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.

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.