Welcome to the club: Max Fried made his major league debut last night, tossing the final two innings in the Atlanta Braves’ 5-2 loss to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. He walked two and gave up two hits while striking out one. Mazel tov, Max!
Alex Bregman had a two-out, game-tying, three-run triple (#4) for the Houston Astros (71-41) but the host Chicago White Sox (42-68) came back for an 8-5 win. Bregman, batting in the leadoff spot, was 1-for-3 with two walks. According to RotoBaller, he has 13 extra-base hits over his last 14 games. He wasn’t so great on the basepaths, however, getting picked off as well as caught stealing. Brad Goldberg did not appear for the Sox.
Ryan Braun, still batting in the second slot in the order, hit his first three-bagger of the year to go along with his 17th double and a single, but the Milwaukee Brewers (59-56) lost to the host Minnesota Twins, 11-4.
Danny Valencia hit a game-tying, pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth inning as the Seattle Mariners (58-56) beat the host Oakland As, 8-7, in 10 innings. Ryan Lavarnway, whom the As had designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Nashville.
Ian Kinsler was 1-for-4 with a run scored but the Detroit Tigers (51-61) lost to the host Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-3. Here’s an interesting take on how players market themselves from FanGraphs.com:
MLB players haven’t become ubiquitous in popular culture the way stars in other sports have. While the players themselves have remarkable talent, and fans already watching the game will know the names Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Miguel Cabrera, but a casual observer or non-fan on the street would be hard pressed to pick those players out of a lineup. Whether it’s the structural problems the sport presents — star players are involved in a fraction of a Major League game, unlike in other sports, where teams can make sure their best players are involved on nearly every play — or the failings of the teams and the league itself to market their stars, baseball players just aren’t the marketing behemoths that basketball and football players often are.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there for players interested in marketing themselves, rather than leaving the heavy lifting to the league or their organization. What former Cubs catcher David Ross and Detroit Tigers second-baseman Ian Kinsler have done recently is demonstrate what happens when a player takes control of their own story, and uses the power of social media, television, and a bounty of available resources to help sell themselves (and perhaps a few products as well).
Kinsler has done well for himself on the field over the last several years, but has the kind of skills that often fly under the radar. He’s a career .275/.343/.448 hitter, a four-time All-Star, and a 2016 Gold Glove winner, but he’s not usually been regarded as a franchise player, despite performing like one. He’s precisely the kind of player who is beloved on his own team but gets little notice beyond that, in spite of turning highlight-reel double plays, or textbook perfect ball-drops.
Ian Kinsler is not a typical magnet for marketers. Because his appeal doesn’t have the same reach as bigger-name guys on the team like Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander, Kinsler is not the first choice for most companies. In spite of that, he has managed to craft an image for himself that mirrors his on-field persona.
In 2016, Warstic, the baseball bat company Kinsler co-owns with Ben Jenkins and White Stripes frontman Jack White, were approved for use in the MLB. Soon the bats were being sported by Kinsler and teammate Nick Castellanos in Tigers games and their popularity spread to other teams. Leading into the 2017 season, Kinsler and White loaned their individual talents to the promotion of Warstic by putting out a series of videos featuring Kinsler preparing for games as if he were a warrior heading into battle, while White’s music accompanied in the background. Kinsler, Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris, and Ben Jenkins were also featured in a short film ahead of the season in which the men learned sniper rifle techniques from Navy SEALs as a means to find their focus in the pressure of a game.
Even in a commercial where Kinsler promoted Beats by Dre headphones, his persona was the same. He is always careful about how he is portrayed, manipulating the medium to create a brand for himself. In every one of these ads he is the serious, contemplative warrior, preparing himself to face off against his enemies. The image crafted is that of a man who takes his sport and himself seriously. It is an effective method to maintain the image of a fierce competitor on the field, and a man whose life beyond the baseball diamond is a mystery, but one can almost picture him climbing onto a horse after the game and riding off into the sunset now that the battle is over.
Back to business…
Joc Pederson was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the LA Dodgers (79-33) lost to the host Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-3.
Kevin Pillar was 0-for-4 as the Toronto Blue Jays (53-59) beat the visiting NY Yankees, 4-2.
Richard Bleier did not appear for the Baltimore Orioles (56-57) who lost to the host LA Angels, 3-2.
Conflicting info re: Scott Feldman‘s return. One source says the Cincinnati Reds’ starter should be back by Saturday while another says he’s not as far along in his progress as had been hoped.
Correction: Yesterday I said that early 20th-century Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was the only Jew besides Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax to have a plaque in Cooperstown. Add former commissioner Bud Selig to the list. Selig was among the latest batch of inductees to go into the Hall. HT to Bob Wechsler for the reminder.