MLB and the Braves need to trash that new batting practice cap now

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UPDATE:  It seems that the Braves may, possibly, be considering a change.

9:26 AM: Inspired by their atrotious new batting practice caps, Ryan Hill has a take on the Atlanta Braves and their regrettable use of American Indian iconography and how one reconciles being a Braves fan with the existence of that garbage.

My short answer is basically the same as his: it’s horrible and I hate it, but I’m here for the baseball, not to buy in to some cult of fandom which requires me to approve of these things. Nevertheless, if that bp cap is a harbinger of things to come and Liberty Media is making a conscious effort to reemphasize the screaming Indian and other such things, I’m going to have to question my level support for the team.

Hill’s larger point, which applies to not just the Braves, but the Indians, Redskins and any other team which chooses to portray Indians as savages and caricatures, is spot-on:

The more that American Indians and First Nations people are seen as cartoons and caricatures of the past, the less they are likely to be seen as people that exist today, who continue to make contributions to human culture, and who continue to be denied many of the basic rights and respect afforded to others … There was a time when professional baseball moved ahead of society, defying Jim Crow and racially integrating the sport. Today, even with all the formal tributes to its Civil Rights legacy, baseball lags behind by condoning American Indian mascots.

I’ll acknowledge that getting rid of Chief Wahoo will be hard because it’s been around for a long time and is still actively being used by the Indians. There is no excuse for the Braves and the screaming Indian, however. He has been dead for some time and there is no reason why the Braves and Major League Baseball can’t put a stop to that new cap before a single one is sold. It’s the right thing to do and I’d hope they’d know it.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.