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Survey says: Yankees still the most hated in baseball

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FiveThirtyEight commissioned a survey through SurveyMonkey, polling 989 self-described baseball fans about their baseball fandom. They were asked which teams were their favorites both overall and by census region, which teams they found favorable among 10 randomly assigned teams, and which teams were their least favorite.

The good news for Yankees fans: the Yankees had the highest share of respondents who selected them as their favorite team. They came in at 10 percent, followed by the Red Sox, Cubs, and Braves at eight percent. The Yankees (28 percent) and Red Sox (23 percent) also made up more than half of the favorites in the northeast census region. The Yankees were third in the south (nine percent), 10th in the midwest (three percent), and sixth in the west (six percent).

The Yankees, however, were the only team with a higher unfavorable rating than favorable. 44 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the Yankees while 48 percent were unfavorable. The Phillies were next at 33 percent favorable and 29 percent unfavorable. The Yankees’ unfavorable rating was by far the highest; the Mets came in second at 35 percent.

A whopping 27 percent of respondents selected the Yankees as their most hated team. The Red Sox came in second at 10 percent followed by the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks (what?) at five percent. The Yankees were also selected as the most hated team in all four census regions: 34 percent in the northeast, 25 percent in the south, 28 percent in the midwest, and 26 percent in the west.

There has been some thought that the Derek Jeter-less Yankees, replete with up-and-coming players like Aaron Judge, may actually be likable. But this survey shows that, at least right now, they’re still the bane of many baseball fans’ existence.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.