn’t think that there could possibly be something bigger than the Firestone Tournament of Champions. Remember when Mark Williams shot an unheard of low score of 191 in the 1985 final, but still won it because Bob Handley somehow shot a 140? You don’t? Um, OK, I’ll move right along . ..

“MLB has a vast and loyal fan base who demand a great performance from
their clubs and great value from the products they support. These fans
are a perfect fit for the Firestone brand.”

But how many MLB fans have those demands for high quality pooped upon year after year?  If you continue to root for the Royals, you may very well settle for tires that go bald after 15,000 miles.

“We are proud to welcome Firestone into the MLB family and look forward
to bringing our fans and their customers closer together through
exciting and innovative programs.

Hmmm . . . innovative programs . . . tire company . . . THEY’RE BRINGING BACK BULLPEN CARS!

Under this agreement, Firestone will become exclusive sponsor of the in-stadium portion of All-Star Game balloting.

Oh. No bullpen cars. Well. I suppose the paper ballot thing is innovative. Not as innovative as the online All-Star Game balloting that gets millions of more votes and stuff, but it’s perfectly fine. Maybe, you know, you could look into the bullpen car thing?

Baratta said in an interview with The New York Times that “the
demographics of MLB mirror the U.S. population closer than any other
sports entity.”

This is surprising to me. I had long heard and assumed that MLB fandom skews way whiter, way older and way richer than that of other sports. Basically, it’s a lot of guys like me and my dad watching games, ya know?  Oh well, glad to hear I’m wrong, if indeed Mr. Baretta is right about this.

Wait. Maybe he’s talking about the demographics of the actual players: non-Hispanic blacks are at about 9% or so, whites are just under 60%, Hispanics are at around 28% and Asians are a shade under 3%.  That’s probably closer to the whole than the other major sports.  But why do you care if the players, as opposed to the fans, mirror the overall demographics? Are you just selling tires to the players? How elitist. 

OK, now someone trade someone for someone else. There’s only so much entertainment to be had via sponsorship deals.

DOJ settles antirust lawsuit against cable companies who don’t carry Dodgers games

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Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T, accusing its subsidiary, DirecTV, of being the ringleader in a plot in which it conspired with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T cable (then a separate company), to refuse to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodger-owned TV channel in violation of antitrust laws.

Now that lawsuit is over. DOJ has settled with AT&T last night.

The bad news: no part of the settlement obligates DirecTV or any of the other alleged co-conspirators to carry Dodgers games or to even negotiate to that end. There is likewise no fine or truly substantive penalty. It’s basically a “do not do this again!” agreement with some antitrust training requirements for executives and some orders to monitor their communications about these things.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” and AT&T spokesman said yesterday, likely in the tone of a guy who is pretty happy to have had a major antitrust suit against him settled so quickly.

When the suit was filed, I anticipated a settlement, as most antitrust suits brought by the DOJ are settled. Such a settlement could’ve featured a cash penalty or, more significantly, a brokered agreement between the parties in question in lieu of a cash settlement that could’ve led to Dodgers games being carried on more channels. After all, more competition is the end game of the Antirust Division.

As it is, however, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a surrender by the DOJ and a victory for the those carriers who coordinated their efforts to not carry the Dodgers.

An open question, unanswered in anyone’s statements yesterday, is whether this settlement is 100% about the merits of the case — keeping in mind that the DOJ tends not file antitrust suits unless they think they can win, instead preferring to negotiate first — or whether it represents a new set of laxer priorities when it comes to antitrust enforcement from the Trump Administration and AG Jeff Sessions.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.