The Indians are more popular than the Reds in Ohio

54 Comments

I’m sure this doesn’t matter to most of you, but people ask me about it all the time. First, the numbers:

According to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, a total of 49 percent of Ohio adults say they are “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in Major League Baseball.

Among those fans, 42 percent say the Cleveland Indians are their favorite team, while 34 percent cheer for the Cincinnati Reds, with 4 percent for the Pittsburgh Pirates and 3 percent each for the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

Tigers and Pirates make sense because large parts of Ohio border western Pennsylvania and Michigan. Yankees and Red Sox make sense because most people are sheep/front-runners by nature.

Which also, I feel anyway, has a bit to do with the Indians besting the Reds in the poll. I realize that the Reds have been good a lot lately and the Indians come and go as contenders, but those 1990s Indians teams that won two pennants loom pretty large here.

Before the mid-90s (back when I was in college here) it seemed like the state skewed pretty strongly in favor of the Reds, with the Big Red Machine and the 1990 World Series team solidifying support. For example, when you drove around the state back then, convenience stores and bars and things outside of the Cleveland area were more likely to have Reds schedules and memorabilia on the walls. These days you see more Tribe things. That all changed during the Mike Hargrove/Jim Hart era and has basically stuck. Columbus, where I live, is split pretty much in two between Reds and Indians fans. The center point was clearly with the Reds in the early 90s. By the time I came back here after law school in 1998, the bubble had moved sharply in the Indians’ favor.

I figure this will hold unless and until the Reds go back to the World Series.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
24 Comments

We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.