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Manfred denies Cleveland got All-Star Game in exchange for axing Chief Wahoo

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Rob Manfred went on record saying that he hoped the Indians would get rid of Chief Wahoo in October 2016, during the World Series. In January 2017, Manfred met with Indians owner Larry Dolan for the specific purpose of discussing the matter of Chief Wahoo. At the conclusion of that meeting, Manfred announced that the Indians had been awarded the 2019 All-Star Game.

You don’t have to be a genius to assume that part of the deal for getting the All-Star Game was Dolan agreeing to phase out Wahoo then, right? I mean, this is how it was reported by Paul Hoynes at the time:

Commissioner Rob Manfred met with Indians owner Paul Dolan and minority owner John Sherman on Friday morning at Progressive Field to discuss the team’s Chief Wahoo logo.

After the meeting, Manfred announced that the Indians will host the 2019 All-Star Game.

Hoynes was at a press conference with Manfred this afternoon. This is what he wrote:

There has been a conspiracy theory dancing about since the Indians were awarded this year’s All-Star Game and dropped Chief Wahoo as their mascot . . . Commissioner Rob Manfred, a driving force behind the Indians dropping the Chief, said Tuesday afternoon that there was no link between the Indians getting the All-Star Game and dropping the Chief.

“Conspiracy theory?” You buyin’ that? I ain’t buyin’ that. I’m especially not buying that given Manfred’s comment during today’s presser:

“The All-Star Game was awarded to Cleveland by Commissioner (Bud) Selig before I even had one conversation about Chief Wahoo,” said Manfred, at his annual All-Star meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. “You can write that as fact.”

Selig retired in January 2015. Which suggests that Major League Baseball kept the Cleveland All-Star Game secret for over two years for . . . reasons? I dunno.

In the event, the Indians announced the phasing out of Wahoo in January 2018. That was, to be fair, a year after the All-Star Game was awarded. Er, I’m sorry, after it’s alleged Selig-era awarding was announced. That doesn’t make me think it was anything less than forced deal, though. The Indians had long been sensitive about the marketing and P.R. impact of phasing out Wahoo. It’s the only reason they kept him so long. It would not shock me at all if Manfred gave Dolan a year to announce it and another full season to put it into effect. Indeed, a couple of months after the 2017 meeting, Dolan said the Wahoo matter would be “resolved within a couple of years.” He knew as early as then that Wahoo was gone.

And it’s not like Manfred did not retain leverage. He famously took the All-Star Game away from Baltimore a couple of years ago. He and Dolan both knew he could take it away from Cleveland if Dolan displeased him.

But I guess all that’s just a “conspiracy theory.” We are crazy to make a connection between a meeting in which Manfred told Dolan he wanted Wahoo gone and a press conference a few minutes later in which it was announced that Cleveland was awarded the All-Star Game. Nope, those are totally unrelated things.

 

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.