Sometime in the last decade, the UK government wanted to commission and name an ocean research vessel. Someone thought it would be a good idea to use an Internet voting system to let the people select the name of the ship; that was not such a good idea at all. The Internet choice for the name of the vessel was Boaty McBoatface. Sanity prevailed and the ship was launched as the Sir David Attenborough in honor of the English broadcaster and naturalist. [For the record, a remotely powered submersible vehicle that can be launched and controlled from the ship was named “Boaty” possibly as a face-saving measure.]
I bring that up because of an item in Bob Molinaro’s column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Update: The Cleveland Indians are secretly narrowing their list of new names. Reportedly, the most popular choices on social media are Spiders, Guardians and Avengers. Ugh. Well, Spiders isn’t that bad.”
I hope that as the Indians’ braintrust works to find a new and more politically correct name for the team that they recall the Boaty McBoatface incident and keep the decision away from the Internet and/or social media. Left to the devices of the Internet, the winning name could be the Cleveland Clodhoppers – – or worse.
Actually, Molinaro is right; Spiders is not that bad. After all, the franchise was indeed named the Cleveland Spiders from 1889 to 1899; Cy Young played for the Cleveland Spiders. And the Spiders in the 1899 season played an important part in the history of baseball.
- The St. Louis Browns were also in the National League along with the Spiders and the Browns went bankrupt after the 1898 season. The owner of the Spiders bought the Browns AND retained ownership of the Spiders. [Folks back then had not yet learned to spell “conflict of interest”.]
- The Browns were renamed the St. Louis Perfectos and because the owners saw more potential for attendance in St. Louis than in Cleveland, they arranged to “trade” all the good players from Cleveland to St. Louis. Basically, the Spiders were a farm team for the Perfectos in the 1899 season.
- The Spiders record that year was 20-134; they finished 84 games behind the first place Brooklyn Superbas that season.
- In a “chicken/egg conundrum” the Spiders’ home attendance in 1899 was indeed awful; was the owner correct in transferring players to St. Louis or was the miserable attendance due to the woebegone team on the field? The Spiders’ average home attendance in 1899 was a whopping 145 patrons!
Sticking with baseball for a moment, I have a bone to pick with some of the baseball writers. Over the past 5 or 6 years, it has become a Spring Training ritual to find a top prospect for a middling team – or worse – and decry the fact that the team will send the poor young lad to the minor leagues for a month or so in order to manipulate his time in the major leagues giving the team control over the player before he is eligible for arbitration. The first player I remember being the subject of such an outcry was Kris Bryant of the Cubs in 2015.
This year the poster-child for this “enslavement” was Jarred Kelenic a 21-year-old outfielder who was declared to be the #1 prospect for the year. The franchise labeled as the “ne’er-do-well” in this saga was the Seattle Mariners who were painted as a struggling team that needed all the help it could get – – and Kelenic had a really good Spring Training with a .300 batting average.
The Mariners brought him up as soon as it was not possible for him to appear in enough games to make the 2021 season count as a full year toward arbitration eligibility and Kelenic was inserted in the starting lineup immediately. All seemed well in Seattle; things appeared to be working out notwithstanding the fact that many felt Kelenic had been abused by the team.
Now, Jarred Kelenic is back in the minor leagues. Over the last 21 games he was up with the Mariners here are his stats:
- He was 5 for 75 (batting average .067) with 1 home run.
- He struck out 24 times.
- At the time of his demotion, he was hitless in his last 39 at-bats.
I do not intend to imply that Jarred Kelenic is some kind of stiff who cannot play baseball. At age 21, the fact that he was able to hit .300 against Spring Training pitching says that he is indeed a top-prospect. However, might it not be intellectually honest to hear from those who said that the only reason the Mariners “sent him down” was to gain financial advantage over him down the road? It turns out – empirically – that he was not quite ready for the major leagues; he probably will be sometime later this season.
Let me stick to baseball for today’s topics… The scandal of the moment is the extensive use of foreign substances by pitchers to increase “spin rate” which then enhances a pitch’s ability to change direction in flight. This is not a new phenomenon; Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame based on his ability to throw a “doctored baseball” very well. The difference today is that it appears as if most pitchers are using “sticky stuff” not just a handful.
Some folks have equated this “Sticky Stuff Scandal” to the Steroid Era. I think there is a difference that needs to be recognized.
- In the Steroid Era, hitters and pitchers used steroids to gain some sort of advantage. Hitters probably benefited more, but there was a balancing of the scales to some degree.
- In the “Sticky Stuff Scandal”, it is one-sided. Only the pitchers derive benefit here.
That distinction does not mitigate the current situation, nor does it make a resolution “critical to the integrity of the game”. What needs to be done is for baseball to begin to enforce its written rules – you cannot put any foreign substance on a baseball and use it during a game – as stringently as it seems to enforce its unwritten rules.
Finally, since today was all about baseball, let me close with this thought from musician, Oscar Levant:
“Ballet is the fairies’ baseball.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports …