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Torii Hunter made some comments recently that raised a few eyebrows, when he called Latino players “imposters” who are not black in a story published by USA Today:

“People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African-American. They’re not us. They’re impostors. Even people I know come up and say: ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’ I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.’ …

While he admitted that it was poor word choice, he declined to apologize for the comments.  And to be honest, I don’t think he has to apologize–in fact, when in the Dominican a few years back, I had a tour guide pointedly tell me that the reason that he disliked the Haitian kids that were begging us tourists for a dollar was because they were black, unlike him.  So I think a lot (if not all) Latino players would agree that they are not black–meaning, as he indicated, that the only problem with Hunter’s statements would be the use of that word “imposter.”

Aside from that, though, I think that Hunter did touch on one subject that is probably going to be an increasing problem with the way MLB is structured–especially if Latino players do actually “Take over [the game],” as Ozzie Guillen said in response to Hunter.

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RACINE, Wis. – I’m no baseball analyst, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

And when I picked the complimentary USA Today off the floor in front of my door this morning, I turned to the sports page and saw a story about Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, and their respective contributions to the New York Yankees this season.

“It’s incredible how important these guys have been,” Johnny Damon told the paper. “I feel like they’ve been worth about seven or eight games a piece.”

AMAZING HOW IMPORTANT THEY’VE BEEN?!?!?

You spent $423.5 million last offseason to bring them in. I’d say for that amount they’d damn well better be important or the Steinbrenners would have every right to be as stuffy and huffy as they have been the last seven or eight years while the Yankees have languished below mediocre by their high-priced standards.

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The economy may be driving attendance at Major League Baseball games down somewhat in 2009, but it hasn’t stopped teams from
making sponsorship deals (PDF).

Research from Westminster, Colo.-based Costigan & Associates indicates that MLB’s teams have 168 total “major sponsor” deals, including 18 naming rights agreements, with 88 companies encompassing 36 categories.

Interestingly, despite well-reported industry struggles nationally, the banking and financial services sector remains one of the strongest categories. Bank of America has five sponsorship deals. Wells Fargo has four and PNC Financial has three, according to the research.

Malt beverage powerhouse Anheuser-Busch is the most frequent major sponsor partner with 17 deals. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. continue to duke it out for soft drink deals, each netting 12 for the 2009 season.

Costigan & Associates is a sports and entertainment marketing firm that specializes in the evaluation of sponsorship and naming rights deals. Its founders, including principal Charles “Chuck” Costigan, came from The Bonham Group, an internationally-recognized firm that succumbed to economic issues early this year.

Costigan is a 10-year veteran of the sponsorship industry who has provided in-depth analysis and strategic recommendations to many blue-chip brands including the O2 Dome, IBM, the NFL, the NHL, JPMorgan Chase, and several individual teams, universities and organizations, according to a bio at the company Web site.

Interleague play, to some the scourge of American culture, will end for the 2009 regular season on Sunday. To hear some baseball purists and radio talk show hosts (among others) speak, you would think that Interleague play is the single largest problem facing the game today, dwarfing the challenges posed by steroids, the economy and Scott Boras. I’m glad to know that there are people out there with passionate opinions about the game, but come on guys. Get a hold of yourselves.

At the beginning of IP this year, Jayson Stark went and found a group of players who don’t like it.  Aside from revealing Adam Dunn to be a complete whiner, Stark’s column tries to take an objective look at some of the things that make the players unhappy.

The major complaints seem to be that there are more “meaningless” series’ (i.e. Kansas City vs. Houston) than there are “rivalry” ones (like the Yankees vs. the Mets), it goes on too long, the travel can make things really difficult, and of course my personal favorite: “it’s not fair.”

I have some pretty strong opinions on the unbalanced schedule, and it occurs to me that we should explore that topic very soon. I’m the rare guy who is a fan of baseball’s schedule, and nothing gets me itchy quicker than someone telling me “it’s not fair”. Dude. You’re a professional ball player, playing at the highest level. If the New York Yankees had to play the New York Mets, and the Tampa Bay Rays had to play Edison Community College, I’d say that’s not fair. You’re playing another major league team. Stop talking and sit down. You’re embarrassing yourself.

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Donald Fehr, the legendary – some would say infamous – executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association announced his retirement Monday. If you are one of the three regular readers of this page, then you would expect to see some rejoicing right now.

We here at Brushbackpitch.com have been extremely critical of Fehr. He is one of the five or six people in baseball most responsible for the financial inequities of the game. His attitudes begat Scott Boras, which is an absolutely unforgivable sin. And although baseball now has a comprehensive drug testing policy – or at least that’s what Bud Selig says – Fehr has fought the idea of drug testing at every stop.

From illegal narcotics to steroids, Fehr has consistently maintained that drug testing is an invasion of privacy. If Fehr had had his way throughout his 25-plus year tenure, baseball players today would resemble the Looney Tune Monstars from Michael Jordan’s mid-90’s movie Space Jam. They’d be ‘roided up beyond belief, hitting 861 ft. home runs and sliding head first when they stole a base so as to not break the vials of cocaine in their back pockets.

