Craig Calcaterra

Paul Sancya -- Associated Press

HBT Extra: Talkin’ about the National League West


Jenna and I discuss whether the Giants are still a World Series team and talk about which team in the NL West is “frisky.”

Justin Verlander could start the season on the disabled list

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander came out of a start the other day with what he called a cramp in his arm. Since then he has downplayed it considerably, saying it’s not a big deal. I wonder if it’s getting bigger:

There is still a chance he could pitch in a minor league game on Friday. If he does and if that goes well he’ll stay on schedule to start the season. But for now, you have to wonder if this is more serious than Verlander is letting on.

Baseball is working to get Spanish-speaking interpreters for every team

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 12.08.20 PM

We’ve talked in the past about how most if not all Japanese players tend to have dedicated interpreters when they play in the United States but Spanish-speaking players don’t and are usually forced to either rely on teammates or team employees to step in at times. Or, more often, how Spanish speakers are simply expected to learn the language and try to work their way through interviews and the like.

As Billy Witz reports in the New York Times today, however, that may be about to change:

Major League Baseball has been working with the players’ union on an initiative this season to encourage every team to have a Spanish-speaking interpreter to help players communicate with the largely English-speaking news media in their native language.

This makes perfect sense. As I noted last year, ballplayers are often asked loaded questions from a press corps that is always looking for gaffes and controversies. It’s difficult enough for native English speakers to navigate that stuff, but the 22 percent of native Spanish speakers in the game certainly have a harder time with it.

In the past, the language barrier has often been used, subconsciously or otherwise, to imply that the player in question is not bright or not as engaged or thoughtful as his English-speaking counterparts. Or, in some cases which we still see to this day, the Spanish-speaking player is portrayed as separate from the rest of his teammates and somehow not as integral to the team’s success as the English speakers are. Not because of the baseball facts, but because the reporters simply can’t or don’t communicate with them and tell their stories.

Good for Major League Baseball and the union for working on this.

(Thanks to Jake for the heads up)

The Phillies will sell hard liquor at Citizens Bank Park this year

Phillies fans AP

Cue the “with this team, we’ll need it!” crowd:

Beer has been part of baseball forever.

But in a first this season, the Phillies and Aramark will sell cocktails and wine in the general concession areas at Citizens Bank Park. If you think that the idea of a “Phillies bar” is coming from somewhere out of left field – well, you’re correct. It will be located behind Section 142, expanding an existing beer bar.

Best thing about this year’s Phillies outfield to be honest.

We’ve gone several years since any incidents at Phillies games have made national news. Maybe, with more liquor in the mix, we can break that streak.

Every team and fan base thinks it’s “blue collar”

Blue collar

Dan McQuade of The Guardian looks at an overlooked cliche in the sports discourse: “blue collar.”

The team you root for is “blue collar.” The fans are “blue collar.” That makes them and you way better than all of them fancy-pants white collar teams and fans that dare to compete against the lunch bucket crew of your hometown. It’s even gotten to the point where “blue collar” fans are described as “taking their clients to games.” Which, um, what blue collar people have “clients?” The phrase has lost all meaning.

But so too has “small business” and “middle class” and any number of other descriptors which are designed to make people seem simple and humble when, in reality, we live in a society where actual blue collar workers have more or less been given the shaft for several decades running now. Indeed, poll the folks who can afford season tickets in most pro stadiums these days and you’ll probably find that a pretty large number of them love the idea of “blue collar” when it comes to sports but aren’t really fans of blue collar folks when it comes to deciding things that actually impact the lives of real blue collar workers.

But that’s sort of who we are as a people. Polls have shown that wealthy Americans tend to understate their incomes and their economic class (while overestimating the incomes and economic class of actual poor people). And those who are well off are quick, when identified as being well-off, to state their poor, working class bonafides. Or that of their parents. Or grandparents. There’s a strong tendency for folks to assume we’re all either workers or a step removed and that there truly isn’t increasingly stark social and economic inequality in the United States. Saying that you, as a sports fan, are blue collar or root for a bunch of blue collar players makes a person feel better I suppose.

But hey, we talk about sports as places where soldiers do battle and draw moral and ethical lessons from the acts and words of athletes too, so it’s not like this is the only instance in which sports fans are living in fantasyland.