Like Don Henley, I’m watching the boys of Summer and all that’s going on around America’s pastime. The other Big 4 seasons are over and so baseball has the spotlight, with that spotlight many teams are getting in the news and mentions for all kinds of reasons lately. All the attention about the unique things going on in baseball are today’s #CurrentEventFriday.
Leading off (pun intended) is the news that broke last week and still is being hammered out about the Tampa Bay Rays. The team has played to near empty stadium crowds since their inception in 1998 as the Devil Rays. Their sister expansion team, the Diamondbacks have won a World Series and draw respectable crowds in what is another non-traditional baseball city. The Rays and Marlins struggle in Florida where many snowbirds have East Coast allegiances to New York, Boston, or Beltway fandoms. Even if the fans from colder climates don’t root for the East Coast teams, they’re likely rooting for Midwest teams like the Cubs, Cardinals, or the Reds for example. Tampa Bay has been pushing for a new stadium in St. Petersburg where they currently play but with no approval from the city to build the stadium. The city of Tampa doesn’t seem willing to play ball either. So, now the Rays are trying an unconventional strategy, a split-home schedule. Play the Summer games in Montreal and the cooler temperature games in St. Petersburg at their current stadium. The argument goes, Montreal was never happy when the Expos left and rebranded as the Washington Nationals so the fans will flock back to a baseball team in the city again. Many commentators have joked that maybe the team could be named the Montrampa Bay Ex-Rays or Tampreal Raypos. While it’s true that Montreal would love to have a baseball team back in their city and St. Petersburg doesn’t seem to care about the rays, the back and forth would be ridiculous. If the team wants a stadium and a city that would actually want a team, just make the permanent move to Montreal and abandon the split season idea.
Also making news in baseball are the two biggest franchises in the league trying to win over international fans. MLB has already hosted Japan series, Mexico Series, and games in Puerto Rico but this weekend features baseball in London. These will be the first MLB games played in Europe. The home of the series is London Stadium, home of the Olympic Games and West Ham United Football Club. Artificial turf and dirt have been shipped in to prepare the stadium to host the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred no doubt is emulating the NFL’s approach with London games, but hoping to have a better draw than the NFL games. Next season will feature popular National League franchises the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. This isn’t a bad approach by MLB, having recognizable and iconic franchises playing in the series will draw even the most casual fans in Europe. The NFL’s attempts fell flat at first for featuring less popular teams that Europeans barely recognized.
Here come the Mets, and there go the reporters. Making news in all the wrong ways are the New York Mets. After losing to the Cubs on Sunday, Manager Mickey Callaway was asked why he chose not to use closer Edwin Diaz to protect a two-run lead in the 8th inning. Diaz was well rested and never entered the game. In the clubhouse following the game, Callaway insulted a reporter for extending pleasantries, and demanded the same reporter leave the locker room. Compounding this flareup, Mets’ pitcher Jason Vargas then threatened to assault the reporter and attempted to make good on the threat but was restrained by teammates. For both of their actions, Callaway and Vargas were fined $10K each. None of this is surprising, the Mets are scrambling for a Wild Card berth. But thanks to several injuries to their position players and bad luck, the Mets will likely miss the playoffs and have conceded the season. So, the attitude in the locker room is already poor before any reporter enters it. When expected to apologize a few days later, Callaway struggled to admit fault and offer an apology, but eventually admitted his wrongdoing.
On a more interesting and happier note, the Chicago Cubs are trying to win young fans more and partnered with Sesame Street to do so. While the Cubs had already introduced Clark the Cub as a mascot and children’s ambassador for the team, a popular Sesame Street Muppet joined Clark for yesterday’s game. Cookie Monster was on hand to greet young fans and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th Inning Stretch as a guest conductor.
What out-of-leftfield stories about baseball have you seen recently?