Over at Pro Basketball Talk Dan Feldman talks about the NBA’s decision to start allowing advertisements on jerseys. It’s a pilot-program and will only allow for a shoulder patch for the first two years, but it’s the camel’s nose under the tent. There will be more eventually. And people will get used to it. People have gotten used to copious amounts of advertising in sports, from sponsored arenas, sponsored courts and fields, sponsored time outs, sponsored touchdowns, goals and grand slams. In soccer and on special occasions in other sports there is already a ton of advertising. NASCAR has made sponsorship an essential part of its sport as has soccer.
It would be my preference not to see baseball uniforms go this route as I think they’re aesthetically pleasing parts of the game in and of themselves. But it’s inevitable. If there is a chance for leagues and sponsors to make money and if it doesn’t cause them to lose fans (i.e. lose money) they will take it. You can say you’ll give up baseball if they put Coca-Cola ads on the sleeves, but you’re lying to yourself about that. You and I will complain and grumble and then we’ll get used to it. At some point, after a couple of years, we’ll start talking about which ads look better and which ones look worse and applaud particularly savvy and pleasing looking logos.
In some ways it’ll be clarifying, even if it’s annoying. Sports teams have had it both ways for a long time. They’ve worked to make a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down all the while pretending to be something greater than any other business. They play on our nostalgia and our loyalty in order to portray themselves as something akin to a public trust or institution, entitling themselves to perks no other businesses get and the avoidance of regulation. By turning players into walking billboards, perhaps the four major North American sports will inadvertently make some folks realize that they are just businesses and that they aren’t deserving of such special treatment.
In the meantime, I’d still watch baseball. The game wouldn’t change. I’d consume it just like I watch Marvel movies, drink Kentucky bourbon and drive a Subaru. With a certain loyalty earned by a product that I have enjoyed and which has made it worth my while, but a product not entitled to some sort of special treatment or status from me beyond the enjoyment it provides.
Jason Groome, a New Jersey high school pitcher who is considered the odds-on favorite to be the top pick in this year’s draft, will not be pitching for his high school team for a while. He was ruled ineligible by the body which governs high school athletics in New Jersey for violating transfer rules.
Groome pitched last year at at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which is basically a boarding school for sports prospects. His family didn’t change permanent addresses, however, and he decided that he wanted to pitch this year back home with his high school friends rather than return to IMG. For these purposes, the governing board ruled that he hadn’t transferred the same way that a kid who simply moved did and thus he was required to sit out half the season. He didn’t do that, and now he’s ineligible and his records on the year have been erased, including a 19-strikeout, 90-pitch no-hitter he threw this past Monday. He can return once he has missed half of his team’s games.
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, it’s lame that a kid can’t play baseball. On the other hand, parents of elite athletes have to have some sort of check on them because, if given the chance, they would absolutely switch their kids from school to school each year if doing so maximized their kids’ athletic opportunities. Sports parents are pretty terrible when given the chance to be. It’s also worth noting that the main voice speaking up in the kids’ defense is an agent. There are a lot of interests behind Groome who aren’t involved here simply because a boy wants to play with his friends.
Ultimately this probably won’t matter a ton. Groome is six-foot, five inches, throws a 97 mph fastball and has a plus curveball. He was ranked as the No. 1 overall draft prospect last month by Baseball America. That shouldn’t change.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that Jim Leyland will manage the U.S. team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. His coaching staff will consist of his long-time associates and assistants: Jeff Jones, Marcel Lachemann, Lloyd McClendon, Willie Randolph, and Alan Trammell.
Leyland has been out of the managing game since the end of the 2013 season, but he has certainly kept a hand in the game. He scouts and does special assignments for the Tigers and can be seen at spring training and most of baseball’s major events. He’s definitely not checked out in retirement.
Leyland’s predecessors as U.S. team WBC managers are Buck Martinez (2006); Davey Johnson (2009); and Joe Torre (2013). The United States has never won the WBC. Japan won the first two finals, the Dominican Republic the most recent.