The St. Louis Cardinals play about 10 miles down Interstate 70 from where an unarmed black teenager named Mike Brown was shot and killed in broad daylight last Saturday by a white member of the Ferguson Police Department. Brown was wearing a red Cardinals hat on that fateful day and the protests and riots that have followed have been littered with people of all races wearing Cardinals gear. You may have heard that St. Louis likes its baseball team.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was asked before Sunday’s series finale against the visiting Padres whether he’s been following the story, which has dominated the national news cycle for the past week.
Matheny’s response, via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch …
“The whole country is,” Matheny said. “It’s a sad situation. It’s a tough situation for our city and hopefully all the voices that are trying to get this resolved get this resolved quickly.”
“I think baseball, not just in St. Louis but in our country, has always served very well in that regard, whether it’s 9-11, I think baseball was a great focal point. … This is a great city with a lot of great people.”
I grew up in St. Louis and am writing this post from my apartment downtown, but I can’t come up with any special insight to offer. This city has deep racial issues that date back hundreds of years. It’s all very layered and sad and embarrassing, and unfortunately a resolution in this case probably won’t come quickly at all.
If you want to follow what’s happening on the ground in Ferguson you can’t do better than @AntonioFrench.
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.