I guess the post office has finally delivered those letters Bud Selig had been asking for, because Jayson Stark reports that there will likely be expanded replay in 2014.
There had been talk of expanding replay to some degree in 2013 — to fair/foul calls, mostly — but Stark reports that people in the game are taking a go-big-or-go-home approach and would prefer to implement something more comprehensive. That will take waiting a year as opposed to rushing something into place this year. Which, OK, even though I wish we had replay yesterday, I agree is probably the best move. Let’s do this thing right if we’re going to do it.
The only unsettling part is that, according to Stark, there is still some debate about what sort of system to implement and that — brace yourselves — some version of a challenge system is still on the table. Stark refers to a plan in which managers may get, say, two challenges a game for close calls.
Which I absolutely hate. Either commit to getting all or as many calls correct as possible or don’t. Don’t make some game out of it where — sorry, Cholly! — you just lost a big game because you foolishly wasted your challenges on clear umpire mistakes in the first couple of innings and now you’re stuck with a clear umpire mistake in the eighth!
As I’ve said umpteen times: Put an ump in a booth with the power to call down to his colleagues and overturn them. If you must, set up a mission control in MLB headquarters that is able to do functionally the same thing. But dear God, do not turn getting the mistakes of umpires into some sort of carnival side show cum game of chance for managers. They got enough to worry about already without making the umpires’ problems their own.
The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected Claire Smith the winner of the 2017 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. She becomes the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor. She will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 30.
Smith, 62, covered the New York Yankees for five years beginning in 1983 for the Hartford Courant before becoming a columnist with the New York Times. She later served as an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1998-2007. She is now ESPN’s news editor of remote productions, responsible for the integration of news and analysis in live game broadcasts and the Baseball Tonight and Sports Center studio programs. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of three New York Times Publishers’ Awards.
Smith was named Sports Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1997, received the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association of Women in Sports Media in 2000 and the Sam Lacy Award at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in 2010. She has served on the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and was the chair of the New York chapter of the BBWAA in 1995 and 1996.
Yesterday’s announcement that Under Armour will be taking over the MLB uniform business brought with it an added bit of news: for the first time, beginning in 2020, baseball uniforms will feature the maker’s logo on the front of the jersey. From Paul Lukas of UniWatch:
While the Majestic logo has appeared on MLB sleeves, the Under Armour logo will be appearing on the upper-right chest area.
Lukas has a bunch of Photoshopped images of MLB players wearing uniforms with UA logos on it to give us a sense of how it will likely look.
It’s certainly weird and in some cases even a bit jarring. It would be my preference not to see baseball uniforms go this route as I think they’re aesthetically pleasing parts of the game in and of themselves. But it’s inevitable. If there is a chance for leagues and sponsors to make money and if it doesn’t cause them to lose fans (i.e. lose money) they will take it. You can say you’ll give up baseball if they put corporate logos — including paid advertisements, not just the logos of the companies which make the gear — but you’re lying to yourself about that. You and I will complain and grumble and then we’ll get used to it. At some point, after a couple of years, we’ll start talking about which ads look better and which ones look worse and applaud particularly savvy and pleasing looking logos.
As I wrote back in April when the NBA approved ads on uniforms, there may even be a bright side to all of this.
Sports teams have had it both ways for a long time. They’ve worked to make a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down all the while pretending to be something greater than any other business. They play on our nostalgia and our loyalty in order to portray themselves as something akin to a public trust or institution, entitling themselves to perks no other businesses get and the avoidance of regulation. By turning players into walking billboards, perhaps the four major North American sports will inadvertently make some folks realize that they are just businesses and that they aren’t deserving of such special treatment.
I’m not holding my breath about that, but anything that takes away even a bit of the faux public trust luster that sports leagues and teams use to manipulate their fans is a good thing. Maybe it’ll make, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers look less venerable and sharp. But maybe it’ll remind people that they’re just business units of a $10 billion industry, not some fourth branch of government or whatever.