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Mark Shapiro: Chief Wahoo “was troubling to me personally”

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Mark Shapiro ran the Cleveland Indians for years. Now he runs the Blue Jays. Upon the Jays’ trip to Cleveland for the ALCS, the topic of the Indians name and mascot, Chief Wahoo, came up. Shapiro says that he was troubled by Wahoo when he worked for Cleveland:

“The logo — Chief Wahoo — is one that was troubling to me personally,” he added. “So when I was an official spokesman for the Cleveland Indians, I distanced myself from the fact that it personally bothered me. But we as an organization with strong support from ownership came up with the ‘Block C’ that you’re wearing on your credentials right now. We built equity in the ‘Block C.’ . . . We gave that alternative for people and I think that we established that as an important logo and now the primary logo for the Cleveland Indians. And so I’m proud of that.

We’ve written for some time about how the Indians seemed to be making efforts to distance themselves from Wahoo in certain respects. It’s most evident at their spring training facility, which sits in a state which has a much larger Native American population than does Ohio. Administratively speaking, Major League Baseball considers the Block C the “primary” logo of the Indians, not Chief Wahoo.

But that’s fairly meaningless, of course. Because for all that they have done with the Block C logo — and for as much as they want to claim that Wahoo is their “secondary” logo — they continue to sell millions of dollars of merchandise with that ugly, racist symbol emblazoned upon it. Their Block C-centric alternate jerseys are used less and less than they were when first introduced in 2008.  Block C appears on placards at official MLB functions and in graphics packages at various places on MLB websites and broadcasts, but Wahoo is on every jersey their players wear, including the Block C alternates, and it appears on their most used caps and helmets. It’ll be all over national TV during the ALCS and the World Series if the Indians advance.

The Indians have always wanted to have their cake and eat it too, both when Shapiro ran the club and now. They want credit for making symbolic nods toward distancing themselves from what even their top officials agree is a troublesome symbol, but they want to continue to make money, to boost their brand and to foster fan loyalty via its continued use.

I suppose Shapiro feels better having publicly said that he doesn’t care for Chief Wahoo, but neither he nor those associated with the club today get points for “minimizing” Chief Wahoo while continuing to employ him liberally in any number of ways. As I’ve argued many, many times on this website, there is no reasonable case to be made that Chief Wahoo is anything but an ugly, racist caricature. If it “troubles” Indians executives, they have one choice: get rid of it entirely. Anything less than that renders their concern meaningless and empty.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.