“Bring it on down to Omeletteville!”

I have two angles on this story:

Two days after naming its mascot “PorkChop,” the Philadelphia Phillies’ new Triple-A affiliate abruptly dropped the moniker after receiving complaints from Hispanics that it was offensive.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, whose mascot is a large, furry pig, had selected PorkChop from more than 7,300 fan submissions. The team, which begins play in 2008, announced Monday that the mascot will be named “Ferrous” instead.

I had no idea of the derogatory implication. I don’t have an opinion on changing it in response to complaints, other than to say it’s probably the smartest business decision. I also think that Ferrous is a better, if not particularly original, name for a mascot. And it permits this kind of sticky-sweet blech:

Ferrous can be described as a portly, affable IronPig wearing the IronPigs home uniform and jersey number 26 – the atomic number for Iron (Fe).

How precious.

My second point is to remember how complaints about vegans typically accuse us of irrationally anthropomorphizing animals. Um, no. That’s what omnivores do.

But PorkChop? Seriously? Who looks at an animated pig, a walking, jersey-wearing mascot created to interact with children, and thinks “Mmmmmm, you’re so awesome, you remind me of dinner, your name shall be…PorkChop!”?

Post Script: I still love the name IronPigs.

Style over substance is not integrity.

Speaking of dress codes:

During the second inning of Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees, Francona was called out of the dugout so an MLB security official could make sure he was wearing his uniform top under his usual Boston pullover jacket.

“When Derek Jeter is on second base and I got somebody coming from the league making me go down the runway, I was a little perturbed,” Francona said Thursday.

“That was about as embarrassed as I’ve been in a long time, for baseball.”

The rule requiring managers to wear a uniform is rather silly to begin with, since baseball is the only sport to do so. But it’s traditional and most seem to like it. As a fan, I’m perfectly with managers wearing whatever they want. If a manager today wants to wear a suit like Connie Mack used to do, let him. Simply prohibit anyone (other than the trainer) from the field if he isn’t dressed in a uniform. The manager can then decide how important those mound visits are to him.

But I’ll concede for the rest of this entry that managers should wear uniforms. Does it make sense to pull a manager out of the dugout during an inning? During the game is bad enough, they couldn’t wait until the game was between half-innings? That’s a farce.

“I’m not talking about that, and I’m disappointed that they talked about it. And there will be something said about that,” [MLB vice president Bob] Watson said. “That’s in house.”

When a policy is built on secrecy, someone in management should question the validity of that policy. But Bud Selig is running the show, so I’m not surprised. He must be out of local governments to shake down for a new stadium, so this is how his idle mind fills the time while it’s completely uninterested in the integrity of the game.

Update: Baseball states that “timing was an issue“. No kidding.

It’s August. Prep-work for the heartbreak must occur.

It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down. The last whiffs of meat charring on barbecue grills are in the air. Temperatures are making a final push higher before their looming decline into autumn. School buses are getting waxed and refueled. The Phillies are making a push for the post-season.

For the better part of the last seven years, the Phillies have followed the same routine. Slump horribly in April. Play en fuego throughout May. Swoon rhymes with June for a reason. July brings an improbable hint of life. The last few sputters in the playoff engine burn out in the first days of August as the team pulls itself back into contention. Playoff optimism fever strikes the Phandom. And at some point, this always happens:

Despite every persistent, justified note of pessimism, the Phillies have a chance. The road to the playoffs is clear, lit up like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas. Phans begin scanning travel websites to figure out the myriad of possibilities for traveling to the World Series League Championship Series Divisional playoffs. Optimism is the only rule of the day.

Yet, somewhere in the back of every phan’s mind, he or she knows. We’ve been here before. This time isn’t going to be different. The collection of tickets to playoff games that never happened litter the hidden memorabilia box in the closet, tucked into the original envelope because they’re too painful to look at every day. The hot streaks will come to a close somewhere in September. The details of the script aren’t set, although we can’t shake the feeling that our nation’s capital is now the swamp where Philadelphia’s October dreams go to die. How will it happen this year? That’s all we can think about.

And yet, this year is no different. We want to believe, so we let ourselves believe. We allow a brief glimpse of “what if this year is different?” slip through the cracks of our mental barricades. Maybe, we think, we’ll be able to look back on this team the way we look back at 1993. That team shouldn’t have succeeded the way it did. Even with the almost fulfillment of the goal that year, that was our team. “They” became “we”. We almost won it all. We could taste it. It was ours. We love those guys. We want these guys to mean as much to us as those guys. We wonder if it can happen again.

Like every other phan who’s checking scores from around the league every day to see how the Phightin’s are holding up for October, we know how this will end, except we allow ourselves to get suckered sucked in once again. We’re along for the ride, even when we expect it to crash horribly and, inevitably, far too short of the road’s end. We believe this year will be different.

Please let it be different this year.

Take me out to the… church?

September 11, 2001 brought a new “tradition” in Major League Baseball. During the 7th inning stretch, someone sings “God Bless America”. I don’t have any particular issue with the song or teams including it in the festivities. It’s a private event and I know it’s included going in, so even though it’s patriotism that’s more than a bit forced, whatever. There’s no mandate to sing.

Tonight, however, I got peeved. I went to RFK Stadium to watch the Phillies play lose to the Nationals. In the middle of the 7th, I remembered what was coming. Fine, it’s the Nationals, so I’m not interested in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” anyway. But I’m on the 3rd base side close to the Nationals dugout. This is what I see:


The man singing “God Bless America” is a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. I know because I could read it on the Jumbotron. Also, he is wearing a United States Air Force uniform. And singing “God Bless America”.

I don’t think I’m being too picky when I cite the Establishment Clause and how inappropriate this is. Only Justice Scalia could find this anything but an unequivocal co-mingling of the United States government and a specific religion. No, the government isn’t making any law, but the uniform implies an endorsement. That is unacceptable. I was not happy and I intend to contact the Nationals to let them know.

My question for you: am I overreacting?

Tom Glavine wins #300.

I was at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on August 22, 1987, when Tom Glavine notched his first Major League win, a 10-3 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. Last night, Glavine won game #300, a 6-3 victory in Chicago against the Cubs. He’s only the 23rd pitcher in Major League history to achieve 300 win milestone. (He’s the 5th left-hander.) I’m not a fan of arbitrary numbers as a sign of greatness, but 300 wins is as close as possible. Cooperstown awaits.

In honor of his achievement, here’s the boxscore from his first win. (Originially printed in the August 23, 1987 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) Note the “one flaw” noted in Glavine’s performance in that game. That “flaw” would become a defining quality.

“Congress shall make no law…”

The NCAA kicked a reporter out of the press box for liveblogging a game at the baseball super-regional yesterday. I find that absurd, but the NCAA can set whatever restrictions it wants. What’s amusing is the inevitable reaction from the reporter’s newspaper:

Courier-Journal executive editor Bennie L. Ivory challenged the NCAA’s action last night and said the newspaper would consider an official response.

“It’s clearly a First Amendment issue,” Ivory said. “This is part of the evolution of how we present the news to our readers. It’s what we did during the Orange Bowl. It’s what we did during the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s what we do.”

It’s clearly not a First Amendment issue. The government has played no part in this. This is a dispute between two private parties who agreed to a set of rules. Obviously one party is either misunderstanding or ignoring the rules. But the government didn’t violate any free speech right.

Convoluted hat tip required. Link found at Instapundit, via KnoxNews, which linked from Poynter Online.

Retelling the story of America’s Pastime.

The window for the cable industry to make a deal with Major League Baseball for its Extra Innings package is closing. (It ends Saturday.) As time clicks away, I fear that Bud Selig and Co. have no intention of honoring their public pronouncements. Fine, I’ve come to expect that. But I flipped on Field of Dreams this morning at the most awesomest part. When Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) delivered his monologue, he reminded me why I love baseball. Consider:

Here is the text of that monologue for those who prefer a quicker read.

Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.

Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Thank God Bud Selig didn’t write the screenplay for Field of Dreams. If he had, Terence Mann would’ve said that only baseball fans watching DirecTV driving a Mercedes SUV could pay the $20 per person and sit in the bleachers. He might make an exception and let people watching MLB.tv riding a Segway get in for $10.

