The ceremonial first pitch has, allegedly, been sullied

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Today in the New York Times, let’s play “spot the traditions that never were”

In a sport that clings to its traditions — from managers wearing uniforms to the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch — one time-honored feature at the ballpark has taken an absurd turn, at least for the game’s purists: the ceremonial first pitch. For decades, the honor was extended only a few times a season to a rarefied group that included presidents, mayors and military veterans. These days, it is regarded as a marketing opportunity, a sweetener in sponsorship deals between baseball teams and groups that want a piece of the spotlight.

The real tradition in baseball is managers wearing suits, ties, starched collars and bowler hats and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has largely been diminished by the “Sweet Carolines” and “God Bless Americas” of the world. Why should the first pitch, then, be so sacrosanct?

And I dunno, maybe I just go to different ballparks than the Times writers do, but ever since I can remember there have been first pitches — often multiple first pitches — by boy scout troops, Grand Poobahs of various lodges and no small amount of car dealers who later use a still shot from the game to PITCH you the best deals. GET IT?!

Maybe, on the whole this is a newer thing. Given that 85% of the people in the ballpark are still trying to buy beer and find their seats when the first pitch comes — and given that on either side of the first pitch are promotional announcements and bad pop music — I’m having a hard time getting worked up about this so-called sacred tradition being sullied.

Justin Verlander earns 200th career win

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Astros starter Justin Verlander wasn’t his usual dominant self on Sunday against the Athletics, but he was good enough to get the win. In doing so, he earned the 200th win of his career, becoming the 117th member of the 200-win club.

Verlander went 5 1/3 innings, yielding four runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts. On the season, Verlander is now 12-8 with a 2.65 ERA and a 223/29 K/BB ratio in 169 2/3 innings. Sunday’s win helped the Astros stave off the surging A’s. The Astros now have a one-game lead in the AL West.

Only two active pitchers have more wins than Verlander: Bartolo Colon (247) and CC Sabathia (244). Zack Greinke will likely be the next member of the 200-win club as he currently has 184 to his name.