There’s a company called Shelf Life Clothing which makes T-shirts mocking the Chief Wahoo logo, changing the caricature to a white person with blond hair and writing “Caucasians” in the Cleveland Indians script. These shirts have been around a long time — I wrote about them at my old Shysterball blog back in 2007 — but they’ve recently made the news again.
Back in June, the DJ for a Canadian group consisting of three Ojibwa Indians called A Tribe Called Red wore the shirt in some publicity photos and it led to a bit of a dustup in which people called him racist. Which is a special kind of unhinged — calling the guy wearing the shirt which critiques and satirizes racism racist — but I’ve learned to never be surprised when it comes to this stuff anymore. The dustup has died down, but the effect of it has been fun:
A hot fashion item this summer on Ontario First Nations’ reserves is a T-shirt with the lettering “Caucasians” and the grinning logo of Chief Wahoo, the much-derided mascot of the Cleveland Indians major league baseball team . . . T-shirt maker Brian Kirby of Shelf Life Clothing in Cleveland said the “Caucasians” shirt has been his most popular seller since he began making them in 2007, but interest “skyrocketed” after the Deejay NDN controversy, especially after the story hit Reddit and Facebook.
“We have had over 3,000 shares on posts about the tee in the last month, and have been working around the clock to keep up,” Kirby said.
That’s unexpected. Because I’ve been told by so many people that, in reality, no one cares about Chief Wahoo, most Indians feel “honored” by their images and iconography being appropriated by sports teams and that the politics of race and sports mascots is purely a function of liberal white guilt and pinkos like me wishing to push our agenda.
Hmm. Guess not.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.