Baseball is taking off in China

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Slowly, of course. But MLB’s China initiative, which began with Leon Xie, two assistants and one office, is starting to take off.  As Tony Dokoupil writes in Newsweek, one of the reasons for it is an unexpected but, upon reflection, quite reasonable relationship between baseball and Confucianism:

Four years later, as another Major League Baseball season is scored into existence, Xie is packaging the game as a Confucian pastime with modern relevance, a quintessentially Chinese sport …“I mean, talk about Confucianism,” says Jim Small, the director of Major League Baseball for all of Asia, and Xie’s boss, rattling off parallels between China’s ethical philosophy and the American game that inspired nickel-beer night and dugout-dancing mascots. “There’s no clock, you sacrifice yourself for the team, everything is in threes …”

I’m not gonna bet the farm that Jim Small is much of an expert in Confucianism, but I’ll at least go along with the idea that there is some Li — baseball is all about rituals and culture of a certain sort — and filial piety, broadly defined, caught up in the general baseball zeitgeist. At least if you squint a little bit.

What I won’t buy, for reasons that Dokoupil explains in the story, is China becoming a baseball power or producing major leaguers any time soon. But the game seems to be making inroads there. Given the size of the population, and the fact that Chinese athletes have become world class in just about every athletic event that country has committed to in some serious way, it’s only a matter of time before things change.

Félix Hernández passes Don Drysdale on all-time strikeouts leaderboard

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Mariners starter Félix Hernández pitched well enough for a win on Wednesday afternoon, but Padres starter Chris Paddack was just a little bit better. Hernández allowed one run on three hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in the Mariners’ 1-0 loss. Paddack tossed seven scoreless innings on one hit and one walk with nine strikeouts.

With eight strikeouts on the day, Hernández passed Don Drysdale to move into 36th place on Major League Baseball’s all-time strikeouts leaderboard at 2,488. Max Scherzer currently sits in 35th place at 2,493. Christy Mathewson is Hernández’s next target at 2,507.

On the season, Hernández is now 1-2 with a 3.91 ERA and a 21/3 K/BB ratio across 25 1/3 innings. The 33-year-old had a rough 2017 and ’18, but the first-place Mariners are hoping he has something left in the tank. Hernández is earning $27 million this season and can become a free agent after the season.