Boycott Arizona

A renewed call for baseball to move the All-Star Game away from Arizona

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There was a great deal of controversy over the 2011 All-Star Game being in Phoenix in the wake of Arizona passing its controversial immigration bill last year.  That more or less died down as an issue as far as baseball was concerned after the federal government sued Arizona over the law, suspending its implementation until the matter is resolved. Selig said that was good enough and everyone moved on to other things.

Dave Zirin revives the call for a baseball boycott of Arizona in a column in The Nation today, but he’s not just focused on S.B. 1070. Rather, he believes that All-Star Game should be moved because of it, the Giffords shooting, Governor Jan Brewer’s general mendacity and another new piece of proposed legislation — not passed yet — targeting school children who are illegal immigrants.  Overall, Zirin wants baseball to move the All-Star Game because because Arizona is “dangerous and bigoted” and is  “a state with aspirations of apartheid.”

I’ll say this much: the politics and general zeitgeist of Arizona make me happy I live in Ohio, and it takes an awful lot to make me happy I live in Ohio. That said, I think Zirin and others who are advocating for the All-Star Game to be moved are fighting a lost cause.

Bud Selig is the last man on the planet who would take a stand on anything. Especially a stand that would cost him or his fellow owners money, as moving the game at this late a date would do.  There are contracts in place. Stuff has been printed. The room has been rented, if you will. Bud Selig would play that game in Arizona if God Almighty came down from the heavens and commanded him to move it.  Bud would probably say something like “well, I understand and appreciate His objections, but I’ve been around long enough to know that there are two sides to every issue, so I …” and then he’d just ramble on a while more.

So Selig is a dead end. What would be more effective in my mind would be to reach out to the ballplayers likely to be selected to the game and try to persuade them to sit it out. As Zirin notes, there were already multiple players who said last summer they’d be loathe to participate in an Arizona All-Star Game as a result of S.B. 1070.  Rather than picket the ballparks and demand that Selig do something, why not try to persuade them and others to take a public stand?

That game is going to be played no matter what. If the protests leading up to the game are to prevent it, they’ll be increasingly ignored as the game’s inevitability grows.  But, if some big names noisily beg out, it will be much harder for people to ignore. The media will have to write and report about their absence.  People will talk about it and the reasons for it. And ultimately, isn’t that the point?

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: