Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back to a column written long, long ago, in a Gigaplex far, far away on May 3, 2014. In this column, we covered the unofficial holiday of Star Wars Day in the pre-Disney+ era of Baby Yoda. As you await the release of Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as the return of the aforementioned Baby Yoda, please enjoy this column on how the world of baseball celebrates Star Wars Day and as always, May the Fourth be with you.
This Sunday is May 4th. In many Ballparks in galaxies both near and far, far away teams will be celebrating in blockbuster ways in honor of a little science fiction franchise that first hit the global scene before most of the current professional ballplayers were even born.
For those who may not be aware, May 4th is known as Star Wars Day due to a pun surrounding a popular phrase found in the films.
That phrase of course is “May the force be with you,” which can easily translate to “May the fourth be with you.”
For years baseball teams have celebrated May 4th in the Ballpark, but how many times can you really dust off that storm trooper costume to throw out the first pitch before it gets a feeling of been there done that?
With teams looking for creative and new ways to celebrate Star Wars Day it was only a matter of time until May the Fourth was celebrated on a Minor League Baseball diamond in the form of players wearing Wookie jerseys.
Each year, Swatson, the Sugarland Skeeters mascot went all out for Star Wars Day. Through the years, Swatson was dressed as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sadly, Swatson, like many mascots before for him, as been sent to pasture due to a changing of ownership and name change of the Skeeters. While he may be gone, thankfully I still have the memories, and the photos. Photo R. Anderson
The Wookie awakening occurred last year when the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A Affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, celebrated both May the fourth and May the fifth wearing jerseys that looked like a Wookie complete with utility belt.
Thankfully, the team opted away from the faux hair version of the jersey and instead went with a more diamond appropriate version where the fur is implied.
Not to be outdone the Kane County Cougars, the Chicago Cubs Class A affiliate, went Wookie wild this year with a double dose of furry jerseys on May 2 and an encore planned for August 30.
While players dressing up as Wookie is a fairly new Ballpark trend it is not the first time that a Wookie, or at least an actor who played a Wookie, has been at a Minor League Ballpark.
During a May 1, 2010 game between the Oklahoma City Red Hawks and the New Orleans Zephers Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Wookie extraordinaire Chewbacca, threw out the first pitch as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the original Star Wars film.
While Wookie jerseys have a certain been there done that feel to them after two years on the field, a pair of Minor League teams are upping their game this year when it comes to honoring characters from the Star Wars stable.
While Lance Berkman gets the visiting villain treatment during a past Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park a complete team will turn into Darth Vader this year. Photo R. Anderson
The Durham Bulls, Class Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays will celebrate May the fourth in R2 D2 uniforms while the Milwaukee Brewers Single-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will sport Darth Vader jerseys.
It seems that if a team is going to the trouble of wearing Darth Vader jerseys they should invite James Earl Jones, the man behind the voice of Vader, to announce the players.
Of course, with James Earl Jones playing a pivotal role in Field of Dreams it seems even more appropriate to have his booming voice over the Ballpark public address system.
That truly would be a field of dreams to see James Earl Jones announcing a game with players dressed up as Darth Vader.
Players are not the only ones who get into the May the fourth festivities. Often times fans dust off their finest galactic duds to head to the Ballpark.
While I have never dressed up as Boba Fett, I have attended games where ushers were dressed like Princess Leia. I have also been at games where the opposing players were made to look like Darth Vader and other villains on the Jumbo Tron.
It is all done in good fun and is kind of cool to see the worlds of film and baseball combine in such an entertaining way.
With Star Wars Day around the corner the search is on for the perfect shirt to mark the occasion. Photo R. Anderson
Baseball, hot dogs, and post game pyrotechnics, it doesn’t get much better than that.
These may not be the droids you are looking for, but it certainly makes for a fun night at the Ballpark.
With many more Star Wars films in the works it is unlikely that the May the fourth phenomena will die down any time soon so it is best to just embrace it in the spirit of fun it is intended.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if I can still make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. And May the fourth be with you.
Recently, two teams I have a lengthy history of supporting decided to change their names.
That fact alone is not that surprising. In recent years, teams changing their names has been a rather common occurrence with the reasoning behind the name changes running the gambit from bowing to pressure from outside forces, to wanting to freshen a brand to sell more merch.
In keeping with that tried-and-true model, in the latest example of the name game, one team changed their name due to outside pressure from groups who considered their old name to be offensive, and the other team changed their name for what can likely be called a money grab to force their fans to buy new merchandise and to put their special seal on a new asset.
