MiLB players, pandemic assistance, and a $15 minimum wage

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A new president, a new White House administration, and a Senate that could actually pass some Democratic party laws without being blocked by the Republicans on everything means we might actually see, well, some of that. Of course, this new era is also opening up with Joe Biden et al trying to tell you that they always meant $1,400 checks when they said $2,000 checks, and that they plan on reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans instead of just leveraging the power they’ve been entrusted with by voters to forcibly slap some bandages over a country that has no hope of stopping the bleeding, but hey. Optimism, or something.

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MLB won’t require fan COVID-19 tests, vaccinations

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Major League Baseball plans on having fans in attendance during the 2021 season, even though America is still in the midst of the pandemic that shortened the 2020 campaign. Sure, we’re seemingly closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning at this point, but we’ve also begun a vaccination rollout that is doubling as a campaign against the very concept of means testing, so who knows. What we do know is that MLB, per The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin, won’t be requiring negative COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination from those fans in attendance.

Their reasoning, at least for the tests? The results are meaningless from a safety perspective for those looking to attend a game:

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Cleveland chose to trade Francisco Lindor, they did not have to

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The Cleveland Indians finally made the trade that we’ve known was coming for years, and dealt star shortstop Francisco Lindor. That it was to the Mets is the only real surprise here, but their ownership recently changed from the Wilpons to Steve Cohen, who is looking to make splashes and reinvigorate a fan base that at this point mostly associates sports with feeling first- and second-hand embarrassment.

As you can imagine was going to happen, this is being framed in some corners as a trade that just Had To Be Made by Cleveland, because they are a poor small-market team that just can’t operate like those mean old teams in large markets that swoop in and force the little guys to trade their best players. Buster Olney, the longtime ESPN reporter who has over one million followers and plenty of TV time to boot, tweeted that Cleveland “had to dump money” in response to the trade. “Had to.” Is any proof offered for this? Of course not: that’s Olney either assuming this is the case because it’s what Cleveland has been insinuating about their finances for years, or it’s what whomever his source in Cleveland told him was the case, and Olney rolled with it instead of questioning it.

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The MLB season should start on time, unless everything keeps getting worse

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Before the new year, there was some concern that Major League Baseball would fight to avoid starting the 2021 regular season at its normally scheduled time. I even wrote about it for Baseball Prospectus, as part of an explanation for why we didn’t have any answers for that and other questions like whether there would be an expanded postseason again, or if the National League would deploy the designated hitter once more. According to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, what the owners want doesn’t necessarily matter here, though: the players can just wait them out, and let the collective bargaining agreement handle the rest.

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The year in creating sports coverage, featuring leftism

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It’s that time of year again: time to recap! Barring some major news that will require I dust off the keyboard and send out A Take to y’all, the newsletter will be going dark until the new year. I’m excited to walk away for a couple of weeks and reset my brain, which usually leads to my writing down a bunch of half- and fully-formed ideas, which I can then get to work on producing for 2021.

Let’s take a look back at the year that was, through the lens of some of what I wrote about in this space. All told, 107 newsletters entries were published in 2020, which feels pretty good considering that there wasn’t even a Major League Baseball season until the end of July. Of course, the reason there was still so much to write about is because labor issues, multiple forms of racism, and a literal pandemic took center stage throughout the calendar year.

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More athletes being proactive about politics, please

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​It’s been just about a year — 11 months — since Howard Bryant wrote a column for ESPN that I haven’t really stopped thinking about since. Bryant discussed the problems with athletes and politics, and how they’re expected to give us strength by showing up on the field, but not by actually doing or saying anything political. And how far too many athletes are happy to oblige this expectation that they stick to sports, how they tend to be reactive instead of proactive about politics, if they do anything at all. You should read the whole thing if you never have, but for our purposes, here’s some of my analysis of a key section I’d like to revisit today:

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Cleveland won’t stop selling Chief Wahoo merchandise

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There are now more (and official) details on the story first written about in this space on Monday: The Cleveland Indians will be no more, as early as the 2022 season. They will instead become the Cleveland… something else to be determined, at that point. They’ll remain the Indians for the 2021 season, though, rather than go the route of the Washington Football Club, which is a bit of a weird decision for Cleveland, since they already have a C block logo for their hats and alternate uniforms that say “Cleveland” on them in their current scripts. It wouldn’t be very hard to just go by Cleveland for a season while they figure out what the long-term name is going to be, but alas, just like with Chief Wahoo, the organization isn’t in a rush to change the thing they are willing to admit is racist.

The more worrisome point to come out of owner Paul Dolan’s announcement on the matter was actually regarding that part of Cleveland’s identity that was supposed to be dead and buried back in 2019. In 2018, when Cleveland announced that the Chief Wahoo logo would be phased out — a move that happened only because, in what was a very poorly kept secret, the organization wanted the All-Star Game and MLB wanted them to lose the logo — it was clear that they planned to continue to manufacture and sell Wahoo merchandise locally. They wouldn’t do so nationally — you couldn’t find Wahoo-branded gear on MLB.com anymore — but if you went to the stadium, or local shops, you could still find licensed gear with the awful racist caricature of a Native American on it.

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The Cleveland Indians will finally get a new name

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It was a positive, on its own, that the NFL’s Washington franchise changed their name from one with a slur against Native Americans to the temporary “Washington Football Team.” There was also a potential trickle-down effect to look forward to, though, as, if even the franchise run by Dan Snyder could change their name and the culture of racism and appropriation that swirled around it, then it should be motivating for others with comparatively innocuous names like the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Indians to do something about their own issues.

That appears to be what has happened now, as Kansas City took steps in August to remove some racist elements from their stadium and game environment, and now we’ve got Cleveland finally admitting that it’s time to find a new name for their team. According to the New York Times, Cleveland will still retain its current name in 2021, but could shift away from it as early as the 2022 season. No other details are known at this point, as the team hasn’t announced their intentions yet, but are expected to sometime this week.

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Pro sports cut the line for COVID testing. The vaccine is next

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The National Hockey League, like the rest of the major sports leagues in America, played their past season in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. They will, like all those same leagues, play their next season during the pandemic, too, because, at least in America, it continues to rage on.

In order to put on the end of the 2020 campaign and their playoffs, the NHL — again, like the rest of the leagues — consumed an enormous amount of test kits and lab time in order to ensure their players and staff were coronavirus-free. You might remember from just last month, the discussion of the “success” of sports during a pandemic, and what the cost of that was, part of which was that two-thirds of the nurses from the largest nurses union in America haven’t been tested for coronavirus a single time, while the NFL alone consumed well over half-a-million tests to that point in their season:

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You still can’t believe what MLB says about 2020’s revenues

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A little over a month ago, I wrote a piece titled “You can’t trust MLB’s crying poor,” with the thinking being that the league’s discussion of the debt that they had accrued and the losses they suffered wasn’t in line with the reality of either situation. Part of the reason for writing that was not just to tackle the idea head-on at the moment, but also because it was necessary to understand what was happening in that moment in order to also understand what was to come.

One of those items in the “what was to come” bucket turned out to be “Bill Madden columns,” as he’s been repeating back whatever he’s told by MLB clubs about finances and debt for the last month-and-a-half. In October, he wrote that this offseason will be a “bloodbath” for MLB players in a column in which he repeated the kinds of revenue loss claims that caused me to write a rebuttal in the first place:

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