The monologue’s closing wouldn’t be nearly as powerful then, I suspect. Oh… people will come, Ray. People will most likely come.

I hate the tiny screen of MLB.tv.

I’m beating Major League Baseball’s anti-fan deal with DirecTV repeatedly, but it keeps providing fodder.

In Demand president Rob Jacobson, whose company is owned by affiliates of the companies that own Time Warner, Comcast and Cox cable systems, offered to carry the package on the same terms that DirecTV is for the next two seasons while putting off the issue of The Baseball Channel until it launches.

“This would ensure that for the next two years at least, all baseball fans would have access to the `Extra Innings’ package,” he said. “If we’re unable to reach an agreement when the channel launches, we’d give baseball the right to cancel the `Extra Innings’ deal. We think this is a fair compromise.”

[Sen. John] Kerry, trying to play the role of mediator, got behind the effort.

“What’s the matter with that?” he asked Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer.

That’s a valid question, but only coming from a fan. [And I’m asking it: what’s the matter with that? – ed.] Congress, in its official duties, should not be determining the specifics of business deals in the private market. I know baseball and television aren’t fully private markets the way a corner store and a candy producer would be, but they should be.

“When fans react, Congress reacts,” [Sen. Arlen] Specter said. “You may be well advised to act before we do.”

Sen. Specter’s first statement is wrong because it amounts to nothing more than mob rule. He’s parading it as democracy, but we’re talking about the same beast. I’m angry about the deal. Still, it’s not something I expect my congressman to address. Sen. Specter’s concern may be correct. His actions are not.

Which gets to his second sentence. Stop threatening. Act or shut up. I’ve already stated that Major League Baseball should not have antitrust exemption. As long as it exists, though, dictate. That way everyone understands the true nature of the deal. Instead, we get blabber about the interests of consumers until someone inevitably steps up with cash or politicians back down without dignity. It’s tiresome.

I still hold out hope that a deal will get done. I can’t fight the fear that Major League Baseball only offered the Extra Innings deal to cable and Dish Network as a front to later pass blame on an outside party for not meeting the terms. I despise Bud Selig.

Informed, educational thoughts on antitrust absurdity at A Stitch in Haste.

There’s no crying in baseball government.

Am I supposed to feel sympathy for Harford County, Maryland because it financed a baseball stadium and is now losing money?

Ripken Stadium was meant to give the city a boost. Instead, the city with an annual budget of $16 million loses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Mayor S. Fred Simmons has talked to several potential buyers but he said the most promising involve hometown hero Cal Ripken Jr. He owns the Aberdeen Iron Birds, the team that plays in the stadium, and a youth baseball operation nearby.

The original solution was flawed. The city should not have financed the stadium. Minor league baseball stadiums are not a public good. This is not a difficult concept. Yet, here we are:

The team pays $1 a year to use the stadium and keeps almost all the money generated from games.

One dollar. The owes on almost $5 million in bonds for the stadium, with the tax shortfall costing the city up to $485,000 a year in losses. The basic proposition should be easy to see. When built, would the stadium generate the revenue necessary to pay the debt? If yes, Mr. Ripken should been forced to build the stadium if he wanted it. If not, he wouldn’t have built it because it wouldn’t be a productive use of his capital. Notice that the city is involved in no part of that. Instead, the city played central planner and sticks its citizens, both baseball attending and non-baseball attending alike, with the bill.

“The deal they made with the Ripken thing is one of the worst deals they ever made, and now they expect the taxpayers of Aberdeen to pay for their ineptness,” said state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican. “That was a terrible deal, for very little return. It could’ve been a gold mine.”

Actually, the city is suggesting a tax on hotel rooms, so it expects visitors to the city to pay for its ineptness. But the more annoying problem is Sen. Jacobs’ contention that the deal could’ve been a gold mine. Government is not in the business of earning a “gold mine”. It has essential duties, and that’s it. Instead, city officials wanted in with professional baseball (and probably a bit of interaction with Cal Riplen, Jr.). It played with taxpayer money, and in an unsurprising twist, it lost.

This would be a valuable lesson if I thought the government, any government, would learn.