George and Dragon

Scenes from Spring Training: Beer, Voros McCracken and almost getting my butt kicked over a misunderstanding

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I had an interesting evening. Went out for beers with my friend Connor Doyle who, long ago, was one half of a good (mostly) sports blog called Two Guys who, like, never agree. It’s defunct now, but back in 2007 and 2008 he and I were occupying the same general Blogspot world.  Also joining us: Voros McCracken, sabermetrician extraordinaire.

For those who don’t know, Voros is the man who originated the idea of defense-independent pitching statistics, or DIPS as they came to be known.  Jeff Passan wrote his story out back in January. I wasn’t interested in getting more of his story. I was merely interested in hoisting the moist with him and Connor last night, which we did in spades at a pleasant British pub.

And, surprisingly, there wasn’t much baseball discussed. We talked way more about soccer, which is a particular passion of Voros’ and Connor’s. I’ve tried in fits and starts to become at least moderately conversant with soccer over the years, mostly because I’ve identified it as an excellent way to spend the winter when there’s no baseball about.  It’s never clicked for me, however.

I get the impression that if I hung out with Voros and Connor more that something would click.  In a couple short hours a handful of misconceptions I’ve harbored about the game were cast aside and, I think anyway, I got at least a tiny glimpse into what makes it so damn intriguing for several billion people the world over.  Or maybe it was just the Guinness talking. Hard to say, but I did enjoy myself and I’m inclined to give soccer another chance because of it.

Sadly, though, there was one brief moment when things turned sour.  The three of us were talking about basketball and the subject of the Carmelo Anthony trade came up. We were all criticizing a particular take that a particular sports writer had on the trade, and the basis for our criticism of it was that the writer’s take seemed to come from a rather racist — or at the very least, paternalistic — perspective. Kind of a “how dare Anthony not remain loyal to his team” kind of thing of which none of us particularly approved.

In discussing this I — sarcastically, with a literal eye-roll — ripped the piece by taking on the voice of the author and saying “of course not, because he’s black” or words to that effect, with the intent of condemning what I took to be the writer’s casual racism.

Seems, however, that the black man the next table over had only half-heard our conversation and assumed that we were genuinely ripping that uppity Carmelo Anthony for demanding a trade. Or for having the gall to be black. I’m still not sure what we were presumed to be saying, actually. All I know is that the guy from the next table over was right pissed off for all the wrong reasons.

After his white friend came to our table and told us that we were pathetic, he himself came by and told us that were it not for the fact that kicking our butts would cause him more trouble than it’s worth, he’d totally kick our butts.  We tried to explain that he misunderstood us, but he wasn’t much interested in that and then moved on.

I was happy that he moved on, but it’s not like I didn’t have a plan if he hadn’t. Indeed, if things got chippy, I would have been behind Voros the whole time. Like, literally behind Voros, hoping to avoid getting my face mashed in until someone got a cop on the scene to rescue my blogger behind. Thankfully it didn’t come to that. Could have been bad news for Voros. I don’t think he’s had a lot of practice as a human shield and he might have gotten injured as he unwittingly protected me. I would have felt bad for him.

Oh well. Sarcasm doesn’t always come through on the internet. I figured it came through better in bar conversations, but I guess that’s not a universal rule either.  All I know is that if more people actually listened to one another instead of merely defaulting to the safety of their preconceptions, people would get along a lot better than they do.  I suppose that’s expecting too damn much of people, however.

But Voros was a cool guy, especially given how poised he was to protect me from the blows that rained down upon me, whether he realized it or not.

One more day of baseball here in Arizona to help cleanse the palette. The Mariners and the White Sox, babies, live from Camelback Ranch in beautiful Glendale, Arizona later today. I’ll try not to get my butt kicked while I’m there.

Ruben Amaro is workin’ out and gettin’ ready to coach first base

Ruben Amaro Jr.
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One of the weirder stories of the offseason was Ruben Amaro going from the Phillies front office to the Red Sox, where he’ll coach first base. That kind of transition is almost unheard of but it’s happening with old Rube.

