Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Landon Donovan talks about making baseball fans as passionate as soccer fans


U.S. soccer great Landon Donovan was on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM with Mike Ferrin and Jim Bowden today. Donovan is a big, big baseball fan. A Dodgers guy to be precise. Mike and Jim talked to him about how soccer does well engaging with young fans and keeping them interested and what baseball can learn from it.

Donovan had a couple of good insights. First, he noted the difference inherent in baseball and soccer fans, and that’s that baseball fans are more casual, at least until the playoffs, where soccer has a smaller fan base but a more “crazy and passionate” group. You could probably say the same about hockey fans too. I think a lot of it has to do with the number of games and meaning of each game. If baseball had 40-80 games I imagine it’d pare things down to a smaller, harder core as well. It’s hard to maintain that super fan level of intensity for 162 games over six months.

Ferrin asked Donovan about how baseball can get younger and more passionate fans the way soccer has. Donovan said that it’s about capturing short attention spans and highlighting the short bursts of excitement. Oftentimes people say baseball is doomed in this regard in that it’s an inherently slow game. Interestingly, though, Donovan noted that soccer, like baseball, is often accused of being boring and slow — he cited 0-0 games — but noted that at the stadium there is always something going on, be it chanting or cheering, which is often an organized activity. You see this in Asian baseball as well. In only the smallest of pockets of baseball stadiums do you ever see such things, and it usually only lasts an inning or two. In San Francisco last week I noticed some visiting A’s fans at AT&T Park doing organized cheers. The Yankees and Mets have a bit of this, but they don’t exactly capture the whole stadium.

They all noted how smart phones, iPads and similar devices are a near constant fact of young people’s lives as well, and talked about how better integrating those things into the in-stadium experience would help.

Interesting perspective from a knowledgable outsider. Listen:

Shockingly, Donald Trump has polarized major league clubhouses


Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today has a story today about how Donald Trump is playing among major league baseball players. You’d be surprised to hear that it’s a sharply mixed bag.

Ortiz notes that Major League Baseball has made strong overtures to Mexico and that over 27% of its players are from outside of the United States, with even more being American born players with family roots in Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. Trump’s strident anti-immigration sentiments and promise to build a wall on the border — and all of the rhetorical, political and emotional baggage that comes with that — obviously causes concern for many of these players and, in all likelihood, for Major League Baseball. The voice it to him in the story.

Ortiz notes, however, that baseball players from the United States are mostly white, rich and come largely from suburban or rural places, all of which are factors that lead to a person holding more conservative opinions. He quotes some white American players who aren’t fans of Trump, but they note that there is definitely more talk of politics in the clubhouse this year than in election years past.

Ortiz talks to one player who is a Trump supporter. Ryan Madson, who says foreign-born ballplayers have nothing to fear:

“I don’t think he’s worried about any Cuban players or any Mexican players,’’ Madson said of Trump. “Like he’s said, he has many Mexican Americans working for him, high up in his company.’’

Madson, who hails from Southern California, believes the idea behind the wall is to keep away terrorists – not necessarily from Mexico – who might try to infiltrate the U.S. through its southern border.

“I think the media has spun it in a way to make him look like he’s anti-immigrant, so I think it’s more their fault and how they’ve made him look than what he’s trying to do,’’ Madson said. “I don’t think he’s doing it in a way to be a Zionist. He’s not trying to seal us off from the world. He’s trying to just slow down or stop as much as he can what’s been happening here in America with the terrorists.’’

How Madson or anyone else can listen to everything Trump has said since announcing his candidacy last year about his wall and everything else and think that it’s a national security thing rather than an anti-immigration thing is beyond me. The man has not exactly hidden what he stands for in this area and poll after poll of his supporters show that Trump’s immigration proposals, especially the wall, are what move the needle for him. Madson talks about spin, but it sounds like he’s spun himself up in a pretty dramatic way in order to rationalize the whole wall thing.

Anyway, next story: ballplayers’ views on Hillary Clinton. That’d probably be a lot of fun.


Bartolo Colon replaces Madison Bumgarner on the All-Star team


Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon was named to the NL All-Star roster today as a replacement for San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who is scheduled to start for the Giants on Sunday and thus won’t be available to pitch Tuesday.

Colon, 43, is 7-4 on the season with a 3.28 ERA over 18 games, 17 of which were starts. He has allowed 17 walks and struck out 65 souls in 98.2 innings pitched. This is his fourth time as an All-Star, making the Midsummer Classic three times while in the AL.

Viva old men.