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We’re somewhere between one-third and one-half of the way through the 2009 Major League Baseball season. When I checked my local newspaper this morning, Joe Mauer was batting .420-something, Zach Greinke’s ERA was below 2.00 and five of the league’s six division races were within three games.

But the main news on the baseball page was about the New York Times’ story indicating that Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003.

So, now each of the three players to break Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers in 1961 – Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sosa – have been implicated in the steroid era. Those allegedly fantastic days when McGwire and Sosa chased each other to the record have been flushed down the toilet along with vials and used steroid syringes.

Once again, this comes down to Major League Baseball itself, the MLB Players Association and the players involved in letting these stars get away with these infractions against the game. Bud Selig said on the Dan Patrick Show Tuesday that he didn’t think it was fair that Raul Ibanez’ accomplishments of the early 2009 season get questioned because of the acts of players past.

Ibanez said the same a few weeks ago, angrily dismissing the accusations of a blogger that his tremendous start had anything to do with performance enhancers. I believe Ibanez, though I think someone should take him up on his offer to provide drug testers with hair, blood, urine, stool and whatever else they want to test.

But Ibanez needs to understand that he and every other player who didn’t stand up and demand drug testing when rumors of infractions were popping up earlier this decade played a role in what went on, whether they used or not.

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As expected, the Washington Nationals made San Diego State University right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, giving them the opportunity to likely pay him $50+ million, thanks to Scott Boras.

But I heard an interesting take on Strasburg on the local sports talk radio station today–one caller said that, while talented, he is being vastly overrated, due to the competition level in the Mountain West Conference.

Granted, it was just a caller to a station in Minnesota–but the caller was apparently from Vegas, and apparently had an opportunity to watch Strasburg pitch in person.  He went so far as to add that the no-hitter that Strasburg recently threw–the first of his career–was not even that impressive, as it was against Air Force–the worst team in the conference, whom the caller suspected that there were several other pitchers that could also no hit.

So, while I’m not ready to say that Strasburg won’t make the bigs, and might not be a solid pitcher–but if I’m the Nationals, I’d also be pretty hesitant to throw away $50+ million on a guy who has thrown a lot of quality pitches against some pretty mediocre competition.

The last thing Major League Baseball needed when the 2009 season began was another superstar getting caught up in the Web of performance-enhancing drugs. Yet the integrity of the game took another hit when Manny Ramirez was hit with a 50-game suspension.

Now Commish Bud Selig and his cronies are facing another hit as Ramirez currently ranks fourth among National League outfielders in early All-Star voting.

There was little the league could do to prevent the 12-time All-Star from appearing on the ballot. After all, voting begins roughly two weeks into the season.

More amusing, in the long-term anyway, than Ramirez appearing on the ballot is Major League Baseball calling its mid-summer exhibition an All-Star game when it starts fan balloting before players have even worked out the kinks in their games. The timing of the voting just illustrates how this game is a popularity contest for the fans and not a contest featuring the league’s best players.

But that’s for another post.
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I never made it to Yankee Stadium–never really cared about it that much, possibly because I never thought it had a special feature like the Green Monster at Fenway, the Ivy at Wrigley, or the overhangs at Tiger Stadium.  Or possibly because my feelings on the Yankees have run the course from indifferent in the 80’s when they were a non-factor, to actively disliking the way they make a mockery of the game with their checkbooks today.

And despite my lack of caring about the original Yankee Stadium, I’ve now found another reason to despise the organization–they’re pairing up with Steiner Sports to sell off mementos from the old stadium–from bricks from the old Monument Park ($149) to bleacher benches ($449 to name your seat) to entire pieces of the old facade (a measly $50,000). And don’t forget about some dirt, sod, and a bathroom sign–or maybe the one of a kind dugout bat rack (reserve not met at $1,800–and no word on whether it’s from the Yankees dugout or visitors dugout).

Any time you can invoke a slogan like “Ruth Built It, Now You Can Take it Home,” you should really think twice about what you’re doing.  Of course, without knowing how many chunks of sod, bricks, and pieces of facade are available, it’s difficult to guestimate how much Steiner Sports and the Yankees are going to profit from this sale.

What’s almost guaranteed is that the City of New York won’t see any of that money–despite having pumped nearly $2 billion worth of public money into the new stadium in the forms of cash, subsidies, and tax breaks.

But hey, at least the general public will have the opportunity to buy quality seats at a reasonable price or get some quality parking spaces for the game

A few days ago Rich posted a compelling write-up focused on the joys of the World Baseball Classic. His writing got me to take a glance at a couple games, something I hadn’t done previously.

I’d never been staunchly anti-WBC, but it seemed to me as though the timing of the event made the games nothing more than glorified exhibitions with some semblance of national pride supposedly on the line.

I won’t go as far as some have in calling the tournament a farce and a “World Baseball Money Grab by the Joke of a Commissioner.” But I do think there is at least one thing someone is going to have to address if this tournament is going to be the Classic it is billed as being: Injuries.

The main concern I’ve heard teams voice through the media about the WBC is their legitimate worry about players who are just starting their spring trainings going out in a highly-competitive atmosphere before they are ready and getting themselves hurt. And it’s playing out so far this spring.

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