Today Pete Abraham of the Globe has a story about how Amaro is preparing for the role. And how, while it may look weird on paper, the move actually makes a lot more sense than you might suspect given the Red Sox’ coaching staff and Amaro’s own background. It’s good stuff. Go check it out.

On a personal note, it serves as a signal to me to keep my eyes peeled for reports about Amaro from Fort Myers once camp gets started:

Amaro has been working out in recent weeks with his nephew Andrew, a Phillies prospect, to get ready for throwing batting practice and hitting fungoes.

Could we be so lucky as to get the first-ever Best Shape of His Life report for a coach? God, I hope so!

It’s pretty stupid that athletes can’t endorse beer

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner celebrates after pitching the Giants to a 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League wild card game in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) ORG XMIT: PAGP102
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One of the more amusing things to spin out of the Super Bowl were Peyton Manning’s little Budweiser endorsements in his postgame interviews. It was hilarious, really, to see him shoehorn in references to going and cracking a crisp cool Budweiser multiple times. It was more hilarious when a Budweiser representative tweeted that Manning was not paid to do that. Of course, Manning owns an interest in alcohol distributorships so talking about The King of Beers was in his best financial interest all the same.

After that happened people asked whether or not Manning would face discipline about this from the NFL, as players are not allowed to endorse alcoholic beverages. This seemed crazy to me. I had no idea that they were actually banned from doing so. Then I realized that, huh, I can’t for the life of me remember seeing beer commercials with active athletes, so I guess maybe it’s not so crazy. Ken Rosenthal later tweeted that Major League Baseball has a similar ban in place. No alcohol endorsements for ballplayers.

Why?

I mean, I can fully anticipate why the leagues would say athletes can’t do it. Think of the children! Role models! Messages about fitness! All that jazz. I suspect a more significant reason is that the leagues and their partners — mostly Anheuser-Busch/InBev — would prefer not to allow high-profile athletes to shill for a competitor. How bad would it look for Alex Rodriguez to do spots for Arrogant Bastard Ale when there are Budweiser signs hanging in 81% of the league’s ballparks? Actually, such ads would look WONDERFUL, but you know what I mean here.

That aside, it does strike me as crazy hypocritical that the leagues can rake in as much as they do from these companies while prohibiting players from getting in on the action. If it is kids they’re worried about, how can they deny that they endorse beer to children every bit as effectively and possibly more so than any one athlete can by virtue of putting it alongside the brands that are the NFL and MLB? Personally I don’t put much stock in a think-of-the-children argument when it comes to beer — it’s everywhere already and everyone does a good job of pushing the “drink responsibly” message — but if those are the leagues’ terms, they probably need to ask themselves how much of a distinction any one athlete and the entire league endorsing this stuff really is.

That aside, sports and beer — often sponsored by active players — have a long, long history together:

Musial

And the picture at the top of this post certainly shows us that Major League Baseball has no issues whatsoever in having its players endorse Budweiser in a practical sense.

Why can’t they get paid for doing it?

The Orioles signed Rafael Palmeiro’s son

Rafael Palmeiro
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Last summer we posted about Rafael Palmeiro coming out of retirement to play for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. The reason: to play a game with his boy Patrick. In that game the elder Palmeiro went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. His son, who is now 26, went 2-for-4 with a grand slam.

Did that serve as an audition for Patrick? Possibly, as Jon Meloi of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles just signed him to a minor league deal.

As Meloi notes, it’s certainly just an organizational depth move, as Patrick is no prospect. And it’s actually likely something of a coincidence that it’s the Orioles who signed him, as Palmeiro doesn’t have any real contacts with the Orioles baseball operations people, all of whom are different folks now than back in his day.

This may not be the last of the Palmeiros, by the way. Peter Gammons tweeted this morning that Patrick’s younger brother, Preston, is a first baseman at North Carolina State who could be drafted this june. Gammons says he has a swing “remarkably similar to dad.”

Diamondbacks, A.J. Pollock avoid arbitration with two-year contract

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock drives in two runs against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.

Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.