Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dunedin Blue Jays Turn Back the Clock and Create a Fantasy History

(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues

Earlier this season, the Tampa Bay Rays held a “Turn Back the Clock Night”, dressing up in 1979-style Tampa Bay jerseys. There was only one problem: there was no Tampa Bay Rays or Devil Rays in 1979. Whereas some teams have worn jerseys of teams that have left their city, long-forgotten minor league teams, or honored Negro League teams long since passed, the Rays might have been the first team to create their own historical look.

Now the Dunedin Blue Jays are following the Rays and hosting their own fictional “turn back the clock” night this Saturday. Hosted by the Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, the promotion will bring the Dunedin ballclub back to the year 1929, 48 years before the team existed.

At first glance, I really like the turn back the clock promotion. I am a history fan and the Dunedin 1929 jerseys are really sharp. I like the look. I could definitely have pictured a team in Florida wearing a similar style jersey. Even better, they are auctioning off the jerseys after the game to raise money for the Historical Society, so fans can own and wear the jerseys to games in 2012 and beyond.

(Additional note: why haven't other teams in Florida done "turn back the clock nights" in their respective cities? I'd love to see the Daytona Beach Admirals or the West Palm Beach Sun Chiefs take the field again.)

I wonder why the Dunedin Blue Jays picked 1929 as the year to fictionally throw back to. Following the epic Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 and rolling into the Great Depression, there was no Florida State League from 1928 to 1936. Maybe that’s precisely why they picked 1929. It is a fictional team playing in a year that no organized baseball existed. The Dunedin Blue Jays opponent, the Stone Crabs of Port Charlotte, also hail from a city that was without baseball in the early days of the Florida State League. So it is a fantasy exhibition between two teams that did not exist in a year where baseball did not exist. I guess that makes sense.

That said, I am not really keen on re-writing or creating a fantasy history. There was no team, so hence, there should be no time to turn back to. Unless the Dunedin Blue Jays are imagining a world where Dunedin had a team and the Florida State League had a league in 1929. In that case, they shouldn’t be the Blue Jays, being that name also assumes in this fictional past that Toronto had a major league team, which they didn't get until 1977. Perhaps they should have played on Dunedin’s Scottish heritage and named the team the Highlanders for the day.

It’s less of a stretch than the Mercury Mets.

Speaking of, these “time transformational” promotions kinda remind me of Major League Baseball’s "Turn Ahead the Clock" promotions from 1999, although the uniforms are better. I wonder how soon until a minor league team throws itself back to 1955, and tops it off with a visit from a Delorean and Marty McFly and Doc Brown impersonators.

Great Scott, that would be heavy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Follow-up on the Carl Crawford foul-mouthed fan

(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the heckler who harassed Carl Crawford before a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game. I wrote that fans will be fans and people will be people and some people just don't like certain types of other people. It's not pretty, it's not fair, nor in most circles is it socially acceptable, but it is life.

However, one of the caveats I mentioned was that "if the person who called Crawford a “racial slur” has a history in the area of racism then he becomes a public figure and then perhaps the locals can do something about it".

Not only does the person in question has an alleged history of hatred, it also seems he is was a public figure prior to the incident. Double whammy.

Recent reports say the heckler was now-former Leominster, Massachusetts police officer John Perreault. Sure enough, as a public figure, Perreault faced the reaper for his actions. Not only is he accused of harassing Crawford, but Perreault also has a history of not being nice to black people.

According to Perreault's lawyer, Joseph Sandulli, Perreault said derogatory words to Crawford to insult his play, not his race. Perreault was accused of calling Crawford a "Monday", which before this incident was best known for being a day of the week. That's obviously not how Perreault meant it. According to Urban Dictionary and Indian-Canadian comedian Russell Peters, Mondays can also be "a word that can be used to describe a black person without insulting them with them knowing". Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

The other half of the battle is the counter-attack. Perreault was fired from the police force on Thursday the 26th.

So Perreault tried to insult Crawford without him knowing, only Crawford or someone else knew the word Perreault was using and now Perreault is out of a job.

Fans will be fans, but some fans are idiots.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fan insults Carl Crawford, national media springs into action

(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues

Last week, a fan in Manchester, New Hampshire heckled rehabing Red Sox outfield Carl Crawford. Besides calling Crawford "overrated" and "overpaid", the fan also allegedly called Crawford a name insulting Crawford's race.

