Just read a column by Bob Greene over at CNN.com which itself launches off Richard Sandomir’s article from last week about “drop-in” ads during radio broadcasts of baseball games. Those are the little plugs you hear meshed into the game action such as “with that RBI double the Orioles have scored the First Financial First Run of the Game” or “and now here’s Terry Collins with the Samsung Galaxy call to the bullpen.” There are a gabillion of those. Mostly radio, but increasingly on TV too.
Sandomir’s article counts them and notes that their use is expanding. Greene neither approves nor condemns, using them as a larger point about how we’re living in a commercialized world so this sort of thing is inevitable. They’re both right about the points they make. There isn’t mention of the fact, however, that while drop-ins are ubiquitous, they aren’t new or really different than that which we heard even in the alleged Golden Age of Baseball.
Mel Allen used to do drop-in ads for Yankees sponsor Ballantine Beer, coining the term “Ballantine Blast.” As in “Mantle drives one to right … it’s gone! There goes another Ballantine Blast! How about that!” At other times the Yankees were sponsored by Getty Oil. The announcers would refer to homers as “Getty Goners.” Obviously that didn’t happen 60 times a game but it did happen during what were often the game’s highlights. What we’re seeing now is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind.
And to be honest: I sorta don’t hate the drop-ins. I actually kind of like them on some narrow level in that it reminds you that you’re listening to a local broadcast. National games and even a lot of local TV games have gotten so slick with standardized national commercials and advertisers. Bud and Pepsi and big movies and everything else are all over the place. But if you listen to a radio broadcast you hear ads for muffler shops and local restaurant chains and other weird things unique to an area (and in my case foreign to me as I listen to a lot of out-of-town radio broadcasts).
I like hearing those ads for the same reason I like driving on older highways instead of interstates: it’s a small part of America that, for now anyway, is resisting the standardization that is so prevalent. It’s not “pure” or fantastic or anything — it’s still just an ad, or a motel or diner or what have you — but there was a time when you could travel in this country either literally or virtually and be exposed to weird stuff you don’t see in your town. The digital age and national advertising initiatives are helping erase that weird stuff the same way the interstate highway system has erased the apparent differences in communities. And that’s kind of a bummer.
So let’s hear it for weird brands of local sodas — if there are any left — sponsoring a stolen base. Or some local insurance agent with a surname that is common in Minneapolis but weird elsewhere sponsoring that collision on the basepaths. They’re not as good as some old highway through that forgotten town, but they’re the closest things we have to that in baseball.
Oh, and for no reason:
In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.
Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.
In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.
In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.
Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.
Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.
“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”
Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.
It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.