Getty Images

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 19: Chief Wahoo’s last hurrah

30 Comments

We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

After years of pressure from indigenous groups, fans and the media, it was announced in January  that the Cleveland Indians — at the behest of Major League Baseball — would cease wearing Chief Wahoo on their uniforms and displaying him in the ballpark beginning in 2019.  

It was a welcome move, but make no mistake, it was motivated by money, not by principle.

One bit of evidence for that was that the club was allowed to continue to wear the logo in 2018 rather than cease wearing it immediately. There was really no practical reason why the Indians couldn’t have made the change for 2018. Clubs roll out playoff and World Series merchandise on a moment’s notice. The 1970 Milwaukee Brewers weren’t even IN Milwaukee or CALLED the Brewers until seven days before Opening Day and they got their block-M caps and “Brewers” jerseys made in time. The Indians new uniform changes announced for 2019 show minimal difference from their Wahoo versions. The changes could’ve been made before the first spring training game if they had wanted to. They just didn’t want to, likely to goose final year sales of Wahoo merchandise.

Likewise, the club will continue to sell Wahoo merchandise to fans indefinitely. If getting rid of Wahoo was “the right thing to do,” as the league and the club said at the time the change was announced, he would be totally eliminated, not allowed a season’s farewell tour and continued financial viability. There are some who say that the Indians have to sell Wahoo merchandise to keep their intellectual property rights over him, but if the club and the league thought he was truly inappropriate — as opposed to just unpopular and a bad look — they’d have no problem with it. Why profit off of racism? The answer is that the Indians are agnostic enough about what Wahoo means in an ethical sense but are not gonna let anyone else make a buck off of him as long as they might be able to.

Oh, and then there’s this:

No one has ever confirmed that Wahoo was the price for the Indians getting the All-Star Game, bit it’s a pretty plausible story.

In the end, though, I suppose all that matters is that Wahoo is gone. It took long enough and it may have been a case of the right thing being done for the wrong reasons, but at least the right thing was done.

Phillies-Mets could get contentious tonight

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

As the Mets were wrapping up a 9-0 shellacking of the Phillies on Tuesday night, reliever Jacob Rhame threw a pitch up and in to first baseman Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning. The pitch sailed behind Hoskins’ back. The slugger wasn’t happy about the scare, understandably. Players began to trickle out of their respective dugouts, but a fracas was avoided.

Hoskins was skeptical that Rhame simply missed his spot. Per MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, Hoskins said, “He didn’t miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I’ll let you decide. I would assume teams are pitching me in because that’s where they think they can get me out, and that’s fine. That’s part of the game. Again, I think most guys are capable of pitching inside and not missing that bad.”

Teammate Bryce Harper said, “I don’t get it. I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it’s baseball and you’re going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the [butt]. Not in the head. You throw 98, it’s scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That’s bigger than the game.”

Indeed, two Mets were hit by pitches on Monday night. José Álvarez hit Jeff McNeil in the seventh inning, which advanced a base runner. In the very next at-bat, Juan Nicasio hit Pete Alonso with a first-pitch fastball. It was obvious neither was intentional as the Phillies were only down two runs and hitting both batters advanced base runners and led to runs scoring. It is less obvious that Rhame’s pitch to Hoskins was unintentional, but he showed empathy in his post-game comments. Rhame said, “When you accidentally sail one, it’s probably pretty scary. I’d get [angry], too.”

Will Wednesday night’s series finale be contentious? Despite being “fairly upset,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, “We do not retaliate, and we do not throw at anybody intentionally,” Jake Seiner of the Associated Press reports.

Mets manager Mickey Calloway didn’t give as straight an answer. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Calloway said, “I think at this point, you just go out there and beat people, and win. … For now, I don’t feel like anything has been intentional at us that has warranted anything from our side.” If that changes, however, Calloway said, “They’re going to have each other’s backs.”

Hopefully, neither side decides to take justice into their own hands. But, welcome to the NL East in 2019. The Mets lead the Phillies by one game, and the Braves and Nationals by 1.5 games. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out division fight all year long.