The Indians jinxed Cliff Lee

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Some folks are wondering if the Indians’ own people had a hand in breaking up Cliff Lee’s no-hitter on Sunday night:

In the eighth inning Sunday night, Cliff Lee took the mound with a
no-hitter against St. Louis. While he was warming up, the Indians’
in-house announcer, appearing on the Progressive Field scoreboard,
asked a fan this trivia question: “Who was the last Indians pitcher to
throw a perfect game?”

The answer was Lenny Barker on May 15, 1981. The question was
scripted before the game to follow the team’s “turn back the clock”
promotion to the 1980s, but considering the circumstances, perhaps
another question should have been asked. Yadier Molina hit Lee’s first
pitch of the inning for a double into the right-field corner. Bye-bye
no-hitter.

There’s no outrage or anything, but Indians’ manager Eric Wedge and
pitching coach Carl Willis are quoted acknowledging the taboo against
talking about a no-hitter in progress and mildly lamenting the question
on the board.

I’m not a superstitious guy and I think most baseball superstitions
are pretty silly. My view: since there are very, very few no-hitters,
current practices must not be optimized. I suggest that we conduct a
double-blind test, ordering the non-pitchers from half of the teams to
bring up the fact of in-progress no-hitters during games, and the other
half to maintain the current no-talk system. After, say, two or three
years, we’ll have sufficient no-hitter data to know which approach is
more successful.

Maybe we can even get a grant to study such a thing.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.