Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicago Cubs Looking Bad on Issues of Bullying and Hazing

As hazing and bullying continue to be significant issues in our society, professional sports, where such activity has often flourished, have started addressing it head on. This past offseason, Major League Baseball created an anti-hazing and anti-bullying policy that bans teams from "requiring, coercing or encouraging" activities such as "dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic." Although such a stance is not only entirely appropriate but long overdue, it incredibly seems to have some teams like the Chicago Cubs struggling to figure out appropriate boundaries.

A recent ESPN article written by Jesse Rogers detailed the reaction of the Cubs to the new policy, because of their tradition of having rookies dress up in costumes that would now be considered off limits. Chicago manager Joe Maddon has come to rely on making his newer and younger players “uncomfortable” in what he believes to be an exercise that brings them deeper into the team fold. “The moment you get comfortable with your plight, then the threat is you’re not going to push yourself to the point where you need to again,” Maddon cryptically said.

Honestly, it’s really pathetic if that’s the best the Cubs can hit on to motivate their team and build camaraderie. In particular, with the number of children around the country subjected to bullying and hazing, it’s stupefying that the Cubs don’t see a connection between what they have traditionally done and the harassment and demeaning behavior suffered by so many. Any time those in a position of power use that influence to make others do something outside their comfort zone, that is the definition of bullying and not a dynamic motivational tool as some might have you believe.

Pitcher Rob Zastryzny, who was a rookie with Chicago last year and was made to dress up like a female cheer leader by the veterans on the team explained, “The Cubs guys did a really good job of it. I was a fan of it. It made me feel really close to the older guys.” That’s great that one player enjoyed it but what if some of their teammates went through the same exercise and didn’t feel the same way? I may not be an expert but it would seem that going out as a group to dinner, bowling or some other activity might serve a similar purpose. Just thinking outside of the box here.

The baseball dress-up culture is also strongly chauvinistic and homophobic, as costumes are often scanty cis-female clothing such as cheer leader outfits, skimpy dresses and other items meant to suggest lacking masculinity and/or heterosexuality in the wearer. For obvious reasons that don’t need to be elaborated on that is offensive on many levels and disappointing that the Cubs (or any other team) wouldn’t stop to think how that is perceived by fans and outsiders alike who claim similar identifies or simply have an ounce of respect or understanding in their bodies.

There are many out there who will lament that we live in “too PC of a world” and that we need to “toughen up” and not get bothered by such things. To them I ask they consider the following. Does that mean that when you go back to work next you’ll be fine if your supervisor forces you to wear an embarrassing costume around the workplace and out in public; knowing that if you don’t comply you will be on the outside looking in moving forward? Does that mean that if you have a child, friend or family member who identifies in a way that is frequently represented through MLB dress up that you are fine laughing at this “obvious joke” and don’t care how that child, friend or family member may feel about it?

Star pitcher Jake Arrieta tried to explain that what the Cubs have traditionally done is harmless. “No one is trying to offend any person or people that identify themselves as something else. It’s about making the younger teammates uncomfortable and seeing how they deal with the situation. It’s a team-building thing.” If only there were other ways to incorporate younger players into the team’s fold…

Ironically, the World Champion Cubs are also doing good work supporting the victims of bullying. However, I contend that you can’t condemn one form of bullying without condemning them all—especially given the many iterations it can take.

Showing how clueless some members of the Cubs are, Rogers reported that some alternative methods that will skirt the letter of the new law may include having the rookies wear Speedos or wrestling tights in 2017. One would think that a business like the Cubs that is valued at $2.2 billion could come up with more dynamic ways to motivate and team build. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case and the team is looking increasingly out of touch and foolish.

