Carlos Correa
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Carlos Correa fires back at Cody Bellinger

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Oh boy.

Cody Bellinger ripped the Astros yesterday. He claimed among other things that the Astros stole the 2017 World Series, that Jose Altuve stole the MVP award from Aaron Judge, and that Jim Crane’s claim that the banging scheme didn’t impact games was “weak.” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa has now responded to Bellinger. Ken Rosenthal’s got the full transcript over at The Athletic, and I highly recommend giving it a read.

Correa gives plenty of interesting quotes here, but the money shot is his claim that part of the reason that Altuve didn’t want his shirt ripped off at the end of the ALCS is because Altuve had an ugly unfinished tattoo on his collarbone that he didn’t want anyone to see. Legions of Internet sleuths are combing through Altuve photos for evidence of this supposedly horrifying tattoo as we speak. For what it’s worth, Altuve does not have a tattoo on his collarbone in these pictures from July 29th, but could have theoretically gotten one between then and the ALCS. Where were you when this meme was born?

He also claimed that Altuve in fact did not cheat, because he didn’t want to partake in the banging scheme and therefore won the MVP cleanly. Additionally, Correa claimed that the Dodgers’ signs in the World Series were too complex to decipher, so therefore (according to Correa) the Astros won their rings without cheating.

Correa said Bellinger was being unfair when he claimed that the Astros were cheating in 2018 and 2019, and said that Rob Manfred’s report cleared them of wrongdoing in those years. He had to backtrack when Rosenthal reminded him that the report stated that the Astros continued to illegally use their video room to decode signs in 2018. The report hasn’t proved to be the most ironclad retelling of events, so Correa using it as a crutch here is not the greatest thing in the world. 

If there’s one thing to be said for Correa, it’s that he hasn’t shied away from speaking his mind in the wake of all this nonsense like so many of his teammates have. His comments after the press conference earlier this week were some of the most genuinely apologetic quotes from any Astro since this story broke. That being said, some of his claims in this interview strain credulity.

This is now the third different reason that’s been given for Altuve’s aversion to getting his jersey ripped off, alongside the “I’m shy” and “My wife doesn’t like it” excuses offered back-to-back by Altuve immediately after the game. His defense of Altuve’s MVP award is novel at best. Does Jose Altuve really have a bad tattoo on his collarbone? Did he really not want to participate in the banging scheme? They’re both possible, but do the Astros have any credibility to stand on right now? The answer is no.

As for the 2017 World Series, you can decide for yourselves whether or not the “We tried to cheat but couldn’t because their signs were too hard to decode, so therefore we didn’t cheat” argument is compelling. I personally find it to be farcical.

I can’t totally criticize Correa for wanting to stand up for a teammate and the leader of his clubhouse. Yet at the same time, Correa needs to understand that he doesn’t have to fight these uphill battles, especially when he and his fellow Astros don’t really have a leg to stand on. It’s all good and fine to want to defend whatever shreds of credibility they have left. But to do so by offering more excuses that strain believability and to go the whole we-tried-to-cheat-but-couldn’t-therefore-we-did-nothing-wrong route for the World Series is misguided at best.

Sometimes the best course of action is to just bite your tongue and take your lumps, especially when you’re clearly in the wrong. Correa may want to consider that for the future.

UPDATE [2:00 PM EST]: The ever-reliable Jomboy seems to have found evidence of Altuve’s tattoo.

So, there’s that. That’s the 2019 World Series patch on his jersey too. Maybe this tattoo really does exist after all.

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Today in Baseball History: The Yankees become The Yankees

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the Cubs became the Cubs. In the course of that post I talked about how fluid and casual team nicknaming was in the early 20th century. Sometimes the press named a team, informally, and it stuck. Sometimes the team’s owner switched the name back and forth multiple times. It was sort of all over the place.

That was true, too, of baseball’s most storied and, let’s be honest, stuffy organization, the New York Yankees. Rather than proclaim, from on high, what their name — what their brand — would be, they got their name through the same haphazard way so many other teams did. But, on this date in 1913, they became the Yankees for good. Let’s talk about how they finally got there.

They didn’t start in New York, actually. They started in Baltimore, as the Orioles. But they weren’t even the original Baltimore Orioles. That ream was a National League club — led by John McGraw — that the National League contracted along with the Cleveland Spiders following the 1899 season. McGraw cooled his heels in St. Louis In 1900 but then, the following year, the upstart Western League, led by Ban Johnson, upgraded itself to self-proclaimed major league status and reformed as the American League. They put a team in Baltimore, called itself the Orioles and brought John McGraw back via the offering of an ownership stake.

Ban Johnson and McGraw didn’t get along too well and they were in pretty constant dispute. Johnson also didn’t think too much of Baltimore as an AL city and wanted to move the team to New York — Manhattan, specifically — to compete head-to-head with the New York Giants. McGraw, seeing the writing on the wall, but not wanting to let Johnson tell him where to go, left the Orioles in the middle of the 1902 season and joined the New York Giants as their manager and part-owner. Ever the pain-in-the butt, he gave his ownership interest in the Orioles to the Giants, which was a problem given that they were a member of the rival league which wanted to see the AL crushed and eliminated. Add that to the list of many AL-NL disagreements bubbling up at the time.