In both cases, the new names left me feeling less than excited to continue rooting for either team.
The first example of rebranding gone bad is the Sugar Land Skeeters becoming the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
If the team really wanted to pay homage to the Sugar Land past, they could have gone with calling the team the Imperials in honor of the rich history of Sugar Land as a producer of Imperial sugar. Instead they decided to play the role of the Joker. Photo R. Anderson
Because when I think of a great name for a Minor League Baseball team I think, “hey let’s find a title from the Steve Miller Band’s catalog and go with that.” I suppose it could have been worse and they could have called them Maurice.
But all tributes to the Joker aside, Skeeters was a name that reflected the fact that this side of Texas is ground zero for the blood sucking insects.
The rebranding trying to tie the Space Cowboys to actual aerospace workers and the “old west” history of a Houston suburb just falls flat on so many levels.
If the team really wanted to pay homage to the Sugar Land past, they could have gone with calling the team the Imperials in honor of the rich history of Sugar Land as a producer of Imperial sugar.
Better still, they could have left well enough alone and built on the legacy of the Sugar Land Skeeters instead of feeling the need to create a new brand.
In many of my marketing and management classes the value of building on an existing brand was front and center in lessons on what good marketeers do.
Instead, of following those tried and true principles the team decided to rebrand mirror the Astros lest we forget that they are an affiliate of the Major League cheaters.
In addition to a really lame new name, one of my favorite mascots, Swatson, is being sent on an imaginary trip around the world with another former Skeeters mascot named Moe and being replaced by a blue space dog. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t the sidekick of a space cowboy be a space horse and not a space dog?
In addition to a really lame new name, one of my favorite mascots, Swatson, is being sent on an imaginary trip around the world with another former Skeeters mascot named Moe and being replaced by a blue space dog. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t the sidekick of a space cowboy be a space horse and not a space dog? Photo R. Anderson
I mean I get that dogs are man’s best friend and all that, but a horse, or a cow, really would have sold the whole space cowboy theme a bit more unless the space dog is meant to corral all of the sheep into buying into the new name.
As part of the rebrand launch back stories were written for the new mascot as well as detailed descriptions of how the team colors and logo were designed. When a marketer has to spend several paragraphs justifying their actions one really has to question their own buy-in on the project.
Talk about the pompatus of self-righteousness.
Shortly after the news broke that the Houston Astros bought the Skeeters, I wrote a column noting that they would likely take something I considered special and turn it into something fit for a metal trash can, and in a little over a year they did just that.
Sorry Space Cowboys but this is one fan who will not be joining you on your new quest to get money from the citizens of Space City. I would rather cling to my good memories of Swatson and the Skeeters while taking my money and running away from your rebrand.
The second example of rebranding gone bad is the Washington Football Team becoming the Washington Commanders.
As noted before in several other columns, I was born outside of Washington D.C. and was a fan of the burgundy and gold from a very young age. I even have the Hogs nose to prove it.
While I will certainly concede that the team needed to move past their use of Native American branding, the Commanders just makes me think of a bad G.I. Joe cover band.
It also creates the issue that one usually would have a single Commander in Chief versus multiple Commanders. Or as the old saying goes, too many chefs ruin the soup.
I am not alone in thinking that the Commanders name fails to capture the imagination. Former players and fans alike have not been afraid to unleash the full fury of their displeasure about the new name on various social media platforms.
One of the early leaked new names for the Washington Football Team was the Red Wolves. Unfortunately for proponents of that name, the trademark was already owned by Arkansas State University. Photo R. Anderson
I get that the team needed to find a name that they could trademark and make money off of. One of the early favorites for a new name was the Washington Red Wolves which would have allowed fans to keep singing a certain song by replacing the word “skins” with the word “wolves.”
Sadly, for that football team in Washington, Arkansas State University already held the trademark for Red Wolves. So, any thoughts of singing Hail to the Red Wolves in D.C. were quickly dashed.
I get that the Red Wolves fell out of the pack of potential names, but are we to believe that after nearly three years of trying to find a name that was not offensive and could be trademarked, the only options was Commanders?
The anticlimactic reveal of Commanders follows the news last year of the Cleveland Indians becoming the Cleveland Guardians which is another name that falls short.
As I noted last year in a column about the Guardians, there was already a team in Cleveland named the Guardians. So, not only did the Cleveland Indians brain trust come up with a less than stunning name based on some monuments on a bridge, they did not even do enough research to realize that the name was already in use in their own town.
