Kevin Kernan’s column at the New York Post today is a treat. It praises the Red Sox’ approach and basically says “the Yankees and Mets need to do what the Red Sox just did if they want to win the World Series.”
Which, yes, I will agree 100% that if the Yankees and Mets want to win the World Series they SHOULD do what the Sox just did: they should win four World Series games before their World Series opponents do. That’s really the only way to do it.
Kernan, of course, is not saying that. He’s saying that they should sign “the right players.” Players who care about championships. Players like Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. Not players like the Yankees signed who are just in it for the personal records and accolades. One he mentions by name is Kevin Youkilis. Let’s just forget that Kevin Youkilis has two World Series rings of his own. I’m sure he stopped caring about winning some time ago.
Kernan also says that RBIs is “the most important statistic” and that “spreadsheet baseball does not win championships.” Let’s just forget that the Red Sox front office is one of the most forward-thinking, sabermetrically-oriented front offices around. A front office that employs the man who literally coined the term “sabermetrics” in Bill James. I have no idea how significant James’ role is these days, but I would imagine that if a Red Sox employee said either of those things Kernan said every eyebrow in the office would raise.
Mostly, though, I love how certain Kernan is that “the Red Sox” approach is so easily replicable. He himself said back in February, when assessing the Sox’ prospects, that “Those 2004 and 2007 World Series titles seem so far away.” He didn’t know that Victorino and Gomes were “the right players” then. As such, to suggest that the Yankees or the Mets should have known better at the time is hindsight in the extreme.
All of the “do what the Red Sox” did analysis is. No one, except maybe the Red Sox themselves, thought they had put together a World Series team after last winter was over. They made signings that turned out better than most people expected them to be. They had good fortune as do all teams who win championships. It wasn’t a miracle season or even highly improbable as this was probably the best team on paper as the playoffs began. But nor was their 2013 season one that lends itself to blueprints and prescriptions of which teams like the Yankees and Mets should take notice.
Every teams’ situation is different. To look at the team that just had its victory parade two days ago and say “do it like THAT” is useless at best, and probably closer to the preposterous.
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.