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.

The stats show the Pirates as an outlier in throwing “headhunter” pitches

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 5: Reliever Arquimedes Caminero #37 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 5, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Last week at ESPN Sweetspot’s Inside the Zona, Ryan Morrison looked into the data and found that the Pirates stand out among the rest when it comes to throwing “headhunter” pitches. Those are defined as fastballs 3.2 feet or higher and 1.2 feet towards the batter from the center of the plate.

The research was prompted because Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura was hit in the helmet by Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero last Tuesday in the seventh inning. The next inning, Caminero hit shortstop Nick Ahmed in the jaw with a pitch and was instantly ejected.

Morrison illustrated the data in a nice chart, which you should check out. The Pirates have thrown 93 of those pitches, which is way more than any other team. The next closest team is the Reds at 68 pitches. The major league average is approximately 48 pitches.

The Pirates have had an organizational philosophy of pitching inside since at least 2013, as MLB.com’s Tom Singer quoted manager Clint Hurdle as saying, “We’re not trying to hurt people, just staying in with conviction.”

Morrison goes on to suggest that the Diamondbacks should have forfeited last Wednesday and Thursday’s games against the Pirates in protest, out of concern for their players’ safety. As it happened, the D-Backs lost both games anyway, suffering a series sweep. The two clubs don’t meet again this season.

D-Backs manager Chip Hale said after last Tuesday’s game that Caminero “shouldn’t be at this level”. Caminero responded to those comments today, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I’m actually glad you asked me about that,” Caminero said. “The only thing I’ve got to say about (Hale) is that he is a perfect manager. And he was a perfect player, too. That’s it. I know what I did wasn’t good, but it happens in baseball. I wasn’t trying to hit anyone.”

I realize I’m late on pointing out Morrison’s terrific article and the whole debacle between the two teams, but I felt it was worth highlighting.

Jose Bautista: “I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 29: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jayshits a two-run home run in the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on May 29, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Also included in a recent report on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated — along with his belief that Rougned Odor was the only bad guy in the May 15 debacle — was the slugger’s desire to remain a Blue Jay. Per Verducci, Bautista said, “I love the city. I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto.

Bautista, 35, is in the final year of a five-year, $65 million extension signed in February 2011. Back in November, the Jays exercised their 2016 club option for $14 million. Bautista isn’t willing to discuss contract details during the season, so the two sides will have to wait until at least October to come to an agreement.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, Bautista is hitting .237/.371/.489 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 40 walks, the latter of which leads the American League.

Jose Reyes to begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 18:  Jose Reyes #7 of the Colorado Rockies advances to second base on a wild throw from Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Coors Field on August 18, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Rockies shortstop will join Triple-A Albuquerque to begin a rehab assignment, manager Walt Weiss said on Tuesday, per MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Reyes was suspended through May 31 for an offseason domestic violence incident, effectively a 51-game suspension.

During the offseason, Reyes allegedly grabbed his wife by the neck and shoved her into a sliding glass door in the midst of an argument. Reyes pled not gulity and the charges against him were eventually dropped because his wife was uncooperative with authorities. It is not uncommon for an abuser’s significant other to be uncooperative with authorities due to the fear of further retaliation if the abuser suffers any consequences, such as losing his job.

Reyes has spent the last two weeks getting into baseball shape at the Rockies’ spring training complex in Arizona and he’ll likely need another couple of weeks in the minors. Rookie shortstop Trevor Story has cooled off significantly since a blistering hot start to the season, but has still played well enough to warrant the Rockies not forcing him to concede his starting role to Reyes.

The Rockies acquired Reyes from the Blue Jays on July 28 last year along with Miguel Castro and two minor leaguers in exchange for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins.

Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt just pitched, and he reached 96 MPH

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Catcher Christian Bethancourt #12 of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Peoria Sports Complex on February 26, 2016 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The Mariners’ offense ran roughshod over Padres starter James Shields on Tuesday afternoon, knocking him out after 2 2/3 innings. The right-hander surrendered 10 runs.

It didn’t get much better for the Padres from there. The Mariners would score twice more in the fourth and four times in the fifth to take a commanding 16-0 lead. The Padres clawed back for a trio of runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh, but the lead was essentially insurmountable.

Unsurprisingly, the Padres opted to use a position player to soak up at least one inning, so catcher Christian Bethancourt took the mound to begin the eighth. Bethancourt had trouble finding the strike zone, but he was consistently hitting the mid-90’s with his fastball, which was impressive. He sandwiched a pair of fly outs with a walk, but then he lost all semblance of control. He walked Norichika Aoki, then hit Seth Smith with a 59 MPH knuckleball. Yes, you read that right: a knuckleball.

Manager Andy Green relieved Bethancourt with infielder Alexi Amarista, and Bethancourt moved to second base. Amarista got Shawn O’Malley to ground out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Though Bethancourt’s results weren’t the greatest, it was still fun to watch him pitch.