McGwire and steroids: Won't somebody think of the children?

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The New York Daily News’ Denis Hamill wants you to think of the children. His own, who allegedly had this conversation in the back seat of his car on the way to basketball practice the other day:

These kids, who will be playing on the same Little League team in a few
months, were representative of the trickle-down effect on this boy’s
game of another baseball giant admitting he’s a lowdown fraud . . . “I always thought McGwire used steroids,” said Liam. “After A-Rod [Alex
Rodriguez], Manny [Ramirez] and Big Papi [David Ortiz] last year, I
don’t trust any of them. I think Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard are
dirty.”

“The worst is Barry Bonds, who topped Hank Aaron’s lifetime homer
record,” said Peter. “On juice. How do you think that makes Hank Aaron
feel? I read about Hank Aaron. He hit all those home runs by using his
wrist power. Bonds beat him by cheating with juice.”

Liam said, “As far as I’m concerned, Roger Maris still has the most
homers in a single season. He hit 61 in 1961. McGwire broke that with
70. Then Bonds hit 73. Both of them were on juice, so they don’t
count.”

How fortunate for Hamill that his kids are able to speak in such narrative-propelling, context-supplying language like that. And that Hamill was able to jot them down as exact quotes despite the fact this conversation was happening as he was “driving the kids to basketball practice.”

And how about that Liam and Peter!  The two future little leaguers — which makes them somewhere between 11 and 13 years old — “always thought McGwire used steroids.” I wish my own kids were able to form such strong opinions when they were between two and four years old, which is what Liam and Peter were when McGwire retired. My poor dumb kids couldn’t even calculate a simple batting average at that age.

And their takes on Maris and Aaron?  Hamill must be so proud that his children, unlike any pre-teen I’ve ever met, revere the players of their fathers’ youth rather than that of their own.  How wonderful for Hamil and his story!

Unless of course . . .no, couldn’t be.  Forget I even thought it. I mean, if a writer for a major daily newspaper simply invented a conversation like that in an effort to communicate some tired and hacky ideas in a fresh new way he’d probably be disciplined.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

Watch:

Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.