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Comment of the Day: Stop worrying and learn to love corporate sponsorship of baseball

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A pretty interesting conversation is developing in the thread about the Occupy St. Louis folks showing the World Series without commercials.  One of the earliest comments — from johnfrancis50 — makes me happy in my pragmatic place:

I’m not for or against the Occupy movement, but the statement “there isn’t a need for corporate sponsors to enjoy baseball” seems a bit misguided. Without corporate sponsorship, do any of the games get broadcast? Without corporate sponsorship dollars, can the Cardinals generate enough revenue to re-sign Albert Pujols? Is it unreasonable to think that revenues from corporate sponsorships contributed to the financing needed to overhaul the stadium downtown (I don’t want to name the stadium since that’s exactly what the corporations WANT you to do…)

They are right, you don’t need corporations to enjoy baseball, but if you want to watch a competitive team from the comfort of your home (or whatever street you are occupying), you ought to throw them a bone, no?

I support and understand a lot of what the Occupy Wall Street people are mad about. I mean, in a just world, the people who invented crazy financial schemes that put millions out of work and brought on global misery would be paying some sort of price for that rather than getting bonuses and bailouts.  We have a really messed up set of priorities as a nation right now, and they’ve been getting more and more messed up for the past 30 years or so.

But at the same time, there has to be a balance. Just as it makes no sense for those Tea Party people to rail against government without acknowledging that, hey, the government does a hell of a lot of useful stuff, it makes no sense to rail against corporations and capitalism without acknowledging that a lot of what we like in life is a product of them and that system and without many of the financial incentives that drive those plutocrats, we’d be living in a very different and a not necessarily better world.

Excesses by government and excesses by the private sector are both worthy targets of protest. I’m always wary, however, when someone wants something burst asunder.  I’m not typing this on my machine right now if Bill Gates and whoever financed his outfit didn’t have a profit motive. You’re not reading this if the people advertising on the page aren’t paying for the privilege of doing so.  Likewise, none of us make it to the ballpark if the government doesn’t play a role in building the roads or the trains or regulating those highways in the sky.

I mute my commercials when I’m watching the game. I lied on my census form and said my family was Samoan. That’s about as radical as I get when it comes to sticking it to The Man, so I’m no one’s idea of a bold activist. But I would hope that those folks who are bold activists would take a moment or two on occasion to inject some pragmatism into the conversation.  I know that’s not very exciting — and the signs and chants that pragmatists make are really not compelling — but it just seems to make a hell of a lot more sense to me.

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.