With the exception of racial integration, baseball has always been a bit behind the times. From facial hair to anti-disco sentiment to pro-Macarena sentiment and everything in between, you can bet that if a trend is hitting big someplace in this nation, you’ll see it in a ballpark … eventually.
Which is what makes me think that the food truck thing has peaked. Because they’re doing it at a ballpark now:
On Thursday, Aramark Corporation, which runs the food venues at Coors Field, rolled out Wok in the Park, a truck serving noodle bowls and egg rolls on the first-level concourse. It’s the first food truck to be stationed inside a major sports venue in the country … “The Rockies are always challenging us to be creative and to have a lot of variety. And we saw that the one gap we had in our ethnic food concepts was Asian. The truck is really conducive to any concept.” All of the food is made fresh inside the truck, he adds. “This is no scoop-and-serve operation. That’s the beauty of these trucks. They’re fully self contained.”
I never ever leave my home so I don’t get to a lot of food trucks, but isn’t the point of those things to (a) make it possible for would-be restaurateurs to get moving without bricks-and mortar overhead; and (b) to bring the food to where the people are, rather than to make the people go some fixed location for the food? A variety of food in lots of people-friendly locations? And isn’t it also the case that, by their very nature, that’s what every single ballpark food vendor is?
Seriously: look around the next time you’re at the ballpark. The unique food out on the concourse are at little stations which can be broken down and moved anywhere. Even those fixed Aramark outlets could be changed over to anything in about two hours. With rare exceptions, food options in ballparks are duplicated and triplicated or more, with no one having to walk too terribly far to get what they want. And the existing stands have the added bonus of not having the potential to run over people on concourses that were never intended for vehicular traffic.
So why a food truck? Because it’s hip! Because that’s where all the cool kids are getting their pork rib tacos or meatballs or whatever these days! Why not take it to the ballpark!
Congratulations food trucks. You’re now the culinary equivalent of Disco Demolition Night. Or planking. Or flash mobs. If the ballparks have you, you’re over.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.