Matt Harvey Naked

Matt Harvey has had a very educational day

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Here’s a fun little inside baseball media secret: players occasionally make themselves available for interviews in exchange for being allowed to talk about some marketing initiative or product they’re shilling or what have you.

It happens more than you might know. While, on some level, yes, you can view it as a quid pro quo, it’s a pretty harmless one usually. The player will sit and answer all of the questions you have for them and be a total pro about it. Then they’ll usually get a minute or two to talk about whatever it is they’re promoting. It’s not terribly different than an actor going on a late night talk show to talk about their new movie, an author talking about a book or what have you. Sure, it’s not as direct — we watch the actor because they’re actors so we expect them to talk about movies — but it’s still a matter of commerce. As long as everyone’s being up front about it and the people doing the interviews don’t become blatant shills themselves it doesn’t bother me.  And normally the athlete understands the competing needs and is good about being smooth about it all.

I did one of these with Matt Cain on HBT Extra a couple of years ago. It was an awful interview because Matt Cain wasn’t all that interesting and I wasn’t too good an interviewer, but I talked to him about baseball and he talked to me about some whatever the hell it was I can’t even remember and we all lived to fight another day.

Today Matt Harvey was making those rounds. While a lot of media outlets can and do ignore ballplayers on promotional interviews, Matt Harvey is in the news this week with his Tommy John-or-not-Tommy John decision, so he he was a much more tempting target. And one of the biggest names in the business had him on his show: Dan Patrick. The appearance did not go well, however, as Harvey actively resisted legitimate baseball questions and kept trying to steer things back to the product he was promoting in a rather hamfisted manner. It didn’t make him look that great:

Really, you can practically hear the publicist in his ear telling him to pitch the product.

Since that interview aired this morning Harvey has been raked over the coals.  Which normally would make me smirk a bit, but today made me nervous. For you see: I was scheduled to interview Harvey myself at 2:30pm. And I’m nowhere near as good as Dan Patrick at cutting through the baloney, so I feared it would be a train wreck. How could I sit there and let him not talk about baseball? How would I actually say the words “Tommy John” or “rehab” without having to deal with the kind of silliness he pulled on Patrick.

Ultimately it didn’t matter.  For one thing, Harvey apparently told that publicist to pound sand. While talking to Jim Rome later in the day he apologized for his behavior on the Patrick show. Then he took to Twitter to apologize as well:

Then: a technical glitch caused me to miss my interview window with Harvey, keeping me from asking him about how that Patrick thing went but also preventing some awkward transitions between his elbow and the stuff he was promoting. I will note that we could hear him talking to some other interviewer and he was talking about baseball and elbows and all of the things we really care about.

For what it’s worth, the thing he’s pitching is something to do with Qualcomm’s Fantasking initiative, which does, I dunno, something, to encourage fans to watch games while using their smart phones and tablets and generally being ultra-plugged in all the time.

Given how swiftly and adeptly fans took to digital platforms to excoriate Harvey for his blatant shilling on the Patrick show this morning, however, I feel like there isn’t much need to encourage fans to mutlitask when it comes to watching Matt Harvey. They’re fiercely good at it already.

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

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Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.