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Indians owner: Timeline for eliminating Chief Wahoo has accelerated

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Earlier this year Major League Baseball changed its stance on the Indians logo, Chief Wahoo, shifting from a position in which it merely acknowledged that some people find Wahoo offensive to having a clear desire for the Indians to chuck it. In the wake of Rob Manfred and the league voicing its opinion on Wahoo, team owner Paul Dolan acknowledged that Wahoo would likely be gone “within a couple of years.” It was not a decision Dolan said he was pleased about, just one that he felt that was inevitable due to league pressure.

Dolan continues to not be pleased about it, and continues to note that it’s the league, and not the club, moving this. Indeed, he says that the team and the league are in disagreement about it. At the same time, however, he appears to have revealed that the timetable for getting rid of Chief Wahoo has accelerated. From Ohio.com:

Dolan, speaking to 1590 WAKR’s Ray Horner as part of their speaker series at St. George Fellowship Centre in Fairlawn, indicated that the Indians and the commissioner’s office continue to work down the path of finding a “middle ground” regarding the usage of Chief Wahoo.

According to Dolan, they have not yet found it, but it won’t be long.

“We’re not exactly aligned on its future,” Dolan said. “But we will come to some understanding some time relatively soon, meaning before the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”

Deadspin and other outlets passed along these comments yesterday, mostly with the angle that the team is resisting MLB’s plans for Wahoo and searching for a “middle ground.” That may be true, but it seems more to me like this is an epic game of good cop, bad cop, with the league willing to be the heavy while the club takes whatever opportunities it can to appear to be fighting it in order to keep from alienating fans. Which may, in fact, be the team’s actual sentiment on the logo. But the key takeaway here, I feel, is that the timetable for moving Wahoo just leaped forward a year, from “a couple of years” just this past spring to “the start of the 2018 season and maybe sooner than that.”

I can’t help but think that this is being orchestrated on some level. If so, it’s pretty deft orchestration, with the club being allowed to remain the good guys and, perhaps, depending on what “middle ground” means, being allowed to continue to sell merch with Wahoo on it to Wahoo-loving fans, with the added sheen of rebellion or underground cred to it.

Which is not the worst thing in the world. Sure, ideally, the team would cease any and all associations with Wahoo. Realistically speaking, however, people were going to continue to wear their old Wahoo stuff once it was eliminated as an official logo and bootleg manufacturers were bound to step in to fill the demand. It was never going to be possible to scrub Wahoo’s existence from the face of the Earth. The key goal is for a racist caricature to no longer be an official mark of a Major League Baseball team. Particularly for it to no longer appear on the team’s uniforms and marketing and promotional materials.

Reading between the lines in Dolan’s comments, that’s happening faster than first expected.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

Watch:

Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.