The disconnect between the “storylines” that surround baseball and the actual baseball seems even starker than usual this week. Mostly because of Cliff Lee.
It seems like everything that has been written about the ALCS has started from the premise that Cliff Lee is like some avenging angel of death against whom no soul has a chance. What will the Yankees do now that they have to face him twice in a five game series? What should they do with the rotation to counter it? Now, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal’s latest column, we’re starting in on the “what will happen if Cliff Lee beats the Phillies in the World Series” stuff.
Don’t get me wrong: they’re interesting storylines, as Lee is a pretty phenomenal pitcher, especially in the postseason. But I just kind of get the feeling that the Yankees and Phillies don’t care all that much about it. The Yankees, as Mark Simon at ESPN New York points out today, have faced a few aces before. Indeed, postseason teams face aces every year because, hey, good pitchers tend to lead their teams to the playoffs. Lee is great, but he’s not supernatural. Likewise the Phillies would likely rather face someone else, but it’s not like they can be unhappy with the current state of the rotation. Because, you know, it’s pretty good.
Some things matter a lot more than we think because they don’t get talked about all that much before they actually reveal themselves to be gigantically important in a playoff series: Lefty-lefty matchups. Lingering injuries. A defensive liability that just can’t be hidden. Other things seem huge beforehand but really don’t matter a ton. I’m putting Cliff Lee Hysteria in that category.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.