One certainly hopes that after three years of searching the Washington Football Team at least verified that there wasn’t already a Washington Commanders franchise in town.
I realize that there are likely people who think that the Space Cowboys and Commanders are good team names. Some of those people may even not be employed by the two franchises that chose those names.
But for me and my time and money, I am not planning to give any thought to the Space Cowboys or the Commanders, since they are doing me wrong, doing me wrong.
Thanks for the memories, Swatson. I will always remember the times we shared at the Ballpark before the Astros came and ruined everything. Stay Gold Swatson. You will be missed. Photo R. Anderson
I am not ruling out a return to the Ballpark in Sugar Land since my desire to see live baseball will likely overcome my disdain for the Space Cowboys name and a desire to not give any money to anything owned by the Astros.
But, if I do return to Constellation Field, I will either be wearing my Skeeters gear, or showing support for the Round Rock Express or Albuquerque Isotopes.
As far as the Commanders go, I will remember the glory days of my youth in a Maryland suburb where I led the Super Bowl cheers in elementary school. Those are enough Lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey all the time memories without tarnishing them by going commando for the Commanders.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strange urge to listen to the Steve Miller Band.
When I was a senior in high school, I memorized the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” as part of an English assignment. In the years since, I have often referred back to that poem during times when things I considered golden in my life became tarnished, or lost some shine.
Such was the case when I learned that the Houston Astros were nearing a deal to make the Sugar Land Skeeters their AAA farm team. As part of the deal, the Astros will own all or part of the Skeeters.
On the surface the idea that the Sugar Land Skeeters are leaving independent baseball and becoming an affiliated team should be good news. But when one digs deeper, they realize that all of the things that made the Skeeters appealing could be taken away as part of the larger effort to give Major League Baseball absolute control of the Minor Leagues.
As part of a massive realignment of Minor League Baseball the Sugar Land Skeeters are slated to go from an independent team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball to the AAA Affiliate of the Houston Astros starting in the 2021 season. Photo R. Anderson
The desire for the Astros to keep their AAA team close to the big-league club follows a trend other clubs have followed over the past decade or so.
In fact, in 2013 when the Astros AAA club was based in Oklahoma City there were rumblings that the Astros wanted to relocate a team to the Woodlands, north of Houston to “expand the brand” and “counter moves made by the Texas Rangers,” according to Astros officials at the time.
Fast forward seven years and buying into the ownership of an existing team with a Ballpark is certainly easier than building one from scratch. The Skeeters would join the Astros owned AA affiliate Corpus Christi Hooks as Texas based feeder teams.
The Texas Rangers will likely move their AAA team back to Round Rock, which the Astros are vacating to move to Sugar Land. In the event that the Rangers move back to Round Rock they would join the Astros in having their AA and AAA teams located within the Lone Star State since the Rangers AA farm club is the Frisco Rough Riders.
I have written extensively this year about how I went from a supporter of the Astros to a former fan who wants nothing to do with them as a result of their trash can cheating scandal. But, if any of the other 29 MLB teams were buying into the Skeeters, I would be equally sad.
To be absolutely clear, although I despise what the Astros organization represents based in part on the lack of sincerity in their apologies for the cheating scandal, I would be sad at the thought of the Skeeters changing from independent to affiliated ball regardless of what team they were affiliated with. The fact that it is the Astros just makes it hurt a bit more.
With the exception of the pandemic year of 2020, I have been a fixture at Skeeters games since the team arose out of the former sugar cane fields in 2012. As mentioned, many times before, if Sugar Land was located just a few miles closer to the Gigaplex I likely would have been a season ticket holder and spent most spring and summer evenings at Constellation Field watching the Skeeters.
For the majority of my baseball loving life I have preferred attending Minor League Baseball to Major League Baseball. There is just something about a Minor League game that cannot be matched at the Major League level.
Much like a face palming mascot named Swatson, the news that the Houston Astros were going to be involved with the Sugar Land Skeeters caused my head to shake and my palm to be planted firmly on my forehead. It also reminded me of the words I memorized years ago that nothing gold can stay. Photo R. Anderson
Part of the charm of going to see the Skeeters play was the fact that tickets and concessions were reasonably priced and the action on the field involved former MLB players as well as people who were trying to continue their careers for just a little bit longer.
