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.
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.