Omar Infante stuns Braves with walkoff blast, wild card lead down to 2 1/2 games

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The National League Wild Card race just got, well, pretty wild.

Craig Kimbrel had the Marlins down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth inning tonight, but the rookie closer served up a walkoff two-run home run to former Brave Omar Infante en route to a stunning 6-5 loss. The home run followed a single by Emilio Bonifacio which was originally ruled as an error on Chipper Jones.

Kimbrel has allowed home runs in consecutive appearances after giving up just one over his first 75 games. Perhaps this is just something fluky, but one wonders if his heavy workload is finally catching up to him.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals survived a ninth inning rally to beat the Phillies 4-3. Kyle Lohse allowed an unearned run over 7 1/3 innings in the victory, besting Roy Halladay.

Following tonight’s action, the Braves hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals in the Wild Card race. It’s actually two games if you count the loss column. And don’t forget about the suddenly hot Giants, who are 3 1/2 back. The Braves have eight games remaining while the Cardinals and Giants will play nine apiece.

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.