It was all solved, for the most part, after the 1902 season when the AL and NL entered into what amounted to a peace treaty. They stopped the widespread practice of teams poaching each other’s players and settled various ownership and territorial disputes like the one between the Giants and the Orioles. Finally, as a part of that agreement, the NL agreed to let Johnson to move the Orioles to New York for the 1903 season. What the Giants would not permit, however, is the new AL club to play in the Polo Grounds, so they had to find a new ballpark.

The New York club hastily constructed a new wooden park seating about 16,000 fans on the west side of Broadway between 165th and 168th streets. It was originally called American League Park and housed The New York Americans Baseball Club. The place would eventually be nicknamed Hilltop Park because of its relatively high elevation compared to the rest of Manhattan. The Americans eventually came to be called the Highlanders. For years most people believed that that was solely because they played on literal high land, but more recent research reveals that it was at least in part a play on the last name of the team’s president, Joe Gordon, combined with a reference to the famous British military unit, the Gordon Highlanders. Either way, the Highlanders they were throughout the oughts.

The Polo Grounds was devastated by a fire in 1911 and needed to be rebuilt. Despite their past disagreements, the Highlanders generously allowed the Giants to share their home at Hilltop Park while the Polo Grounds were being rebuilt. McGraw and his club remembered this kindness two years later when they allowed the Highlanders, who were looking for a new place to play given that Hilltop Park was already falling apart, to move into the rebuilt Polo Grounds.

By then the whole “Gordon Highlanders” thing was no longer as amusing as it had initially been. Between that and the team literally abandoning the high ground between 165th and 168th streets, the name “Highlanders” was not really apt. As noted above, teams often had a lot of nicknames, and the Highlander’s third name — apart from that and “Americans” — was the “Yankees.” With a new home in 1913, the club decided to formally adopt it. They played their first game as The New York Yankees on April 10, 1913. 107 years ago today. They lost to Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators (Americans? Nationals? It was confusing!) 2-1.

What’s a “Yankee” anyway?

In the 19th and early 20th century it referred broadly to residents of New England those descended from the original English settlers of the region. This is how Mark Twain used the word in his novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” During the Civil War it was used broadly to anyone from up north and, when not referring to the baseball team, is still used that way today. But where did the word actually come from?

Most people who think they have an idea about it are wrong. It’s often told that the word “Yankee” is an anglicization of any number of Native American words — like “eankke” or “y’an-gee” or some such — with the story often having it be an honorary term bestowed by Native American warriors on European settlers who fought bravely. Not surprisingly, linguists have debunked that self-serving notion. There is no evidence for it at all, actually.

The best accepted theory, among linguists and historians anyway, is that it’s of Dutch origin. Sometimes used as a term of derision toward Dutch colonists after England took possession of what is now New York or, possibly, a term of derision used by Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam toward English colonists in neighboring Connecticut. From Wikipedia:

Michael Quinion and Patrick Hanks argue that the term comes from the Dutch name Janke, a diminutive form of Jan (John) which would be Anglicized as “Yankee” due to the Dutch pronunciation of J as the English Y. Quinion and Hanks posit that it was “used as a nickname for a Dutch-speaking American in colonial times” and could have grown to include non-Dutch colonists, as well. Alternatively, the Dutch given names Jan and Kees have long been common, and the two are sometimes combined into a single name (e.g., Jan Kees de Jager). Its Anglicized spelling Yankee could, in this way, have been used to mock Dutch colonists. The chosen name Jan Kees may have been partly inspired by a dialectal rendition of Jan Kaas (“John Cheese”), the generic nickname that Southern Dutch used for Dutch people living in the North.

The Online Etymology Dictionary gives its origin as around 1683, when English colonists used it insultingly in reference to Dutch colonists (especially freebooters). Linguist Jan de Vries notes that there was mention of a pirate named Dutch Yanky in the 17th century. The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1760) contains the passage, “Haul forward thy chair again, take thy berth, and proceed with thy story in a direct course, without yawing like a Dutch yanky.” According to this theory, Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam started using the term against the English colonists of neighboring Connecticut.

That’s a lot to take in, but know that the name “Yankees” can, basically, be traced back to people calling each other names. Which, with all due respect to my Yankee fan friends, I must say is not the most inappropriate baseball team name out there.

 

Also today in baseball history:

 

1947: Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American in the modern major leagues when the Dodgers purchase his contract from Montreal. He’ll make his big league debut five days later.

1962: Dodger Stadium opens in Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles. The Dodgers lose to the Reds 6-3.

1962: The Houston Colt .45s play the first major league game in Texas, beating the Chicago Cubs 11-2.  Of note:

1964: With the Mets having moved to Shea Stadium, demolition begins on the Polo Grounds to clear the way for a housing project.

1971: Veterans Stadium in Philly sees its first game ever played. The Phillies beat Montreal 4-1.

1973: Kansas City’s new Royals Stadium — now Kauffman Stadium — debuts as the Royals beat the Rangers 12-1.

1981:  In his first game for Chicago, Carlton Fisk hits a three-run home run in the eighth inning to lead the White Sox to a 5-3 victory over his his old team, the Red Sox, at Fenway Park.

1989: Ken Griffey, Jr. hits his first major league home run in Seattle’s 6-5 win over the White Sox.