As an affiliated Astros club, I fear that the owner of the Astros who famously said in the middle of a pandemic that he wanted fans in the stands so he could sell them “beer and t-shirts” will likely not keep the prices as low as they had been on the current regime. Of course, Skeeters tickets will hopefully still be cheaper than Astros tickets but Goliath has definitely defeated David in this example.
Based on the amount of people who wore Astros gear to Skeeters games, I know that I am likely in the minority when it comes to being sad that the era of Skeeters as I knew them is likely coming to a close. There is likely social distanced dancing in the streets at the news that the Astros will have their AAA team a mere 27 miles or so away from Minute Maid Park.
They may even try to make the Skeeters Ballpark, Constellation Field, look like a mini Minute Maid Park. Of course, the city of Sugar Land owns Constellation Field so they would have a huge say in any major renovations to the Ballpark.
Come next season, one of my favorite Ballparks will be home of the AAA farm club of the Houston Astros. As part of the new relationship Constellation Field could start to look like a mini Minute Maid Park with Astros fans as far as the eye can see. Photo R. Anderson
But even if major renovations are not done, make no mistake the Ballpark will become a mini Minute Maid packed to the rafters with Astros fans cheering on the top prospects.
I could even envision a scenario where they try to adjust the schedule to ensure that the Skeeters home games coincide with when the Astros are on the road to maximize the amount of dollars that can be made.
Like Mulder told Scully, I want to believe that the worst-case scenario I am picturing will not take place. I want to believe that come Opening Day 2021 COVID-19 will be on the way out and Swatson and the Skeeters will be there like a warm binkie reminding me of a time before the world went bat guano crazy.
Although I want to believe, I am also not naïve. There will be changes to the way the Skeeters operate. Some will be good; some will be bad. Time will tell whether the changes are something I can live with, or if I need to find another Ballpark to call home.
I really do not want to leave the Skeeters behind. They were my oasis and anti-Astros representing all that I remembered about baseball growing up. Unfortunately, that form of baseball is getting harder and harder to find.
Each year the game of baseball gets more commercialized and sanitized. The days of baseball being an afternoon or evening escape where on can just absorb the sights and sounds are fading. Efforts to streamline and modernize the game will continue until baseball as it once was may cease to exist. There are already examples of that, but the years to come are likely to involve some of the most radical changes to the game that have been seen in centuries.
As part of the musical chairs that is Minor League Baseball the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers appear to once again be swapping out calling the Dell Diamond home for their AAA ballplayers. Photo R. Anderson
I am too young to be the cranky old guy chasing kids off of his lawn and rambling under his breath about the way things used to be back in the day.
However, I am old enough to remember that baseball used to be a lot less commercialized and people did not need a million distractions in the Ballpark to keep them amused. Back then people actually went to the Ballpark to see a baseball game from their seats.
Back in high school when I was just kicking off my professional writing career, and attending Southern League games at Tinker Field, baseball was still in a nostalgic era. It was also in the middle of the golden age of the baseball movie.
As for the poem that started this all, memorizing the Robert Frost poem senior year was tied to S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. In the book, and for those with shorter attention spans that seem to be the target audience of the new era of baseball, the movie, Johnny Cade tells Ponyboy Curtis to “Stay gold.”
In the same way now I am asking, pleading, begging even, for the Skeeters to stay gold and not become just another cookie cutter affiliate where fans are mere commodities to be monetized and fleeced for beer and t-shirt sales.
Sadly, my rarely wrong gut knows that nothing gold can stay. As Robert Frost wrote nearly a century ago:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Another Robert Frost poem that I often think of is The Road Not Taken. Two paths are in front of me as I decide whether to accept the road that the Skeeters appear to be heading down, or if I choose another one. But that is a poem, and a column for another day.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to reread The Outsiders. Stay gold, Swatson.
Anyone who has read my writing through the years, or has spoken with me in person, will also know that in addition to liking movies about baseball, I enjoy quoting baseball movies. Classmates during my M.S. in Sports Management Program were often subjected to quotes from Bull Durham and Field of Dreams as I tried to make a compelling argument about whatever the issue of the day was in school that particular week.
In the same way, in my column writing over the past three decades I have often found occasion to drop a quote or reference from one of my favorite baseball movies to make a certain point of emphasis. I definitely do not lollygag when it comes to finding ways to drop in a Bull Durham reference.
Over the past three decades I have often found occasion to drop a quote or reference from one of my favorite baseball movies to make a certain point of emphasis. I definitely do not lollygag when it comes to finding ways to drop in a Bull Durham reference.