ESPNBoston thought this was a big deal.

I don't.

Fans are fans, by-and-large a cross-section of the people of the area, and are rarely public figures. It is not news that some anonymous people dislike people of different races, creeds, colors, sexes, or religion. That's human nature. Here in Afghanistan, this is a daily way of life. We should not be surprised by it. Racism, sexism, and all the other -isms didn't suddenly disappear with the election of President Obama just as they didn't vanish in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela.

Is disliking people based on factors not tied to their personality wrong? Yes, of course. Should it be tolerated at a ballpark? Absolutely not. But is it worthy of an article on No. If Carl Crawford had a problem or was made uncomfortable, he could have alerted security and let the ballpark personnel deal with the problem. Maybe he did, the article doesn't make that clear.

Heckling is by nature verbal harrassment, and is usually not tolerated in any workplace. No matter what they say, if that ballpark wants to move the person, remove them, or wants to make an example of the person and never let them back in, that's their perogative. The ballpark is a privately owned venue and fan behavior, verbally, physically, or anything else, is regulated by ticket purchase.

On a national level, I don't want to know if fans are calling players "racial slurs", just as I don't care if play is stopped if a player wants the fan removed from earshot. Honestly, I don't care. It's not news. It's a local issue.

Carl Crawford's rehab is national baseball news. Is he hitting, is he running, and is he justifying his huge contract?

We can worry about social attitudes or what causes people to dislike others somewhere else. And there we can dedicate real study to it. We can use the issue of security incidents at the ballpark to see if there is an underlying stigma of racism in New England. Are there
other incidents in public businesses? Are black people in the area more inclined to police harassment, employment discrimination, or anything that would effect their ability to be contributing members of society?

Now if the person who called Crawford a "racial slur" has a history in the area of racism then he becomes a public figure and then perhaps the locals can do something about it. Perhaps they can discriminate against him. If he is a private business owner, for example, perhaps the people of his area can boycott or do something else to show him that his actions will not be tolerated.

But again, that's a local issue, not one for or any other member of the national sports media.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brewers to stay in Viera, whither the Nationals?

A quick bit of news coming through Our Sports Central's Florida State League feed. According to OSC, the Milwaukee Brewers have renewed their player development contract with the Brevard County Manatees through the 2014 season. The Brewers have used the FSL Manatees franchise as their High-A Florida State League team since 2005. Via OSC, 27 ballplayers have made it to the Major Leagues after playing with the Milwaukee farm club, including Ryan Braun.

Viera's Space Coast Stadium is unique among FSL stadiums, hosting one team during the spring (the Washington Nationals) and the other during the FSL season (the Brewers). The Brewers oddly opt to spring train in Maryvale Ballpark in Phoenix despite a 600 mile difference between the drive from Pheonix to Milwaukee (1,882 miles and 30 hours by Google Maps) and the drive from Viera to Milwaukee (1,297 miles and less than 22 hours by Google Maps). Meanwhile, the Nationals have located their High-A minor league franchise, the Carolina League's Potomac Nationals, play in Woodbridge, Va., much closer to Washington DC than anywhere in Florida.

(That, by the way, seems to be a trend for the Nationals, who opt to keep most of their teams close, being second only to the Braves in the NL East in closest farm teams. Maybe it's a way to keep costs down in order to move some of the admin costs to player retention or actual development. Meanwhile, the Brewers are last in the NL Central with an average distance of 970 miles from their developmental teams and the big league club.)

Perhaps the Brewers could combine their overhead and look to Florida to spring train as the Nationals have been eyeing other training locations, citing long travel times between their Viera location and other Florida spring training stadiums. In recent years, most spring training teams have colalesced around the Phoenix area in the Cactus League and the Tampa area in the Grapefruit League. A trip from Viera to the Red Sox/Twins spring training location of Fort Myers, for example, is over 200 miles and takes over 4 hours. Moving to Viera if the Nationals leave would allow the Brewers to lean on the Brevard County staff for spring training administration, possibly minimizing costs. Although they might incur longer travel times and pay more for gas and busing traversing the state of Florida during March and April.

So would staff pay and the reduction of their trip from spring training to Milwaukee outweigh the cost of traveling around Florida for a month? To be honest, I am not sure.

Either way, Space Coast Stadium was where I saw my first ever Minor League game and I am glad someone is going to keep playing there.