I’m sure this doesn’t matter to most of you, but people ask me about it all the time. First, the numbers:
According to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, a total of 49 percent of Ohio adults say they are “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in Major League Baseball.
Among those fans, 42 percent say the Cleveland Indians are their favorite team, while 34 percent cheer for the Cincinnati Reds, with 4 percent for the Pittsburgh Pirates and 3 percent each for the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.
Tigers and Pirates make sense because large parts of Ohio border western Pennsylvania and Michigan. Yankees and Red Sox make sense because most people are sheep/front-runners by nature.
Which also, I feel anyway, has a bit to do with the Indians besting the Reds in the poll. I realize that the Reds have been good a lot lately and the Indians come and go as contenders, but those 1990s Indians teams that won two pennants loom pretty large here.
Before the mid-90s (back when I was in college here) it seemed like the state skewed pretty strongly in favor of the Reds, with the Big Red Machine and the 1990 World Series team solidifying support. For example, when you drove around the state back then, convenience stores and bars and things outside of the Cleveland area were more likely to have Reds schedules and memorabilia on the walls. These days you see more Tribe things. That all changed during the Mike Hargrove/Jim Hart era and has basically stuck. Columbus, where I live, is split pretty much in two between Reds and Indians fans. The center point was clearly with the Reds in the early 90s. By the time I came back here after law school in 1998, the bubble had moved sharply in the Indians’ favor.
I figure this will hold unless and until the Reds go back to the World Series.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.