In addition to quoting baseball movies, for years I have compiled a list of what I feel are the Top 10 Baseball movies and count them down leading up to opening day.
With the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, and the year in general not being like anything that we have seen before thanks to a global COVID-19 pandemic, coin shortages, murder hornets, and sports in bubbles, among other things, it seems only fitting that I would discover a new baseball movie 33 years after it first came out. That movie is Long Gone.
Long Gone, is a 1987 made-for-TV film, based on a 1979 book about a minor league ball club in the Florida panhandle. The film is set in 1957 and aired on HBO. The cast includes William Petersen, Dermot Mulroney, Virginia Madsen, and Teller of Penn and Teller fame.
The movie tells the story of the Tampico Stogies, a team competing in the Alabama-Florida League, battling the odds, and segregation, in an effort to be better than they deserve. The movie also shows players as human beings dealing with real-world problems instead of as larger than life saints incapable of human follies and desires.
If the story of a rag tag bunch of Minor League ballplayers in the south sounds familiar, it should. A little over a year after Long Gone debuted on HBO, 13 months to be exact, a little film called Bull Durham hit the cinematic landscape; and the rest as they say was history.
The late eighties and early nineties are referred to by some as the golden age of the baseball movie based on the number of baseball movies to debut during that time. In fact, four of the Top 10 movies on my yearly countdown were filmed from 1988 to 1989. Those movies were, Bull Durham (1988), Eight Men Out (1988), Major League (1989) and Field of Dreams (1989). By coming out in 1987 it can be argued that Long Gone kicked off the end of the decade baseball movie trend in the late eighties.
Since the movie was filmed as a made for TV movie during a time before streaming services and DVD releases, finding it on DVD or Netflix can be difficult. Thankfully, I found the movie on You Tube and watched it the other day.
While watching the movie, part of me thought I had seen it before as certain scenes were familiar. Other parts of me thought that I had not seen the movie and was mistaking it for something else.
Regardless of whether I had or had not seen the movie before, the fact remains that it is a delightful time capsule of a forgotten era of Minor League Baseball and shows a side of baseball that helped the game become America’s Pastime.
Or to quote Walt Whitman about baseball, “It’s our game . . . it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws.”
The love affair with baseball has certainly soured over the years as other sports have grabbed hold of a sports population with short attention spans who want games that move quickly and entertain them with shiny baubles and artisanal beer at the Ballpark.
While I certainly enjoy my share of shiny objects, I have noted for years that part of baseball’s allure is the fact that it does not have a play clock and anything can happen on any given night. The unpredictability of the game and the desire to remember a past era is probably why I prefer Minor League Baseball (MiLB) over MLB.
The 2020 MiLB season was cancelled due to COVID-19. If the powers that be get their way in 2021 MiLB as it has been known for over a century is likely to be radically altered. Some affiliated clubs will likely be contracted. The very league structure of MiLB itself could fall under the umbrella of MLB and cease being an independently governed league. I will mourn deeply for minor league ball should it just become another arm of the multi tentacled MLB.
Independent league baseball is likely to flourish if major changes are made to affiliated MiLB. Thankfully the Sugar Land Skeeters are close enough for me to go see. So I will still have baseball to watch in person once the games resume next year, or whenever a COVID-19 vaccine allows normal operations of life to resume on a large scale.
Independent league baseball is likely to flourish if major changes are made to affiliated MiLB Ballclubs in 2021. Thankfully the Sugar Land Skeeters and Swatson are close enough for me to go see. Photo R. Anderson
In the meantime while we await the day where Ballparks will once again come to life with the sounds, tastes, and smells of the game, cinematic baseball movies like Long Gone and Bull Durham show all that baseball can be if people just get out of the way and let the players play. Too much micromanaging of the game to suit the artisanal crowd could impact the game in negative ways that cannot be undone. We are seeing a little of that in some of the changes that have been rolled out the last couple of seasons in MLB.
On a personal note, Long Gone was filmed at historic McKechnie Field, located in Bradenton, Florida which serves as the Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as the home of a Class A Florida State League team.
I mention this fact because for years my grandmother who lived in Bradenton Beach, FL wanted to take me to see a game at the Ballpark. Sadly, she died before we ever made that goal a reality. However, I am forever thankful to have watched games with her at Tinker Field in Orlando, FL and for the part she played along with my mom and other grandmother in instilling within me a love of the game of baseball.
