Derek Jeter smiling

You can own the dirt beneath Derek Jeter’s feet

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In ancient times, some random sect of people might lay claim to the remains of a venerated hero as a part of hero cult.  Parts of their weapons or clothes, a lock of hair, earlobes, whatever.  This practice developed over the centuries and, like most ancient practices, was adopted and/or co-opted by organized religion, with stuff like Elisha’s bones and Paul’s handkerchief becoming holy relics.

Over time the relic game got pretty sophisticated, to the point where the Catholic Church classified them by orders of degree.  Some stuff — actual items associated with Christ or saints themselves — are first class relics.  Down the list you go to, I dunno, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Baseball plays the relics game too, though we don’t call it that. We call it “memorabilia.” The idea is still the same, though: the preservation of an inanimate object that, in and of itself, has no value apart from the veneration of an intangible event or memory in tangible form. Jerseys. Autographs.  That kind of thing.

Baseball should have degrees of this too.  Do you own the bat that with which Babe Ruth hit home run number 60 in 1927? Heck, that’s like the bones of John the Baptist.  The jersey Pete Rose wore when he broke Ty Cobb’s record? That’s totally as good as a spoon once used by St. Whatshisface to eat the mush which have him strength to do whatever miracle it is that is ascribed to him.

Not sure where to put this, however, but I’m guessing it’s farther down the list:

Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be a cause for celebration, marketing and — not least of all — digging up dirt.

After the game, a groundskeeper will tote a shovel and bucket onto the field to scoop five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box and shortstop’s patch. In baseball’s version of preserving the chain of evidence, the bucket will be sealed with tape and verified as the dirt beneath Jeter’s feet with tamper-proof holograms …

… The dirt — from Yankee Stadium if all goes perfectly, but from some ballpark, perhaps Citi Field July 1 to 3 — will find its way into a vast and lucrative universe of celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, much of it orchestrated by a company named Steiner Sports. Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats.

People don’t realize this, but I have a time machine, and I was able to transcribe a conversation between some people who bought the Derek Jeter dirt in 2012:

Man #1: He has given us… His shoe!

Man #2: The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example. Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise.

Man #1: No, no, no. The shoe is a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance!

Woman: No, cast off the shoes! Follow the Gourd!  Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem!

Man #2: No, hold up the sandal, as He has commanded us!

 

Study: West teams at a disadvantage due to jet lag

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JULY 14:  A Delta airlines plane is seen as it comes in for a landing at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on July 14, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Delta Air Lines Inc. reported that their second quarter earnings rose a better-than-expected 4.1%, and also announced that they decided to reduce its United States to Britian capacity on its winter schedule because of foreign currency issues and the economic uncertainty from Brexit.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Every year, when the schedules are released, we often hear about the teams that have it worst. Almost always, those teams are West teams. According to MLB.com, teams in the West division of their respective leagues had the top eight most travel-heavy schedules in 2016. The full list:

Team League Division Miles
Mariners AL West 47,704
Angels AL West 44,945
Athletics AL West 42,119
Rangers AL West 41,128
Dodgers NL West 40,294
Giants NL West 39,341
Astros AL West 38,553
Padres NL West 37,363
Rays AL East 36,916
Red Sox AL East 36,896
D-Backs NL West 35,312
Yankees AL East 35,252
Marlins NL East 35,226
Rockies NL West 33,287
Blue Jays AL East 32,895
Orioles AL East 32,322
Braves NL East 29,236
Royals AL Central 29,077
Twins AL Central 28,948
Phillies NL East 28,351
Mets NL East 26,832
White Sox AL Central 26,538
Cardinals NL Central 26,451
Pirates NL Central 26,134
Brewers NL Central 25,620
Tigers AL Central 25,450
Indians AL Central 25,176
Reds NL Central 25,108
Nationals NL East 24,664
Cubs NL Central 24,271

The averages by division:

  • AL East: 34,856 miles
  • AL Central: 25,176
  • AL West: 42,890
  • NL East: 28,862
  • NL Central: 25,517
  • NL West: 37,119

The maps aren’t up for 2017 yet, but rest assured that West teams will once again have it worst. It’s easy to see why, taking a look at the map on MLB.com. If you draw a line to split Texas in half and go straight up through North Dakota, there are only eight teams to the left of that line, leaving the other 23 condensed on the right side. When West teams aren’t playing intra-division games, they are traveling. That’s often not the case for East and Central teams. The Phillies and Pirates, for example, don’t even have to leave the state to play each other.

As Gizmodo points out, a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a link between jet lag and performance. Sleep scientist Ravi Allada of Northwestern University analyzed 4,919 games, finding that teams that traveled East performed worse than those that traveled West. Allada and his colleagues adjusted for home field advantage and park effects.

Specifically, teams that traveled from the West to the East lost more often than East teams traveling West. They gave up more runs and scored less runs. They hit for a lower batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They gave up more home runs, accounting for most of the decline in run prevention.

There was a peculiar finding. Allada found that jet lagged home teams performed worse than jet lagged visiting teams. He hypothesizes that “teams may be more cognizant of their schedules when traveling away, thus mitigating jet lag effects,” he told Gizmodo.

The Braves ask Cobb County for $14 million more

Suntrust Park
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The Braves’ new ballpark in Cobb County Georgia is the gift that keeps on taking.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have asked Cobb County for $14 million for roads, walkways and other pedestrian improvements around the stadium the team has already paid for but which it says the county is responsible. The county says it’s not responsible for them and that it has already paid nearly $70 million for transportation improvements around the ballpark, including on privately-owned property in the mixed-use development.

The reason this isn’t settled: at the time the deal between the county and the team was struck, there was a provision for the county to pay for $14 million for certain improvements. The Braves, this past September, told the county that it wants to be reimbursed for these projects under that provision and that the $70 million the county has already spent shouldn’t count. For reasons, I guess. It’s a bit complicated, but the AJC story lays it out pretty well. The upshot seems to be “why didn’t the Braves say they wanted the county to pay for these things long ago?”

The answer to that question, I suspect, is “because the Braves have been treated as entitled corporate welfare recipients since this deal was announced and they have learned that they can get away with almost anything.”