The Cleveland Plain Dealer, for the first time, has published an editorial calling for the Indians to get rid of Chief Wahoo. After noting that the team didn’t bring the old neon Wahoo sign from Municipal Stadium 20 years ago, thus suggesting that even the team feels Wahoo is unacceptable to some degree, the paper calls for the Indians to go further:
Just as that giant graphic image was retired from the line-up, smaller ones should be, too. That includes Wahoo-adorned promotions at the ballpark and small Wahoo patches worn on some of the players’ hats and sleeves. A demeaning symbol is a demeaning symbol, regardless of degree.
And then, after addressing the fans’ attachment, notes that doing the right thing is necessary, even if it tramples on nostalgia:
The bottom line is that having Wahoo on the roster won’t provide the team with a right-handed power hitter, a shutdown closer or a third baseman who can hit. Wahoo contributes nothing to the performance of the Indians on the field, and makes the team seem hopelessly backward in the eyes of the world.
One day, the Indians will say goodbye to Wahoo. It’s inevitable. And it’s a little unsettling that it hasn’t happened by now. Why cling to Wahoo when it so clearly offends?
This, I feel, is significant. It’s one thing for random people like me to call for the end of Wahoo, but for the largest newspaper in the city and the state to come out with an official editorial and to plainly call it racist is something else.
The Indians, though they won’t admit it, are clearly diminishing Wahoo’s role in the team’s iconography. Here’s hoping this official disapprobation hastens the process.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.