I still hope to make it to Bradenton one of these days for a game at what is now known as Lecom Park. Although my grandmother, Mom Mom, will not be there in person, I know she will be there in spirit if I do make it to the Ballpark.
Baseball is a sport where memories can be made and promises can be kept. It is a simple game at heart. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Sometimes it rains, and sometimes you watch a movie that reminds you of your grandmother.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a 2021 trip to Bradenton to plan.
Earlier this week the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros faced off for the first time since the Astros were caught cheating with their hands in the proverbial trash can.
The cheating goes back to the 2017 season when the Dodgers lost to the Astros in the World Series. Looking back at those games, an argument can definitely be made that the Dodgers could have added another oversized World Series Ring to their plaza of honor at Dodger Stadium had it not been for a video camera, a bat, and a trash can.
With many people thinking that the Astros players got off way too easily in terms of punishment for their cheating, the 2020 season was expected to be a season long opportunity for players and fans who felt wronged by the Astros to show their displeasure.
As I noted a few months back, the fan-free season during COVID-19 made the Astros the biggest winners of 2020, since fans cannot boo them when they come to town. On can only imagine how loud a completely full Dodger Stadium would have been with fans booing in unison with every Astros at bat.
A year after being cheated out of their first World Series title in nearly 30 years, a lone trash can is seen in front of a mural commemorating the titles the Dodgers have won. It is quite possible that were it not for the sounds coming off of a trash can, the Los Angeles Dodgers would have a fresh coat of paint on the World Series title mural, as well as a new entry for 2017. Instead, they are left with wondering what might have been had the playing field been level. Photo R. Anderson
While fans in Ballparks have been limited to cardboard representations, the players for the other teams are still free to enforce the unwritten rules of the game, which made the Astros versus Dodgers game must see TV.
After Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly threw a pitch in the area of the head of Alex Bregman, and later taunted Carlos Correa in the sixth inning in game one of a two game series, a good old-fashioned bench clearing brawl occurred.
For his part in the somewhat masked, but totally not socially distanced melee, Kelly was suspended for eight games by MLB. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts received a one-game suspension.
The Dodgers ended up with the last laugh as they won both games of the series by scores of 5-2 and 4-2, respectively.
While the Dodgers won the series, they also exposed the mismanagement of the cheating scandal by MLB. Yes, to be fair, three MLB managers lost their jobs due to ties to the scandal, and the Astros fired their General Manager. But many fans and players maintain that the punishment did not go far enough since former Astros skipper, A.J. Hinch, wasn’t the one playing a trash can in the dugout like a bass drum to let hitters know what pitch was coming.
Just to make sure this point comes across, players who were caught cheating for an entire season were given zero suspensions for their actions, but a pitcher for the team that many argue was cheated out of the 2017 World Series title is given an eight-game suspension. To put that in perspective, eight games equates to around 13 percent of the shortened season. Kelly has appealed his suspension.
Jose Altuve, and his 2017 Astros teammates, were found by MLB to have benefited from an intricate cheating technique that involved a camera, a bat and a trash can. While the world will never know whether the cheating is why the Astros won the World Series, the world does know that none of the players were punished for their actions during that season. That fact, as a lot of fans and players from other teams mad enough to kick a trash can. Photo R. Anderson
These truly are strange and mysterious times, and show that in many ways MLB is just making things up as they go along. More on that thought in a bit.
The rules for the 2020 season outlaw bench clearing brawls. However, writing something in a health manual, and actually following what is written, are two entirely different things; as demonstrated by the fact that the dugouts and bullpens emptied in a fan-free Ballpark.
Besides the benches clearing brawl, players have been breaking the guidelines involving walk off celebrations, and high fives among other things.
But while MLB seems quick to enforce the rules for what it sees as retaliation pitches, it is downplaying the wildfire of COVID-19 that is inching closer to bringing the 2020 season to a screeching halt.
The Miami Marlins were suspended for an entire week after a COVID-19 outbreak impacted nearly 20 players and staff, however the teams not impacted by games against the Marlins were left to continue to play ball. Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum.
The St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers became the latest teams to have games cancelled after two Cardinal players tested positive for COVID-19. The Cardinals and Brewers join the Marlins, Blue Jays, Phillies, Orioles, Nationals, and Yankees as teams who have had games either postponed or played with different opponents than scheduled.
That means that at the time of this writing, nearly a third of all MLB teams have been impacted by COVID-19.
