A look at who’s hot and who’s not in Major League Baseball:
Viva Miami: The term “fan experience” is horrifying for many reasons, including the concept that said experience is dictated by the team or the league. In Asia and Latin America, fans are in charge of their experience, and the result is a delightful festival of sound: chants and songs, whistles and cowbells, drums and maracas. Since 1988, the most festive games at Dodger Stadium have been World Baseball Classic games. The Miami Marlins this week unveiled “Comunidad 305,” a seating section where “musical instruments, flags and more will be welcome and encouraged.” That’s a natural in a city so close to Latin America, but we pray the idea spreads across the majors, in the process rendering extinct animated clapping hands and deafening recorded music.
Lies and statistics: The Colorado Rockies are in the running for the first division title in franchise history, defying mathematicians in the process. The Rockies have given up more runs than they have scored, so they should have a losing record. The principle is simple: the more runs you score, and the fewer runs you give up, the better you should be. But it is not infallible, particularly if you win close games and lose blowouts. The Rockies are trying to become the first team since the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks to win their division with a negative run differential. The Seattle Mariners, bidding for an American League wild-card spot, have a better record than the Rockies, and a worse run differential. Said Rockies manager Bud Black: “I heard once, from a wise baseball man, numbers don’t always tell the truth.” Bill James? “No, it wasn’t Bill,” Black said, name-dropping sabermetricians. “Or Rob Neyer.”
M-V-cousin: Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is in the running for the National League MVP award — he’ll almost certainly finish in the top five for the third consecutive season — but there’s already an MVP in the family. Arenado’s cousin, Josh Fuentes, was honored as Pacific Coast League MVP on Friday. Fuentes played at Trabuco Hills High in Mission Viejo; Arenado played four miles away in Lake Forest at El Toro High. While Arenado was a second-round pick out of high school, Fuentes played in junior college and in the NAIA and was not drafted. Fuentes, 25, is a third baseman in the Colorado organization, raising the awkward possibility that he could replace his cousin as the Rockies’ third baseman if Arenado leaves as a free agent after next season.
Bird bath: On the first day of September, the Baltimore Orioles had sunk 52½ games out of first place. The record for most games behind in the expansion era: 60½, by the 1962 New York Mets. The Orioles, to their credit, tried to compete this year. They failed, and in the process they have jettisoned infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop and pitchers Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day. They still have first baseman Chris Davis, 32, by one measure the least productive player in the majors, for another four years at $92 million. The transactions could extend beyond players this fall, with the contracts of manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette about to expire. The Orioles have spoken with former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti about a potential executive role.
Buckle up: After a rout in the last round of collective bargaining, and criticism from several agents, the players apparently have opted against dumping union chief Tony Clark. Instead, the union hired veteran sports labor lawyer Bruce Meyer to lead the next round of bargaining. He’ll report to Clark, but his background working under the more militant former union leader Don Fehr ought to satisfy players and agents worried that the union might get routed again. According to one player active in union matters, the agents carping after the fact were most concerned at the time about getting the league to ease up on qualifying offers, which it did. No one on the players’ side could envision, as he put it, every owner putting a similar value on every player. The question the union faces is the same one commissioner Rob Manfred faces whenever he despairs about long and boring games: how to legislate against analytics.
SportsNet Chicago? The Cubs hired a television executive to lead their push for an all-Cubs, all-the-time cable channel, launching for the 2020 season. In an era when viewers are bailing on cable, what could possibly go wrong? Maybe everyone in Chicago will get to see the new channel, if Cubs fans demand their team at a level Dodgers fans did not when SportsNet LA launched. The Cubs no doubt will learn from the Dodgers’ experience, most likely finding a way to make money from fans willing to stream a broadcast, whether or not they pay for cable. We’re five years into the Dodgers’ TV deal, and fans still can’t watch the Dodgers on the Internet (legally), even if they subscribe to Spectrum for SportsNet LA. If you pay for Fox Sports West, you can watch Mike Trout on your smartphone.