Jayson Stark wrote a column not long ago asking readers to tell him who they think the “Face of Baseball” is. Today he has results of it, and the winner — with a plurality of the votes — is Alex Rodriguez. But there’s some interesting fine print to be read on that:
Only 17 percent of fans who lived within 20 miles of a major league stadium picked A-Rod as their Face, compared to 25 percent of those who lived more than 100 miles away … But when we split the survey group into self-described “avid” fans versus “casual” fans, we found that casual fans who lived more than 20 miles from a big league stadium were more than twice as likely (30 percent) to choose A-Rod as their Face than avid fans who lived within 20 miles (15 percent).
And the survey, Stark notes, took place just before A-Rod made his return and was in the news all the time due to the Biogenesis stuff.
I realize that it’s not terribly scientific, but all of this flows pretty nicely with my hypothesis from yesterday which holds that A-Rod is not bigger than the game. He’s a headline and a face among those who don’t follow the game too closely. He leads non-sports news stories for non-sports reasons, just as a lot of off-the-field garbage is likely to seep into mainstream news. Put him back on the field, though, and he is comparatively diminished. Put him in front of hardcore baseball fans and they are quite adept at putting him in the proper perspective.
A-Rod is only a monster when he has time and space to be made into one. And when he is presented to (or by) people who are more interested int he soap opera elements of it all than the baseball elements of it all.
Didi Gregorius will wear a mask during games this year. That’s what the Phillies infielder tells the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“We are trying to go through the guidelines and trying to do everything we can do to stay safe, so, that’s why people see me walking around with a mask on and stuff. I am keeping myself safe, wearing a mask everywhere I go. So, I have to keep it on me all the time.”
Gregorius will wear a mask both while batting and out in the field, he said.
A big reason for it is that he has a chronic kidney condition which makes him “high risk” under Major League Baseball’s safety protocols. He could opt out if he wanted to but Gregorius, who signed a $14 million deal with the Phillies last winter, is a free agent again this coming offseason. He is coming off of a down year in 2019, having hit .238/.276/.441 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI across 344 plate appearances. Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and didn’t make his 2019 season debut until June 7. A big reason he took a one-year deal was to reestablish his value for next season’s go-around on the free agent market and he doesn’t want the long layoff going into what could be his last significant payday.
Major League Baseball is not requiring players or umpires to wear masks on the field during games or practices, though it is reportedly looking into clear face shields for home plate umpires to wear under their usual protective masks.
Gregorius will wear a mask to keep himself safe, he said, but he also notes in the article that “I think it adds safety for everybody, for me and people around me.” Here’s hoping, given his vulnerability, everyone around him is being as safe as he is.