If baseball can change their rules on the field there’s no reason to think adjustments off the field are out of the question. It will just take a little awareness and thoughtfulness that realizes that professional athletes on a national stage exist on a stage that extends far beyond their locker rooms. Hopefully the Cubs organization will see how sophomoric and insulting the prevailing thoughts on the dress-up culture are and provide their players and coaching staff some tools that can help them come up with some positive alternatives.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lake Erie Crushers Reveal New Logo

March 15, 2017: Avon OH) The Lake Erie Crushers, presented by Mercy, unveiled a new logo, new uniforms and several new menu items today that will all debut during the 2017 Frontier League season. The new team colors will be purple and white to accompany the team’s new logo that features a bat wielding, fierce-looking grape, as tribute to the Crushers name. 

When the team debuted in 2009, the Crushers were originally named after the numerous vineyards and wineries that populate northern Ohio. The name was selected through fan voting, however previous Ownership selected colors and logos that did not reflect the origins of the name. New Owners Tom & Jacqueline Kramig, who purchased the team in February of 2016, have embraced the Crushers name with the new logo, new purple and white team uniforms, as well as a pledge to serve Ohio wines at Sprenger Health Care Stadium this coming season. 



“Ohio is the 11th largest producer of wines in America, and there are dozens of wineries in the northern Ohio region, where the team calls home” stated Co-Owner Jacqueline Kramig. “For this team to truly represent and reflect the local community, we felt the name and logo should have some connection to local history and businesses.” 

The Crushers are also unveiling several new menu items for 2017. Among the new offerings at Sprenger Health Care Stadium, an herb crusted chicken sandwich, a seasoned steak sandwich, a chicken sausage sandwich, and for our vegetarian fans, a fried green tomato sandwich. 

The Lake Erie Crushers hope fans will “Embrace the Grape” on Friday, May 12th at 7:05pm for the Home Opener. There will be a magnet schedule giveaway for the first 1,000 fans at the ballpark, and the fan favorite Post Game Fireworks Show to kick off another great season of Crushers Baseball. Individual Game Tickets go on sale on Monday, March 20th at 10am.

The Lake Erie Crushers are located in Avon, Ohio and play in the Frontier League of Independent Professional Baseball (www.frontierleague.com). For more information, you can contact the Crushers at 440-934-3636, visit our website at www.LakeErieCrushers.com, or email info@lakeeriecrushers.com. 

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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Impossible Dream 1967 Red Sox- A Review

The Boston Red Sox have a fan base and teams that create memories unlike most sports teams. Often, the two inform and feed off the other. Herb Crehan’s The Impossible Dream 1967 Red Sox: Birth of Red Sox Nation (2016, Summer Game Books) celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of those greatest collaborations, which was so memorable it spawned a team name for the history books and launched an identity for those on the sidelines that persists to this day.

Coming in to the 1967 season the Red Sox had little to look forward to. Mired in the second division since 1959, the team had some great young players like Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Lonborg and Tony Conigliaro but had not been able to see it translate to any sort of success in the standings. With rookie manager Dick Williams at the helm there wasn’t necessarily an expectation that was going to change overnight. As it turned out, that was wrong because Boston went on to win 92 games (many in an exceedingly exciting fashion) and took the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the World Series before finally conceding the end of their magical season.

Crehan pivots back and forth from detailing the season and highlighting 13 of the most memorable figures from the 1967 team—from what they did that year to how their career and lives turned out afterwards. From the MVP performance from Yaz to the iron man exploits on the mound of Lonborg, the squad is rife with stories both good and bad. It was such an exciting year that fans were driven to a frenzy, which have remained a strong force ever since.

The fiery Williams ruled the team absolutely but was not always successful in reaching his players. The weight struggles (and confidence) of players like George Scott and Joe Foy impacted their play on the field but somehow did not become issues that derailed the success of their teammates. Williams was blunt if nothing else, and his methodology and the way it worked (or didn’t) in such cases were major storylines that season.

Second baseman Mike Andrews was a nice player but was never a star. Nevertheless, he was a major contributor in 1967 and went on to have a lasting impact in the Boston community through his work with the Jimmy Fund Charity.

