Should phone companies sponsor the bullpen phones?

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Did you know that the Chinese word for “crisis” is the same as that for “opportunity.”  Ha! Just kidding! That’s not true at all!  But it makes people feel better, so why not let ’em go with it?  And besides, it’s not like there isn’t some truth to it. When bad things happen it gives you an opportunity — hell, sometimes an engraved invitation — to reflect and see if things could be done a better way.

Or at least a more lucrative way.  CNBC’s Darren Rovell is good at thinking along those lines and thinks out loud today about how Tony La Russa’s ill bullpen phone communication could be spun into an opportunity for Major League Baseball and some lucky sponsor:

Major League Baseball has 16 official sponsors, and surprise, surprise, not one of them has anything to do with phones … Imagine LaRussa picking up a smart phone with a huge logo on it or going into a booth built in each dugout with the company’s logo on it to text on it. As part of the deal, that company would get a media buy included that would assure that the TV networks would show the managers making the call.

Always look on the green side of life, I suppose.  But I do wonder: what happens if last night’s event took place — a bullpen coach misunderstands the manager’s instructions — but this time there’s a giant “Verizon” or “Sprint” logo on the side? Isn’t that, you know, bad marketing?  I don’t think phone companies run negative ads against each other anymore, but if they did, a dropped call or garbled communication would basically write one itself.

I floated the idea on Twitter earlier and people told me that no one blinks when the headsets — sponsor-supplied equipment! — go down during NFL games, so maybe I’m just being paranoid.  Or maybe I’m just looking for any excuse to avoid having commercialism and corporate sponsorship intrude any further into the game than it already has.

Athletics tie for first place in AL West

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The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.

Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.

The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.