The Mariners are calling up an interesting young man

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Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times alerts us to something neat: the Mariners are going to call up and presumably play the first Italian-born player in nearly 50 years. And it’s not as if he were born at Aviano Air Base and came to the states when he was still in diapers, either. He’s totally Italian:

[Alex] Liddi, 23, will also be the first graduate of the MLB European Academy to play in the majors as well as the first Italian born and raised player to do it … Liddi stayed in his native city of San Remo and played amateur baseball in Italy until signed by Seattle at age 17.

Cue a bunch of obvious Italian stereotypes because most of us just can’t help ourselves.  And cue some not-so-obvious ones from people like me.

You see, my wife’s family is Italian. Like, really Italian with a whole branch of it including her much older half-sister having been born, raised and still living over there.  Which means I have a nephew named Marco over there who is not much younger than Liddi, and through a couple of meetings and a lot of silly interaction on Facebook I have been exposed to a fair amount of Italian youth culture. Which is simultaneously awesome, hilarious and frightening.

If Liddi is anything like that completely ridiculous nephew of mine and his dozens of completely ridiculous Italian friends, I would highly, highly recommend that the beat writers get near this guy in the clubhouse after games because he will NOT offer you the boilerplate “I just want to help the team win some games” rebop.  Rather, he’ll, like, dance and then name-check some weird European combination hip hop/death metal band and then show you inappropriate pictures of his friend’s girlfriend which — when you see them — you’ll wonder how in the hell his friend let him have a copy in the first place. And when you try to gently criticize him, everyone will yell at you for being insensitive to the impressionable young boy.

Or maybe I’m just working through some family issues right now.

Hall of Fame should do away with cap logos on plaques

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As mentioned earlier, Brandy Halladay, wife of the late pitcher Roy Halladay, says he will not wear a cap with the logo of either of the two teams he played for during his 16-year career. Instead, he will wear a generic baseball cap. Brandy said, “He was a Major League Baseball player and that’s how we want him to be remembered.”

In the time since this news was reported, Blue Jays and Phillies fans have been arguing with each other and the takes are flying. Take, for example, this article by Bob Ford on Philly.com. It’s titled, “Roy Halladay would have wanted his Hall of Fame plaque to have a Phillies hat.” In August 2016, Halladay was asked which team’s cap he would prefer to wear if he got into Cooperstown. Halladay said, “I’d go as a Blue Jay.” He continued, “I wanted to retire here, too, just because I felt like this is the bulk of my career.”

Brandy hasn’t said why her family has decided to have her late husband wear neither team’s logo on the cap in his plaque, but the territoriality displayed by each city’s fans might be part of the reasoning. Ultimately, I believe she made the right call and it shows why the Hall of Fame should do away with logos on plaques entirely.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 1936, a time when players spent an overwhelming majority of their careers — if not their entire careers — with one team. Take, for example, the class of five inducted in the Hall’s inaugural year: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. Cobb played for the Tigers for 22 of his 24 seasons. Wagner spent 18 of his 21 seasons with the Pirates. Mathewson pitched for the Giants in 16 and a half of his 17 seasons. Johnson spent all 21 years with the Senators. Ruth was famously sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees and he still spent 15 of his 22 seasons in New York. There were rarely debates about which cap a Hall of Famer should wear in his plaque.

It is increasingly rare for a player nowadays to stick with one team for most or all of his career due to the advent of free agency and the frequency of trades. Hall of Fame candidate Curt Schilling, for example, pitched for five teams and the team he spent the most time with — the Phillies — is arguably No. 3 on the list of cap priorities behind the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. Fellow Hall candidate Manny Ramírez spent equal time with the Indians and Red Sox and also had three really good seasons with the Dodgers. Whenever a player who spent significant time with multiple teams is inducted into the Hall of Fame, the “which cap will he wear?” conversation comes up and inevitably pits fans of one team against the others. That’s not what the Hall of Fame should be about; it should be about celebrating the storied careers and the types of men these players are or were, no matter which team or how many teams he pitched for.

When you get to the core of it, the logo on the cap is just an advertisement, anyway. The Phillies and Blue Jays are businesses. Our human nature as fans — our territoriality, our loyalty, our sense of belonging — causes us to want to claim the superiority of one business and its associated laundry over another. Most of the time, this doesn’t seem out of place, but Halladay is a unique case as he made significant contributions to two franchises and was voted in posthumously, so he can’t speak for himself (he did in 2016, as mentioned). Brandy shouldn’t have to worry about upsetting one fan base or another picking a logo for her late husband, and she shouldn’t have to be second-guessed by fans who feel spurned. The Hall of Fame should follow Brandy’s lead and, going forward, induct all of its players without cap logos on their plaques.