In response to the growing list of games that will need to be rescheduled, MLB has decided that all doubleheaders will be 7-innings, instead of 9-innings, in order to cram as many games as possible into the schedule in their drive to crown a World Series Champion. Nothing like changing the rules of a season after the season has started.
While they are at it, why not just have all games decided by a home run derby? The Sugar Land Skeeters are using home run derbies to settle extra inning games in their four-team, fans in the stand independent baseball summer league.
If MLB needs to crown a champion in order to call the season a success, why bother with the games? Just line the teams up for a home run derby to decide who the best team is? After all, launch angles and the long ball seem to be all the rage these days.
I will take it a step further and say that a home run derby approach can even eliminate team travel. Just have retired pitchers travel to the Ballparks and throw batting practice to decide the games. Teams can choose from a selection of retired pitchers and the same pitcher has to pitch to both teams to make it fair.
Of course, with different ballparks having different outfield dimensions considerations will need to be made for how to assign a weight to each home run.
Maybe, teams can be reward style points for launch angle.
Prior to the start of the 2020 MLB season, Washington Nationals Pitcher Sean Doolittle, aka Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle on Twitter, weighed in on the wisdom of playing baseball in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo R. Anderson
Prior to the start of the 2020 MLB season, Washington Nationals Pitcher Sean Doolittle, aka Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle on Twitter, weighed in on the wisdom of playing baseball in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remarks below appeared in USA Today in early July, and are chilling when looked at through the lens of hindsight after a week of MLB action.
“We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people,” said Doolittle. “We’re way worse off as a country than where we were in March when we shut this thing down. And look at where other developed countries are and their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functional society, and we’re just like trying to bring it back even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve or whatever you want to say. We did flatten the curve for a little bit, but we didn’t use that time to do anything productive. We just opened back up for Memorial Day. We decided we’re done with it.
“If there aren’t sports, it’s going to be because people are not wearing masks, because the response to this has been so politicized. We need help from the general public. If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands. We can’t just have virus fatigue and think, ‘Well, it’s been four months. We’re over it. This has been enough time, right? We’ve waited long enough, shouldn’t sports come back now?’ No, there’s things we have to do in order to bring this stuff back.”
Since Doolittle made that statement in early July, the COVID-19 death toll in America has risen by 23,000 to over 153,000 dead and counting, with no signs of slowing down.
Sadly, there are those who will say, “But hey, at least two thirds of the MLB teams haven’t missed any games yet, and the MLB has shown that it is going to come down hard on pitchers who throw at members of the trash can symphony club.”
Yes, there are live sports to watch now, and the NCAA seems determined to ensure that college football returns in the fall despite us not acting anything like a functional society. Why worry about a global pandemic when there are sports to watch?
Sometimes, real life truly is stranger than fiction.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if my seeds from China arrived. As crazy as the world is getting, they may grow a magic bean stalk. But that is a story for another day.
The other day I was reading a story about how grocery stores were no longer going to be able to give out change to customers due to a national coin shortage.
Yes, that’s right, not only can the richest nation in the world not get their act together regarding corralling a deadly virus, it seems that they cannot bring enough coins to market.
Of course, the usual conspiracy (or is it coin-spiracy?) enthusiasts are tweeting up a storm claiming that the lack of coins is a “Deep State” plot to create a cashless society. I know the First Amendment gives people the right to think and say what they want, but some of the things some people say just make me shake my head in disbelief.
Not only is there a shortage of supplies needed in the battle against COVID-19. Now there is a nationwide coin shortage as well. Photo R. Anderson
While I was still trying to wrap my mind around the coinpocalypse, I read another story about how not only are we out of coins, apparently the companies that make aluminum cans cannot keep up with the demand.
I would say that the aluminum shortage is due to too many people wearing tin foil hats, and inventing conspiracy theories about coins, but the truth is, there is plenty of aluminum. There just aren’t enough plants to turn that aluminum into cans to keep up with consumer demand.
As a result of the can shortage, several beverage companies noted that certain brands of product might not be available. But hey, at least toilet paper made a return to the shelves.
Normally, a nationwide coin shortage, paired with a nationwide shortage of aluminum cans, would be enough for any given week. But this has not been any given week.
A third story also caught my eye this week, showing me that coins, cans and common sense are all in short supply.
No, I am not talking about people potentially breaking ethics rules by posing with cans of beans behind a desk that was built from the English oak timbers of the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute, in an office that is broadly elliptical and/or egg shaped.