Undoubtedly the biggest story on that year’s team was when star outfielder Conigliaro was hit in the face during a game by a pitch and went on to miss the rest of the season and all of 1968. Once looking like a potential future Hall of Famer, the 23 year-old suffered diminished vision, and while he had a couple of productive years upon his return, he was never the same again and out of baseball by the time he was 30. Crehan lingers on the “what might have been” with the slugger, who passed away at the age of 45—his life snuffed out too soon much like his baseball career.

The writing style of The Impossible Dream is formulaic in a baseball book sense. An aggregation of statistics, interviews and follow up are all staples of the genre. That being said there is a reason why they are used so often, and the author does a good job here of combining everything into a cohesive narrative.

It’s hard to believe that the 1967 Boston Red Sox are turning 50 this year. The iconic team is one of few to gain such lofty status in history despite not winning it all at the end. This was due to the combination of dynamic and memorable players, and story lines that captivated a fan base in such a way that they would never be the same again. An impossible dream, indeed!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Boston Red Sox's 2017 Payroll Has Lots of Dead Money

The Boston Red Sox are one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. Their consistent winning ways, playing in a big market and having a broad fan base all translate to them annually having one of the highest payrolls in the sport. As long as the team is winning the particulars of where the money is going never seems to matter as much. However, some of the players Boston will be cutting checks to in 2017, and the amounts, may come as a surprise.

Currently, the Red Sox are expected to pay out over $192 million in player salaries in 2017. This does not include some contract renewals, possible adjustments as the season wears on from trades, and additional free agent signings. That being said, a shocking amount of money will be spent on players who are not expected to have any impact on the team, or in some cases, are no longer still playing the game at all.

Rusney Castillo- $11.27 Million: The Cuban outfielder signed a massive $72.5 million contract in 2014 but has managed to hit just a combined .262 with seven home runs in 99 big league games since then. Now 29, the Red Sox’s level of confidence (or lack thereof) in him was made abundantly clear last year when he was removed from their 40-man roster. Although he is still with the franchise he is expected to be no more than Triple-A depth and has already made negative headlines by recently neglecting to run out a ground ball. By comparison, he is making only about $500,000 less than newly acquired ace pitcher Chris Sale.

Allen Craig- $11 Million: Formerly an All Star with the St. Louis Cardinals, the outfielder has been an unmitigated disaster since coming over to Boston in a 2014 trade. His results have been so putrid that he has managed just a .139 batting average, two home runs and five RBIs in 65 combined games. He never even saw the majors in 2016; instead scuffling in Triple-A in between injuries, mustering a .189 average in 29 games. His contract set to expire at the end of the year and it would be a major surprise if he sees any playing time in Boston this season.

Manny Ramirez- $1.99 Million: The mercurial slugger hasn’t had a major league at bat since 2011, and hasn’t donned a Boston uniform since 2008. However, he will receive a handsome sum from the team in 2017. Ramirez hit .312 with 274 home runs during an eight year contract in the Hub but saw his tenure spotted with occasional indifferent play and controversy. Signed for a total of $160 million by Boston, not all of the money was paid during the life of the deal, as $32 million was deferred over 16 years worth of payments starting in 2011. Last seen signing on with an independent Japanese team for 2017, Ramirez will be making slightly more with the Red Sox than Boston’s super sub Brock Holt this year.

Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford- $1.7 Million ($857,000 each): Ramirez is not the only former player that Boston is on the books for a princely sum in 2017. Ballyhooed free agent signings in 2011, Gonzalez and Crawford fell out of favor and were jettisoned via trade by mid-season the following year to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The move sent more than $250 million in future salaries across the country but did not completely end the team’s ties to the two players. The Red Sox assumed a small portion of the remaining money that is owed, which are still being paid to this day. Gonzalez is still the starting first baseman for the Dodgers but Crawford recently called it a career. Nevertheless, they persist in a small way as part of the Red Sox a half a decade later.

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