I saw these guys on last night’s broadcast. Hat tip to Ted Berg of USA Today for getting the screen cap:
We wouldn’t accept it if these guys showed up at a party in blackface. We wouldn’t cite “tradition” or “enthusiasm” and act as if it wasn’t racist for them to do so. If they wore blackface at a ballpark I am pretty confident that security would have them removed, for their safety among other reasons.
But to pull Indian redface in Cleveland? Hey, no worries. Go Tribe. Quit your complaining, Calcaterra. Indeed, I’m assuming that for even mentioning this I will be accused of being an overly-sensitive P.C. liberal who doesn’t understand that no one finds this offensive and, hey, my Native American father-in-law has no problem with it. If they decided not to go the ad hominem route they’d probably offer something like, “hey, he’s on the caps. So obviously it’s about team spirit, not racism. It’s just a cartoon character, so it’s not offensive.”
But of course it is offensive. And disgraceful. And as long as the Cleveland Indians continue to use Chief Wahoo as their mascot and primary logo, idiots like these three will believe that it is socially acceptable to do with Indians that which we would never tolerate if it was done with other races. They will be given the official cover to make specious arguments excusing their racist acts.
And of course, when you actually make yourself up like this the argument so many make — that it’s just a cartoon not meant to be a real person — is severely undermined. Here is that ugly cartoon caricature transformed into a human caricature. It’s no different — and in many ways worse — than these guys dressing up like one of the Indians from “F-Troop,” walking down the street and speaking in bad western movie Indian dialect.
I used to speculate that, based on what I saw as a decrease in the Indians’ use of Wahoo on alternate caps and at their spring training facility, that the team was gradually phasing Chief Wahoo out. I was contacted by the Indians last spring, however, and told that “there are absolutely no plans to phase out Chief Wahoo.” I would like to think that the fact that the team’s use of Wahoo is construed by some as license to engage in racist crap like this would make them reconsider that position. But I’m not holding my breath.
Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.
As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.
Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”
Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012. He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.
The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.