I am talking about a lack of common sense on the baseball diamond.
As I have noted many times, even though I am a lifelong baseball fan, I do not think baseball, or any sport, needs to come back in the middle of a global pandemic that has, at the time of this writing, killed over 138,000 Americans.
To put that into perspective, 138,000 people would roughly be the equivalent of 287 completely full Boeing 747 airliners crashing on an island with a polar bear and John Locke. Or, for those of you who did not watch Lost, 138,000 people would fill three and a half Major League Ballparks.
No matter how you slice it, it is not a political statement to say that 138,000 deaths, occurring at a rate of roughly 27,000 deaths a month, is too many. We should be doing everything we can as a united society to ensure that we are part of the solution and not the problem.
Which brings me back to the baseball diamond. Earlier this week in Texas, Fort Bend County joined neighboring Harris County in elevating their threat level to Red Alert, and issued a “Stay at Home to Save Lives” order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Right about now, as Fatboy Slim would say, you are asking yourself what does Fort Bend County have to do with a baseball diamond?
Well, since you asked, Fort Bend County is where the Sugar Land Skeeters are currently hosting a four-team summer league with fans in the stands.
So, when I heard that County Judge KP George joined Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in calling for everyone to stay home “and make sacrifices if our whole community is to remain healthy and intact,” I thought for sure that the Sugar Land Skeeters would be sending out a press release saying that the league was cancelled as a result of the Judge’s order.
The baseball fan in me wants to see the Sugar Land Skeeters summer league succeed. However, as much as I love Swatson, the reporter in me cannot justify putting fans and players at risk of catching COVID-19 just to play ball. Photo R. Anderson
Alas, that press release never came, and the league is still going strong.
Common sense would say that if the spread of a virus is so bad that County Judges are asking people to “Protect yourself and your family by staying at home except for essential activities, wear required face covering, and cancel gatherings,” that a baseball league would stop playing games.
Last time I checked, playing baseball is not an essential activity, and having fans in the stands watching baseball counts as a gathering and is equally non-essential.
Instead of sending a cancellation notice the team sent a tweet stating, “We’ve got LOTS of sweet giveaways in store for this weekend!”
While anyone who knows me knows that I love a sweet Ballpark giveaway, the idea that baseball is still being played when the people of the county the Ballpark is located in are being asked to stay home comes across as both selfish and tone death to the situation on the ground.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, I love watching the Skeeters play and when it is safe to do so again, I will be the first person in line to do just that.
Until then, I am doing my part to slow the spread by following medical and scientific advice from reputable sources. This advice includes wearing a mask and socially distancing. It also involves avoiding unnecessary excursions, you know like to a Ballpark to watch a baseball game.
As I have said many times, COVID-19 does not care who you voted for. Wearing a mask saves lives and is not some attempt to squelch a person’s freedom. You know what does squelch a person’s freedom? Being dead because you called COVID-19 a hoax, and refused to wear a mask and ended by succumbing to the virus.
I have great respect for the essential workers who are keeping the country going. I am grateful to the men and women working at the grocery store to ensure that I can pull up curbside and have my groceries put in my car.
After declaring Texas open in three gradual phases beginning in May, and seeing COVID-19 cases in the state rise up like a bottle rocket nearly every day since reopening, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, noted in a June 22 press conference that, “COVID-19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas,” and that, “We must corral it.” Photo R. Anderson
I am grateful to all of the health care workers on the front lines of trying to get a handle on COVID-19.
I pray daily for the safety of each and every person who is out there keeping the essential functions of society going while allowing the rest of us to work from home.
Because of my respect for essential workers, I am not going to do anything to put myself in a situation where I can get exposed to COVID-19 and risk spreading it.
And yes, I know that based on the ease in which COVID-19 spreads, one cannot completely avoid the potential of encountering the virus. However, I am certainly limiting my activities to make sure I am not putting myself at added risk of getting exposed to the virus.
I get that not everyone shares that view. I also get that sports are coming back despite growing infection rates coast to coast. As a result, many athletes are testing positive both inside and outside of sports bubbles.
This COVID-19 virus has already led to a shortage of coins, cans and common sense among other things. If we aren’t careful, and continue at our current pace, COVID-19 could cause a shortage of hospital beds, and health care workers to take care of us as well.
Is going to a baseball game worth putting all of that at risk? I know how I am going to answer that question and I don’t even need to flip a coin. What about you?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some coins to count.