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.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.